One of my long-time favorite shows from the 1970s is American television producer Aaron Spelling’s “Charlie’s Angels”, which ran from the fall of 1976 through the summer of ’81. It either made or cemented the stardom of its main actresses, including Farrah Fawcett-Majors (hyphenated at the time), Kate Jackson, Jaclyn Smith, and the first “replacement Angel”, Cheryl Ladd, who started in the second season. Even if actor David Doyle who played the character of John Bosley (known simply as “Bosley”) didn’t have his profile raised to the degree of that of his gorgeous female costars, he did make the rounds on game shows that were popular at the time. Even the actresses who joined the series later enjoyed some extra mainstream exposure, including successful model Shelley Hack (who was up to that point well known as the face of Charlie perfume) and actress Tanya Roberts.
I own the first three seasons of this show on DVD, and each time I rewatch an episode, there seems to be some new detail, nuance, or plot twist I notice to which I hadn’t paid attention before. One thing remains the same over repeated viewings, though, and that is Ford’s obvious product placement throughout pretty much the entire series. At any given time, the vehicles owned by the Charles Townsend Associates private detective agency and used by the Angels and Bosley were all Fords.
Sisters Jill and Kris Monroe (played by Farrah Fawcett-Majors and Cheryl Ladd, respectively) were assigned the sporty looking, flashy Mustang II Cobra II hatchback in successive fashion when the latter actress replaced the former on the show. Kelly Garrett (Jaclyn Smith’s character) drove a chamois-colored Mustang II Ghia notchback. When Bosley got screen time on the road, he was often seen driving a pine green ’77 Thunderbird, a newly downsized and very popular car that year.
Last and certainly not least, Sabrina Duncan, played by Kate Jackson, was assigned an orange Pinto, complete with plaid seats, wire wheel covers, and a white vinyl half-roof. I had long felt bad for Sabrina’s character for having been assigned a lowly Pinto, when the other two Angels at least got Mustang IIs. Why couldn’t one of them been assigned a Capri II, maybe even an all-black “S” model? (I’m guessing the answer to that would be the Capri’s European heritage and “not made here” syndrome.) I did always understand that a two-door Maverick would have been completely out of the question. That compact Ford was on its way out, and even its ostensibly sporty variations offered in the U.S., the Grabber and the one-year-only Stallion, would disappear after ’75 and ’76, respectively.
Back to Sabrina’s Pinto, even though I snicker almost every single time I hear it “peel out” from a full stop on an episode, it has won me over, plaid seats and all, to the point that I have searched (as yet unsuccessfully) for a scale model kit or dealer promo of one. For my fellow fans of the show, however, exercise your imaginations with me and envision a scenario where American Motors had beat Ford to the punch and convinced and compensated Mr. Spelling to use new AMC products from the upcoming ’77 model year instead of Fords when this show first hit the air.
Jill would have driven a Hornet AMX hatchback. Since the posh ’78 Concord D/L compact was still a year away, Kelly might have driven a nicely equipped, fashion-forward Pacer wagon, a body style that was new for ’77. For Bosley? A swoopy Matador fastback, but not the two-toned, vinyl-topped, opera-windowed Barcelona II version. Bosley’s character was endearingly goofy and wore many ridiculous costumes throughout the series, but the Barcelona II might have been a bit much, even for Bosley. I understand that the style quotient of the new-for-’74 Matador coupe ripened and spoiled relatively quickly when new, but in the right colors and accessorized properly, I still like the looks the coupes, especially in profile.
Sabrina Duncan’s 1977 Ford Pinto and a ’77 AMC Gremlin X.
Sabrina would have gotten a newly restyled ’77 Gremlin exactly like the one immediately above, plaid seats and all. Imagine the Hornet AMX, Pacer, and Gremlin all lined up in a row in front of Townsend Associates instead of the two II’s and the Pinto. Try to keep a straight face and remember that even in ’77, while the Mustang II and Pinto were still selling in excellent numbers, they were not exactly seen as prestigious automobiles by the majority of the automotive press. These AMCs would seem to befit the personalities of the characters to which they were assigned: the Hornet AMX was the pretty, obvious beauty of the lineup, the Pacer could be a posh, upscale small car, the Matador was a little goofy but likeable, and the Gremlin…
Jill Munroe’s 1977 Ford Mustang II Cobra II and a ’77 AMC Hornet AMX.
