We previously looked at the “Most Jaw-Dropping Cars of the Sixties” – which generated some great discussion and very insightful comments. So let’s pose the same question again – but move forward a decade – to the Seventies.
While the ‘60s were exciting, the ‘70s were, well, let’s just say “weird.” In what other decade could you say the height of fashion was a powder blue polyester leisure suit…..(no offense to anyone who may still have these as part of their wardrobe).
The ‘70s were bookended by two tragic events; the Ohio National Guard shooting of 13 student protestors at Kent State University in May 1970, and the November 1979 capture of 52 American citizens by Iranian revolutionaries at the US Embassy in Tehran. In between we had Watergate, the Oil Crisis, and Disco….
In terms of automobiles, the ‘70s are generally considered to be a low-point; emissions-strangled engines, baroque styling, horrendous build quality……but as in any decade, there were stand-outs – cars that when first seen “stopped you in your tracks.” But as was pointed out by a perceptive poster in the prior article, jaw-dropping can be reflective of both good and bad first impressions – for purposes of this post, let’s just focus on the positive. Though there is the seed for a future QOTD post for a list in the opposite direction…..
Including Japanese, European and US manufacturers, here’s one take on the five most jaw-dropping cars of the ‘70s.
1971 AMC Hornet Sportabout Wagon
As a 15 year old in 1971, my automotive fixation was anything with a Cobra Jet 428 engine; Mustang, Torino, etc. Station Wagons? That’s what Steve Douglas (My Three Sons) and Mike Brady (The Brady Bunch) drove – hardly the epitome of cool. But then one day I saw this really attractive wagon go by – sleek, lithe, sporty – “What the heck was THAT?” It was a new Hornet Sportabout Wagon. I think it ranks right up with the AMX Concept Coupe as one of the great Dick Teague’s most beautiful designs. And while AMC’s yearly budget woes were certainly a factor, the design remained in production almost without change for 12 years.
1971 De Tomaso Pantera
Notice how most sports cars look good in red – pick almost any European sports car; Italian, German, English – they all look good in red. The Pantera looks best in Black. Very few cars, especially sports cars, can pull off looking good in black. A black Pantera looks absolutely sinister. I remember when I first saw one, I had two over-powering simultaneous emotions; deep attraction and deep foreboding………
1973 Isuzu 117 Coupe
Japanese car design in the ‘60 and ‘70s can perhaps best be described as “quirky”. Yes, there were both interesting and attractive designs; the Toyota 2000 GT, 1st generation Mazda Cosmo, and Datsun 240 Z (Fairlady). But I was stunned when I first saw an Izusu 117 Coupe (during a military tour in Japan in 1981). Sensuous was the first thought that came to mind. And after a little research I learned why – it was penned by the famous Giorgetto Giugiaro – one of the first designs an Italian studio had done for a Japanese manufacturer. Seeing it on a Tokyo street, in a sea of somewhat dour Corona Mark IIs, Bluebirds and Luces, it really stood out. I think it still looks great today.
1976 Aston Martin Lagonda
This car created quite a shock when introduced in 1976. Ultra-modern in the extreme – and that applies to both the exterior and interior. Designed by the estimable William Towns, who worked at Aston Martin from 1966 to 1977, it dropped a lot of jaws in the disco-era. Unfortunately, as interesting as it was to look at, it was a nightmare to own, as the complex electronics and mechanicals frequently broke down……..no doubt leaving owners hearing the O’Jays ‘70s classic “For the Love of Money” playing in their heads……
1976 Jaguar XJS
A controversial pick. This car was greeted with lukewarm reviews when first introduced – unfortunately being compared (unfairly) to the car many thought it was designed to replace – the legendary XK-E. But assessed on its own merits, it’s a beautiful design; long, balanced, feline…….a superb Grand Tourer. And another car that enjoyed a very long production run – 21 years. This specific car was used on the 78-79 British series, “Return of the Saint.”
1970 Plymouth Superbird
1970 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am
1971 “Boat-tail” Buick Riviera
1978 Lamborghini Countach LP 400S
1978 BMW M1
OK, what’s your take on the most jaw dropping cars of the Seventies?
I’d argue that the most jaw dropping car of the 70s was the Stutz Blackhawk.
Jaw dropping from a “WTF were they thinking?” – prespective.
