Vintage Snapshots on Video: New York City In The 1970s


When I get bored with whatever’s on TV, I’ll often go on a YouTube binge and hunt for neat stuff on there. That’s when I found this gem, a compilation of still shots.

The fun starts at the .55 mark, where the viewer is treated is the sight of all sorts of vintage iron prowling the streets, back alleys, and expressways of The Big Apple. One look at any of the individual snapshots shows just how different the automotive landscape was back then. Big 3 iron dominates, with only a small smattering of imports- mostly Toyotas, Datsuns, and the ubiquitous air cooled VW. There’s even a couple of sightings of the notorious Audi 100LS- Germany’s answer to the Vega, but for all the wrong reasons. Small wonder they’ve all disappeared.

At 2:17 there’s a truly heartbreaking sight- an early 2nd-gen split bumper Camaro that’s apparently been stolen, stripped, and then torched to destroy any forensic evidence. Sad. There’s some other pretty cool shots, though. Some of my favorites include:

3:00- A ’71 / ’72 Cadillac Fleetwood wearing knobby snow tires, parked defiantly next to a fire hydrant.
3:10- A truckload of brand new ’73 Oldsmobiles
4:53- A ’66 Impala convertible and a chrome-bumper C3 Corvette cruising side by side on the expressway
6:40- A well-dressed old man smoking and contentedly lounging in the passenger seat of a ’71 / ’72 Mercury Marquis driven by some hulking brute dressed in all black, wearing a big gold chain.
Mafia, maybe?
8:58- A shiny ’73 Cadillac DeVille parked at the end of a grimy, nearly deserted back street with the Brooklyn Bridge looming overhead in the background.
10:13- A nice international assortment.

What’s especially striking is how GM products appear to completely rule the road. In every one of those pics, 7 out of every 10 cars on the road seems to be some sort of GM vehicle- mainly big B-bodies or the massive C-bodies. Especially Cadillacs.

While viewing those images, I can’t help but wonder how many, if any at all, of those cars have survived to the present day. In all likelihood, probably none. New York’s harsh winters, rough streets, and a thriving Mob-controlled ( back then ) underground car theft industry don’t exactly lend themselves to the preservation of old iron. Still, I’d like to believe that there’s at least a handful of survivors still doing their duty on New York’s mean streets, even if it’s only to the Friday night cruise-in.