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40 ’70s Muscle Cars That Failed To Justify The Hype

Cameron EittreimJuly 15, 2020

Chevrolet Laguna
via: GM

33: Chevrolet Laguna

As Chevry build on the success of the Monte Carlo, the company decided to try and market a smaller version. The Chevrolet Laguna was highly hyped up because of the lightweight design and the option 454 SS. The car also managed to have a great run on the NASCAR circuit as it was driven by Cale Yarborough. Sadly the hype behind the car didn’t translate into sales success and there were a number of quality issues.

Chevrolet Laguna
via: Bring a Trailer

GM was having to adhere to new EPA standards that were being placed on automakers around this time. The Laguna was plagued with quality issues and these became public to consumers. In the end, the car just couldn’t muster up the kinds of sales numbers that GM was looking for and thus was finally clipped from production.

Pontiac LeMans
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32: Pontiac LeMans

After the success of the GTO and the muscle car era, the division was riding high on their laurels and the Le Mans was redesigned. The problem is that the car adapted the same lightweight design of the Chevy Laguna and this didn’t translate well to sales. The car had a lot of problems that made it stick out, and this caused an issue for consumers. First and foremost the car lacked the quality interior of the previous generations.

Pontiac LeMans
via: Bring a Trailer

Secondly, engines were far less reliable than before, and this caused a lot of frustration with buyers. Overall the Pontiac LeMans was a much-overhyped car for GM and the generations from this point on were lackluster at best. GM tried to revive the brand later to no avail and it finally became a Daewoo-based compact car.

GMC Spirit
via: Bring a Trailer

31: GMC Sprint SP

The GMC Sprint SP was actually a corporate cousin of the El Camino and one that was way overhyped at the time. There was nothing inherently wrong with the GMC Sprint, but the fact that GM did nothing to differentiate the car left buyers confused. The only differentiating things between this truck and an El Camino was the GMC badges that were plastered all over the vehicle.

GMC Spirit
via: Bring a Trailer

GMC had many sales successes around this time period, but the Sprint wasn’t one of them. Perhaps if the car/truck had been more unique in the styling it might have garnered more sales success. Still, the GMC Sprint SP is a pretty unique vehicle that you don’t see very often. If you are lucky enough to find one of these they are identical to the El Camino in every way.

Mercury Marauder X-100
via: Hot Rod

30: Mercury Marauder X-100

Another unique muscle car that was overshadowed by the Cougar was the Marauder X-100. This big and beautiful Mercury was highly hyped by the folks at Ford as a luxury coupe that could perform just as well. The 429 V-8 initially put up amazing performance numbers and the long sloping hood was like driving a land yacht. The problem was that this car was basically a Ford Galaxie 500XL with a new hood and redesigned grille.

Mercury Marauder X-100
via: Hot Rod

There as nothing unique about the Marauder X-100 that would persuade a buyer to ignore the lesser Ford offering. As such the Marauder had a hard time garnering a following and getting people into the showroom. Because this car is so obscure you can find classic models for a very affordable price and it’s not hard to transform them into modern beauties.

Pontiac Ventura GTO
via; Bring a Trailer

29: Pontiac Ventura GTO

Dubbed the “little GTO,” the Pontiac Ventura GTO was massively hyped by GM as the GTO of the future during the fuel crisis. Sadly, the little GTO got a lot of flack from the automotive community at the time for its own puny design when it was compared to the previous generation. The car had lost that quality build and feel that made the other versions feel like real muscle cars. GM tried to save face with this GTO but the love just wasn’t there and sales begin to slip.

Pontiac Ventura GTO
via: Bring a Trailer

The Ventura GTO had some unique features and an optional 455 V8, but sales had plummeted to all-time lows and GM was having sticker shock. The GTO had gone from being one of the best-selling muscle cars on the planet to a piece of obscurity. There are very few muscle cars that have been panned as hard as the Ventura GTO was at the time.

