The Truth About Cars » 1976 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Wed, 30 Jul 2014 19:21:18 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » 1976 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Junkyard Find: 1976 Ford LTD Brougham http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/junkyard-find-1976-ford-ltd-brougham/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/junkyard-find-1976-ford-ltd-brougham/#comments Wed, 09 Jul 2014 13:00:57 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=861817 Just after I wrote that non-Country Squire Ford LTDs were rare Junkyard Finds (we’ve had three so far: this ’69, this ’71, and this ’72), I found this majestic yellow four-door hardtop in a San Francisco Bay Area wrecking yard. As an added bonus, it’s a Brougham! We laugh at Malaise Era big Detroit cars […]

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07 - 1976 Ford LTD Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin
Just after I wrote that non-Country Squire Ford LTDs were rare Junkyard Finds (we’ve had three so far: this ’69, this ’71, and this ’72), I found this majestic yellow four-door hardtop in a San Francisco Bay Area wrecking yard. As an added bonus, it’s a Brougham!


21 - 1976 Ford LTD Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinWe laugh at Malaise Era big Detroit cars now, with their overwrought heraldic crests and laughably fake wood and leather, but I spent much of my childhood in cars like this and they actually seemed pretty nice at the time.
19 - 1976 Ford LTD Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe 351M V8 was big on torque, not so great for horsepower or fuel economy.
17 - 1976 Ford LTD Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThis one got a lot of use over its 38-year lifespan.


There is no way in hell this generation of LTD managed to get 22 mpg on the highway, even with the not-so-strict tests of the time. It was comfortable, though.

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Junkyard Find: 1976 Fiat 124 Sport Spider http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/junkyard-find-1976-fiat-124-sport-spider/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/junkyard-find-1976-fiat-124-sport-spider/#comments Tue, 25 Feb 2014 14:00:42 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=753777 So many Fiat 124 Sport Spiders get junked, and the process has been going on for my entire junkyard-prowling career. In the three years of this series, we’ve seen this ’71, this ’73, this ’75, this ’78, and this ’80, and we might as well add the 124′s little brother, this ’71 850 Sport Spider. […]

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06 -1975 Fiat 124 Spider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinSo many Fiat 124 Sport Spiders get junked, and the process has been going on for my entire junkyard-prowling career. In the three years of this series, we’ve seen this ’71, this ’73, this ’75, this ’78, and this ’80, and we might as well add the 124′s little brother, this ’71 850 Sport Spider. I don’t even photograph every 124 Sport Spider I see, because they’re almost as common in wrecking yards as ’85 Camrys. Today’s ’76, however, holds the Junkyard Find record for Scariest California Beach Neighborhood Rust.
13 -1975 Fiat 124 Spider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinCars that live within a block or two of the Pacific Ocean in Northern California (I found this car in one of my favorite East Bay yards during a recent drive around California in a new Mirage) often rust in a weird top-down pattern. For example, the truly frightening ’84 Toyota Van we saw last October. California cars with bad weatherstripping often rust inside the trunk, as water leaks in and sits for months during the long, rainy winters. This Fiat managed to rot from both types of California rust.
01 -1975 Fiat 124 Spider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinHow does this even happen?
17 -1975 Fiat 124 Spider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThis car comes from the era of separate emissions requirements for new cars sold in California.
10 -1975 Fiat 124 Spider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinI have quite a collection of these SLOW DOWN lights, which were used to warn of an overheating catalytic converter (presumably the CATALYST indicator light warned of some other cat problem). Ferrari 328s had them, too.
14 -1975 Fiat 124 Spider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinDefinitely not worth restoring, but maybe someone will grab the Twin Cam engine for a nicer Fiat.
IMG_2237Given how cheap these cars are, we see surprisingly few 124 Sport Spiders in the 24 Hours of LeMons. I can think of a couple of Twin Cam-powered examples, and then there’s the Volkswagen TDI-powered Smokey Unit Fiat. This car is pretty quick, but its real advantage in endurance racing is its tremendous range on a tank of diesel.
19 -1975 Fiat 124 Spider Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe last owner of this Fiat was against Proposition 86.

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Junkyard Find: 1976 Chrysler Cordoba http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/junkyard-find-1976-chrysler-cordoba/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/junkyard-find-1976-chrysler-cordoba/#comments Mon, 27 Jan 2014 14:00:06 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=725114 So far in this series, I’ve had no luck finding Chrysler Cordobas from the first couple years of production. We’ve seen this ’78 (which provided me with a beautiful Corinthian Leather garage couch), this ’79, and this ’80 prior to today, and now we’ve got a genuine, Ricardo-approved 1976 Cordoba. I spotted this car during […]

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08 - 1976 Chrysler Cordoba Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee MartinSo far in this series, I’ve had no luck finding Chrysler Cordobas from the first couple years of production. We’ve seen this ’78 (which provided me with a beautiful Corinthian Leather garage couch), this ’79, and this ’80 prior to today, and now we’ve got a genuine, Ricardo-approved 1976 Cordoba.
10 - 1976 Chrysler Cordoba Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee MartinI spotted this car during my trip to Southern California two weeks ago. Rust-free California car, right?
11 - 1976 Chrysler Cordoba Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee MartinWell, sort of. The rainy winters in coastal California tend to keep the metal beneath vinyl tops moist, and cheap weatherstripping (i.e., just about all the weatherstripping used by Detroit during the Malaise Era) tends to let water into the trunk. So, on cars like this you’ll see pristine quarter-panels and nasty roofs.
16 - 1976 Chrysler Cordoba Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee MartinCheck out the heraldry on the taillight lens. Such class!
17 - 1976 Chrysler Cordoba Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee MartinHmmm… the other taillight doesn’t seem to match. Which one is correct for 1976?
05 - 1976 Chrysler Cordoba Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin318 or 360, you don’t want to know the horsepower numbers. Move along.
07 - 1976 Chrysler Cordoba Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee MartinWire wheels and Radial T/As!
02 - 1976 Chrysler Cordoba Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee MartinFiat needs to bring back the opera light.

