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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mecum.com

The GSX was Buick’s contribution to the Classic era American car muscle list. The GSX was Buick’s answer to its competitors at the time. Chevrolet and Dodge both had popular muscle cars, and Buick was hungry to get in the game.

The standard vehicle came with a 455ci engine 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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hemmings.com

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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hemmings.com

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

The Trans-Am received national attention when it was the main car featured in Smokey and the Bandit. For the sequel, the 1980 Firebird Trans Am Turbo Model was used.

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

1978 Dodge Lil’ Red Express

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hagerty.com

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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Bob D’Olivo|Gerry Stiles/The Enthusiast Network/Getty Images
Bob D’Olivo|Gerry Stiles/The Enthusiast Network/Getty Images

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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mecum.com

1970 was a pinnacle year of performance from Oldsmobile. With the cap on engine size removed by General Motors, the automaker up the ante on the standard engine given to the 442, making it the Olds 455 V8.

If you wanted even more power, you could increase horsepower by buying the W30 package. Those extra five horse made a huge difference for a lot of people. The new and improved 442 was so impressive it was named the pace car for that year’s Indianapolis 500.

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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autocar.co.uk
autocar.co.uk

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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hemmings.com

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.

Depending on the consumer, the car could be bought with the standard 155 horsepower engine, or a massive 307 cubic-in V8 with 200 horsepower.Of course, that was only the tip of the iceberg as far as engine customization went. 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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rmsothebys.com

The Turbo 930 today is better known as the 911 Turbo. When it was released, it was Porsche’s top range 911 model, and remained the king until it was discontinued. It was also the fastest car in production made in Germany

Oddly enough, Porsche only made the car to comply with homologation regulations. It 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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rmsothebys.com

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. Although the Ferarri Dino V6 engine was phased out, the last 500 built were bought and delivered by Lancia.

In the first year, 492 models were made. With such low numbers, the decision was made to end production in 1975. 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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mecum.com

Of all of the muscle cars of the decade, the Boss 302 Fastback is right up there.The model quickly became one of the most popular Mustangs of all-time, which is surprising considered it was underpowered upon its initial release.

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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hagerty.com

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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hagerty.com

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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bringatrailer.com

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.

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

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

Mk1 Golf GTi

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National Motor Museum/Heritage Images/Getty Images
National Motor Museum/Heritage Images/Getty Images

Volkswagon didn’t feel like they needed to develop a faster version of their signature Golf car after the juiced up 1973 Beetle was met with a negative reaction. Instead, the Golf Mk1 is the first generation of a front-engine, front wheel drive model.

Marketed by the German automaking company, it made its debut in May 1974, with styling by Giorgetto Giugiaro’s ItalDesign. Production numbers needed to hit 5,000 in order for the Golf GTi to to qualify for Group One Production Touring Car class. It did not.

1974 Ford Escort Mexico

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fordauthority.com

Unlike the first escort, the second generation was developed jointly between the UK and Ford of Germany. In Italy, the car was offered with a 940 cc engine. The country gave consumers tax advantages for using the smaller engine. It was not offered in other countries.

In 1978, the car was redesigned and square headlights were added to the L models. 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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blog.tirebuyer.com
blog.tirebuyer.com

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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topcarrating.com

The two-seater mid-engine sports car was manufactured from 1972-1982. Known for it’s incredibly balanced handling the X1/9 came in a rear-wheel drive configuration with a transverse engine. It also had retractable headlights, and was designed to meet the safety regulation standards of the United States.

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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bringatrailer.com

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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rmsothebys.com

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.

Ferarri divided their competition cars into three series. Each series cam e with modified lightweight bodies. And each engine was tuned differently. Scaglietti, an Italian designed, produced all the bodies except the initial Pinifarina prototype.

1970 AMC Rebel ”The Machine”

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hemmings.com

The 1970 AMC Rebel was something to behind. The new decade brought with it a new design that included and a new C-pillar shape and a restyled rear end. The hardtop was also redone to appear with more of a slope in-line with the roof-line.

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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bringatrailer.com

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. Our favorites are the horizontal rear vents and the chrome 240Z badge. The car also came as a three speed automatic for anyone not willing to learn clutch. In 1978, that would be the final year the car would be in production.

1977 Cadillac Coupe DeVille

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wikipedia.org
wikipedia.org

In 1977, in honor of Cadillac’s 75th Anniversary, they introduced a downsized version of the DeVille. The new model featured a higher roofline, making the car nine inches shorter than other models, and four inches narrower.

The 500 in3 V8 was replaced for the 1977 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. Only one available package was carried over from the previous model.

1979 Chevrolet Camaro Z28

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classiccars.com
classiccars.com

The biggest changes for 1979 was the introduction of the luxury-orientated Berlinetta model. There were a couple f versions of the Z28 available. The RS remained the same from the previous model year while the Z28s was upgraded with a fender flares and front spoilers.

Sales for the 79 Camaro were the highest ever for any generation Camaro before or since. The popularity of the model was solely based on looks, as the engine was not upgraded along with it.

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

1974 Porsche 914

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bringatrailer.com

By the late sixties, inflation and currency issues forced Porsche to become 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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hemmings.com

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 engine provided had the most torque of any domestic engine available, which wasn’t topped until the 1992 Dodger Viper came out.

1971 AMC Hornet SC/360

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hemmings.com

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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Pinterest

By the mid-seventies, muscle cars had somewhat died off. In that time, Laguna still rolled onto the streets with a massive 454 big block capable of 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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chevelles.com

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 first year the Sprint was available also happened to be the first year that lowe-octane unleaded fuel became mandated, 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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mecum.com

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.