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Unhinged: Love ‘Em Or Loathe ‘Em, The Seventies Are Coming!

Unhinged: Love ‘Em Or Loathe ‘Em, The Seventies Are Coming!

I often catch flak around here for being a fan of Malaise-era vehicles. Let’s face it: I’m 31 years old. Growing up, I rode in a mix of mid-1970s to mid-1980s vehicles, with very few exceptions. An older cousin had a mix of hot-rodded Chryslers, including a Charger SE, a Newport, and a 1980s Cordoba. One uncle had a ’76 Camaro. My dad had a mix of Ford trucks that covered the 1970s range and a Mustang II. It’s what I saw growing up, and it’s what I got into as a kid. And if this year’s Barrett-Jackson auction is any kind of barometer, I’m not the only one. The unimaginable is happening: the 1970s sleds are becoming popular.When I say “Seventies”, what I really mean is “post-1973”. And I don’t mean popular stuff like Bandit Trans Ams, Can-Ams, Z28 Camaros and what have you. What I mean is things like the Ford Granada pictured above. When I first saw the Granada a couple of weeks ago on the docket for the B-J Scottsdale auction, I made a call that the small-block four-speed equipped Ford would be an easy buy, a nice car that would escape the usual mill of the stupid money.


I couldn’t have been more wrong. What I figured would be a $10,000 maximum car sold for $27,500 after fees. As I write that, I’m still trying to wrap my head around the figure. It’s not a performance car, it’s not a pretty car (not in my eyes), but it is a nice example and the options list is as good as it got in the mid-Seventies. We’re not here to speculate on the value of the cars…honestly, Barrett-Jackson usually tends to induce eye-rolling and lots of “stupid money” comments here…but what about build trends? Popular Hot Rodding seemed to embrace the trend early, with such builds as the “Project g/28” 1976 Camaro. And you can see certain models starting to pick up in popularity: GM A-bodies started to become popular because they are a big car that drives and corners better than they should, have the room to eat pretty much any engine you can build and can fit absolutely huge tires without tubbing.


Am I just blowing hot air or is this legitimate? Personally, I’d love to be wrong. Nice examples of 1970s vehicles can be picked up for decent money if you know where to look, and to get a nice driver going would be a cakewalk for a halfway decent wrench. If there’s a downside, there’s a lacking aftermarket for reprop parts compared to the late 1960s and early 1970s, so finding such items like interior pieces and weatherstripping will turn into a treasure hunt…especially since a lot of junkyards went straight to crushing these cars during the 2008 recession due to the metal content of the cars. But there’s still plenty out there that are good starts, so what say you: are we about to see Malaise-era cars start getting a fresh look?

76 charger

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25 thoughts on “Unhinged: Love ‘Em Or Loathe ‘Em, The Seventies Are Coming!

  1. Nick D.

    The Colonade A-bodies have always been pretty cool in my mind, especially the Laguna. And the Mopar F/M/J-bodies are cheap, had V8 power and drive the proper wheels. I’ve thought that the Mustang II looks killer in vintage Pro Stock trim. I’m definitely okay with this stuff.

  2. C.M.Bendig

    I know a guy with a 1973 Buick Riviera (no GS model in 73 for Riviera). 455 4bbl, Buckets, Console, flag style (not horseshoe) Floor shifter. Cranbarry red with Black interior, 43,xxx miles. 2 owner, bought new by his father-in-law.

    Car needs a re-paint, bumpers re-chromed, front inner fenders (plastic) replaced. He’s only asking $10,000

    If it were a 1970 Buick Skylark with the same options, condition & miles: $20-40K.

  3. tigeraid

    The cars are great, they just need to be done right. My buddy had a ’74 Laguna, no vinyl top, minimal chrome, and a stout motor. It looked gorgeous, I thought. It’s when you get into the opera windows and the ugly vinyl tops and acres of cheap chrome trim that’s always falling off that you have problems.

    As for the weight, it just takes some ingenuity. Surely there’s a way to gut those gigantic front and rear bumpers with their big jack posts and stuff, for example, and replace them with something lighter that will still pass safety.

