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25 Muscle Cars That Were Overhyped In The 1970s

Cameron EittreimNovember 11, 2020

The 1970s were almost as crucial of a time for the automotive industry as the previous decade before it, but for vastly different reasons. At the beginning of the decade, there was a thirst for high-performance sports cars that were a far cry from the family sedans of yesteryear. But by the end of the decade, there was an expanding fuel crisis that forced most consumers to quickly change preference to lightweight Japanese offerings. This resulted in certain muscle cars of the 1970s being overhyped.

Because the muscle car era was so influential, there was a lot of hype behind it, and this lead to a lot of drawbacks in build quality and performance. Due to that and other reasons, many cars from the 1970s failed to live up to the hype. We looked back at 25 of the most overhyped muscle cars from the 1970s via Money Inc.

Plymouth Duster
via: Chrysler

25: 1971 Plymouth Duster

There was no denying the fact that Plymouth was the brand of hype during the muscle car era, which is sad considering its later fall from grace. Nevertheless, the Duster was at its prime in the seventies and consumers were gobbling these cars up. While performance was notable, the rest of the car was lacking in detail. There were early complaints about cheap interior pieces, faulty radiators, and worse. Who cares when you are blazing down the road though right? Well, many consumers did and it tarnished Chrysler’s reputation.

Plymouth Duster
via: Chrysler

That’s not to say that the Duster was a bad car, but it was overhyped. Performance was a major selling point for the Duster, and Chrysler continued to rest on those laurels. Few cars were as instrumental in driving the success of the muscle car era as the Duster was. However, this model year was simply a hype train.

Chevelle Laguna
via: GM

24: 1973 Chevrolet Chevelle Laguna

In an attempt to appeal to a new demographic of buyers valuing fuel economy over performance, GM sought to give the Chevelle a clean slate. Yet it did not work and the Laguna was a miserable failure. That’s not to say that there wasn’t a fair bit of hype that surrounded it though, as the company took to the press to unveil the car of the future. Sadly, new fuel economy and emissions regulations were tough for domestic automakers to adapt to. The Chevelle Laguna was often unreliable and its design was hideous.

Chevelle
via: GM

The car looked more like a blend of a Monte Carlo and a Corolla than anything that you’d expect out of GM. The curvaceous exterior didn’t do the car any favors, and sales were lackluster at best. GM continued to overhype cars throughout the 1970s as sales continued to slide.

Buick Gran Sport
via: GM

23: 1970 Buick Gran Sport 455 Stage I

It was a tough position for Buick in the ’70s because the brand was slotted in between Oldsmobile and Cadillac. While GM tried to have a purpose for every brand, the result was not often well-received. The 455 Stage I was hyped as a high-performance alternative to the regular Gran Sport. While the performance was moderately improved, the amount of hype that surrounded it wasn’t justified. Most buyers were getting the same package in other Oldsmobile and Chevy models without the jazzy decals or nameplate.

Buick Gran Sport
via: Car Domain

Because Buick had to generate sales at this point ,the Gran Sport 455 was well-received by the press. Sadly, consumers were only getting the same package in a different appearance, which didn’t bold well for the brand. Today the Gran Sport 455 Stage I is quite rare and the value on it has increased dramatically.

AMC Hornet
via: AMC

22: 1971 AMC HORNET SC/360

AMC was the car company that had to push out the most hype in the 1970s because the company was losing market share left and right. What made AMC different from other Detroit automakers was the fact that the company couldn’t innovate. Its engine designs were dated and its cars were lacking the innovations of the competition’s models. What AMC had going for it was the Jeep brand, but that was about it. The Hornet SC was hyped a lot because it was poised to be the future of the company.

AMC Hornet
via: AMC

Consumers were intrigued by the lightweight design and great off-the-line numbers, but the rest of the car was lacking. A cheap interior made traveling in the car almost impossible, and the reliability of the engine was called into question. AMC worked to rectify these issues, but the damage was already done.