Well, I’ll say this. The Sabrina Duncan character is probably my favorite Angel because she seemed to be the one who most often stayed focused on her assigned mission without letting stupid things like love, feelings, rainbows and butterflies get in the way. She was attractive in a way that didn’t call self-conscious attention to itself, and she also seemed extremely pragmatic in dealing with her cases, in a very “if/then” manner when solving crimes. One could say that like Sabrina, the Gremlin arrived with one goal – inexpensive, no-nonsense transportation, one it stayed with until it officially departed after ’78, one year before Kate Jackson left the show to be replaced by Shelley Hack.
Kelly Garrett’s 1977 Ford Mustang II Ghia and a ’77 AMC Pacer D/L wagon.
The restyled, two-year, 1977 and ’78 editions of the Gremlin have long intrigued me for many reasons. The three, original U.S.-built subcompacts that made their debut in the early 1970s, including the Gremlin, the aforementioned Ford Pinto and also the Chevrolet Vega, had seen some minor changes through the early ’70s. Nineteen Seventy-Four brought the most obvious changes to all three, with the newly required five mph bumpers affixed front and rear. Seventy-Seven was the last year for the Vega nameplate, with the hatchback continuing for ’78 as the “Monza S” and the Kammback lasting through ’79. However, ’77 also brought significant redesigns to both the Pinto and Gremlin, both of which I thought were successful. The little Ford’s newly sloped nose and enlarged, segmented taillamps look better to me than what they replaced.
John Bosley’s 1977 Ford Thunderbird and a ’77 AMC Matador coupe.
The Gremlin’s sheetmetal revisions went a bit further, not only with a backwards canted front fascia, but also with a front clip shortened by about three inches that made the car look significantly less front-heavy. Out back were attractive, enlarged, hamburger-shaped taillamps and a license plate holder that was moved upward to conceal the fuel filler cap. The rear glass hatchback window was also made larger, making loading and unloading a bit easier. The little AMC still wasn’t conventionally attractive, but I like the way the revised, inverted trapezoidal grille made the restyled Gremmie look like it was smirking – a fitting visual cue for a vehicle named after a mythical creature known for causing impish trouble.
By ’77, the Gremlin was already in its eighth model year, having had a late, first-year introduction on April Fools’ Day of 1970, so it was way past its sell-by date. Sales of the Pinto, then a similar seven years old by ’77, dropped by about 30% that year, but were still very respectable at about 202,600 units. Gremlin sales were still pretty healthy in ’76 (by AMC standards), at about 52,900 units. Its ’77 redesign prompted a 69% sales decrease to just 16,200 units. That number increased slightly to 22,100 for ’78, but still, a drop of over two-thirds was abysmal. Was this due to the disappearance of the V8 option? I’d wager not, as only 826 V8 Gremlins had been sold in ’76, which translates to less than 2% of total Gremlin production that year. The truth was that there were other new small cars out there that were simply better at doing what the Gremlin did.
Tiffany Welles, portrayed by Shelley Hack, inherited Sabrina Duncan’s Pinto.
Getting back to “Charlie’s Angels”, I can recall having seen episodes with more than three occupants in the Cobra II. I’ve also ridden in the back seat of a Ghia similar to Kelly’s car (down to the color) owned by my friend, Michelle, when we were in high school. Space was tight back there with another rider, but doable. I was a decent Twister player then, so I could contort to fit my tall, lanky body without too much trouble, and Michelle was kind enough to move her driver’s seat way up. I also remember seeing several episodes of “Angels” where all three lead characters were loaded into the Pinto.
I have great difficulty, however, imagining more than two occupants in the Gremlin, with its nonexistent rear legroom, compared even to the Pinto. Sabrina (or Tiffany) would be driving, and the other two would have to flip a coin to see who would get the front passenger’s seat and who would get to stretch longitudinally across the back seat. And it would have been extra-ridiculous to hear the added-in tire squealing when the orange, six-cylinder Gremlin would launch from a start in pursuit of the bad guys.
It may be a fruitless mental exercise, but I just like the thought of what might have happened if in another one of AMC’s famous “just go for it” moves, it had spent part of its meager advertising budget on placing its vehicles on a show that would go on to become a huge ratings success and cultural phenomenon. Who knows? Maybe use on this program would have provided a sales bump to American Motors products the way it did for the Cobra II. At the very least, it might have given us the visual treat of watching Kelly Garrett outrun some bad guys in a wood-sided Pacer wagon.