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Junkyard Find: 1976 Dodge Tradesman Van http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/junkyard-find-1976-dodge-tradesman-van/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/junkyard-find-1976-dodge-tradesman-van/#comments Fri, 20 Dec 2013 14:00:33 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=684786 The Dodge Tradesman cargo van of the 1970s was quite popular among customizers back in the days of 20% annual inflation and talk-box guitar solos, as we saw with this ’72 Tradesman Junkyard Find last year. In the very same San Francisco Bay Area wrecking yard, here’s a Slant-6 Tradesman that doesn’t quite qualify as […]

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11 -1976 Dodge Tradesman Van Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee MartinThe Dodge Tradesman cargo van of the 1970s was quite popular among customizers back in the days of 20% annual inflation and talk-box guitar solos, as we saw with this ’72 Tradesman Junkyard Find last year. In the very same San Francisco Bay Area wrecking yard, here’s a Slant-6 Tradesman that doesn’t quite qualify as a custom van— not with just tinted glass and aftermarket wheels— but is still a nice time capsule.
05 -1976 Dodge Tradesman Van Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee MartinChrysler kept the same basic design for its truck HVAC controls for nearly 20 years; my 1966 Dodge A100 has nearly identical cable-operated controls.
03 -1976 Dodge Tradesman Van Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee MartinSlant-6 engine, 3-on-the-tree. Not very quick, but about as reliable as you could get in the 1970s.
17 -1976 Dodge Tradesman Van Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee MartinYou don’t see many of these vans with the single rear door option.
08 -1976 Dodge Tradesman Van Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee MartinJust a plain steel box with the base engine, but it kept going for nearly 40 years.

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Junkyard Find: 1976 Jeep Wagoneer http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/junkyard-find-1976-jeep-wagoneer/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/junkyard-find-1976-jeep-wagoneer/#comments Tue, 12 Nov 2013 14:00:37 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=648490 Since Willys/Kaiser/Jeep/AMC/Chrysler built the Wagoneer from Biblical times until ten minutes ago (actually 1963 through 1991), and I live in Jeep-centric Colorado, I see these things just about every time I visit a wrecking yard. Mostly, I don’t photograph them (unless I see an unusually late example, such as this ’89, or one resplendent in […]

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01 - 1976 Jeep Wagoneer Down On The Junkyard -  Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinSince Willys/Kaiser/Jeep/AMC/Chrysler built the Wagoneer from Biblical times until ten minutes ago (actually 1963 through 1991), and I live in Jeep-centric Colorado, I see these things just about every time I visit a wrecking yard. Mostly, I don’t photograph them (unless I see an unusually late example, such as this ’89, or one resplendent in purple paint and tape stripes, like this ’81), but today’s Junkyard Find— spotted in a San Francisco Bay Area self-serve yard a few weeks ago— was just so incredibly Malaise-y that I felt compelled to document it in its final parking space.
13 - 1976 Jeep Wagoneer Down On The Junkyard -  Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinImagine having the guts to buy something this thirsty just a few years after the 1973 energy crisis, and the sinking feeling that the owner must have experienced when the 1979 energy crisis hit!
07 - 1976 Jeep Wagoneer Down On The Junkyard -  Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinStill, if you need a work truck you have to be willing to pay the fuel bills.
04 - 1976 Jeep Wagoneer Down On The Junkyard -  Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinFake woodgrain, refreshingly uncomplicated HVAC controls. Some things about the middle 1970s were pretty good.
15 - 1976 Jeep Wagoneer Down On The Junkyard -  Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe AMC 360-cubic-inch V8 stayed in production all the way through 1991, thanks to Chrysler’s absorption of AMC in 1987.
06 - 1976 Jeep Wagoneer Down On The Junkyard -  Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinStill some good parts left on this one.

Toughest four-letter word on wheels!

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Junkyard Find: 1976 Toyota Corolla Deluxe Liftback http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/07/junkyard-find-1976-toyota-corolla-deluxe-liftback/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/07/junkyard-find-1976-toyota-corolla-deluxe-liftback/#comments Sun, 14 Jul 2013 13:00:32 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=495050 Having driven quite a few mid-70s Corollas (these cars were as commonplace during my early driving years as are second-gen Tauruses today), I have to say that they were painfully slow even by the tolerant standards of the Middle Malaise Era. However, they were also shockingly reliable by the era’s standards, which means that these […]

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18 - 1976 Toyota Corolla Liftback Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinHaving driven quite a few mid-70s Corollas (these cars were as commonplace during my early driving years as are second-gen Tauruses today), I have to say that they were painfully slow even by the tolerant standards of the Middle Malaise Era. However, they were also shockingly reliable by the era’s standards, which means that these cars were still plentiful on the street until well into the 1990s. Since few outside a hard core of fanatics have shown much interest in pre-AE86 Corollas, these cars get scrapped as soon as something expensive breaks and/or the Rust Monster’s bites get too large. Here’s a Deluxe liftback that I found in a Colorado self-serve yard a few weeks back.