Here’s a pic of the sedan
I’d be inclined to agree with you. I’ve never seen that car before, but it really looks like a pretty shockingly bad array of a whole bunch of art house design things that look pretty slapped on to make no real sense, whatsoever. It’s a shame, because it has some decent lines in some places that remind me of an 80’s Cadillac. My guess is that they were trying to create a modern retro car that was reminiscent of some 20’s and 30’s designs (prominent waterfall grille leading the charge out front, large round headlights, etc)
Good grief that’s ugly! The designers couldn’t have been serious with that?
To be fair to Virgil Exner, it’s not like there was a whole he was given to work with. The front and rear used Blackhawk-dedicated sheetmetal, but the center, passenger section was lifted, intact, from a GM sedan. Exner tried to spruce the middle section up enough to be in harmony with the classic, old-school luxury direction of the front and rear, but it just wasn’t possible.
If the entire car had been designed as a whole, it probably wouldn’t have been as bad.
I’m going to say the Maserati Khamsin. An Italian grand tourer that has the rear lights and turn signals installed in a glass partition with the same steering setup used by Citroen. Where else but the 70s can you get a car like that?
I’ve never seen one of these in the flesh so I never noticed that about the taillights on glass before, that is the single coolest gimmick I’ve ever seen on a car ever!
Edit: further googling for these reveals that even if I did see one it wouldn’t matter. This gets my vote for most jaw droppingly ruined design by dumb US bumper laws
Wow. What a difference. Totally ruined it.
Looks like Pantera tail lights.
Sbarro TAG Function Car
Jaw-dropping – in one way, at least.
Did it come with a reheated pizza slice from the mall?
I’d have to say the 1973 restyle of the Chevy Monte Carlo. Those Delahaye inspired fender sweeps were so different from anything else, and despite being baroque managed to avoid the bloated look of contemporary Fords. Of course the interior design was craptastic, I guess all the money went into the looks.
I see your 70 trans am and raise you the 77 trans am. I think that package really came to it’s own that year, 70-76 I find the Firebirds/Formulas more stunning in those years.
My nominee is the Mustang II. Ford could not have known about the oil embargo, but there it was with the ideal revision of the Mustang for 1974.
Interesting pick. Huge sales success and so the right car at the right time, but are you saying that it’s styling was ‘Jaw Dropping’ in a positive way? I think you will find yourself in a tiny minority if that is your point. They had some really awkward proportions…
I don’t know why, but I’ve always found the Mustang II to be the best looking cars of the 70s.
I guess it begs the question whether one drops their jaw in reaction to the massive change in direction Ford made at the right time, or whether one would with the styling.
Personally I think the MII looks horrible, as if the stylists mashed all those awful neoclassical elements in vogue at the time(73 Monte Carlo) with the original 65 Mustang, and then scaled it 7/8ths onto a Pinto chassis with far too small of a wheelbase for ponycar proportions. But it’s jaw dropping alright.
I’ll agree as long as we are talking about this particular Mustang II
Citroen SM was my thought. Even the GS is worth an honorable mention.
I like the Citroen SM. I also like the Citroen DS. It’s an unforgivable shame that it wasn’t sold in very large numbers here in the USA. What’s even more unforgivable is that they didn’t offer a good service network to keep their cars operational.
My auto shop teacher had been a factory service rep for Citroen in Canada. His personal vehicle at the time? Chevy Belair.
absolutely! (and the CX too)
Before I jumped through I gave some thought to this; and I came up with the 1970 Trans Am. Its a familiar face now, but when it was unveiled in 1970 it was amazing to me that it was relatively affordable. A real head turner.
Porsche 928 really turned heads back in its day. Still doesn’t look out of date.
+7… But wasn’t that car an icon of the 80’s?
Introduced in the 70s and had some pretty wild interior color schemes in that period, not at all the refined leather-lined GT it became towards the end.
70s Porsches had some rather loud color and trim combinations.
+8 – First one I thought of, and introduced in ’78. (Runner-up, for me anyway: Citroen SM, which a few people have mentioned as well.)
When my family visited Germany for Christmas and New Year in 1978-1979, my brother made a pilgrimage to the Porsche sales centre in Waldshut-Tiengen to look at 928. He was never the same person thereafter…
+11 The 928 when introduced looked batsh*t crazy with it’s popup lights staring into the sky and op-art interior…and that’s before taking into account that Porsche was introducing a ‘conventional’ drivetrain configuration as a flagship model. As a teen at the time, I thought it was butt-ugly and yes, it did become an icon of the 80’s as it seemed that it grew into its looks. I definitely did a 180 and eventually thought it was gorgeous….but it was years afterwards when I thought that way
1971 Camaro –
A remarkable and near-perfect design which lasted over a decade. Even with the next generation, the same basic shape and style continued through the 1980s.
