The Most Epic Car Masterpieces From The ’70s

Car manufacturers were handed some serious challenges in the seventies. Federal regulations were starting to take over style and power design meeting rooms with many cars taking a significant hit.

While some companies were making iconic designs, many others were pumping out cars like the Porsche Turbo and Lotus Espirit. It might have been the worst of times for cars in this particular decade, but some diamonds in the rough came out for the better.

1970 Buick GSZ Stage 1

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The GSX was Buick’s contribution to the Classic era American car muscle list. The GSX was Buick’s answer to Pontiac’s GTO Judge, Oldsmobile’s 4-4 W-30, and Chevrolet’s Chevelle SS.

The standard vehicle was equipped with a 455ci engine with or without the optional Stage 1 performance engine upgrades during the first year of release. During 1971 and 1972, the GSX option was only available in only two colors, Saturn Yellow and Apollo White with the 455ci stump-puller and black interior.

1970 Plymouth Hemi Superbird

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This short-lived model was created as an updated version of the Plymouth Road Runner. Not only did it have 425 horsepower, but it boasted a 7.0-liter engine. The car’s primary rival was the Ford Torino Talladega, a direct response to the Mopar aero car.

It was speculated that a motivating factor in the production of the car was to lure Richard Petty from Ford back to Plymouth. Petty’s Superbird even appears in the 2006 Pixar film Cars, with the NASCAR Hall of Famer voicing Strip “The King” Weathers.

1977 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am SE

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Most car fanatics will argue that the 1977 Firebird is one of the most iconic American cars of the classic era. From 1977 to 1981, the Firebird used four square headlamps, whereas the Camaro continued to retain the two headlights that had been shared by both second-generation designs.

The 1977 Trans-Am Special Edition became famous after it was featured in Smokey and the Bandit. The 1980 Turbo model was used for Smokey and the Bandit II.

Read ahead to see why 1970 was a pinnacle of performance from Oldsmobile.

1978 Dodge Lil’ Red Express

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Dodge released a truck that immediately became the most unique vehicle the company has produced. Not only was the Lil’ Red Express appealing to truck fans, but it was a real performer on the road.

It became the fastest American-made vehicle from 0 to 100 mph as tested by Car and Driver magazine. Plus, the E58-specification engine was equipped with “Super Flow” heads, a police cam, dual-snorkel air intake, heavy duty valve springs, cold air induction, and dual exhausts.

1973 De Tomaso Pantera

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The Pantera was built in Italy but sold through Lincoln-Mercury dealers in the United States. The model combined the 351 horsepower V-8 engine and it included power windows as well as air conditioning.

Additionally, the 73′ edition of the dash was changed- going from two separate pods for the gauges to a unified unit with the dials angled towards the driver. Today, the Pantera is widely known as the improbable idea that both Detroit and Turin got right and a recognizable supercar of the decade.

1970 Oldsmobile 442

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1970 was a pinnacle of performance from Oldsmobile. To keep up in the horsepower arms-race, General Motors dropped the cap on engine size, and Oldsmobile responded by making the Olds 455 V8 the standard 4-4-2 engine.

The revised body style and increased performance resulted in the 4-4-2 being awarded pace car duties at the Indianapolis 500 race. Those who opted for the W30 package got an extra five horsepower out of their cars, with the option of a four-speed manual.

At the time of its introduction, the next car ahead was the fastest production car available in Germany.

1977 Ferrari 308 GTB

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This particular Ferrari was introduced at the Paris Motor Show in 1975. Its F106 AB V8 engine was equipped with four twin-choke Weber 40DCNF carburetors and single coil ignition.

The body of the car was designed by Pininfarina’s Leonardo Fioravanti, who was responsible for some of Ferrari’s most celebrated models. He was behind the Daytona, the Dino, and the Berlinetta Boxer. In 1977, at the Frankfurt Motor Show, the 308 GTS was introduced.

1970 Chevrolet Chevelle SS 454

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Chevy fans of the classic era believed that the 1970 Chevelle SS 454 was the ultimate in cars. This particular model came in Sport Coupe, Sport Sedan, convertible, and a four-door sedan.

Engine choices ranged from the standard 155 horsepower six-cylinder and 200-horsepower 307-cubic-inch V8 to a pair of 350 V8s and a pair of 402 engines. Plus, the company gave buyers the option to get this car in either three or four-speed manual.

1975 Porsche Turbo 930

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The Turbo 930 was known to the public as the 911 Turbo. It was the maker’s top-of-the-range 911 model for its entire production duration. At the time of its introduction, it was the fastest production car available in Germany.

Porsche originally needed to produce the car in order to comply with homologation regulations and was intended to be marketed as a street legal race vehicle. But, due to its short wheelbase and rear engine layout, it was prone to oversteer and turbo-lag.

Up next, a car that was regarded as being underpowered, especially in markets in the United States.