“A welded body, not a nuts-and-bolts body!”
05 - 1976 Toyota Corolla Liftback Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThis was the era of 5-digit odometers (I believe Toyota went to 6-digit units in the early 1980s), so there’s no telling if this is a 90,278-mile car or a 590,278-mile car.
02 - 1976 Toyota Corolla Liftback Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe interior is in pretty good shape, so I’m guessing this car has no more than 190,278 miles on the clock.
11 - 1976 Toyota Corolla Liftback Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinWhile the 1976 Toyota subcompact version of “Deluxe” seems laughably Spartan today, this car did have some features you didn’t see on many cars in its cheapo price range.
07 - 1976 Toyota Corolla Liftback Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinRear window defroster!
04 - 1976 Toyota Corolla Liftback Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinAM radio with slider-style tone and volume controls!
15 - 1976 Toyota Corolla Liftback Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinMost cars in Colorado don’t rust much, thanks to the area’s single-digit humidity, but Japanese cars of the 1970s were surpassed only by air-cooled Volkswagens in the “rust anywhere, rust everywhere” department.
12 - 1976 Toyota Corolla Liftback Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinIt’s possible that this car spent much of its life in the Midwest, but this Colorado dealer emblem says otherwise.
17 - 1976 Toyota Corolla Liftback Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe liftback hatch made these cars excellent haulers.
19 - 1976 Toyota Corolla Liftback Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThat is, they were excellent haulers if you didn’t have to move anything heavy… or carry passengers… or drive uphill. The pushrod 2TC was good for 75 horsepower, but it felt like less.
03 - 1976 Toyota Corolla Liftback Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinIf you had one of these in your 2TC car, you needed plenty of patience when negotiating freeway onramps or attempting to pass a slow camper in the mountains. Still, these engines were hard to kill.

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Junkyard Find: 1976 Ford LTD Country Squire http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/junkyard-find-1976-ford-ltd-country-squire/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/junkyard-find-1976-ford-ltd-country-squire/#comments Wed, 29 May 2013 13:00:10 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=489883 The perceived usefulness of full-sized station wagons of the Malaise Era dropped down to about zero when minivans and SUVs became mainstream family-hauler options in the late 1980s. You see a few wagon freaks restoring these things nowadays, but for every Country Squire that gets restored (or even preserved), a hundred others get sent to […]

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04 - 1976 Ford Country Squire Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe perceived usefulness of full-sized station wagons of the Malaise Era dropped down to about zero when minivans and SUVs became mainstream family-hauler options in the late 1980s. You see a few wagon freaks restoring these things nowadays, but for every Country Squire that gets restored (or even preserved), a hundred others get sent to the knackers. Here’s a well-worn ’76 that I spotted in Denver a couple weeks back.
16 - 1976 Ford Country Squire Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinWe saw a ’75 Country Squire in this series last fall, but big Detroit wagons have become very rare sights in junkyards during the last half-decade or so.
09 - 1976 Ford Country Squire Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinGrowing up a Malaise Era kid, just about every family had a Country Squire or its GM or Chrysler counterpart; these cars were the Voyager and Explorer of their time. My family had a Chevy Beauville van instead (bought new for a Minnesota-to-California move), but the idea was the same: rear-wheel-drive, body-on-frame construction, big V8, kid-barf-proof cloth or vinyl interior.
14 - 1976 Ford Country Squire Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThis is the 460-cubic-inch big-block, good for 202 horsepower and 352 foot-pounds of torque… and about 9 MPG on the highway. Yes, the horsepower number is depressingly low, but torque was what mattered with these cars.
07 - 1976 Ford Country Squire Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe faux-wood trim succumbed to the Colorado sun decades ago.
17 - 1976 Ford Country Squire Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinAfter 37 years, this car has been used up.

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Junkyard Find: 1976 Pontiac Grand LeMans http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/02/junkyard-find-1976-pontiac-grand-lemans/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/02/junkyard-find-1976-pontiac-grand-lemans/#comments Mon, 04 Feb 2013 14:00:34 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=476159 “Personal luxury” became one of the few showroom bright spots for Detroit during the darkest days of the Malaise Era. The definition is a bit fuzzy around the edges, but the basic formula always involved a midsize-or-bigger two-door with a generous helping of disco-grade bling, maybe with some heraldic crests and pleather upholstery. Chrysler had […]

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Personal luxury” became one of the few showroom bright spots for Detroit during the darkest days of the Malaise Era. The definition is a bit fuzzy around the edges, but the basic formula always involved a midsize-or-bigger two-door with a generous helping of disco-grade bling, maybe with some heraldic crests and pleather upholstery. Chrysler had the Cordoba, Ford had the Cougar, and GM had the Grand Prix, to name just a few of many examples of the genre. Why, even dowdy AMC got into the act with their Matador Barcelona. So many of these cars were built that you’ll still find examples now and then at self-serve wrecking yards. By 1976, personal luxury was being applied across whole lines, with broad strokes. Today’s find is one of the last of the big A-body LeMans family, built before the LeMans became a cruel Daewoo joke.
You had your Luxury LeMans, of course, but that car just wasn’t grand enough for the America of Watergate and the Fall of Saigon.
The French Cathouse Red interior fad reached its zenith with Japanese cars of the late 1980s (though Chrysler was still using up its stockpile of red velour well into the 1990s), but The General sure didn’t pull any punches with this car.
The Pontiac 350-cubic-inch V8 was one of the more reliable pushrod V8s of its time, but I’ve learned that I just get depressed when I look up horsepower figures on Malaise Era Detroit engines. Let’s pretend that this one made, say, 340 horses and leave it at that.
This clock almost certainly stopped working before the end of the 1970s, so I didn’t buy it for my collection. It looks cool, though.
Pontiac wasn’t going to let those 5 MPH crash bumpers take away their cars’ pointy snouts!