1973 Celica –
Whether in notch or hatch design, the 1973 Celica showed Americans that the Japanese can make an attractive car beyond the Z.
1973 Mark IV –
A giant car that is the epitome of luxury coupes. Ginormous hood, faux continental deck lid, oval opera window, designer inspired colors and trim, the Mark IV was the ultimate disco queen.
1974 Golf –
A revolutionary design which forced the world to reconsider how cars were designed from the ground up. Willing to focus on form over function, the Golf revolutionized how small compact cars could go beyond cheap transportation.
1974 Imperial –
Chrysler dreamed big and lost big throughout the decade. The 1974 Imperial is the peak of Chrysler excess and size. As heavy as it looked, with staggeringly bad fuel economy, the Imperial is a bordello on wheels and spectacularly overwrought in every way.
1975 Cordoba –
The American-ish Jaguar that saved Chrysler from its elephantine catastrophe. Enormously popular, Chrysler showed that it could create a tasteful brougham ride. Marketed in a very successful way, Americans couldn’t stop dreaming of Corinthian leather and sexy Spanish accents.
1975 Pacer –
A complete disaster of a car that probably caught the eye of AMC’s French savior with its creative and brave design. The engine didn’t fit, the windows were too large, the hatch was too small, the weight was too high, gas mileage was too low, and there was absolutely nothing like it anywhere.
1976 Cutlass Supreme – The Camry of the 1970s. Oldsmobile hit the sweet spot with this brougham cruiser, horizontal rectangular headlights, waterfall grille, and sporty wheels. Not as overwrought as a Monte Carlo, more confident than the Gran Prix, the Cutlass made Oldsmobile the third biggest auto company and Chicago was Ground Zero. Middle American driveways were filled with Oldsmobiles and GM would never again find for Olds that perfect market spot.
1976 Oldsmobile Custom Cruiser Wagon –
Before minivans, there were station wagons. Before downsizing their full size line, GM issued the 1976 Oldsmobile Custom Cruiser wagons. Burled faux walnut applique upon a 5,161 pound gigantic nine passenger wagon. Fender skirts across the rear wheels, arched cathedral-inspired tail lights, clam-shell rear gate and window that disappeared under the vehicle, Oldsmobile never made a heavier, more ornate and amazing family hauler. Too nice to be made fun of and too monstrous to be replicated, this era of GM station wagon captures an amazing pre-Gas Crisis auto age. A beautiful dinosaur, like the Imperial listed above.
1978 Fairmont – Proof that Ford could survive the oncoming glut of European and Japanese invaders, the Ford Fairmont was a clean sheet design from an automobile company that struggled to do more than Iaccoca-ize its car line for profits. The Fairmont was a revolution for Ford. The company used computers extensively in its design. Ford kept it simple. Rear drive, ruler-straight fenders, no-nonsense form over function, the Fairmont looked like the box the 1960 Falcon came out of. The Fox platform underpinning the Fairmont would be a new foundation for Ford products until 1996. The Fairmont ended up being an entirely new image for Ford, which by 1978 badly needed a new image.
Those are my quick takes.
I’m with you on the first three, and the Pacer. The others range from interesting to curious, but aren’t what I’d call jaw-dropping.
My high school used a ’76 Olds Custom Cruiser Wagon as a Driver’s Ed car.
In New York City.
In the narrow streets of Greenwich Village.
I credit (at least partially) my confidence and driving skills to piloting and parking that land yacht.
Not that you’re wrong about the ’74 Imperial, but the sentence “As heavy as it looked, with staggeringly bad fuel economy, the Imperial is a bordello on wheels and spectacularly overwrought in every way” applies at least as well to the 1975-79 Lincoln Town Car and Town Coupe. The deck lid of the Imperial, for example, was quite elegant by comparison to that of the Lincoln with its ridiculous full-width filigree.
Okay, maybe the Imperial 440 got worse fuel economy than the Lincoln 460. It’s possible.
The Isuzu 117 really should’t be on the list, as it’s a product of the 1960’s. Production started in 1968, and the concept 117 Sport that preceded it was shown in 1966:
Yes, you’re quite correct. But as it was only in limited production in 68-69, I included it in this decade. The ’73 version is in my view the most attractive.
Rover 3500 SD1. Trouble was, after a short time it wasn’t just jaws that dropped.
