Car Show Classics: 2014 Henry Ford Motor Muster, Cars of the ’70s


It seems like every decade could be split down the middle, with the first half roughly mimicking the preceding decade, and the latter half really lending definition.  When most people think “1970s,” they think disco and leisure suits, and cars with puffy vinyl roofs and padded velour seats.  While that may represent the 1970s to some extent, it isn’t a complete thought.


I want to start by giving a shout out to The Henry Ford’s Motor Muster, my favorite car show of the year.  Cars from 1933-1976 are represented, and this year, I found myself giving a little extra time to the 1970s section. There is a car or two I’ll save for later CCs, but there are plenty of other highlights.  For example, the above 1970 Challenger probably represents how a majority of Challengers were sold, and how they looked before everybody wanted an R/T “recreation” or “tribute.”  It’s a 318 with air conditioning, vinyl roof, and wheel covers; and I was far more interested in it than I would be in another faked 440-Six Pack.

Of course, the Challenger still exhibits a ’60s muscle car vibe, even with a vinyl roof.  The Cordoba and Mirada, cars that truly represented the ’70s, were still several years off.


How about an original 440 Superbird with some road rash?  The proudly framed picture beside the car seems to represent the fact that the owner is proud of its condition, and why not?  Cars like this get a lot of attention, and restoring one is absurdly expensive and time consuming.  Enjoy it how you want, and who cares what others think?


Another representative from the “more 60s than 70s” era is this cool lime-colored 1970 Charger R/T.  The full-width taillights are growing on me enough for me to proclaim the ’70 my second favorite of the Charger trifecta, right behind the ’68.  Please click the link below for more regarding that conversation.

1968 Dodge Charger R/T


Maybe you’re more of a Ford fan.  This uncommon 1970 XL convertible was, to me, the last good-looking big Ford of the 1970s.  The 1969 and ’70 LTDs and XLs, with their hidden headlamps, have really started growing on me over the past few years.  As nice as Magnum 500s look on “muscle Fords,” I’d almost rather see something more subdued on this XL.


It doesn’t hurt that a deep blue exterior with a lighter blue interior is one of my favorite color combinations.  The “command center” dashboard is an interesting oddity, although I’d hate it as a passenger.  It seems like most drivers have terrible taste in music, and passengers should have a say.  This XL could have a 351, 390, or 429 under the hood.  In 1971, the 400 from the “335-series” of engines would replace the 390 in full-size Fords.


Unlike the XL, which shares a common thread with ’60s Galaxies and LTDs, the ’72 Gran Torino is one of Ford’s first salvos into true 1970s styling.  It is more ponderous looking than its immediate predecessor, with imposing quarter panels offering a vestige of what modern cars would be like with no rear visibility.  Arguably, the most aesthetically successful Torino was the above pictured ’72 Sport Sportsroof (that’s a mouthful).  Some may disagree, but I actually like the laser stripe on Gran Torino Sports from this era.


This example has the rare 4-speed option, so it should pack a 351 Cleveland four-barrel.  One could also order a 429 in 1972, although it was a less powerful option than the 351 (248 vs. 205 hp), and was unavailable with the 4-speed.


Having grown up a Mustang fan, I’m still a sucker for early ’70s Mustangs.  This is a 1973 version, the last convertible until the ’83 model, and it’s resplendent in what seems like “Medium Copper Metallic.”  Ford used a really appropriate ’70s color palette, from the “Grabber” colors to the earthtones of this model.  I love this car, and I don’t care who knows it.

The big Mustang from this time period seems to be one of the few vehicles that rode in a wasteland between the 1960s and 1970s.  It was almost too big and plush to feel like a 1960s car, and its long hood reminds me of “personal luxury” staples like the Monte Carlo, Grand Prix, and Thunderbird.  Of course, the Mustangs that truly represented the malaise era were the Mustang IIs, which were right around the corner from this convertible.


This interior looks new, and with the top down, you may not notice the “driving in a bunker” feeling of this generation of Mustang.  This convertible, if one believes the license plate, was powered by a 351 Cleveland, which came in two-barrel and four-barrel varieties, with the four-barrel having larger ports and valves.


This is a 1974 LTD with a “landau iron” on the C-Pillar.  If you have nothing nice to say, move on to the next car.


This may sound stupid, but as much as I dislike 1970s full-size Fords, I love 1970s full-size Chevrolets.  I’m sure they’re no better as automobiles, but I just like the way they look.  This ’75 Impala Sport Coupe may or may not have been less popular than the Custom Coupe, but I remember seeing fewer of them on the road when I was a kid.  It seemed like the Custom Coupe was everywhere.  No breakout numbers for production are available to back me up on that, unfortunately.

Of course, the new ’71 B-Body seemed right at home in the 1970s.  It was ready-made for the Brougham-era in a way that no 1960s Chevrolet was.


Even the massive railroad tie bumpers don’t significantly detract from the appearance of these Chevrolets.  Isn’t this a clean Impala?  I love the stock wheelcovers and general untouched look.


Try getting a white and red interior in any new car today.  Chevy had a dashboard layout similar to the 1970 Ford’s, although it might be a little less close quartered.  Everything here is very much driver-centric.


Not everything at Motor Muster bleeds red, white, and blue.  In a way, the “Type 3” was the transition between the Beetle and the Rabbit, preparing Volkswagen buyers for change.

Even though the Volkswagen 1600 was far less successful in the marketplace than the ubiquitous Beetle, they seem infinitely more desirable to own.  I’d take a Karmann Ghia over either, but I’ve occasionally peered through classifieds and wondered if I needed another air-cooled car.  This example wears very attractive wheels and an era appropriate bright green hue.  Volkswagens are timeless in a way other cars aren’t, so this ’73 model is at home in either decade.


So there you have it, a cornucopia of color from a confusing decade.  While this muscular Boss 351 arguably belongs to the 1960s in spirit, if not in styling, one can start to see the decade’s dividing line in cars like the ’72 Torino, ’74 LTD, and ’75 Impala.  Of course, there are few absolutes in life, so feel free to draw your own conclusions.