1974 Lancia Stratos HF Stradale

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The HF is a sports car and a rally car too. Made by Lancia, the HF stands for High Fidelity as it won the World Rally Championship from 1974-1976. The Ferrari Dino V6 engine was phased out in 1974, but 500 engines among the last built were delivered to Lancia.

Production ended in 1975 when it was thought that only 492 were made. The Stratos would eventually emerge as a successful rally car not just during the seventies, but early eighties too.

1970 Ford Mustang Boss 302 Fastback

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Of all of the muscle cars of the decade, the Boss 302 Fastback is right up there. Despite the model not being the most powerful Mustang produced in the classic era, it became one of the most iconic Mustangs of all-time.

It was equipped with a 5.0-liter V8 engine that had the capacity to produce 290-horsepower. Not only was it considered as a hero amongst cars for the working class, but it was very successful in SCCA racing too.

1976 Lotus Esprit Turbo

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The Espirit was launched in 1965 at the Paris Motor Show. The wedge-shaped fiberglass was mounted on a steel backbone chassis. Power came from the Lotus 907 4-cylinder engine that could produce 160 bhp.

The engine was mounted behind the passengers and drove the rear wheels through C35 five-speed manual. While the Espirit was lauded for its handling, it was regarded as being underpowered, especially in markets in the United States.

Read ahead to see why Volkswagen had little inclination to develop a faster Golf.

1974 Lamborghini Countach LP400

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This rear mid-engined, V12 engine sports car was produced by the Italian car company from 1974 to 1990. The model was introduced at the world Geneva Motor Show in 1971 with conventional lights replacing the futuristic light clusters of the prototype.

The LP400 was fitted with narrow tires, but it means that this version had the lowest drag coefficient of any Countach model. In recent years, the vehicle has become a collector’s item, and in June 2014, one model was sold for $1,680,000 at Bonham’s Goodwood Festival of Speed auction.

1974 BMW 2002 Turbo

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The 2002 Turbo was launched during the 1973 Frankfurt Motor Show. This was BMW’s first turbocharged production car. It was introduced just before the 1973 oil crisis, having only 1,672 built.

In 1971, the 02 series received a facelift. The three-door hatchback “Touring” body style and the 1802 model was introduced as part of the improvement. Other changes included wraparound bumpers for all models, and a two-piece instrument cluster as well as new seats.

Up next, a two-seater mid-engined sports car was manufactured from 1972-1982.

Mk1 Golf GTi

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Due to the negative political reaction to the 1973 release of the Beetle “Gelb-Schwarzer Renner”, Volkswagen had little inclination to develop a faster Golf. The Golf Mk1 is the first generation of a front-engine, front wheel drive.

Marketed by the German automaking company, it made its debut in May 1974 with styling by Giorgetto Giugiaro’s ItalDesign. Production was not expected to exceed 5000 units, which was the number needed to qualify for the Group One Production Touring Car class.

1974 Ford Escort Mexico

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Unlike the first escort, the second generation was developed jointly between the UK and Ford of Germany. The 940 cc engine was still offered in Italy where the smaller engine attracted tax advantages, but in the other larger European markets in Europe it was unavailable.

A cosmetic update was given in 1978, with L models gaining the square headlights. Plus, there was an upgrade in interior and exterior specification for some models. In 1979 and 1980, the Linnet, Harrier, and Goldcrest were introduced as special edition Escorts.

1977 Aston Martin V8 Vantage

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The V8 Vantage was hailed at its 1977 introduction as “Britain’s First Supercar.” Thanks to its 170 mph top speed, the Vantage name had previously been used on a number of high-performance versions of Aston mini cars.

However, this was a separate model, a convertible version called the Vantage Volante was also produced from 1986 to 1989. What’s even more interesting is that this model was James Bonds’ car in the 1987 film The Living Daylights.

1978 Fiat X1/9

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The two-seater mid-engined sports car was manufactured from 1972-1982. With a transverse engine and gearbox in a mid-mounted, rear-wheel drive configuration, the X1/9 was known for its balanced handling, retractable headlights, and for being designed from its concept to meet United States’ safety regulations.

With the 78′ model, the differentiating characteristics are just relocating the front trunk release handle from the glovebox and to the left side of the driver’s footwell.

Read ahead to see which company produced “The Machine.”

1973 Mercedes-Benz 450SL

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Both the R107 and C107 are automobiles that were produced from 1971-1989. This became the second-longest single series to be produced by the German automaker after the G-Class.

Sales in North America hit the market in 1972 with the name 350SL but had a larger 4.5-liter V8 engine. Eventually, it would be renamed to the 450SL model a year later. The much faster edition of the car, the 500SLC was never sold as the 450 was only produced until 1980.

1971 Ferrari 365 GTS4 Daytona Spyder

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The accepted number of Daytonas from the Ferrari club historians is 1,406 over the life of the model. This includes 156 UK right-hand drive coupes, 122 factory-made Spyders, and 15 competition cars that featured lightweight bodies and came in various engines.

The competition cars are divided into three series, all with modified lightweight bodies in various degrees of engine tune. All bodies, except the first Pininfarina prototype, were produced by Italian coachbuilder Scaglietti.