Uncle Will, Mum’s younger brother’s jaw dropped many times during his 12 months ownership of a disastrous new 76 SD1. It converted him to a BMW owner.
De Tomaso Pantera
Aston Martin Lagonda (jaw dropping for the wrong reason)
+1 for the SM.
+2 for the SM. And aptly named.
+3 for the SM, simply beautiful.
Ferrari 308 GTB and the Lancia Stratos.
The Countach defines jaw-dropping, from its auto show debut. The most over-the-top sports car of its time.
The very name is derived from an expression of astonishment.
Also agree on the Lagonda. Especially in silver with the digital dashboard, it was like a road-going UFO.
The Countach is definetely jaw dropping, and in an awesome way. It looked like no other car at the time, and none after it. Just think of all of the people (and kids that grew up with a poster of it on their wall) just totally lusting after it.
If you mean a jaw dropping domestic car of the 70s,surely you can`t be serious.
Jaw-dropping can be in a good way or a bad way.
Range Rover and Porsche 911 Carrerra RS, if you want my jaw-dropping-then-and-jaw-dropping-now choices. Oh, and the Citroen GS Birotor and the Renault 17.
My favourite cars of the 70s that are not on the list here are the Toyota MS55 and the MS65 Crown. While MS55 Crown was a late 60s design, I still like its design, and the same goes for the Toyota Crown MS65.
I’m a big Crown fan too – have owned three; an S60, S100 and S140 – all great cars.
I agree. I’m sorry to say that I’ve never actually seen a Crown in the USA, although I’ve seen pictures of them, so I know what they look like, and I like what I see. 🙂
70 1/2 Camaro Z/28. 70 1/2 Firebird. Period.
I’d add the 1975 Cadillac Seville. It’s nearly as modern as the Lagonda and yet conventional at the same time. Compared to cars of the time, its wheels looked quite big and were pushed out to the corners. The sheer look that would look so modern on the b-bodies, appeared two years earlier here. Compare it to a 1975 Eldorado or Coupe de Ville to see how modern it was.
“The sheer look that would look so modern on the b-bodies, appeared two years earlier here”
I hadn’t considered that before, but it’s probably why the Seville has never impressed me. I just can’t help seeing them as an average B-body in terms of styling.
Oh yes.Would love one now if I could find one. Cost £21000 in 1979 hence drive
by rich arab men around Chelsea back then.
The impact of the 75 Cadillac Seville seems so invisible now because it’s styling was diluted and spread across every GM division except GMC for the next 20 years. Had they kept the Seville look a Cadillac exclusive, it could have been a new direction for Cadillac. Instead it was squandered. The Seville in 75 was every bit as bold as the Taurus was in 86. It was the car that everyone was talking about, even the people that didn’t normally talk about cars.
Now help me out here, you guys. Please.
As a foreigner, I have never understood why Americans go gaga over the original Seville. If I’m understanding this term “sheer look” correctly, doesn’t it just mean smooth sides without extraneous bulges, sweeps and creases – smooth sides which just about every European car maker had been doing all along? Sure the Seville signalled clean styling and a turning away from the dreaded creeping bloat, but in worldwide terms it was nothing new.
Or have I completely misunderstood?
You make a good point Pete, and as the Seville was “international” sized, and targeted at Mercedes, it’s probably not a mistake. At the same time, the creases, angles, formal roofline, square headlights and integrated grille are unlike the upscale German cars of the time, especially Mercedes, and to my eye are most like the 1975 VW Rabbit in their simplicity. I guess I should also note that the 1975 Chevrolet Nova was also pretty jaw dropping!
“Squandered” it by turning it into their greatest successes of the 80’s rather than keeping it reserved for a niche vehicle?
No, they did the right thing.
I opened this post for the sole purpose of hopefully seeing a Pantera. Happily, I was not let down.
The 1971 AMC Hornet Sportabout Wagon made the list as “jaw dropping’? I beg to differ… maybe jaw dropping to expel a hurl?
Ford Gran Torino Brougham with the fender skirts
mid 70’s GM full sized cars with the landau roofs
1979 Ford Mustang (looks way ahead of its time for 1979)
Ooh, good call on the Gran Torino Brougham with the fender skirts. Definitely jaw-dropping for the wrong reasons.
I’ve thought the fender skirts looked tacky on the Gran Torino’s, IMO they’ve tried too hard to copy off of the 1971-72 Mercury Marquis which was a much better looking car IMO.
What about the AMC Matador coupe? A jaw dropper, but maybe for the wrong reasons….