Downtown Flint, Michigan.
Saturday, August 16, 2014 & Saturday, August 15, 2015.
Brochure photos were sourced from www.oldcarbrochures.com.
All other photos were sourced from the internet.
Well, there’s a historical basis for your alt universe. Most TV cop shows in the ’50s had both the cops and the bad guys driving Nashes. Completely unrealistic, and must have required a good pile of payola from Nash.
I didn’t watch the show much, but my mother and sister loved it so I got my dose of exposure. Everyone in the world seemed drawn to Jill but Kelly was my favorite too.
I had never really noticed how many changes were made to the 77 Gremlin (or how extensive they were), but maybe because I had largely stopped paying attention to it by then. Time moved quickly back then for cars, and what had been hugely popular in 1973 was, as you say, way past date by 1977. Even the Pinto seemed to age better, though not by a lot.
It just now occurs to me that not a single member of that fictional detective agency rated a Mercury.
JP, as I continue to watch / re-watch, other Ford products (Mercurys, Lincolns) do figure prominently, but driven by other characters. I’m surprised the Angels couldn’t charm John Forsythe’s Charlie into slightly more upscale Ford products.
This Gremlin would have made a fantastic car for Sabrina in an alternate universe, parallel time sort of way. It might also be fitting as I think Kate Jackson played a character on Dark Shadows that was set in a parallel time.
Your proposal for use of AMC makes a lot of sense. And I suspect the Hornet AMX could have outran the Mustang – but maybe not as neither were very fast.
Growing up I never saw Charlie’s Angels in first-run broadcast as the reception from the closest ABC affiliate was marginal.
Jason, it really was a shame that the Hornet AMX wasn’t a performer, as I thought it looked exceptionally good as a sporty compact. I suppose many cars of that era did the whole “paint-on performance” thing. I thought it was especially a shame in the Hornet hatchback’s case since it was one of the better looking cars in its class.
I tried to watch it, but after 1 minute, I felt too embarrassed for the actors pretending to be a cross between Happy Days, Sha-Na-Na, Laverne and Shirley, and the Dead End Kids.
As to the car, you had to be there. It was a three year old Hornet with every Pontiac Trans Am plastic doo-hickey glued to it. It was a good looking car, but it was already commonly found in Baptist church parking lots, in Sears parking lots, and in your Aunt Maureen’s driveway. Adding plastic effects to it detracted, not complimented.
Call it an AMX was right up there with calling a Volare a Road Runner, calling a Ventura a GTO, or calling a Mustang II a Cobra.
This wasn’t a sporty car and wasn’t sold as a sporty car, so pasting louvers on it and painting birds of prey on the hood, just made it look like your dad’s chubby divorced friend showing off a new tattoo and hair dye job.
For your Pinto model kit search, Round2 (the current owners of AMT and MPC) has reissued both the AMT ’77 Pinto hatchback (AMT1129) and MPC ’79 Pinto wagon/Cruising Van (MPC845) along with the ’76 Gremlin X and both the MPC ’78 Pacer coupe and AMT ’77 Pacer wagon.
I suspect nobody had a Capri II for the same reason Bosley drove a ‘Bird rather than a Mark; the product-placement deal was with Ford Division not Fomoco as a whole. Still makes it a shame Sabrina wasn’t upgraded from the Pinto to an equally nicely loaded MkI Fiesta Ghia.
It also gets me thinking about Chevys and Mopars. Again concentrating on ’77 model year cars; Bosley-Monte Carlo/Cordoba, Jill; Monza Spyder hatch/Volare Road Runner; Kelly; Monza Towne Coupe w/Cabriolet Roof/Volare Premiere coupe; Sabrina; Chevette Sandpiper/Colt hardtop coupe (still Galant-based for one more year).
NLPNT, thank you for the tip on the Pinto scale models! I do remember old-school AMT offering up some of the less obvious choices, so I’m glad Round2 has picked up on some of them.
And I love your choices for the Chrysler / GM alt-universe. I can see each one of those!