    We’re running out of reasonable examples of “real” muscle-era cars, so the RWD platforms of the 70s and 80s simply HAVE to become more common as project cars if this hobby is gonna survive.

  4. 75Duster

    As the owner of a 1975 Duster, I bought the car off of a friend mine in the Air Force for $600.00 , then I rebuilt the Duster from the ground up at Hickam AFB while I was stationed in Hawaii using the drive train out of my ’69 Barracuda that had succumbed to Hawaii’s weather and 3 years hard driving.
    It is caged, sub framed, street strip car with a built 340, and I’m currently updating it after a 12 year storage. I built it on a E5 budget overseas using my auto body skills and making due with what I had out there.
    The car is a part of the family, and will never be sold.

    1. mooseface

      I need to get more involved with the forum, because I’d love to see more of your car. The best cars I’ve ever seen were of that nature: taking what you had and making good. “Built not bought” as they say.

    2. BeaverMartin

      The auto craft shop is one of the best benefits of being in the military. I built my 76′ Mini the same way in Germany. Good luck with your project.

  5. mooseface

    When it comes to malaise-era cars, I’m a sucker for anything with the de-stroked I6s of that time period. Yeah, they’re gutless and have no compression, but you’d be amazed what some head work and an Offy intake with side-drafting Webers can do. 3 grand worth of work and parts, and a whole new animal under the hood, what’s not to like?

  6. BeaverMartin

    I have always liked malaise era rides. My first car was a 77′ Firebird. By the time I started making money a mid-late 70s project was all that I could afford. I make more money now, but with the 70s cars becoming Barrett-Jacksonized, and muscle cars hitting the stratosphere I’ll probably won’t be able to get a 64-73 vehicle until I retire or hit the lottery. I just hope people don’t start doing factory over-spray restorations of Mustang IIs and AMC Matadors because that’s the best part of malaise projects, you can build them how you want and no one trips about you cutting up a “survivor.” For my money nothing is cooler than a malaise era ride rolling on Keystone Klasics wrapped in fat white letters. I also like my gold anodized Moroso valve covers.

  7. Turbo Regal

    Going to high school in the early to mid ’80’s, the parking lot was full of colonnade Cutlasses and Monte Carlos, 2nd gen Camaros and 70’s Novas. These cars can make great street machines; you just have to start with a good rust free car with all of the interior pieces intact. The interior parts availability for these cars (excepting F bodies) is nil.

  8. doug gregory

    I catch flak for pointing out things I think are amiss in a build or completed project. I’m opinionated. Some might think that means I’d even go as far as excluding an era of cars from the palette of automotive art. I like the 70s stuff. I even like a well-done Mustang II. Gremlin, Chevelle, Cutlass, Pinto, and even a Dodge Aspen can be done well. They can also be done wrong. Good style is timeless and the pattern can be applied to almost anything. I remember when a Fairmont was considered nothing more than monster truck fodder. Over a decade ago a few started popping up done up with mustang chassis parts and good-power, roller-cammed 306s. All of a sudden the things were ‘cool’. I say build it, use time-honored traditions and your own flair to make a ride that is uniquely yours and perhaps a trend will ensue. There have always been ‘dare to be different’, but they don’t always catch on. That said, I like having the only car around that is like mine. There are barely any 62-65 Novas around these parts and even fewer actually come out to cruises and such. It’s not rare, but it also isn’t common like the all-too-popular ’67-’69 Camaro. Build what you want and if you dork it up…..try again.

  9. Mrocketscience

    The problem here in Kalifornia is that they still have to pass smog. That kind of limits what you can do here.

  10. Whelk

    With the exception of a few models most mid to late 70’s stuff was just hideous, getting worse into the 80’s. Aside from a few niche’s I’ll be surprised if cars from this era ever get really popular.

  11. anthony

    They are great cars to drive. The crappy engine options can easily be fixed almost all have disk brakes already and can be bought kinda cheap. I love my Monte Carlo. I prefer it over a new car. When they were new they were huge,really huge sellers. Says something for them.