Good suggestion – I actually had it on my final list, but thought two AMC products might be a little too much. It is certainly a polarizing design – some people love it, others hate it – no middle ground here.
How about the AMC Pacer?
Would certainly be in my Top 10.
I agree. Although not my favourite vehicle from the 1970s, my least favourite of the AMC Pacers is the 1979 model, with the grille raised at the top, I do count it among the most Jaw Dropping cars of the 70s.
In standard form, the coupe was attractive from certain angles. You know – like Barbra Streisand.
I always thought that the Matador looked good in race trim.
Mercedes R107 SL. Jaw dropping because
1. Introduced in 1971 and produced until 1989, looked fresh for the whole 18 years and unlike do many others mentioned here, still looks good today, not hideous like so many cars that were considered stunning in the 1970’s.
2. Became a genuine classic while it was still in production.
3. Glamorous yet useable as a reliable, every day car. Totally unlike many of its Euro and UK competitors, like the XJS and Triumph Stag both of which were little better than junk (I know, I suffered a new XJS back in the day…..I am still scarred by that nightmare!).
4. For years during the 1970’s this was just about the only convertible you could buy. Others stopped making them, because they could not figure out how to meet new roll over requirements, or were unwilling to invest the required funds and research. Many brought out compromised targa-style bodies instead. The R107 was virtually alone as a convertible for years.
The wedge is the definitive 70s shape for me. So:
…and therefore Rover SD1
Citroens SM and CX
Austin-Morris 18/22 series (the Princess)
I’ll also take a handful of BMW art cars and – pure kitsch – a Panthe DeVille.
Speaking of wedge, very surprised no one has mentioned the Triumph TR-7. Pretty ahead of its time, style-wise, anyway.
Excellent call on the SD1. Fabulous design. Typical BL execution.
I liked the wedge look BL followed in the 70s–Princess and TR 7 were nicely styled. Certainly better than the wholly derivative Marina and the design-by-committee Allegro.
Good call on the Ferrari Daytona … surprised no one mentioned it sooner. That would be my first choice.
The Daytona was put into production in 1968, so that’s likely why people aren’t throwing it out there for this list.
The CX and SM are not wedge shaped. The Countach is. The Citroen waistline falls gradually from around the a-pillar.
The Pantera was and still is a stunner, The 70 Camaro and Firebird brothers. This design was able to maintain it’s appeal all the way to the end. The Jaguar XJS of course. Twelve cylinders makes all the difference. The 79 Cadillac El Dorado. This is a design that maintained the brash design of Cadillac’s earlier models with a relatively compact and livable size. The Datsun 240z and the rest of the first generation. A great looking car and a real bargain, for a time. That Lagonda? I actually got to sit in one, What a creative design catastrophe. Looks worse in person than in the photos.
for me its the 73-77 Grand Prix
the last of the great looking Pontiacs. The 78s were just a box with 4 tires and a roof and the later GM10s aren’t even worth mentioning
These Chevy Monzas were way better than their price point implied.
First car designed from the start around the new square sealed-beam headlights and the first other than the Corvette to have full urethane bumpers.
The Citicar was produced from 1974 to 1977 by a company in Sebring (of all places), Florida. Over four thousand Citicars were sold in that time of oil crises and back to the earth spirit. Its lead-acid batteries, DC motor and electromechanical controls were 20th-century state-of-the-art, little changed from 1917, only good enough to propel a Citicar forty miles at up to 38 mph.
They did last forever. I ran across a Citicar in excellent shape and its original owner just a few years ago. It had been used as intended, as a city runabout with no highway expectations. I took pictures for a CC but this car is so horrible I never could go through with writing it up.
I think Citicars and others like them did great harm to the popular idea of an electric car. Not until early 21st-century battery and electronic technology in the form of a Tesla supercar could we finally explode the image of EVs as miserable penalty boxes. Like the Citicar.
Drove one quite a bit back in ’74 and ’75, quite a fascinating experience. I would love to find one now, put in more modern batteries and controller, and use it as a daily commuter.
Count’s Customs modified one of those on the show “Counting Cars”
I remember these Toyota Celicas as being really fresh when they came out as well.
Oh, man, I nominate the Celica Supra of that generation. That hood!
1971-1972-1973 Buick Riviera
Not a single conventional line on it. Still turns heads today.