My understanding about the imported Capri was that it was still an imported Ford (“imported for Lincoln-Mercury”), and not an actual Mercury. It became a legit Mercury for ’79, but none of the imported Capris / Capri IIs had Mercury badging on them. Was this right? I’m sure other folks more knowledgeable about it than me will chime in. 🙂
I believe you’re right. No Mercury badges anywhere inside or out. Still L-M’s car to sell.
Here’s the ’76 Gremlin X in the appropriate colour.
Peter, thank you for posting these shots – great work, to echo Daniel’s praise below.
And if they decided Sabrina also rated a Mustang, but in ‘her’ colour…..
I have a Pinto kit, but not built yet.
Outstanding workmanship Peter. May I ask, are you the commenter that used to have the screen name ‘Old Pete’? I noticed your user name appeared around the same time I no longer saw posts from Pete. And he prepared excellent scale models. I was a bit concerned given the Covid virus had flared up again in Australia.
Yes it is him, he mentioned it the first time he posted afterward.
Yes Daniel, I am the same person. Thanks for your concern.
For some reason when I got my new laptop it “helpfully” standardised my screen name across all the sites I contribute to, and as I’m getting a bit ‘mentally challenged’, shall we say (my daughter calls me a technophobe and a Luddite), I couldn’t figure out how to undo its attempted helpfulness without tearing out what little hair remains.
Yes the Covid virus has had devastating impact in my state, as Don, Justy and others can confirm. Fortunately I live in a rural area and lead the social life of a vegetable anyway, so it hasn’t claimed me.
Great to hear from you Peter! Better to be isolated and safe, than in the middle of an urban area. Hopefully, you have help obtaining your groceries. Social distancing, masks, and testing have really helped keep the virus under control here in Canada.
Great to here from you, always enjoy your commentary. Continue to lay low and safe.
The revised front end of the 1977 Gremlin looks like the designers were inspired by the 1st generation Chevette for the blackout headlight buckets and by the Mustang II for the grill.
Still, it’s an improvement over the original design which always looked to me like they grabbed an unfinished plastic piece from an ERTL kit and stuck it on the front.
Steve, these are great observations. I hadn’t paid that much attention to the dark headlamp surrounds on the Chevette before you mentioned it. I’m guessing that the Chevette’s introduction and success among small-car shoppers looking among domestic nameplates probably had a lot to do with the erosion of Gremlin (and Pinto) sales.
If the girls had an adventure in England, Jill would have driven a TR7, Kelly a Triumph Dolomite Sprint, and sensible Sabrina a Mini Cooper. Bosley of course would have an XJ6.
Though if the show had been English, chances are Charles Townsend Associates would have been named differently, since Charles Townshend (different surname spelling) was a somewhat infamous British General of the late Victorian era & WWI.
Gen. Townshend is most well known for surrendering his army to the Turks in WWI and then becoming friendly with his captors while his own soldiers were cruelly mistreated. But before that, he was always considered an oddball – never got along well with other officers, preferred speaking French to English, and consistently ignored orders. He kind of marched to his own drummer, but in a way that’s hard to comprehend. To the end of his life, he insisted that everyone else in the world just misunderstood him. I guess if he were reincarnated as a car, I could see him being a Gremlin with a plaid interior. No one quite understood what this car was all about, either.
I know, quite a diversion there. But back to the original topic, this was a great article.
Thanks Eric! I love the rabbitholes like this that this site leads me down.
A Jaguar sounds too high faulting for Bosley, I see him more as a Rover guy.
Sabrina was my favorite too, and I always felt she’d drawn the short straw to end up with that Pinto. I suppose she was cast as the practical one, so on some level the car suited her character, but really, how practical would it have been to option up a Pinto with every tacked-on 70’s cliche, from vinyl roof WITH a sunroof, to the plaid upholstery and wire wheel covers? I still think a nicely optioned Granada Ghia coupe would have suited her better.
The Granada Ghia! Seriously, why wasn’t this considered? The Granada was still a new-ish design by the time this show made its debut in the fall of ’76. Spot on, this.
Also, I’m not sure if anyone else noticed, but the shot of the orange Pinto in action showcases all of your aforementioned options… along with terrible fit on that front grille. A luxury Pinto that didn’t quite fit together properly. A shame, because I like the basic looks of the car.
Kelly in a station wagon? Never. Wagons were still Mom vehicles and unless she was deep undercover on a case, no way would she be seen driving one of these. Maybe a Hornet?