Chrysler 300 Hurst
via: Car Domain

28: Chrysler 300 Hurst

By the ’70s, the flavor for the perfect muscle car had been established and automakers were trying to keep up. Chrysler already had many hits on their hands but none were under the “Chrysler” banner. Thus the company decided to try once again for success with the Chrysler 300 Hurst. The car was highly hyped and it had an antagonizing design at the peak of muscle car success. Fortunately, consumers already had their favorites picked out and the Chrysler 300 Hurst just didn’t live up to expectations.

chrysler_300-h_hurst
via: Hot Rod

There were quite a few unique muscle cars that hit the market during this time period, and the Chrysler 300 Hurst was a unique entry. But the hype that surrounded the car just didn’t add up to the high expectations that previous Chrysler models had set for it. The Chrysler 300 Hurst is still a notably rarer muscle car that many on the market.

Ford Falcon
via: Bring a Trailer

27: Ford Falcon 429 Cobra Jet

You’ve got to give Ford credit where credit is due, the company tried hard to captivate the muscle car market. The Ford Falcon 429 Cobra Jet was a unique entry that looked to build on the rampant success of the Mustang. The performance of the car stood out from a crowded array of similar vehicles. The car is very rare when you compare it to other Fords that were released at the time. The company had hoped for a moderate sales success but the Mustang continued to dominate the showrooms.

Ford Falcon
via: Bring a Trailer

Perhaps the Ford Falcon 429 Cobra Jet was just too heavy to appeal to the masses. There were also mishaps with interior quality which caused a lot of issues with consumers. The Falcon was a notable brand for the Ford company around this time period. The Cobra Jet allowed the brand to enter into the true muscle car territory. But the car just didn’t sell how the company had hoped that it would in the long run.

Buick Estate
via: Bring a Trailer

26: Buick Estate 445

Buick was on a roll during the ’60s and ’70s and the brand attempted to bring excitement to a number of segments. When you had a Buick for a family car in the 70s you were in for a good time and the Buick Estate 445 is evidence of that. The car looked and felt like a performance car but it had the capabilities of a family vehicle. Buick put a lot of hype behind the Estate 445 but it just didn’t add up. The car was high-priced for what you got and the curb weight was actually quite massive.

Buick Estate
via: Bring a trailer

Although the Buick Estate 445 had a serious amount of horsepower it was often overshadowed by the weight of the car. The fuel crisis that was emerging also caused the Buick Estate 445 to be a sales lag for the brand. Still, the Buick Estate 445 is a very rare wagon that you can have a lot of fun driving and owning.

Buick Gran Sport
via: Hot Rod

25: 1975 Buick Gran Sport

The Buick brand was coming into its own during the ’70s, and most of their cars were very comfortable to drive. But around this period, cars were a lot heavier. With all that extra mass, attempting to create a zippy road car wasn’t going to happen. Buick toyed with the idea of a Grand National long before the car was created.

Buick Gran Sport
via: Car Domain

The 1975 Buick Gran Sport was the very first attempt at a Grand National style car. Unfortunately, with the extra mass, the car was sluggish to drive, and this made muscle car shoppers go toward something else. The resale value on these has begun to spike up, but the performance is still not satisfactory. Especially when you put the Gran Sport up against other muscle cars of the era such as the GTO.

King Cobra Mustang II
via: Ford

24: Ford Mustang II

We’re not sure what Ford was thinking with this one. The Ford Mustang II was based on the Pinto, itself a car marred with controversy. The fuel crisis was going on during this period and automakers had to adapt. But the Ford Mustang II was more than just adapting. It was a car that was about as far from the first generation Mustang as you could get. The result was a car that no one wants to this day.

Mustang II
via: Ford

There were some redeeming qualities to the Mustang II such as enhanced fuel economy. However, the car was not as fun as its predecessor, and the personality was all but gone from the original pony car. Compact pony cars were the wave of the future at this point in the automotive world, but the Mustang II was a missed opportunity by Ford.

Ford Maverick GT V8
via: Hot Rod

23: Ford Maverick

When Ford was having difficulties with the next-generation Mustang, the company decided to try something new. The Ford Maverick had a lot of potential. It was a bigger platform then the Mustang, and the V8 engine was more than capable. The problem here was the new smog technology. Because technology hadn’t advanced far enough yet, engines were being choked.

