For automobile aficionados, a decade is defined by its cars.
70s cars – some say – were mediocre, lacking the lines of the autos of the 60s and becoming more utilitarian.
Rising gas prices and a shortage of gas prompted consumers to seek “economy cars” that were more fuel efficient than the large “boats” they were driving a decade before.
There were still a number of sports cars on the market, but they seemed not to be as “sporty” as their predecessors.
Luxury cars – with a few exceptions – got smaller, also thanks to the need to conserve fuel. Vans appeared in the 70s, but certainly didn’t resemble today’s “soccer mom” cars.
Also, more foreign cars began to hit the U.S. market and test America’s dedication to the U.S. auto makers.
The Small 70s Car
Anyone who sat in the long gas lines of the early 1970s knew that having a smaller, more fuel efficient car made all the sense in the world. Auto makers came to the same realization.
Hence, they began introducing a new line of cars that kept people away from the pumps just a few days longer between fill-ups. Some notable small cars that were introduced in the 70s include the Volkswagen Rabbit, AMC Pacer and Gremlin, and the Ford Pinto.
70s Muscle Cars
Men of the 70s still needed their muscle cars, despite the push for better fuel efficiency. The muscle cars of the 70s were pretty cool. Most of them were mid-sized with 2 doors and – of course – a powerful engine for high-performance driving.
Memorable American testosterone-filled cars of the decade include the Dodge Charger and Challenger; the Plymouth Duster and Barracuda; Chevy Camaro, Corvette, and Malibu SS; Ford Mustang; and the Pontiac Firebird/Trans Am.
Of course, there was also the Datsun 240 Z and a few other notable foreign models as well. Some of these cars also fell into the sports car category.
Today, our conception of a van is a vehicle that has 2 to 3 rows of seats and can accommodate up to 7 or 8 passengers. Moms use them to cart the kids around from activity to activity.
However, in the 70s, vans were nothing like they are today. Basically, a van had a solid back area with no doors or windows (except maybe a small one in the back) and there were no seats but the front seats.
Some owners would “customize” their vans, which pretty much meant adding carpet to the inside and putting some sort of cool design on the outside.
On the Brady Bunch television series, the Brady family drove a huge 1970s station wagon to accommodate their extra large family. This was indicative of a lot of larger American families, many of whom would buy nothing but a station wagon to go on family trips or just for excursions to the supermarket.
Often, these were “woodies”; adorned with wood side panels. As in the 60s, many of them had one rear-facing seat in the back and kids would fight over who got to sit there.