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Junkyard Find: 1976 Ford Torino http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/01/junkyard-find-1976-ford-torino/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/01/junkyard-find-1976-ford-torino/#comments Wed, 09 Jan 2013 14:00:37 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=472751 Torinos (and Montegos) were among the Malaisiest of Malaise Era machines, so it seems fitting to follow up the ’75 Gran Torino Junkyard Find with today’s ’76. Yes, just as Nixon’s resignation came just before the Fall of Saigon, Ford kept following up one big, slow midsize car with even bigger and slower versions. This […]

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Torinos (and Montegos) were among the Malaisiest of Malaise Era machines, so it seems fitting to follow up the ’75 Gran Torino Junkyard Find with today’s ’76. Yes, just as Nixon’s resignation came just before the Fall of Saigon, Ford kept following up one big, slow midsize car with even bigger and slower versions.
This may be a Ford Elite, the short-lived personal-luxury-coupe version of the Torino, but the Wikipedia entry indicates that the Elite came standard with cloth seats, not the vinyl seats seen here. The emblems are all gone, so this could still be an Elite with a seat swap.
Just to confuse everybody, Ford added the 351M (a destroked 400M) to its array of (nominally) 351-cubic-inch pushrod V8s. That means that Windsor/Cleveland/Modified mixups will be driving parts-counter guys crazy until the last Ford V8 gets melted down.
This car is a bit rustier than the ’75 we just saw, but it’s an (allegedly) more desirable coupe and you’d expect such cars to be worth more than scrap value. Not in Denver, it seeems!

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Junkyard Find: 1976 Capri II aka Mercury Capri aka Ford Capri http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/09/junkyard-find-1976-capri-ii-aka-mercury-capri-aka-ford-capri/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/09/junkyard-find-1976-capri-ii-aka-mercury-capri-aka-ford-capri/#comments Fri, 21 Sep 2012 13:00:24 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=460943 Until about the mid-1980s, the German-built Ford Capri was a fairly common site on the American street (well, at least it was a common sight in California, where I grew up). Available in the United States through 1978, the Capri was sold as, simply, “the Capri.” Because Mercury dealers sold the things, the car became […]

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Until about the mid-1980s, the German-built Ford Capri was a fairly common site on the American street (well, at least it was a common sight in California, where I grew up). Available in the United States through 1978, the Capri was sold as, simply, “the Capri.” Because Mercury dealers sold the things, the car became known as the Mercury Capri, and the identification became more confused when the Fox-based Mustang-sibling Mercury Capri came out with Mercury badging. Since that time, really tedious anoraks have jumped down the throats of those who made the mistake of referring to the European Capri as a Mercury, and the rest of us don’t care. The Capri has mostly disappeared, but every once in a while I see a completely thrashed one in a junkyard. Here’s a ’75 that I found a few weeks ago in California.
The ’73 energy crisis had Detroit scrambling to import fuel-sipping machines from their overseas divisions. The West German-built Capri was much more successful for Ford USA than was the “Buick/Opel” was for GM.
The 2.8 liter “Cologne” V6 in this car made 90 horsepower. That doesn’t sound like much for a 2,500-pound car— and it wasn’t much— but standards during the Malaise Era were low.
When I get around to doing Patina Wallpapers to go with the Murilee Martin Lifestyle Brand™ Junkyard and Thrown Rod Wallpapers, I’ll use this shot for sure.

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Junkyard Find: 1976 AMC Matador Barcelona http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/07/junkyard-find-1976-amc-matador-barcelona/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/07/junkyard-find-1976-amc-matador-barcelona/#comments Fri, 06 Jul 2012 13:00:30 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=451460 A couple of days ago, I accompanied a friend on a journey to pick up a couple of Rabbits at a mysterious not-open-to-the-public yard that sprawls across a couple of square miles of prickly-pear-covered prairie east of Colorado Springs. I’ll tell the story of that adventure soon, but I just couldn’t wait to share this […]

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A couple of days ago, I accompanied a friend on a journey to pick up a couple of Rabbits at a mysterious not-open-to-the-public yard that sprawls across a couple of square miles of prickly-pear-covered prairie east of Colorado Springs. I’ll tell the story of that adventure soon, but I just couldn’t wait to share this car that I spotted during our visit: one of the finest examples of Malaise Era special-edition marketing madness in the history of the universe!
After Chrysler scored big with the vaguely Spanish-themed Cordoba personal luxury coupe in 1975, the marketing wizards in Kenosha knew they had to fight back with their own crypto-Iberian-themed machine. Unfortunately, AMC had a budget of about 19 bucks to work with, so they couldn’t afford to hire their own Ricardo Montalban counterpart… but they could spray the Matador coupe in two-tone brown and put some special badges on it.
I already had a pretty severe case of Junkyard Stendhal Syndrome by the time I spotted the Matador Barcelona, having been wandering around endless fields of Willys Aeros, IHC Travelalls, and the like in 100-degree air full of smoke from all the nearby wildfires. Sort of a mid-apocalyptic environment, and then this brown-on-brown apparition appeared out of the haze, parked between a Cordoba and the only Integra for miles.
I may be the only person in this time zone who thinks that the Matador coupe is a good-looking car, and someday I will own one. Sadly, this car is already spoken for. By the way, the official names for the paint colors are “Golden Ginger Metallic” and “Sand Tan.”
Life at 6,000 feet on the High Plains is not kind to car interiors, but you can get a sense of the former majesty of this soft velour upholstery.
Imagine this car with a built 401 and a 4-speed… and a Montalban-esque Spanish accent, of course.