Ford Maverick GT V8
via: Hot Rod

The Maverick also had a lot of quality issues out of the factory, from radio dials falling off to the car leaving drivers stranded with very little mileage. Ford needed to come a long way in terms of quality to get the Maverick up to speed. Air was getting cleaner but the overall design of the vehicle suffered.

Mercury Comet
via: Barn Finds

22: Mercury Comet

The corporate clone of the Maverick, the Comet was designed to provide a bit of luxury to the struggling muscle car. Unfortunately, Ford didn’t do much of anything with the Comet. A slightly different exterior was coupled with the same powerplant that was found in the Maverick. Again, build quality issues were rampant in these vehicles.

Mercury Comet
via: WordPress

Could the Comet have fared better? Ford didn’t do all that much to market the car as anything different than a Ford Maverick. At that point, Maverick was suffering just as bad as the rest of the industry, creating a problem for people who were already strapped for money due to the fuel crisis.

Mercury Cougar
via: Car Domain

21: 1973 Mercury Cougar

The first-generation Mercury Cougar was a clone of the Mustang. However, the second generation went a different direction. The new Cougar was bigger and heavier than before, leading many to question Ford’s reasoning. The vehicle road was like a land yacht, exactly what consumers weren’t looking for around this period.

Mercury Cougar
via: Car Domain

There are some advantages to driving a car like the Couga; it’s big and comfortable on long rides. But when you’re looking for a muscle car, it’s important to have agility. The Cougar’s second generation was lacking this. We’re not sure why Ford decided to switch the Cougar up, as the previous generation was sporty and sleek.

Gremlin
via: MJ

20: ’70s AMC Gremlin

While it’s not officially a muscle car, the AMC Gremlin was marketed as something quick and gas efficient. There was a lot of hype behind the hatchback at the time because of the direction the economy was going. The Gremlin has taken on a sort of second life in the muscle car world. They’re easy to build up, and quite durable for a hatchback with a curb weight of under 3,000 lbs.

Gremlin
via: AMC

AMC put a lot of hype into the Gremlin, partly due to it being a last-ditch effort to save the company. Living on as a relic of one of the last American car companies, the Gremlin was a letdown in many ways. The design of the car was a bit hideous, but with modifications, the Gremlin can be made to look good.

AMC Matador Coupe
via: AMC

19: AMC Matador Coupe

Towards the end of the ’70s, the AMC brand was on its last legs. With the fuel crisis of the ’70s, things were not looking up. The Matador is a prime example of a car that had potential but lacked success. The main problem with the Matador was the appearance. Aside from the obvious imperfections, there were also reliability problems that plagued the car from the start.

AMC Matador
via: Flat Pyramid

Still, the Matador had a lot of potential. The lightweight rear-wheel-drive car would have been a beast on the track with a little bit of work. These days, enthusiasts switch out the AMC factory engine for GM and Ford-derived powerplants. A simple modification can go a long way in making the Matador a great muscle car. These problems persisted well into the next generation of vehicles and were partly to blame for AMC’s demise.

1978 Dodge Challenger
via: Dealer Accelerate

18: 1978 Dodge Challenger

The muscle car era of the ’60s had set the stage for the next batch of performance cars. Unfortunately, the 1970s were chock-full of problems due to emissions laws and regulations coming into effect. The interesting thing about the Challenger is that it still kept the same appearance. But performance aspects of the Challenger were lacking when compared to the previous generation.

1978 Dodge Challenger
via: YTIMG

At this point, Chrysler was quickly losing millions of dollars. Consumers were beginning to snap up gas-efficient cars from foreign automakers. The 1978 Challenger was way over-hyped for the period. Had there not been a fuel crisis going on, the Challenger might have been a better performer.

Gran Torino Elite
via: Top Classics For Sale

17: 1974 Ford Gran Torino Elite

During the ’60s, Ford was rocking with the new Mustang, but when the ’70s came around things took a turn for the worst. The company decided to sell a Pinto-based Mustang, which didn’t go over well. The Gran Torino Elite was another attempt at inciting some excitement into the brand, but the car was lacking in a lot of aspects.