Plymouth Duster
via; Chrysler

21: 1970 Plymouth Duster 340

Plymouth wasn’t ready to concede the muscle car race just yet, so the Duster 340 was brought into existence. The car had a lot of upgrades over the outgoing model but the main difference was its design. The car had different lines and fit the profile of the rest of the muscle car era. There was a lot of hype that surrounded this Plymouth as being the quickest off-the-line production car. GM naturally contested this with their batch of muscle cars but the Duster 340 continued to sell well.

Plymouth Duster
via: Chrysler

If there was one thing that Chrysler was good at during this era, it was overhyping their products. The Duster 340 was not necessarily a great car, but it was the change that the company needed to bring Plymouth into the next decade. Sadly this was right on the cusp of the fuel crisis where muscle cars lost their favor.

via: Hemmings Motor News

20: 1974 Pontiac GTO

There’s no doubt that Pontiac was trying to relive the muscle car glory days of the 1960s by 1974, but the next generation GTO wasn’t the answer. The smaller remake of the original GTO was lauded as the future of the brand, but consumers aren’t as easily persuaded. After all of the initial hype died off, so did the GTO. The V8 was minuscule compared to the outgoing model and all of the new emissions control pieces didn’t add to performance.

Pontiac Custom GTO
via: GM

On the plus side of things, the interior was an improvement over the previous model. There were a lot of new enhancements such as power windows and power locks, as well as optional safety features that were a first. But the reason that consumers purchased the GTO was performance, and this generation was lacking in just that.

Oldsmobile 442
via: GM

19: 1978-79 Oldsmobile 4-4-2

The late 19702 were a different time for GM and the automotive industry in general. Cars were shrinking and the V8 engine was becoming outdated compared to more fuel-efficient options. The GM G-Body cars were immensely popular and the special edition Oldsmobile 4-4-2 was a remake of a classic. With all the hype that surrounded this car, you expected something more special than what it was.

Oldsmobile 442
via: GM

The design wasn’t much different than the traditional models that were on the market. Also, the performance didn’t quite live up to the expectations, which let a lot of diehard Oldsmobile enthusiasts down. To this day. these cars are somewhat holding value, although the platform had many variants including the Grand National.

Mustang King Cobra
via: Ford

18: 1978 Ford Mustang King Cobra

Perhaps one of the strangest offerings to come out of Detroit was the Ford Pinto-based Mustang King Cobra. The car had a lot of hype around it because of the Cobra name, but performance didn’t add up. Ford tried a heavy marketing campaign which included various supermodels posing with the cars. This wasn’t enough to convince the public that they should opt for the King Cobra over other Mustang offerings, however.

Ford Mustang
via: Ford

The performance was a major letdown for the Mustang brand, but the King Cobra did develop a loyal following. The platform was cheap to buy and cheaper to repair, which lead to several aftermarket specialty builders. A modern mod for the King Cobra is to swap a Coyote V8 into it, which has become a very popular option.

Plymouth Volare
via: Plymouth

17: 1976-80 Plymouth Volare Road Runner

Design-wise, the Volare Road Runner wasn’t bad, offering a semi-decent looking exterior with most of the original styling cues. The car had a lot of hype behind it because of the Road Runner name, but consumers were expecting something a bit different. By this point in time the fuel crisis was going on and sales slid for this model. Although the Road Runner was canceled shortly after the release of this generation, the car had some unique features.

Plymouth Road Runner
via: Plymouth

There were many wild factory paint jobs available which Chrysler used to offset the decline in performance. For a lot of the buying public, the Volare Road Runner just wasn’t the same. The lack of the same range of V8 power as before let a lot of consumers down, and its smaller stature didn’t help.

AMC Gremlin
via: Chrysler

16: 1978 AMC Gremlin GT

The Gremlin was the ultimate example of a domestic automaker attempting to steal the thunder from Toyota. The V8 power packed into the Gremlin was a big selling point for the car, and a lot of people were intrigued. But the reliability of the car was called into question from the onset of the release. AMC didn’t have funds available to contribute to the R&D of the car, and thus quality was lackluster at best. Even as the Gremli GT’s sales increased, negative reviews started to pour in.

AMC Gremlin
via: AMC

There are some positive attributes to the Gremlin GT, such as the versatile design of the car. A vast community of enthusiasts who have set out to swap modern GM engines into the Gremlin has granted new life into the car. But if you can’t find a non-rusted model, you are probably going to find these in the junkyard.