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Junkyard Find: 1976 Datsun 620 Pickup http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/03/junkyard-find-1976-datsun-620-pickup/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/03/junkyard-find-1976-datsun-620-pickup/#comments Thu, 22 Mar 2012 12:30:07 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=435771 Did any of the Afghani Mujahideen drive Datsun pickups to battle after the Soviets invaded? Probably, but the Toyota Hilux got all the press. For the same reason today, Malaise Era Toyota pickups tend to be kept alive, while their Datsun, Mazda (via Ford), and Isuzu (via Chevy) counterparts get crushed when they finally suffer […]

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Did any of the Afghani Mujahideen drive Datsun pickups to battle after the Soviets invaded? Probably, but the Toyota Hilux got all the press. For the same reason today, Malaise Era Toyota pickups tend to be kept alive, while their Datsun, Mazda (via Ford), and Isuzu (via Chevy) counterparts get crushed when they finally suffer some problem that costs more than $200 to fix. I’ve been seeing a steady stream of these Datsuns in junkyard for 20 years now, and here’s the latest one.
This pickup is a bare-bones, non-King-Cab, zero-options model. No tach, all idiot lights.
The L20 was very reliable, though Toyota’s 20R set the bar impossibly high for four-cylinder truck engines.
Remember aftermarket sunroof conversions?

15 - 1976 Datsun Pickup Down On The Junkyard - Pictures courtesy of Phillip 'Murilee Martin' Greden 01 - 1976 Datsun Pickup Down On The Junkyard - Pictures courtesy of Phillip 'Murilee Martin' Greden 02 - 1976 Datsun Pickup Down On The Junkyard - Pictures courtesy of Phillip 'Murilee Martin' Greden 03 - 1976 Datsun Pickup Down On The Junkyard - Pictures courtesy of Phillip 'Murilee Martin' Greden 04 - 1976 Datsun Pickup Down On The Junkyard - Pictures courtesy of Phillip 'Murilee Martin' Greden 05 - 1976 Datsun Pickup Down On The Junkyard - Pictures courtesy of Phillip 'Murilee Martin' Greden 06 - 1976 Datsun Pickup Down On The Junkyard - Pictures courtesy of Phillip 'Murilee Martin' Greden 07 - 1976 Datsun Pickup Down On The Junkyard - Pictures courtesy of Phillip 'Murilee Martin' Greden 08 - 1976 Datsun Pickup Down On The Junkyard - Pictures courtesy of Phillip 'Murilee Martin' Greden 09 - 1976 Datsun Pickup Down On The Junkyard - Pictures courtesy of Phillip 'Murilee Martin' Greden 10 - 1976 Datsun Pickup Down On The Junkyard - Pictures courtesy of Phillip 'Murilee Martin' Greden 11 - 1976 Datsun Pickup Down On The Junkyard - Pictures courtesy of Phillip 'Murilee Martin' Greden 12 - 1976 Datsun Pickup Down On The Junkyard - Pictures courtesy of Phillip 'Murilee Martin' Greden 13 - 1976 Datsun Pickup Down On The Junkyard - Pictures courtesy of Phillip 'Murilee Martin' Greden 14 - 1976 Datsun Pickup Down On The Junkyard - Pictures courtesy of Phillip 'Murilee Martin' Greden datsun620 Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail

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Junkyard Find: 1976 Dodge Aspen http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/12/junkyard-find-1976-dodge-aspen/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/12/junkyard-find-1976-dodge-aspen/#comments Wed, 28 Dec 2011 14:00:56 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=423629 It’s hard to believe that the Dodge Aspen was once a common sight on the street, seen as frequently back in the Malaise Era as CR-Vs are today. Cops drove them, college students drove them, old ladies drove them; as the successor to the Dart, the Aspen was about as mainstream as it was possible […]

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It’s hard to believe that the Dodge Aspen was once a common sight on the street, seen as frequently back in the Malaise Era as CR-Vs are today. Cops drove them, college students drove them, old ladies drove them; as the successor to the Dart, the Aspen was about as mainstream as it was possible to be. Then, sometime around about 1990, just about all of them were swallowed up by a hole in the earth.
Every so often, however, an Aspen hangs on long enough to show up in a self-service wrecking yard. Here’s one I found in a Denver yard yesterday.
What can I say about this interior? The less said, the better.
This example appears to have a pretty hefty selection of quasi-luxurious options, including the much-sought-after “Schnauzer On A Stick” heraldic crest on the grille.
You can’t go wrong with a Slant Six under the hood. Well, unless it’s a LeBaron.

