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1970s Car Failures Drivers Never Want To See Again

Cameron EittreimJanuary 8, 2020

The 1970s were both a defining and troubling decade for the automotive industry. When you look back on what made the industry tick, there were a lot of different things going on. Tougher smog regulations were beginning to hurt automakers, bogging down horsepower ratings and hampering engine design. Automakers were trying to adapt at a rapid pace, but the result was a saddening mix of underperforming vehicles.

The ’70s were a wakeup call for domestic automakers to become more innovative. There were quite a few flops that came in the ’70s. Odd-shaped designs and engine choices that plagued the decade are enough to make any real car enthusiast’s stomach churn. Read on below as we take a good look at some of the biggest car flops from the 1970s.

via: Top Speed
via: Top Speed

25. AMC Gremlin

Who can forget the controversial Gremlin? The car was released toward the end of the AMC company renaissance. Things weren’t going well for the American automaker and new models were failing to garner any attention. The Gremlin was known for its offroad capability and reasonably roomy interior. Perhaps the most endearing feature about the Gremlin was the back hatch design and the striking exterior appearance.

via: Dragzine
via: Dragzine

But the Gremlin has been panned over the years for its lackluster design and poor performance. While there were a few design advancements to the Gremlin, overall it’s best left forgotten. The Gremlin has begun to creep up in value in recent years. More interest is beginning to peak in classic AMC cars from this decade.

via: GM
via: GM

24. Chevrolet Vega

The Vega needs no introduction because it’s one of the biggest flops to come out of the ’70s in general. What made the Vega so bad? Like most cars from this era, the tougher smog regulations made it tough to be a domestic automaker. The car was very good-looking and came with several usable features.

via: GM

The problem was its lack of power and quality or lack thereof. Released at a time when GM was hemorrhaging money the Vega has gone down as a historic failure for GM. In terms of being a collectors item, the Vega might be worth considering. But as a daily driver, the Vega is just a flop that most drivers don’t want to remember.

via: Hemmings
via: Hemmings

23. Ford Pinto

There is no doubt that by the latter part of the ’70s, domestic automakers didn’t have a good footing in the marketplace. Compact cars were being introduced from overseas that were better on gas and cheap to own. Ford entered the market with the Pinto, a compact car that ended up being notorious.

via: Bing
via: Bing

The car was so bad that it was involved in one of the most costly lawsuits ever for the company. The Pinto had a defective rear fuel tank, which caused the brand to get tarred with a deadly reputation. The Pinto will forever go down in history for being a failure for Ford. Between the lawsuits and the lack of quality the Pinto is most forgettable.

via: Morris
via: Morris

22. Morris Marina

There were many benefits that the Marina could have offered to drivers. But the final product just fell short. Looking at the Marina, you could see it was lacking in many areas. Consumers would complain about a lack of quality in the interior, dials would fall off, and a sheer lack of build quality was evident.

via: Morris
via: Morris

Power was lackluster at best, which made the car subpar as a result. The car will go down in history for some of the unique features that it presented. But overall, the Morris Marina is a car that should be avoided. This was a flop if there ever was one for this period.

via: AMC Pacer
via: AMC Pacer

21. AMC Pacer

AMC was a company that was in trouble during the ’70s. The company just wasn’t at the top as it once was, although the company owned the Jeep brand which was becoming quite popular. The Pacer was another odd-shaped car that hit the market. The car was initially very popular with its futuristic, dome-shaped design.

via: Gawker
via: Gawker

But once the initial luster wore off, the car was relegated to a slow sales pattern. Later years of the Pacer introduced consumers to the V8 powerplant, but at this point the car was just not popular anymore. AMC was losing money with every Pacer that hit the market. When it came down to it, the car just couldn’t compete with offerings from GM and Ford anymore.

via: Ford Motor Company
via: Ford Motor Company

20. Ford Mustang Cobra II

The Pinto-based Ford Mustang was an awful choice. Not only was the Mustang a sham at this point, but its lack of power was evident. The Cobra II had an engine that was hampered by smog regulations. When drivers look back, they tend to wonder what made the Mustang have such a steep decline around this time.