Monza Mirage
via: Chrysler

15: 1977 Chevrolet Monza Mirage

The Monza is highly regarded as one of GM’s biggest failures, and part of the reason was the hype. GM hyped the Monza as a replacement for the Camaro in a lot of aspects, which turned out to fail. A lot of the styling cues on the Monza came from the Camaro such as rear taillights and the general shape of the car. The performance on the other hand is lackluster at best and consumers rejected the car wholeheartedly.

Chevrolet Monza
via: GM

Sales of the Monza were low, and if you find one in decent shape you’re bound to pay a pretty penny. Few cars have been as universally hated as the Monza Mirage was, and part of the reason was the tremendous amount of hype GM put into it. Had the Monza been planned better, the finished result might have been better as well.

Ford Maverick GT V8
via: Ford

14: 1971-1975 Ford Maverick Grabber

In addition to the failed Mustang of this period, Ford attempted to put the Maverick on a fast track to success. The Maverick Grabber was supposed to be a fresh start for the new era of sports cars. Unfortunately, the build quality was increasingly bad and the car suffered from a lot of mechanical issues. The Maverick was a departure from the usual Ford design language, marketed as the affordable sports car of the future.

Ford Maverick GT V8
via: Ford

The company skipped a lot of R&D with this one, and the final result wasn’t appealing. There are a lot of things the Maverick Grabber did right, but for the majority of the consumers, this was not enough to propel the car to sales success. Finding one on the used market is not as much of a challenge as you’d think due to its limited appeal.

Pontiac Tempest
via: Pontiac

13: 1968-70 Pontiac Tempest

A car that was based on the same platform as the GTO, the Tempest was a notable exception to the popularity. Consumers were opposed to paying more for a car that didn’t have the brand recognition of the GTO. Also lacking were the special performance features of the GTO, which would have made the Tempest more appealing. Although the overall styling of the Tempest was decent, the result was not enough to persuade buyers.

via: Tempest

This was at a time when GM was doing a lot of platform sharing, and the Tempest was another casualty. With a design that wasn’t much different than what you’d find on other GM platforms, showing the Tempest was far too overhyped for what it was. Luckily these are hard to come by and there is not much of an audience left.

AMX
via: AMC

12: 1968-1970 AMC AMX

AMC did a lot for the automotive industry in its formative years, but the AMX was another lackluster sports car. Because the company was on the verge of collapse around this period, the AMX didn’t do anything productive for sales. The design was lackluster when compared to the rest of the muscle car market. The interior was ho-hum at best and its materials were extremely cheap at a time when quality was crucial. There were also a lot of reliability issues with these engines, causing frustration among buyers.

AMC AMX/3
via: AMC

If the AMX is remembered for anything, it will be the second life that the car has developed as a base for GM engine swaps. The performance of the AMX can be greatly improved with an LS-series engine swap, and tht’s exactly what a lot of enthusiasts are doing.

Chrysler 300
via: Chrysler

11: 1971 Chrysler 300

The current Chrysler 300 rejuvenated the brand during the new millennium at a time when Chrysler sedans had become boring and dated. The original Chrysler 300 did the same thing at a time when Chrysler was working to carve out a niche in the market. But let’s be real, the original Chrysler 300 was overhyped for what it was. At a time when automakers were trying to decide on the future of their vehicles, the Chrysler 300 was a step back.

Chrysler 300 Hurst
via: Chrysler

The technology wasn’t new or improved and the car borrowed heavily from the Chrysler parts bin. In addition to that, the Chrysler 300 was a very large sedan and the curb weight made performance lackluster at best. Nevertheless, these cars did manage to sell well, but they were vastly overhyped nonetheless.

Grand Prix
via: Pontiac

10: 1971 Pontiac Grand Prix

If you think of a staple of design during the Pontiac years, the Grand Prix was it. The nameplate stayed with the brand up to the final years. The 1971 Grand Prix was a bit of a letdown for loyalists, though, as it was vastly oversized and missing important features. The interior was hyped as being more comfortable than ever, but in reality, it was a clone of the Chevy Monte Carlo. Then you had the fact that the Grand Prix didn’t bring anything new to the table in performance numbers.