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Junkyard Find: 1976 Buick Electra Limited Park Avenue http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/04/junkyard-find-1976-buick-electra-limited-park-avenue/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/04/junkyard-find-1976-buick-electra-limited-park-avenue/#comments Thu, 14 Apr 2011 13:30:29 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=391268 There’s the Buick Electra, the Buick Park Avenue, and the Buick Limited. Only during the depths of the Malaise Era, however, could you buy a Buick with all three names. The ’76 was the last of the huge Electras, with the four-door hardtop Limited weighing in at a mighty 4,709 pounds. This was before Buick […]

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There’s the Buick Electra, the Buick Park Avenue, and the Buick Limited. Only during the depths of the Malaise Era, however, could you buy a Buick with all three names.

The ’76 was the last of the huge Electras, with the four-door hardtop Limited weighing in at a mighty 4,709 pounds. This was before Buick spun off the Park Avenue as a separate model and used the designation for the Electra’s top trim level.

This was also before The General started playing funny mix-and-match games with V8 engines, putting Olds engines in Pontiacs and I don’t know what all. In ’76 you still got a genuine Buick 455 in your Electra, with 345 pound-feet of torque compensating for its 205 horsepower.

Not a lot of Buick class remains in this much-thrashed, Crusher-bound veteran.

Those rain-soaked velour seats still look ready to swallow a half-dozen of so beefy passengers. Not many will miss the luxury cars of the Malaise Era, but let’s hope a few survive for future generations to contemplate.

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Window Louvers Aren’t Enough To Save This 1976 Toyota Celica ST http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/12/window-louvers-arent-enough-to-save-this-1976-toyota-celica-st/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/12/window-louvers-arent-enough-to-save-this-1976-toyota-celica-st/#comments Wed, 29 Dec 2010 16:00:40 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=378898 Remember window louvers? They were sort of terrible, yet it’s still interesting to see them on a quasi-sporty Malaise Era car. This Celica ST’s louvers will soon be ground up and digested by The Crusher. It’s sad to see another 20R about to get crushed. These engines should be immortal!

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Remember window louvers? They were sort of terrible, yet it’s still interesting to see them on a quasi-sporty Malaise Era car. This Celica ST’s louvers will soon be ground up and digested by The Crusher.

It’s sad to see another 20R about to get crushed. These engines should be immortal!

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Curbside Classic: 1976 Toyota Corolla Liftback http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/03/curbside-classic-1976-toyota-corolla-liftback/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/03/curbside-classic-1976-toyota-corolla-liftback/#comments Wed, 10 Mar 2010 16:06:36 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=348390 Despite the fact that I’m not superstitious or religious, I’ve learned to gracefully accept that certain things seem to happen as if a bigger hand were at work; as though some things were preordained. One year ago exactly, I stumbled on this old Cadillac (actually a ’72, it turns out), and it inspired my first […]

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Despite the fact that I’m not superstitious or religious, I’ve learned to gracefully accept that certain things seem to happen as if a bigger hand were at work; as though some things were preordained. One year ago exactly, I stumbled on this old Cadillac (actually a ’72, it turns out), and it inspired my first Curbside Classic. It started out about the year I turned eighteen and left home, and hitched a ride in one just like it. But it ended up as a rambling reflection on the fall of Cadillac, the economic circumstances of 1971, and how they’ve changed since then. One year and a hundred Curbside Classics later, I decided to revisit the old DeVille, to see what it might have to say to me now, and to indulge in some more musings. And what has taken up residence with it? A 1976 Toyota Corolla. A mere coincidence, of course. But one that is mighty pregnant with symbolism.

Let’s get the personal story out of the way first. These two cars perfectly mark two significant transitions in my life. I hitched off into the sunset (a blizzard, actually) as an optimistic eighteen year old in the comforting bosom of the big Caddy. And I spent the next five years in the self-indulgent wilderness of callow youth, following every whim and scent of a pretty girl. In 1976, in an act that reflected the times on numerous levels, my then-GF’s Mom sold her house, traded in her big-block 1969 Plymouth Fury for a 1976 Corolla, and drove off to California. Duly inspired, I followed a few months later. Her Corolla became a symbol for shedding off the old, and for the bright future that Japanese-car-crazy California represented.

I’m not going to talk much about this actual Corolla, having mostly exhausted the subject in several chapters a few years back. And we’ll come back to revisit some of the innumerable vintage Corollas here. Let’s just say it was the finest shit box ever made, and the perfect yin to the Caddy’s yang. My heart-felt memories of the Corolla’s influential role in my life and its surprising ability to warp the time-space continuum can be found here. My celebration of the Corolla’s remarkable history on the occasion of its fortieth birthday is here. And my less than enthusiastic review of the current Corolla is here. So what more can this old Toyota get me to say?

Times stands still for no car. Or person. Or state, or country. It’s easy to fall back on the memories of how it used to be, when California and Toyota were the hot new thing, the trend makers, the bright promise for the future. In 1976, their star was on the rise. And there was no more greater moment in time when California seemed like it was truly above the fray, invincible to the powers of economic turmoil and destruction than in 1981, when the rest of the country was ravaged by the worst recession since the Depression.

That nasty event made the term “Rust Belt” ubiquitous. The traditional manufacturing heartland of upper mid-west America had its heart ripped out, and started a decline in Detroit that now has that city planning on razing hundreds of its acres of abandoned neighborhoods and turning them back to farm land.

But California was unfazed by that recession, fed by the aerospace and defense industries thanks to Reagan’s military spending boom and the growth of the entertainment industry and Silicon Valley. Moving to California and trading in your tired Detroit iron on a Toyota were the smart thing to do. And hundreds of thousands did just that, every year.