  12. Bob

    I grew up in the seventies too. A lot of those cars were cool or could be made cool. With the current trend of making those hideous bumpers smaller and or tucked in closer to the bodies, it opens up the door for a lot more of them becoming cool. It was those huge Nader bumpers that made so many of those cars look bad. The engines and drivetrains, well they can easily be swapped out for newer, better ones. Suspensions and brakes can be easily updated on most of them too.

  13. Tedly

    I don’t get the absolute aversion most people have to 70’s cars. If it’s a hot rod, you’re already at least hopping up the engine, if not replacing it outright. Same with the trans. It’s your car, so you can do pretty much whatever you want to the body… What’s the problem?

    Yeah, they were dogs from the factory, so what? You trying to tell me a six cylinder first gen Camaro set anyone’s heart on fire with it’s performance?

    I know hot rodding is more about emotional attachments to cars and body styles than it is all out performance most times, but the stuff everyone lusts after is priced in the stratosphere now. Besides, didn’t hot rodding start by taking cars and body styles no one wanted and making them better?

  14. Franklin A. Thompson III

    Hate to say it but you need to shut up about these cars. Because just like wagons and trucks prices will go through the roof for no apparent reason. I dig ’70s era cars and trucks. Just hate seeing people rape others on their prices. They used to be cheap, but slowly that’s loosing ground……grrrrr.

  15. jerry z

    As a kid growing up in the 70’s (got my license in 1980), you dealt with what was available.

    Always been a fan of 73-75 Pontiac Grand Am’s. Seen a few 4 spd models, even 4 door 4 spds!

  16. Tanglefoot

    Thre were some cars with lots of potencial in the 70’s, Vega’s and Pinto’s with a small block under the hood were pretty cool . Mustang 2’s would move with a little work under the hood too.
    I new a couple guys who dropped small blocks in a Plymouth Arrow and a Dodge Cricket , and they were seriously fast in the 1/4 .
    Personally I think the most overlooked and under appreciated car of the 70’s is a Ford Fairmont, they had huge potential , looked better than the boxy Granada and came with a v8. Bob Glidden raced one for a while in the late 70’s .

  17. Matthew

    I have a ’76 camaro. Every time I drive it I get comments like “I had one of those and loved it”. My dad bought mine new, so it’s a member of the family. It has a 434 small block and a tremec 5 speed(it is a factory 4 speed car). It’s a lot of fun!

  18. sean65

    I’ve been saying this for a while now. The malaise era cars had to push style to sell because the performance was severely lacking. Today, the existence of long hood short deck coupes is nearly completely missing from the marketplace.

    Take an early Cordoba (round headlight), install a newer HEMI engine, upgraded brakes, suspension, some decent seats, and a sound system… magic.

  19. Bluegrass Bob

    I couldn’t agree more with the article.
    Those that are silly enough to turn their nose up at these cars are missing the point and can’t see the forest for the big bumpers.
    Good, I say. Keeps the prices low.

  20. J.T.Monahan

    People forget that when the ’73 GM A-bodies were on the drawing board the bottom had not fallen out of the muscle car world yet, these were designed to be the next LS6 SS Chevelles, GTO’s etc.. Times changed before they came to market. Hiding under the big hood ornaments and half vinyl tops is the best suspension and most engine set back of the era. (same with the cross-torsion bar Aspen/Volare and Fox body mid-size Fords). Cleaned up and smoothed out to the original lines these are good looking cars with great proportions. My ’76 Malibu has over 500 horses, 11 inch rear tires with no tubs needed and launches straight with only bolt-ons, and is still very comfortable on the highway at 75 with the air on. As for those bumpers, they have saved my paint a few times, when the time came to decide to tuck ’em or leave ’em, I left ’em. Besides they are part of the era’s history, as are my gold Moroso valve covers and the 2 inch higher than stock rear end! The late ’70’s stuff rocks it just takes a little imagination.

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