via: Ford Motor Company
via: Ford Motor Company

In terms of power and performance, there was none, but the car was still based off of the legendary Cobra design. The Mustang II could have been a great model if it had been designed better. But Ford raced the Pinto-based model to the market. You can think of many memorable muscle cars, but this wasn’t one of them.

via: Hemmings
via: Hemmings

19. Plymouth Sapporo

New smog regulations hurt the automotive market during the ’70s. The Plymouth brand was working to attract buyers back into their showrooms. The Plymouth Sapporo is a forgettable little car that was designed to compete with the imports. This car was notoriously underpowered and was designed to take on the Corolla. In general, this was one of the cars that nearly pushed Chrysler into bankruptcy.

via: Hemmings
via: Hemmings

The car didn’t have any features which would remotely attract buyers, and the K-Car was brought in years later to undo the damage. When you think of the Plymouth Sapporo, you probably won’t remember the car. It was just a forgettable choice that really won’t go down in history.

via: GM
via: GM

18. Chevy Chevette

If you think about one of the worst American cars on the road in the ’70s, it’s probably the Chevette. And thats even if there are any of these things left, because their quality was just so bad. The Chevette lacked quality and refinement, and this hurt the brand badly for some time. Radio dials would fall off and a lack of reliability would leave these cars on the side of the road.

via: Green Car Reports
via: Green Car Reports

Carbureted engines in small cars around this period were poorly made. Overall, the Chevette is a car that should be remembered for almost driving GM to bankruptcy. The Chevette was among many poorly-constructed domestic compacts.

via: Wikimedia
via: Wikimedia

17. Volvo 262C

Volvo was a company that was on a mission during the ’70s. The car company had been innovating in terms of safety for a long time. Volvo cars were designed to provide safe family transportation. The Volvo 262C is a car that should be remembered for being a horrible choice. From a design standpoint, the engine was lackluster at best, and then you had a sheer lack of quality.

via: Wikimedia
via: Wikimedia

The two-tone paint job would begin to fade, which caused Volvo owners a good deal of trouble, which was suprisng considering the brand’s reputation for precision build quality. The Volvo 262C was an epic failure for the brand at a time when other Volvo models were popular. When you think of the Volvo wagons from this era, you have to wonder what the company was thinking with the 262C.

via: Mercury
via: Mercury

16. Mercury Bobcat

Mercury has always been the also-ran brand for Ford. Many of the most popular Mercury cars such as the Sable were simply rebadged Fords. The Bobcat is memorable for being a clone of the Ford Pinto. The Bobcat didn’t have any substantial improvements over the Pinto in terms of the design or performance.

via: Mercury Motors
via: Mercury Motors

The design of the Bobcat could have been more unique, but designers decided to take the easy route. The Mercury Bobcat was among the first Fords to be rebadged poorly, leading to a few decades of poorly-masked cars to hit the Mercury lineup.

via: Barnfinds
via: Barnfinds

15. Chrysler Cordoba

Chrysler was heavily involved in creating luxury-oriented cars during the ’70s. The Cordoba was meant to compete with the Thunderbird at the time. GM was also working on a series of cars known as the G-Bodys. When you think of the Chrysler Cordoba, you remember a car that fell short in power. Chrysler was looking to build a personal luxury coupe, but the result was lacking in terms of design and quality. The interior was lacking in features that you’d expect from a car in this price range.

via: Chrysler
via: Chrysler

The engine was vastly underpowered, which had a lot to do with smog regulations. When you think of Chrysler cars during the ’70s, the Cordoba is worth forgetting about. There were no redeeming or unique aspects of this car.

via: Stanglife
via: Stanglife

14. Ford Maverick

When you think of cars that were being thrown onto the market during the ’70s ,the Maverick is one such failure. The Ford Maverick had the potential to be a great sports car. The lightweight design and potential to house a V8 engine was a great combination. But when it came down to the final design, the Maverick was missing the final touches to make it a quality car. You can see the Maverick as a two-door coupe offering a great combination of size.

via: Cargurus
via: Cargurus

The car did have a better design then the Pinto-based Mustang at the time. There was an intrinsic lack of quality which caused the Maverick to be panned by critics and consumers. Nowadays, the Maverick is a cheap relic of the ’70s, and that’s even if you can find one in working order.