It took little effort on the part of the AMC advertising department to place their cars on one primetime TV show. The engineering staff and a sharp pencil on the bid form put AMC Matadors on the streets of Los Angeles as police cars in the early 1970s. Dedication to accuracy by the producers of “Adam-12” put Matadors on the small screen, too. But they did not HAVE to place a swoopy Matador coupe as the personal car of Officer Pete Malloy (the late Martin Milner). So maybe AMC did put one there, after all.
Let’s not forget AMC’s coup of placing James Bond in a Hornet! (The Man with the Golden Gun) 😉
How did they manage that?? You’d think an AMX or Javelin would have been a better choice.
Movie came out in 1974, so they probably didn’t want to promote a car on the chopping block. It was a X and they threw on a set of a Cragar SSs at least.
Is it possible that he Hornet two-door had the best dimensions and balance to make the ramp-to-ramp corkscrew jump work?
Or Quincy’s Matador wagon!
And the Gremlin did a cameo in the movie Brewster McCloud going after a fresh Chevrolet Camaro 2nd-gen and a fuselage Plymouth Fury. https://www.imcdb.org/v006479.html
Let us also not forget the gold-colored flying Matador coupe.
Lastly, Major Steve Austin, played by Lee Majors (the ex-husband of Farrah Fawcett), drove a bright red AMC Matador X Coupe with while stripes on “The Six Million Dollar Man,” It was one of the few product placements for AMC on TV.
Major Austin also owned and drove a Mercedes-Benz 450 SL at the same time and both cars even showed up in the same episode at least once. (The one with the Major Austin impersonator, also played by Lee Majors.) I imagine Steve spent most of his driving the Benz.
Sabrina should have gotten a Granada, or even a Versailles unless Charlie was too cheap to spring for that. Or even a Bronco considering how much time the girls spent out in the boonies. But since she was ‘sensible’, the Ford Fiesta would have served her far better than the Pinto.
I too was a Sabrina Duncan fan, I mean I Iiked Jill of course but figured I’d never have a chance with her, so the cerebral Sabrina was it. Kelly wasn’t my type. 🙂
The Gremmy as an alternate AMC universe car for her is a very interesting proposition that’s so out there to even consider it, it’s a great premise! At the time I believe I considered the Pinto to be the second best car there, better than the Mustang Ghia, certainly as far as color goes.
If the show was held today, which three Ford CUV’s would the ladies drive? Jill in a Black Explorer ST, Kelly in a metallic gold Edge, and Sabrina in an orange EcoSport? Bosley’d be using a step stool to get into his F150 King Ranch.
Jim, I’m sure David Doyle / Bosley would have played up the step stool / F-150 thing for optimum comedic effect!
I’m sorry but I’m admiring the light green car with white interior. Can somebody make a positive ID? B pillar, windshield wipers and lettering on the quarter panel suggest Cadillac Fleeetwood, but body contours don’t seem quite right.
You nailed it. 1967 Cadillac Fleetwood. I thought I had a full shot of it from the 2010 edition of the Back To The Bricks car show, but alas, I don’t.
Those two cars were together again in 2017. Must be friends.
The Angels are sweet!
The Angle’s rides were about as realistic as the Angels, unfortunately. Those Mustangs were about as good a car as those actresses were with law enforcement. Just for looks. Pretty. Painted up with accessories. Couldn’t have caught their own shadows. Mustang II vehicles weren’t roomy for anyone over 200 pounds or 6′. A Pinto isn’t something someone wanted – it was something someone had to drive. Thunderbird during the 1970s were old rear-drive tanks without road feel and filled with bordello materials. The one Bosley drove was about as sporty as he was. The reason there weren’t any Capri II cars on that show is because if there were, the actresses wouldn’t have wanted to drive the Fords.
Cars during this era were quite unsatisfactory. Folks too young to remember these rides first hand, are coming at these machines as though they offered a modicum of similarity to today’s rides. They don’t.
I wouldn’t have wanted another Ford if it wasn’t for the Fox body cars and then the Escort. Almost two decades of crap rides were finally junked and replaced with computer designed, FWD, right sized vehicles.
Sorry Angels, your rides stunk.
And yet, they were still better than a Gremlin – I know that.