Ford Gran Torino
via: Top Classics For Sale

The Grand Torino had some interesting features. But,when reliability and fuel efficiency came into play, it was lacking. Ford missed an opportunity with the Gran Torino Elite, probably due to the troubling publicity the Pinto was getting at the time.

Oldsmobile Cutlass
via: 2040 Cars

16: 1979 Oldsmobile Cutlass Diesel

The Cutlass Diesel was a horrible idea, especially with the lackluster diesel technology at the time. Oldsmobile had innovated quite a bit during the early half of the muscle car era. But as time went on, the brand was hammered by the fuel crisis and a lack of innovation. The GM G-Body cars were traditionally good performers, but the diesel addition was a horrible choice.

Oldsmobile Cutlass Diesel
via: Hemmings

These cars spent more time in the shop than actually on the road.This was one of the least popular cars to come out during this period of the automotive industry. The engine was not refined enough to power a performance car.

Chevrolet Vega Coupe
via: Wikipedia

15: 1971 Chevrolet Vega

GM was in a pinch during the ’70s. The Vega was an attempt to combine a performance car with a gas efficient compact. Unfortunately, it ended up a bug-eyed two-door that looked like a mix of a Camaro and a VW Beetle. The Vega could have been a great car had GM put more effort into it. Instead, the car was almost like a Chevy version of the Mustang II, itself a sorry offering.

Chevrolet Vega
via: Classic Cars Mark

The hole in the lineup left by the more powerful Camaro was not filled by the Vega. Lackluster build quality and an awkward design made the Vega a sore spot in the automotive industry. There were many duds that came out of GM design at the time and the Vega was one of them.

Mustang King Cobra
via: Hot Rod

14: Mustang II King Cobra

The Mustang II was an awful way to follow up on one of the best-selling pony cars ever made. The company decided to release a special edition of the Mustang known as the King Cobra. This isn’t the high-performance Cobra that we have come to know. Instead, this was a Cobra that couldn’t bite. There were some redeeming qualities to this Mustang; the body was very lightweight and modifications weren’t hard.

Mustang King Cobra
via: Hot Rod

The King Cobra was just worth avoiding altogether. It was a much different car then the Cobra that we’ve seen in recent decades. This was a car that was designed during an era of uncertainty in the automotive industry.

1973 Hornet Hatchback
via: Blogspot

13: 1973 Hornet Hatchback

During the ’70s, AMC was attempting to throw anything at the wind to get success. The problem with the cars was that many of them were made from a dated parts catalog. The company was lacking the resources for research and development on future models. The Hornet Hatchback had a reasonable V8 engine, but fuel economy was horrible. Aside from the lackluster fuel economy, the car also had reliability issues.

1973 Hornet Hatchback
via: Blogspot

AMC was pushing the Hornet as a new-age performance car, but in reality, the parts dated back to the ’60s. The AMC V8 engines were aged at best and a lot of the issues caused the cars to lose steam. The Hornet might have stood a better chance if the car was more reliable. The car world will never know since AMC became defunct.

AMC Javelin
via: Hot Rod

12: 1973 AMC Javelin

Another AMC that made the rounds was the Javeli. This performance car was more in line with what consumers were looking for. The stylie choices of the car were great, the body was sleek, and the interior was perfectly sized for the segment. But the V8 under the hood lacked therefinements of other cars on the market, not to mention the fuel crisis. AMC pushed the Javelin for a long period, but the car just couldn’t catch on.

AMC Javelin
via: YTIMG

The brand had a good deal of competition with the other automakers around this period. AMC was eventually purchased by Chrysler with the sole purpose of obtaining the Jeep brand, the most profitable piece of the portfolio. Perhaps had AMC been in better financial condition around this time, the Javelin might have lasted.