via: Ford Forum
via: Ford Forum

13. Mercury Comet

The Mercury brand was a testing ground for Ford toward the last few decades that it was in operation. Ford would badge cars as Mercuries and sell them at a profit. The Comet was based off of the Maverick, and the car didn’t offer anything unique in the way of the design.

via: Barnfinds
via: Barnfinds

In fact, there were very small differences with the two cars, and this caused a rift. The overall design could have been improved over the Maverick. Sadly, if you come into contact with the Comet, you aren’t going to see anything special. A good alternative is the Mercury Cougar from this decade.

via: Austin
via: Austin

12. Austin Allegro

Small, fun cars were just hitting the market during the ’70s. Austin was a brand that specialized in these cheap and easy-to-drive cars. The Austin Allegro was a lightweight if not cheaply made car that was meant to appeal to the masses. In general, the car was lacking in a variety of areas such as craftsmanship and design.

via: Austin
via: Austin

Riding in the lightweight car was like being in a go-kart, and quality was lackluster at best. You don’t ever see these on the road anymore, and there’s good reason for that. If you want to get a paltry relic of the ’70s, then the Allegro is probably your choice. But if you want to drive a pleasurable car, the Allegro was a flop.

via: Hot Rod
via: Hot Rod

11. AMC Hornet

AMC was a brand that was missing its mark during the ’70s. It didn’t seem that any of the company’s models were becoming popular with consumers. Overall, the Hornet was a car that had a great concept, but it failed to deliver in the final stages of the design.

via: Wikipedia
via: Wikipedia

The Hornet could have been a great car, but its reliability was questionable at best. More drivers were left on the side of the road than AMC wanted to admit. The Hornet is a piece of automotive history, but not in the way you’d expect. This is a piece of the ’70s worth forgetting about.

via: Ford
via: Ford

10. Plymouth Arrow

Plymouth is a brand that got the same secondary treatment at Chrysler as Mercury did by Ford. The brand would get also-ran models of already existing cars and try to pass these off to consumers. The Arrow was the product of this type of badge engineering. Marketed as the little car that had big possibilities, the Arrow had a lot of cool design cues. But when it comes down to it, the model just wasn’t up to par with its newer Japanese competition.

via: CarGurus

The engine was lackluster at best and the car was known for having water leaks throughout the hatchback. If you can even find an Arrow that still runs, it’s probably worth avoiding. Many Plymouth models are much better to try and acquire.

via: Wikipedia
via: Wikipedia

9. Dodge Omni

The Dodge Omni was a downright horrible car. First, the design of the thing was just awful, as it had a flat hatchback and four doors. If you got over the boxy design, there was nothing in terms of performance that even made the car admirable. Chrysler tried to market this car as the compact with luxury features, but in reality, it had none. There was even a Shelby version of the Omni, which was surprisingly fun to drive.

via: Consumer Guide
via: Consumer Guide

The Omni lasted quite a long time into the early ’90s, but the car was just lackluster at best. There were also lawsuits surrounding the Omni because the fuel tank was located in the rear of the car.

via: Autoopolis
via: Autoopolis

8. Plymouth TC3

Before the Horizon, Plymouth got a version of the Omni that was called the TC3. What exactly did this car have to offer? Nothing in the way of anything unique. The TC3 was just as bad as the Omni was for the most part. Craftsmanship was downright awful on these cars and as such, the car sat on dealership lots.

via: Curb side classic
via: Curb side classic

There was a lot of confusion when it came to the TC3 and what it would offer. Finally, Plymouth decided to introduce the TC3 as the Horizon and revamp the model. But as a collectors car, the TC3 is just better left avoided. There are many classic Plymouths on the market that are a much better choice.

via: GM
via: GM

7. Chevy Monza

The Chevy Monza was such a weird design that most automotive enthusiasts don’t even speak of it. The look of a Camaro that was crammed into a much smaller body was bad enough. But then you had the lack of any horsepower to make things worse. The Monza probably could have been a cool car if the company had tried. Overall, the vehicle was lackluster at best, and this caused a rift in GM.