Unique things like the curved rear window, the license plate mounted on the left side, the trunk lid with a hump, the pointed rear bumper, the forward slanting front end (instead of vertical or rearward slanting), the engine turned dash (shared with the Trans Am), the basket handle shifter on console cars, the unusual door handles (shared with the 69-72 Grand Prix), the sexy side spear, and the full round wheel cutouts at a time most luxury and large cars had partially or fully skirted rear wheels.
Runners up would of course be the 1969-1972 Pontiac Grand Prix and the Screaming Chicken Trans Ams, especially the final version with the square headlights mounted at the end of rectangular tunnels, a hidden front bumper, and no conventional upper level front grille.
Jaw droppingly bad? Several from AMC, including the Pacer, the 74-78 Matador front end and the 74 Matador coupe. Also, so as not to pick on poor old AMC, the original Lincoln Versailles – the car that screamed Granada everywhere you went.
Jaw droppingly good? I agree with many of the picks above. I would add the 1970-79 big Lincoln – the car that was the definition of “stately”. The 77 Continental Mark V was jaw dropping to me as well. Someone else already mentioned the 74 Imperial, and I agree, due to the sleekness and grace that before that had no longer seemed possible in a car of its size.
These seemed so very modern
I”m sure if I ever got to see one in the flesh, this would be a shock to the system.
In no particular order and without claims to any merit, these are cars that made my younger self stop and take notice:
Citroen CX – on introduction, just wow!
Citroen SM, though I didn’t see one until the mid 80’s (white with blue, RHD conversion in a secondhand car yard), hooked straight away.
Jaguar XJC, still want one these days. Six cylinders is plenty, thanks.
HQ Statesman DeVille – I’ve liked these since day one, the car, the time, the place.
Rover SD1 – by the time I was old enough to understand the damning stories were circulating
XB Falcon hardtop – and I never thought to try one when they were affordable. Nuts!
Fiat 130 coupe. I know they’re just trouble…really pretty trouble
M-B 280/350/450 SL C, the shape of the rear screen and the louvres are sooo neato
HQ was a stunner when first released I was riding in one when seeing another was a rarity only a wagon but it was at the time the only one in NZ.
If we are talking Aussie cars, I nominate the 1971 Valiant Charger R/T.
It made my 9 year old jaw drop.
And when I see one on the road today, it still does.
Agree on the HQs as well, they looked stunning in 1971
1976 Cadillac Seville
1976 Porsche 930 Turbo
1973 Pontiac Trans-Am
Even the most car-unaware folks knew what these were and that they were special so they get extra points.
Lincoln Continental from 77-79. Nothing could match it for massive presence.
Chrysler Lebaron coupe from 77-79.
AMC Concord. It was jaw dropping after I drove one and realized how well the Hornet could wear a Sunday suit.
I think the Lagonda you led off with is a strong contender .Both the striking looks and the futuristic dashboard really stuck out back in the day.
As an aside the Isuzu 117 is a very pretty car, but appears to be cribbed from the Peugeot 504 coupe
Both the concept and production 117 coupes predate the 504.
OK so the 504 copies the 117. I guess I need a matched set, with the Pug in LHD for a mirror image effect.
Yes – good point – they are strikingly similar. The 117 concept was introduced in ’66 and the 504 I believe in ’68, so it appears there was a good deal of cribbing going on at the time. I think both cars are also very similar to several Alfa models from the same period.
When I first saw the 73 Monte Carlo I thought it was the ugliest thing I ever saw
I Think I just got used to it as time went on. Part of the problem was that the
first gen was handsome,handsome!
Agree with the Pacer. Nearly everything else was linearly predictable awfulness. Bigger, thirstier, clumsier, uglier. The Pacer was unpredictably awful.
AMC had the only EXCEPTIONS to the awfulness. Hornet, Gremlin and Jeep. Instead of refining one of those (imagine Hornet restyled by Pininfarina?) they had to go out and find a whole new kind of awful.
Its not a car but the 78-79 Lil Red Express was big news when it came out. I remember my Dad stopping by to see the Dodge Boys about buying one a few times and much against my wishes, my Mom said no.
One could also pinpoint the Lil’ Red Express as a turning point in the world of pickup trucks in general. It was built almost totally due to the fact that trucks had weaker emissions standards (at the time) than cars did. The best way to make a Muscle Car in 1978 was to make it a truck!
Prior to this Dodge, trucks were marketed almost exclusively to folks who had a use for a truck – hauling, towing, etc. This was one of the first trucks marketed to the general public as an alternative to a passenger car.
(Yes, all of the big 3 had made special editions of their half-ton trucks before that that were all gussied up, and far too pretty for general truck use. Still, they were marketed to truck guys, and not car guys.)