AMC Hornet
via: Barnfinds

11: 1971 Hornet 360

The Hornet 360 was the last of the ’60s-era muscle cars to make an appearance during the ’70s. From the onset, the 360 was the best=looking rendition of the Hornet to date. The problem wasn’t with the exterior design of the car; it was with the dated AMC power plants. While most automakers were making improvements to their V8 engines, AMC seemed to be stuck in the past.

AMC Hornet
via: Hemmings

The Hornet 360 has become somewhat of a sought-after collector’s item these days. But back in the ’70s, the hype that surrounded this car was far too much. There were better offerings at this troubled time in the automotive industry. The compact muscle car that came out of AMC had a lot of potential, but the company’s bad financial condition weighed it down.

AMC AMX
via: Silodrome

10: AMC AMX

The AMX stands out as one of the most visually appealing AMC vehicles to ever hit the road. Sadly, underneath the car was nothing more than dated parts. AMC was looking to appeal to a new generation of automotive buyers. The track car design of the AMX gave it a fighting chance against the slew of other performance cars that were being redone.

AMC AMX
via: Wikipedia

These years were the worst for the AMC brand, especially with stringent new emissions laws. No longer could you cram an over-sized engine into a lightweight design because the regulations wouldn’t allow it. With the fuel crisis going on, the car was never able to achieve any sales success.

AMC Rebel Machine
via: Silodrome

9: AMC Rebel Machine

Perhaps one of the most appealing muscle cars to come out of AMC, the Rebel Machine was an interesting proposition. The design of the car looks like a Dodge Challenger, which made the vehicle even more appealing. The interior was huge with plenty of seating. Nevertheless, tots performance was a letdown. The Rebel Machine had a lot of hype behind it as a real American performance car.

AMC Rebel Machine
via: Mecum

But the AMC Rebel Machine was only offered for a single year, 1970. The car didn’t have very much success and nowadays these cars are very rare. The resale value has been rising as modern enthusiasts decide how to swap the engine out with GM V8s and Ford V8s. Sadly this isn’t the General Lee Charger, it’s just a knockoff that never went very far.

Chevrolet Camaro
via: Hot Rod

8: ’70s Chevrolet Camaro

The first generation of the Camaro was a massive sales success for the brand. The pony car managed to take on the wildly successful Ford Mustang. When the redesign came around, the Camaro had lost a lot of its momentum. There was a lot to love with this version of the Camaro, but sadly the V8 was hampered by smog technology.

Camaro Z/28
via: Hot Rod

There were a few special editions of the Camaro such as the Z/28 and the Rally edition. But in the long run, this was probably one of the most overhyped cars ever. The actual production model was a far cry from the Camaro that came before it. The automotive industry hadn’t come far enough yet and the smog enhancements were choking these large engines out.

Firebird Trans AM
via: Hot Rod

7: ’70s Pontiac Firebird

Pontiac also had a tough time during the 1970s with the fuel crisis going on. The Firebird was always the third wheel to the Mustang and the Camaro, which made the Firebird a more distinct offering. Its styling was always different but the ’70s brought the success of the Smokey and the Bandit edition. The Firebird was hampered by the same things as the Camaro. These smog regulations made it extremely difficult for automakers to create high-performance cars.

Firebird Trans AM
via: Hot Rod

The earlier renditions of the second generation F-Body have become highly sought after on the auction block. But later models from the ’70s are generally voidable due to reliability issues and a lack of horsepower. There is no denying that the Firebird was one of the most iconic muscle cars of this generation. But there is a lot that GM could have done better to make the car a more powerful challenger.

Corvette C3
via: Corvsport

6: Chevrolet Corvette (C3)

The Corvette was not above suffering during this era as well. The C3 was a much different car than the Corvette models that came before it. The first reason for this was the fact that the cars had to suffer from the smog regulations and the fuel crisis. Still, GM tried to do things right with this generation by creating a modern Corvette. The curves of the car look great and the factory paint colors were unique. The C3 was available in a Convertible and a T-Top version, both of which were popular choices.

