QOTD: What Are the Most Jaw Dropping Cars of the Seventies?

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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

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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

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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.”

Honorable Mention:

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?