Chevy did the same thing , sending a Big-10 stepside with the Chevy Sport package around the automotive press in 1977 (I’ve seen otherwise identical ones with both grilles) and 454 but you had to work the options list to get one – Big-10 was an additional-payload package meant to push the GVWR just over an emissions threshold which unlocked the big-block option while the Sport package could be had on any half-ton shortbed.
I think this nails it, obviously I can only speak from an observatory standpoint since I wasn’t born until a decade later, but just looking through literature or watching film from the time(the climatic car chase in The Driver featured a souped up C10 stepside) you can see trucks filling the void previously occupied by cars. Similar thing happened with SUVs vis a vis the tighter regulations that compromised the full size wagons.
Other thing of note, with current collector values the way get an old a Muscle Car now a days is to get an old truck like one of these instead. Values are now catching up with those as well but they did for a while serve as a cheap way to get a light(ish) big block full framed, leaf sprung, chrome bumper beast when your dream car 396 Camaro costs more than a brand new S-Class
“Half ton” regular cab short bed pickups, especially from GM, were surprisingly light. Even with V-8,Auto,A/C, etc, curb weights were often well under 4000lb. IF you can find one not completely rusted out, they make a good platform for a low cost custom weekend cruiser.
The eased emissions standard above 6000lb GVWR was pushed up to 8500lb sometime later and still applies now.
Any Cadillac that got the full pimpmobile treatment.
Broughamification on steroids!
That looks like Homer Simpson designed it
Many many spectacular cars been quoted. Here goes my short list:
the Brazilian Dodge Charger R/T (this one is a 1975) – my favorite since I can remember
Dodge Charger R/T 1970
A Mark V is pretty impressive, especially in real life when you can get a true sense of scale. Not sure if jaw-dropping is quite the correct term for it though.
I’d second the nomination for the Cadillac Seville. This was a car that got a great deal of attention at the outset. As a kid in the ’70’s I can think of very fee cars that got car crazy kids and adults alike interested.
There are many great candidates.
Overall, the Triumph TR-7, the car that promised so much with its radical new shape. I remember crowds at the local Triumph dealer when these first came out, something that had never happened before. Admittedly polarizing, even more so perhaps after all the more conventionally styled TR-6’s, Spitfires, MGB’s, and Midgets British Leyland had sold.
For an American car, for me its the 1970 Dodge Challenger. Just so much that is right about the lines of the original.
The TR7 is a great add to the list, that was extremely radical in its day.
Alfa Montreal (production version)
Audi 5000 1978
Fiat 130 Coupe
The one that did it for me was the 1970 Chevelle SS396. I still want one!!!
I don’t understand the love for the Lagonda. It is not easy on the eye.
The 70s had plenty of great looking cars.
As I read it, the question isn’t really how attractive a car is, it’s how radical it was for its time.
But these sort of questions invariably turn into ‘My favorite car’ threads.
That’s what I thought too.
I’m surprised no one has mentioned the Volvo P1800ES..
The best looking Volvo I’ve ever seen, the P1800ES
No on has mentioned the boat-tail Rivieras of the early ’70s.
Fully as crazy in their own nostalgic way as the ’59 Cadillacs were in their futuristic way. And really beautifully realized, at least in their first couple years.
For one year only(I forget which year) the Plymouth Duster 340 was the fastest accelerating car you could buy. That is extremely jaw dropping to me.
In 1976, Car and Driver did a comparison where the Corvette was faster than the final year Dart Sport 360.
So, my guess would be the prior year (1975, when the Corvette had less horsepower) would be the one when the 360 engine A-body ruled the waning musclecar scene.
I also thought the 1971-73 Ford Mustang’s were huge and jaw dropping compared to the earlier Mustang’s, it looked like a Ford Torino compared to the 1965-68 Mustang’s.
71-73 Buick Riviera. Especially the 71-72. As a personal luxury car it was jaw dropping, and nothing is like it.
I question whether any of the classic wedge-shaped mid-engined cars can be considered especially ‘jaw-dropping’ in the 70s, that was really the Golden Era for those cars (Now, the Lamborghini Miura was jaw-dropping in the 60s when most Ferraris and Maseratis were front-engined).