The old saying is, as goes California, so goes the rest of the country. And despite the protestations from many, it’s been all too true. Everyone sips lattes now, even if it is at MacDonalds. Gays were once a San Francisco thing. Organic fresh food was something hippies ate. And Toyotas were what those those wacky Californians drove. And now take a look at ourselves, in the vanity mirror of our Camry, Highlander or Tundra. We’re all Californians now, whether we like it or not.

Or should I say for better or for worse? California is in crisis, ungovernable and practically bankrupt. Does that sound a little too familiar? And how is Toyota faring these days? Well, at least they’re not in a total state of denial. But just as California will never again be the promised land and the last frontier, so will Toyota never again be the rising new star.

It’s a remarkable change in a few decades’ time. In the eighties, California and Japan were the Pacific Rim tigers, brimming with self confidence. I can’t fully explain California’s woes here, but what about Toyota’s? Did they become the new GM? Has this Corolla joined the old Caddy in the brotherhood of past faded glories? Are they the poster children of hubris and over-expansion? Is it the invisible hand that set up Toyota for the fall just after they succeeded GM as the world’s largest auto manufacturer? And what car will be there with them a year from now?

Cadillac earned the title “The Standard Of The World” because it pioneered precision manufacturing, allowing any component to be interchanged. That was radical and unheard of in 1903. But the real meaning of that slogan was long forgotten in 1971.This DeVille marked the final turning point in Cadillac’s and GM’s trajectory. By 1976,  Toyota was earning the title of the most reliable affordable little car in the world with the Corolla. By 2007 its double cab Tundra would cast quite a shadow even on the big Caddy. Is the Tundra Toyota’s 1971 DeVille?

Toyota and California have changed us beyond anything we might have imagined in 1971, when this DeVille was still the crowning glory of the land. Go ahead, those of you that want to be nostalgic for its reign. And you too, the carriers of the Toyota flame. But its not really a war anymore; cultural, automotive, economic or otherwise. It’s now well beyond winners or losers; everyone has already lost. Toyota has fallen from its pedestal, and perhaps in some ways for the better. And it started before the UA fad. And so has California; hell, they’ve even forgotten how to drive and control a car there. Not to mention their state. What’s that old saying about California again?

The recent NHTSA data dives have convinced me of one thing: GM’s consistently low UA rate is not a fluke. Nor is Toyota’s relatively high one. At the risk of sounding like a Congressman, why don’t the two of you exchange phone numbers and set up a little pow-wow on the subject? GM owes Toyota a favor anyway, having been invited into their secret house of just-in-time manufacturing via NUMMI twenty five years ago. And wouldn’t that make an awesome and symbolic photo-op?

Predicting the future is a folly. Perhaps Toyota and California will both figure out how what’s out of control, and fix it. A constitutional convention and a reboot button on the dash, perhaps. Or is UA just a societal symptom of our inability to manage our runaway government deficits? Or perhaps a handy distraction from them.

Here’s the scoop on these two Curbside Classics: the owner of both of them picked up the Corolla because the old Caddy isn’t that great for running errands. But he’s emotionally attached to it and keeps it going. But if the Toyota craps out, it’s history. And what will take its place? See you next March 10th.

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Curbside Classic: The Most Influential Modern Car In America – 1976 Honda Accord http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/03/curbside-classic-the-most-influential-modern-car-in-america-1976-honda-accord/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/03/curbside-classic-the-most-influential-modern-car-in-america-1976-honda-accord/#comments Thu, 04 Mar 2010 16:54:35 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=347564 This is the companion piece to the Most Influential Modern Global Car: the 1975 VW Rabbit/Golf. Now if I had the same photographic luck as with the Rabbit, there would be a big American car in the same shot, say something like this. Well, the Florence Apt’s [sic] will do fairly well as a stand-in, […]

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This is the companion piece to the Most Influential Modern Global Car: the 1975 VW Rabbit/Golf. Now if I had the same photographic luck as with the Rabbit, there would be a big American car in the same shot, say something like this. Well, the Florence Apt’s [sic] will do fairly well as a stand-in, with its traditional architecture. Because if any one car can take credit for re-inventing the traditional “American” car, it’s this Honda Accord.

Within four years of the Accord’s arrival, GM launched its mega-billion dollar X-Bodies, Chrysler bet its future on K-cars, and Ford eventually came on board with FWD revolution too, in a big way (Taurus). But not only did the Accord start a revolution in Detroit, but also in Japan. The Accord’s effect on Toyota City was like an earthquake that saw the stodgy old mini-Galaxie RWD Corona get dumped for a completely new US-centric FWD Camry. The rest is history, and what a glorious one it is: a record 21 out of 25 years on C/D’s Ten Best Cars list; numerous COTY awards, repeat visits to the top of the US sales charts. Now the Accord is as American as apple pie, literally. From a tiny 2000 lb 68 hp hatchback smaller than today’s Fit, it’s now become a full size car, and not all that different from an updated version of the cars it made obsolete and irrelevant.

Read the middle paragraph on the right side of this ad: “Right here we would like to reassure you on one point. Although we fondly refer to the Accord as the Big Honda, it is only big by our standards. We don’t build what are traditionally called big cars. And we don’t intend to start”. Honda may have been sincere when they said it then, but things obviously didn’t turn out that way. And therein is the fundamental difference between the VW Golf and the Accord: they both started out the same size and basic shape, and although the Golf eventually grew too, its growth was always in low-calorie European terms. The Honda super-sized itself, and became a genuine corn-fed American. Ironically, VW has just now figured that out after thirty years, and is developing “American-sized” sedans to compete with the Accord and Camry. Better late than never, I suppose, but did it really need to take thirty five years to figure out what went wrong?