One of the best automotive product placement stories I ever heard was how the Gran Torino ended up on ‘Starsky and Hutch’. Although the show certainly was popular, it’s development had a certain Spinal Tap quality to it. Seems that the writers and directors had envisioned something of a modern take on Film Noir and wanted to create a dark and brooding show filmed primarily at night in the seedier parts of downtown L.A.. The detective characters were to have been on the night shift and their car was to have been a black Camaro, for obvious reasons. Unfortunately, filming at night was more expensive and created technical problems with lighting and reflections. Ford became the primary sponsor at the last minute, so forget about the black Camaro. So, the show was then set during the day and Ford provided…..a Gran Torino? Bright red with a Nike swoosh on it. Guess that’s all they had, as the Mustang II didn’t portray the right image. Not sure the Torino did either, but they made it work. Rumor at the time was the car was despised by the cast and crew, and the stunt drivers made a point to destroy as many as Ford with give them, blaming the Torino’s sloppy handing. Good thing Starsky and Hutch never had to pursue Jim Rockford.
I guess Starsky & Hutch would have requested the help of Mike Stone and Steve Keller (Streets of San Francisco), Steve McGarrett(Hawaii Five-0) as well as Cannon and Barnaby Jones to pursue Jim Rockford. 😉
Torinos were sloppy, numb cars with poor outward visibility and iffy quality. The idea that Starsky and Hutch actually sped around in a Torino is pretty ridiculous. No one today would have accepted the poor driving characteristics of those cars.
This brings back memories! My family owned a 1973 Gremlin at the time, and in the spring of 1978, I would learn to drive on it. It was the worst car my family and I would own in over 60+ combined years of vehicle ownership, but at the time, it was all that I had! So I was very conscious of AMC vehicles.
I remember riding my bike to the local AMC-Pontiac dealer in late August 1976, and seeing my first 1977 AMC Gremlin – a bright red one with a black stripe, but not equipped with the “X” package. In those days before the internet, the first look at next year’s cars generally happened when they showed up at the dealer. Even then, I knew that AMC was in financial trouble, so the face- and tail-lift were unexpected. (And that particular Gremlin sat on the dealer’s lot for months.)
The 1977 Gremlin was an improvement over what went before, but it was too little, too late. AMC had blown all of its development dollars on the Matador coupe and Pacer.
I will say that it was easy to spin the rear tires on a Gremlin. Not because the engine was a powerhouse, but because there was virtually NO weight over the rear wheels. That made for tricky driving the winter months.
A Ford Mustang II or even a Pinto would have seemed like an upgrade over the Gremlin. My aunt had a basic 1977 Pinto two-door sedan, and the build quality and materials were far superior compared to our Gremlin – or even a Chevrolet Vega. Two Hornet Sportabouts owned by neighbors didn’t seem to be much better in that regard. So Charlie’s Angels weren’t missing anything because the producers used Fords instead of AMC vehicles.
It’s always interesting perspective for me to hear about people’s firsthand experience with AMC products when they were reasonably new-ish cars. I don’t think I had ever ridden in either a Gremlin or a Pacer.
I guess part of me had always assumed that because these AMCs were lower-volume cars, that they must automatically have had something better about them. Almost like my hypothetical equation was: lower volume = more care / attention and higher quality.
I did sit in a ’75 Matador coupe I had wanted to buy when I was a teenager, and the inside looked as nicely appointed and put together as anything else from its era. It smoked, though, so I had to pass.
This was a great story. I enjoyed reading it, and I also enjoyed seeing the photos of the 1977 Gremlin. It brought back memories of when late August meant it was the time to visit dealers on Sunday (closed by law on that day in Pennsylvania) to see next year’s cars. They were generally parked behind the dealership building.
The problem with the Gremlin was very cheap materials. AMC was an under-capitalized company desperately trying to compete with much larger competitors who enjoyed deeper cash reserves and much greater economies of scale.
Some of the problems with our Gremlin:
-The exterior rear view mirror refused to stay in place when the door was shut. A replacement was bought from the dealer. Within a few months, it was doing the same thing!
-The alternator warning light glowed permanently. Our mechanic said it was common to AMC cars of that vintage, and was due to cheap wiring. Sure enough, I noticed other Gremlins and Hornets with the same problem!
-The driver’s side window repeatedly fell out of its tracks.