Going from memory, I can think of the following mid-engined cars introduced in the 70s:
Ferrari: GT4, GTB/S, 512BB, 246 Dino, Mondial
Maserati: Bora, Merak
Lamborghini: Countach, Urracco, Sillhouette/Jalpa
Lancia: Stratos, Montecarlo
Lotus: Esprit, Europa
Most were good-looking cars but not particularly ‘jaw-dropping’ for the era (Not like the 928 or Lagonda, which were truly radical for their time). I think that’s why many of them began growing bizarre spoilers and aero-kits to distinguish themselves (Countach and Pantera were the worst offenders here).
Great piece! There was a reclusive Lagonda in the village where I grew up and seeing it always made my jaw drop as a kid.
Very few cars, especially sports cars, can pull off looking good in black.
have to disagree here though. IMO the Pantera is in good company in looking great (even best) in black – a few examples of good looking black sports cars that popped into my head below (it’s heavy on the Italians because that’s what tends to pop into my head). I’d go so far as to argue some like the Fulvia and Quatroporte actually look wrong in other colours. (Also I realise the Stratos is probably *very* dark blue but it makes the point and is such a good photo… another 70s jaw dropper!)
Alfa Romeo Montreal. First shown in ’67, but didn’t enter production until 1970. I also like the Fiat 130 coupe, although I’ve only seen it in photos. Oh, and let me add the Jaguar XJ-C hardtop coupes.
How about the Bricklin SV-1? For a brief period, those gull-wing doors were something.
I doubt if anyone else on here will agree, but for me personally, it was the ’78 Chevy Malibu coupe. I have always been a Ford guy, but the first time I saw one I did have one of those jaw dropping experiences. It was love at first sight.
For me it was the right size and I loved ( and still do) the styling. In fact, I ordered and still own a ’79 Malibu coupe. It has been a great car and I have a lot of memories, both good and bad with it over the last 37 years ( as of this week).
These have been noted already, but here’s my 2 cents.
If we are talking jaw-dropping, to me, this means my reaction was just “Whoah!” at the time. So in no particular order…
First Seville – it was just so radically different looking and sized from the rest of the line up. I remember seeing my first one, summer 1975, and thinking it was just something new entirely.
The Aston Lagonda – I completely remember the Road & Track cover and thinking, WHOAH. I loved it.
Porsche 928 – again, so fresh and modern. Not everyone loved it, but I did. And it stayed modern looking for a long time, and still does so. Another car I literally remember when I saw one the first time in the metal, October 1977.
AMC Pacer, totally different. Although, the similarities the 928 had to the Pacer, which came first, are remarkable.
Citroen SM. Saw one of these at a dealer near where I grew up, where they also sold Lincoln-Mercury, Fiat, Lancia, and maybe a few others like MG. The SM was so low, smooth and sleek, with those rear fender skirts. So cool, without looking Brouhamy. I want to see a return to these…gotta help aerodynamics, right?
I had to think about this one, and the only time my jaw dropped about a car in the 1970s was when I went in a Chevy showroom in late September, 1972, and saw my first 1973 Chevelle Colonnade coupe. Where did the pillarless hardtop option go? Did they have one in the back?
OK, it wasn’t actually produced, but for sheer 1970s jaw-dropping chutzpah, nothing rivals the Dale. It’s a great story; look it up!
My mother’s jaw dropped at the first sight of an AMC Gremlin. And not in a good way. She loved the early 70’s Chevelles, Monte Carlo’s and Cutlass Supremes.
The AMC Pacer. By far the wackiest, craziest and most bizarre looking car I had ever laid my eyes on in the 70’s.
Jaguar XJ6 Series III just sneaks in by a few months (April 1979 intro) . Pininfarinas redesign made a new car out of it.
My bids are for the Lagonda, Matra-Simca Bagheera and the Countach, with an honourable mention for the NSU Ro80 (yes, I know it’s a 60s design but there were some changes in the 70s)
The “what they were they thinking” candidates have to include the Fiat 133 and the Allegro (obviously) but the winner is surely the Volvo 262 Bertone Coupe
1972 Luxury LeMans?
Although they quickly became ubiquitous because they sold so well, the 1977 GM B and C bodies were quite jaw dropping when they debuted in the fall of ’76. Part of that was for their handsome styling, but it was mostly for their dramatic departure from the longer, lower, wider philosophy that had driven Detroit for a generation.
Pretty much any Italian exotic at the time was jaw dropping when I first saw them, but the Pantera was on display next to Mercury Cougars and the like, making even more of an impression on me.
AMC Matador Coupe and Pacer, as many others have already mentioned.
Datsun F-10, weird and ugly. Today’s Nissan Juke must have been inspired by it.