QOTD: Your Choice for a Seventies Sleeper?

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
qotd your choice for a seventies sleeper

Today’s Junkyard Find, despite its dilapidated nature, delivered a jolt of adrenaline right when it was needed most. Monday mornings can be a slow-to-rouse affair, but the ’73 Century Gran Sport was a car aimed at reducing the sudden onset of depression afflicting America’s drivers. It still carries that same therapeutic effect.

Yes, the Seventies — a decade talked about heavily in the TTAC chatroom, though not nearly as much as the two that followed. Starting with a bang and ending in a forlorn whimper, the 1970s was a tumultuous time for the U.S. auto industry, with geopolitical events and government regulation kicking off a stigmatizing Era of Malaise that still echoes to this day.

Let’s see if we can find some points of light in all that darkness.

The Gran Sport 455 was certainly one of them.

5.8 seconds to 50 mph in a two-plus-ton barge with smog-strangled V8 underhood was not bad for that time, though one must assume the tall third gear can be blamed for the lengthy 0-70 mph run time. It looks like GM engineers also applied the appropriate spring rate to this machine.

A definite sleeper.

Everyone knows the Skylarks and Chevelles and 442s and Trans Ams and Camaros and Challengers and Mustangs from the outset of this era, but “interesting” American iron from this decade doesn’t end with that short list. Fun could be had in lesser machines, and not just in years ending in “0” or “1”.

They might not steal the show at a local car meet, but they were an attractive option to the polyester-clad car buyer of the time. With memory bands to comb and recollections to jar, lets take time to rustle up a few. These needn’t be the ultimate performers of their day, nor does exclusivity need to play the key role.

Mention the Pontiac Ventura Sprint, if you must. Three-hundred-and-fifty cubic inches can be all the engine you need if placed under the right hood. Mustang II Cobra? We’ll accept that, as everyone else at the show will be drooling over the older Boss or Mach 1.

You could even tap the end of the muscle car era for overlooked vehicles that packed a punch but paled in presence when placed next to better-known brethren. Mercury Cyclone Super Cobra Jet, anyone?

While hardly a vehicle that could hold its own (or the road) if stacked against a comparatively featherweight ’68 or ’69 pony car, the bloated ’73 and ’74 Dodge Chargers, especially in triple-opera-window SE guise, always interested this writer. Vinyl and muscle can mix, and a 440 V8 was still available to buyers who increasingly didn’t want it. The EPA was busy flexing its muscles, but a performance rear end still lingered among the many options greeting buyers. Life didn’t need to be entirely sedate.

With ten years to choose from and a laundry list of cars, what vehicle that can be arguably described as a sleeper stirs a little emotion in your mind?

[Image: Chrysler Corp.]

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  • -Nate -Nate on Aug 12, 2020

    Lots of fun memories here . -Nate

  • Nrd515 Nrd515 on Aug 13, 2020

    My '74 Roadunner with the 360 4 barrel was terrible out of the box, wrong fuel pump, carb linkage wasn't close to correct, the secondaries didn't open fully, etc. It would literally run out of gas at full throttle, popping and surging. I was totally humiliated by a friend's '70 307 Camaro, even though it had an 4 barrel carb and a new intake manifold, I still should have beaten it. After the pump got changed, and the carb(Carter Thermo-Quad) adjusted correctly, my car avenged itself and easily beat his Camaro. My next target was another friend's '71 Olds 442. The first time we raced, on a closed dragstrip, he won by about a car length. A set of headers and some carb changes made it a toss up most times who would win, and then a cam change to a slightly more lumpy one made my car beat his 100% of the time, and from about 1/8th mile on, I just walked away. When I stupidly traded in the car in 1977, it's best ET was 13.35@102MPH on slicks at Irwindale. The "HP" 360 was a great motor in the mid 70's.

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