-The passenger side seat back literally broke free of its fasteners when my friend pushed it forward to get out of the back seat.
-The carpeting was poorly installed (bunched up in various places), and was worn through in less than four years on the driver’s side.
-The AM radio tuning knob stopped working. My friend and I removed the radio from the dash, took it apart, and used super glue to get it working. Within three weeks, it was doing the same thing.
-The parking pawl for the floor-mounted automatic didn’t always “catch” when the transmission was put in “park.” It often took several attempts to get it to catch.
-The vinyl upholstery on the driver’s side of the front seat was splitting within five years.
-The 258 cid engine had constant starting, stumbling and stalling problems. It also wasn’t terribly fuel efficient. Fuel economy was about equal to that of our 1976 Oldsmobile Delta 88 Royale hardtop sedan that had a 350 Rocket V-8 and automatic. (The Oldsmobile was also much more reliable.)
Then there was the dashboard made of many cheap plastic parts with a level of assembly that would have embarrassed a self-respecting high school shop class.
I know people like to criticize small Fords of the 1970s, but people I know who owned them got good service out of them. They were also MUCH better trimmed and finished than even their GM competition (and more reliable, too). Yes, they came up short in some ways compared to the Japanese competition, but in the 1970s many small towns and rural areas did not have a conveniently located dealer that handled those cars. Plus, many local independent mechanics were still reluctant to work on foreign cars due to their unfamiliarity.
Fun topic Joe! Enjoy your mashups of cars and pop culture. AMC sure would have been going for broke product placing their cars in prime time. They were already the target of Gremlin and Pacer jokes, and their 70s street cred was not improved by The Man with the Golden Gun. I know AMC was not considered mainstream by many. Recall, many viewers of Charlie’s Angels and Wonder Woman were men! Many of them knew a lot about cars, and the AMC lineup may not have convinced many of them to drop their brand allegiances. Having all the Angels driving AMCs might have been the butt of jokes. My gut tells me, it may have backfired on AMC!
I have to admit I wasn’t a big fan of Aaron Spelling’s ‘Jiggle TV’ shows, as they were called then. In fact, it was the questionable quality of 70s TV that helped boost my interest in music. 🙂 The local station in Kingston, Ontario that carried Charlie’s Angels weren’t dumb. They aired the show at 7pm Saturday nights, right before the highly-rated (and popular with men) Hockey Night in Canada’. Haha
Not sure if you knew this, but Cheryl Ladd had a Hot 100 hit (#34) in 1978. Not a great song, but it capitalized on her fame.
Thanks, Daniel! I did actually know about Cheryl Ladd’s version of this song being a hit. She’s not a bad singer, but Brenda Russell’s version is the one that should have been the hit.
Vastly better! Much more genuine and soulful. So Good, So Right was one of the sweeter songs that year. Glad they chose to not add any disco production, making these songs timeless.
Cheryl Ladd originally came to Hollywood to begin a career in music. She was known as “Cherie Moor” when she was the singing voice of Melody on Hanna-Barbera’s “Josie and the Pussycats” animated series, and she also sang on the 1970 album of the same name.
I could see AMC placing commercials for the improved for ’77 Gremlin during Charlie’s Angels.
I remember how you found it humorous Ford used a track very similar to Steve Miller’s Swingtown to promote the new for ’79 Mustang.
I was thinking a ‘sounds-like’ backing track of M.F.S.B.’s K-Jee from 1975, might have worked awesomely as background in a Gremlin commercial. Haha
It’s been so long since I’ve seen the show I’m not certain, were these company cars in-story or did they all “just happen” to all own new 1977 Fords? If it’s the former, the cars are oddly well-optioned for being fleet cars. True, they’re *private* detectives and their rides wouldn’t be subject to a low-bid contract, but at most wouldn’t they have just a few of the really popular options to make them easier to sell on than something ultra-stripped?
These were company cars. I can remember when Sabrina’s Pinto sustained some damage after being sideswiped while in motion by a bad guy, and after his car went over a steep hill (erupting in flames below) and she called Bosley to give an update, he mentioned something about how Charlie was going to love how she keeps wrecking his cars.
I don’t usually watch Charlie’s Angels without using the mute. So Charlie had problems replacing a Pinto? What were his rates? Did the Angels work for minimum wage plus commission? Sounds like Charlie was actually some kind of a pimp, huh?