1970 AMC Rebel ”The Machine”

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The sedan and coupe received a restyled rear-end, along with a new C-pillar shape and rear quarters. The hardtop was changed to a more sloping roofline with upswept reverse-angle quarter windows, giving them a huskier look.

AMC was the underdog among U.S. manufacturers, and the Rebel “The Machine” was a perfect example of this. The model came with a 390ci V8 and had 340 horsepower. The vehicle was the most powerful one AMC would ever build.

Up next, one of the biggest changes for Chevrolet happened in 1979.

1971 Datsun 240Z

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The 240Z was introduced to the American market by Yukata Katayama, president of Nissan Motors USA operations. The model received the L24 2.4-liter engine with a manual choke and a four-speed manual.

These early cars had many subtle features, including a chrome 240Z badge on the sail pillar, and two horizontal vents in the rear hatch below the glass. A less common three-speed automatic transmission was optional from 1971 on. In 1978, that would be the final year the car would be in production.

1977 Cadillac Coupe DeVille

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1977 was Cadillac’s 75th Anniversary, which they introduced the downsized DeVille coupes and sedans. These new cars featured a higher roofline, resulting in a vehicle that was over nine inches short, and four inches narrower.

The 500 in3 V8 was replaced for the 77 models by a 180-horsepower 425 in3 V8 variant of similar size. For this model, the lineup included the two-door Coupe de Ville and four-door sedan de Ville. The $650 d’Elegance package, an interior dress-up option carried over from the past generation.

1979 Chevrolet Camaro Z28

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The biggest changes for 1979 was the introduction of the luxury-orientated Berlinetta model. The base models, RS and Z28 remained, the Z28s now came with a front spoiler and fender flares, much like its Pontiac Trans Am twin had.

Sales for the 79 Camaro were the highest ever for any generation Camaro before or since. Engine choices remained with the 250 I6 standard in the base and RS models, with the 305 2bbl being an option and standard on the Berlinetta.

Up next, a car that was respectable in terms of quickness.

1974 Porsche 914

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By the late sixties, inflation and currency issues forced Porsche so far up the market. They became desperate for a new four-cylinder entry-level car. The 912 was ripe and it was time for a replacement, and the solution was a collaboration with Volkswagen, who would release the 914 as a VW-Porsche in Europe.

The performance was modest at first with base VW-derived engines of 1.7 and 1.8 liters. However, slow sales and rising costs prompted Porsche to discontinue the model in 1976.

1970 Buick Gran Sport 455 Stage I

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The Buick Gran Sport was another high-performance muscle car of the decade. It’s known as the Hemi killer, and with nearly 400 horsepower and 510 pound-feet of torque on tap, there’s no wondering why.

This particular year was special since it was the last year that General motors offered high-compensation engines before adopting for the lower-fueled standards of 1972. The 455 found under the Gran Sport’s hood was the torquiest domestic engine, which held the standard until the 1992 Dodger Viper came out.

1971 AMC Hornet SC/360

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The SC360 was a compact two-door muscle car that was intended to be a follow up to the 1868 SC Rambler. Powered by the AMC’s 360 cu 5.9-liter V8 engine, the SC was distinguished with styled wheels, body striping, individual fully reclining front seats as well as other performance and appearance upgrades.

Despite the SC/360 not managing to compete with the holdover big-engined muscle cars, the model was respectable in terms of quickness by reaching 0 to 60 mph in 6.7 seconds.

When Chrysler and Hurst joined together, they came up with a car on their own. Read ahead to see what they did!

1974 Chevy Laguna Type S-3 454

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By the mid-seventies, muscle cars had somewhat died off. In that time, Laguna still rolled into the streets with a massive 454 big block that was good for 235 horsepower and 360 pound-feet of torque.

For the ’74, it was renamed to Laguna Type S-3 and was offered as the Colonnade Coupe. It retained the front end from the ’73 with a revised grille and new parking lamps. As big as the car was, it wasn’t excessively fast since it took almost ten seconds to reach 60-mph.

1971 GMC Sprint SP 454 LS5

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In 1971, GMC began producing the Spring, their version of the Chevrolet El Camino. The chassis for both cars was based on the Chevrolet Chevelle station wagon/four-door sedan wheelbase.

The Sprint’s first year was also the first year for mandated lower-octane unleaded fuel which saw a reduction in engine compression. It was even powered by an LS5, 454 cubic-inch V8 engine that was good enough for 365 horsepower and 465 pound-feet of torque.

1970 Chrysler Hurst 300

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The Hurst 300 wasn’t a small or light car by any means. However, when Chrysler and Hurst joined together, they created the Hurst 300. With a 440 cubic-inch v8 engine under the hood, it was able to deliver 375 horsepower and 480 pound-feet of torque straight out of the production line.

With two doors and white and gold paint, it was similar to the Oldsmobile and Pontiac Hurst models of the time. It’s even a rare collector’s item as only 500 were produced.