Speaking of irony, the Accord was originally conceived to be a Mustang-sized car with a V6 engine! Or at least, so goes the legend. It wouldn’t surprise me, since Honda was a very ambitious (actually overly so) company just prior to the Civic. It tended to extreme manifestations of technical superiority, like the brilliant but utterly impossible to build at a profit Honda 1300. But the Civic was a sea change in Honda’s thinking: a revolutionary but pragmatic cheap little hatch, to be built in massive quantities. Honda would never be the same, and the same progressive pragmatism that spawned the Civic naturally took the next step in the Accord, and eventually with cars like the Odyssey, Pilot and Ridgeline. Would anyone have guessed that in 1976? Well, eating ones’ words is a good exercise, and can be highly profitable, in Honda’s case. And the opposite, in VW’s: they’re still bleeding mega-millions in the US.

Regardless of what the Accord was originally meant to be, it came as a very tidy but practical two-door hatch (the four door followed in 1979). Its wheelbase of a mere 93.7 inches was five inches less than a current Hyundai Accent, and it was about the same length overall (160″) as that almost smallest of cars available today.  But Americans ate “The Big Honda” up as if it were an apple pie eating contest. It’s difficult to describe just what a huge hit and fad the Accord was when it appeared, unless you were there at the time. The fact that it came just three years after that equally huge hit and fad the Civic, made Honda undoubtedly the fastest growing new brand ever launched in the US. Keep in mind that when the Civic first appeared in 1972, they were being sold in Honda motorcycle dealerships. By the time the Accord hit, Honda car dealerships were licenses to print money.

Everyone raved about the Accord when it appeared. And it hit the market in a very different way then the Golf/Rabbit. VW was still anxious about preserving its vaunted “cheap car” status, and was frantic about offering the Rabbit at a sub $3k price. The only way they did that was by making a special “super stripper” version, with cardboard door panels and rubber floors. The Accord went the exact opposite way: priced at $3,999, exactly one grand (33%) more than the stripped VW, but lavishly equipped like no other car before in its price class. It came standard with a level of equipment unheard of in that time, even for Japanese cars: nicely-upholstered cloth seats, a tachometer, intermittent wipers, and an AM/FM radio. And everyone raved what a great deal it was. VW misread the market completely: Americans were ready to pay as much as a big car for a small one, if it had the comfort, style, pizazz and (most of the) convenience of a big one.

Of course, the Accord’s timing was exquisite, arriving one year after the first energy crisis. But it was more than that; Americans were ready to embrace smaller cars wholesale, especially on the west and east coast. And lets face it, American coupes, typified by the Ford Elite and the like had miserable space utilization, horrible efficiency, were poorly built and wretched to drive. Detroit didn’t just open the portcullis with its obese “mid-sized cars” of the seventies. It actively invited the invasion, and Honda led the charge.

That’s not to take anything away from Toyota’s pioneering and on-going success, but it never had the sudden and almost explosive success Honda did. Toyota had been cultivating its beach-hold since the early sixties, and in 1969 the Corolla became the number two selling import, after the Beetle. Toyota paved the way, identifying the soft underbelly of the beast Detroit. But Honda charged in for the kill, at the right moment, with the right weapon. By the mid-seventies, Toyota’s Corona had become a pretty stodgy affair.

The Accord set the standards for all its future successors to come, if in embryonic form. It was never quite the brilliant and sparkling performer the Golf was, or could be in its best years (or when it was running right or at all). But it had a complete and balanced dynamic that every Accord has had since: a smooth, economical and relatively responsive engine, a slick transmission (don’t ask about the early two-speed automatics though), accurate steering, capable handling, and a consistently high degree of mechanical and assembly quality. No, you won’t find fanatics of early Accords like the Golf Mk.1′s still loyal followers, rebuilding their beloved cars endlessly. Instead, you find Accords still hard at work on the streets (not in the rust belt) like this and numerous other examples hereabouts.

The Accord’s soon to be proven legendary reliability was still largely unknown in 1976. But already then it spoke of a palpable quality of organic wholeness, a car that was as comfortable in its skin as it was to drive. There were no unknowns or surprises in the Accord: what you saw is what you got. Americans could do without the Golf’s Germanic brilliance, because they could smell the risks inherent in that. The Accord was the squeaky clean, cute girl with the winning smile in the local school’s cheerleader outfit  next door. She might have been Japanese, but nobody even noticed or cared anymore. They were utterly seduced, and she was assimilated.

And when the Accord’s four door big-sister showed up in 1979, the front doors of suburbia really flew open. In a recent discussion here at TTAC, it was argued that Detroit’s miserable small cars where the cause of its decline. That may have been the case in the heartland, but in the influential west coast, followed all-too soon on the east coast, folks were dumping their big Cutlasses and Monte Carlos for Accords, unless they had a really big family. Anyway, it was the heyday of the multiple car family, so unless one was ferrying a big brood, the two and three Honda car family was quickly taking hold.

The Accord went on to enjoy several years at the top of the charts, until Toyota’s even more-American Camry eventually displaced it. But as we speak, the Accord is likely to reclaim its seat at the top in 2010, once again America’s sweetheart. The fact that it’s now a full sized car makes the Big Honda’s remarkable trip into the hearts of Americans and the near-destruction of Detroit all that much more remarkable and ironic.

More new Curbside Classics here

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