70s cars under appreciated?
The contrite answer would be that by the mid 70s all Detroit was selling was the allusion of performance with appearance packages on underpowered slugs.
I had a friend with a Cosworth Vega like the one pictured......it’s real hard to get excited about a car that turns 18+ second 1/4 mile times. That was especially true if you had lived thru the late 60s and driven the real big block muscle cars. Even the V8 powered Mustang IIs and V8 Monzas were 16+ second cars in stock form. It says a lot that the fastest (to 100 MPH) American production vehicle in 1978 was a Dodge Pickup with a 360 CI engine (the Lil Red Express Trucks).
That being said the cars should really be looked at in the context of the times. Insurance rates had skyrocketed due to the accidents/deaths caused primarily by inexperienced drivers in over powered cars. Gas prices were on the rise and Federally mandated emission controls were rushed into production which literally were choking the engines to death (the early catalytic convertors were horrible). The final nail in the coffin was probably the federally mandated 55 MPH speed limit.
These were not exciting times for the car enthusiasts. The one thing it did do was weed out the wannabe car guys from the hard core ones. Even though the cars did have the potential for performance improvements by the normal hot rod techniques (improved intake and exhaust and elimination of much of the emission controls) most people left the cars completely stock for fear of losing their 5 year 50,000 mile warranty.
For the hard core guys it did provide fodder in the form of cheap light weight bodies that V8s could be stuffed into.....the most popular at the time being Pintos and Vegas. I personally picked up a 4 year old Pinto from a used car lot for $50 because it had a thrown rod.... and spent the next 2 weeks stuffing a 302/C4/9” in it.
These are the 2 cars I had in the late 70s, the V8 Pinto and the V8 4 speed Vega.
Personally, while I have no use for much of the 70s offerings in stock form there were some interesting body styles......I would love to find one of the Ventura based GTOs (of course I’d end up stuffing a 455 into it). I also have a soft spot for the Mustang IIs.....This was my daily driver for 10 years with a 351W/4 speed/and Posi (I’m currently detuning it and putting in an automatic for the wife).
And being as how I mentioned trucks earlier my 76 Dodge D100 complete with stripe package and factory 440 ( they only built 191 440 powered shortbed D100s in 76, and in stock form with only 8:1 compression performance was less than stellar).
Basically the 70s cars were what they were, potential, but no real performance.