Corvette C3
via: Richmonds

You can find these Corvettes and swap out the engine with a modern LS series engine, which gives the car an immense amount of power. The ’70s might have been a difficult period but the C3 was one of the most over-hyped sports cars. The C3 is often the most underrated Corvette generation. But if you take the time to look at it, the Corvette C3 is also a beautifully designed car that deserves more recognition.

Mustang Mach-1
via: CC Marketplace

5: Ford Mustang Mach 1

Right on the heels of the Pinto-based Mustang II ,the Mach 1 was released to ignite a final bit of fire into the Mustang lineup. The hype that surrounded this Mustang model was immense because there hadn’t been a special edition model in a while. The result was a car that was lacking in power and had a bunch of bolt-ons. Ford made the Mach-1 look good but performance was lacking.

Mustang Mach-1
via: Dealer Accelerate

The values of these Mach-1 models have been steadily increasing. Although this isn’t the best Mach-1 Ford has released, it still has a good deal of nostalgia for it. If you wanted to enjoy a performance ride in the early ’70s. the Mach-1 was a status symbol. The new smog regulations were affecting all performance cars and the Mustang was no exception.

1973 Monte Carlo
via: Barn Finds

4: 1973 Chevrolet Monte Carlo

The 1970 Monte Carlo is one of the most desirable two-door coupes on the market today. With the V8 engine and a look similar to the Chevelle the Monte Carlo was everything done right. The 1973 Chevrolet Monte Carlo looked like a mixture of a Cadillac and a Chevy Caprice. The next generation Monte Carlo was overhyped.

1973 Monte Carlo
via: CC Public Blog

There were a lot of benefits to the car such as a luxurious interior and a host of luxury features. But sadly, this Monte Carlo never lived up to the expectations of the second generation. The car had a lot of reliability issues and the design was questionable at best. Because the fuel efficiency was so important during this period, the Monte Carlo tanked.

1973 Pontiac Grand Prix
via: TRBimg

3: 1973 Pontiac Grand Prix

There are very few GM cars that were hyped as much as the next Grand Prix was during this period. The 1973 Pontiac Grand Prix is downright ugly. The car was based on the same platform as the Monte Carlo and a host of other GM two-doors. Because cars were suffering from the new fuel regulations around this period, the Grand Prix just couldn’t gain leverage.

1973 Pontiac Grand Prix
via: CCPUBLIC

Pontiac was the performance division of the GM brand portfolio at the time. The Grand Prix was a lackluster offering and the car pretty much went downhill from here. As time went on, Pontiac was relegated to a rebranded status among the GM lineup. The Grand Prix had a lot of potential to take Pontiac to the next level. We just can’t figure out what the designers were thinking with that nose job.

Chrysler Cordoba
via: CCMarketplace

2: 1976 Chrysler Cordoba

The ’70s were a tough time for all domestic automakers. Rising gas prices and smog regulations were choking automakers in terms of revenue and horsepower. The problem with the new smog regulations was that the cars were weighed down by heavy bodies and a lack of power. The 1976 Chrysler Cordoba was designed to compete with the Monte Carlo, but the actual car was a mixture of recycled parts.

Chrysler Cordoba
via: Curbside Classic

Although the Cordoba could have built on the success of previous Chrysler performance vehicles, the actual vehicle was lackluster at best. The Cordoba didn’t last very long and the nameplate was retired all together before the turn of the decades. The V8 was notoriously unreliable and the transmission in these cars would go out prematurely as well.

1974 Plymouth Fury
via: Car Domain

1: 1974 Plymouth Fury II

Plymouth was one of the innovating brands during the original muscle car era. So when the Fury was reintroduced during the ’70s things got a little interesting. The styling of the car wasn’t that bad to look at, but performance was lacking. The smog regulations didn’t help and the car was overweight. There were a few interesting aspects to the car such as a luxurious interior.

1974 Plymouth Fury
via: Car Domain

There were quite a few Plymouth coupes that were released during the period. But, the Fury stood out as it shared its platform with the Chrysler Cordoba. Both cars were overhyped at the time and you’d be better off just passing on one altogether. But don’t let the name “fury” fool you because this car is far from furious on the road.

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