via: Dealeraccelerate
via: Dealeraccelerate

There was also an Oldsmobile version which was worse than the Monza could ever hope of being. The car looked like a squashed Camaro. We’re not sure what GM was trying to go for here, but the car is forgettable at best.

via: Wikipedia
via: Wikipedia

6. Chevy Vega

There were quite a few forgettable Chevys that were being pushed during the ’70s. The Vega was one such model that you might remember. What made the Vega so bad? A lack of design was the first and most obvious thing. The car was painfully small, and a cramped interior didn’t help things out. The car was available in a series of different packages such as a wagon and a hatchback mode. Power was derived from a smog-choked engine that really couldn’t pull all of the weight of the car around.

via: Blogspot
via: Blogspot

Buyers were greeted to some options such as air conditioning and power steering. Overall, the Vega is a blip in the history of GM. If you are looking at classic Chevy models from the ’70s, avoid this one at all costs.

via: Wkkipedia
via: Wkkipedia

5. Bond Bug Three-Wheeler

Perhaps one of the weirdest cars from the ’70s was the Bond Bug Three-Wheeler. This oddball creation was a street-legal vehicle. It was designed to combat the high price of fuel and still be an affordable option. While it was great for urban dwellers or just about anyone who needed a practical around town vehicle the build quality was shoddy at best. The vehicle had lackluster power which is to be expected, and you just felt downright tiny inside of it.

via: Cars from UK
via: Cars from UK

The Bond Bug Three-Wheeler will probably go down in history as one of the weirdest vehicles of the decade. If you are looking for a Bond Bug Three-Wheele, there are very few that are still operable. And in today’s world, it is a bad idea to drive something like this around.

via: Austin
via: Austin

4. Austin MAXI

Another strange car from the Austin brand was the Maxi. What exactly did this model bring to the table? Nothing much in the way of design or implementation. The car was a lackluster blend of features and design that most people just avoided all together. The wagon design was practical around this period, but not when the a car was as cramped as the Maxi was. There were very few of these that were sold, and part of that is the design.

via: Wikipedia
via: Wikipedia

The Austin MAXI could have been a great car for the price with a little bit more development. But it seems like the designers just got lazy with the car. You probably can’t find one of these on the open market, but if you do come across one, just avoid it. The Maxi is not a car you want to fool with.

via: Hillmman
via: Hillmman

3. Hillman Imp

You might mistake this car for a Mini Cooper. But it’s not. Instead, the Hillman Imp was a failed attempt to cash in on the tiny car craze. From a design standpoint, the Hillman Imp was just awful. A cramped interior coupled with absolutely no power meant that you were essentially driving a street-legal golf cart. The car was scary to drive in a good windstorm and the power was lackluster at best. Many owners of these cars described how hard it was to get the car to drive up a hill correctly.

via: Hillman
via: Hillman

The Hillman Imp, while a good idea, was just a car that really couldn’t stack up to what a driver needs. Sure, this car has a decently cool look to it. But the Hillman Imp is something that’s best left avoided if you want a classic car you can actually drive.

via: Wkipedia
via: Wkipedia

2. Renault 16TL

Believe it or not, there was a time when Renault was a serious contender in the automotive world. That time has since passed, and with vehicles like the 16TL, we know why. From a design standpoint, everything could have gone right with this car. But the failed attempt to design a credible family car was evident. Power was lackluster at best, at times it was even lethargic.

via: Autocartr
via: Autocartr

Then you had the interestingly ugly design of the thing, especially in the wagon version. In terms of a classic car, the Renault 16TL is probably best left avoided. The car just doesn’t bring anything to the table in terms of design or functionality.

via: Lex Classics
via: Lex Classics

1. Peugeot 504 Cabriolet

What appeared to be a sporty roadster was a lie in the disguise of a roadster. The 504 Cabriolet was a sad excuse for what a good roadster could be. The first problem here was the extremely lightweight and cheap design. When you drive a convertible you want to feel like the car is going to remain on the road as you take twists and turns. Aside from that little problem, the 504 Cabriolet was extremely lethargic in terms of power. In fact, the thing had lackluster acceleration time at best.

via: Google

These cars were not too popular because of the problematic engine and the cramped inside. If you are looking for a quintessential ’70s roadster, the 504 Cabriolet is one you should avoid.

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