Pontiac Grand Prix
via: Pontiac

Quality was also lacking because the reliability was questionable on early models. These cars were notorious for being in the shop, and the costs of the repairs were quite high at the time. The Grand Prix did have a lot going for it, but due to the drawbacks, it just didn’t manage to live up to the hype.

via Classicvehicleslist

9: 1974 Buick Apollo GSX

Buick had several interesting cars during the 1970s, but as the fuel crisis went, on the size of these cars had to diminish. The 1974 Buick Apollo GSX is one such car that went over a transformation. When you think of the term GSX, enthusiasts know you’re in for something that performs quite well. The drawback here is the fact that the GSX is lacking in a lot of other aspects, including quality. The car was made from the GM parts bin and you could tell from day one.

Buick GSX
via: Buick GSX

Another problem with the GSX was the fact that the car didn’t offer anything new in terms of performance. The Apollo was not one of the most memorable nameplates for Buick and there are a lot of reasons for that. The noticeable enhancements were not enough to downplay the huge amount of hype that GM pushed with this car.

via: Pinterest

8: 1970 Pontiac GTO

The Pontiac GTO is a legendary muscle car, we all know that. But let’s be real, there was a whole lot of hype that surrounded this car when it hit the market. The performance of the GTO was at the top of the food chain, and that’s a good thing. But the rest of the car was still lacking in design quality, as it was essentially a barebones performance car. Pontiac pushed the GTO with a tremendous amount of advertising and movie tie-ins.

Pontiac GTO
via: GM

The thing that made the GTO stand out was all of the sporadic media appearances, but the car was overhyped. Although the GTO is one of the most iconic muscle cars ever, there was more hype than it was worth. There is no doubt that the GTO was the beginning of the automotive hype machine we see today.

Pontiac Firebird
via: Pontiac

7: 1974 Pontiac Firebird

The original Firebird managed to captivate the pony car market with unique design and a powerful engine. The second generation sadly was not much of an improvement due to all the new EPA regulations. The car had a lot of shortcomings that were based around a lackluster powerplant. Although there was a lot of hype that surrounded the Firebird, the basic design was not much of an improvement.

Pontiac Firebird
via: GM

There’s quite the enthusiast community around the second generation F-Body cars, but the Firebird was not as popular as the Camaro. With the standard trim level and the underpowered V8, the Firebird during this generation was a letdown. Although resale value has skyrocketed, these Firebird models still have a lackluster reputation.

via: Bring a Trailer

6: 1974 Plymouth Barracuda

Plymouth didn’t do its customers any favors when the 1974 Barracuda was released. The car had a lot of shortcomings which included its lackluster V8 power. Plymouth did a great job of designing the exterior portions of the car, but aside from that, the overall design was a letdown. Reliability was questionable at best and repairs ended up costing consumers quite a bit.

via: Mopar

Chrysler did what they could to remedy the problems, but the Barracuda still didn’t live up to the hype. The previous models were far more popular and well rounded, whereas this generation was lacking in many aspects. Still, these cars are known to hold their value and you can expect to spend a good amount of money on one.

Ford Torino Cobra
via: Ford

5: 1970 Ford Torino Cobra

Because the Cobra nameplate was so popular, Ford experimented with using it on other cars besides the Mustang. So drivers from the ’70s had the Ford Torino Cobra, an improvement over outgoing models. But the hype just didn’t add up and the Torino wasn’t the performer that it was advertised as. The car had a lot of drawbacks and new emissions regulations made it even tougher to squeeze enough power out of the engine.

Ford Torino Cobra
via: Ford

The styling was well received by the press, although there were other models on the market that were just as impressive. The Ford Torino Cobra is not the most well-known muscle car, but it does have a loyal following despite the fact that sadly the hype didn’t add up.

Mercury Cougar
via: Ford

4: 1971 Mercury Cougar

In addition to the Ford Mustang, its corporate clone the Cougar also got a lot of positive advertising. Unfortunately, Ford hyped the Cougar up as a personal luxury coupe and the car was nothing more than a rebadged Mustang. Performance was not much of an improvement over the outgoing model, and the design grew in size.

Mercury Cougar
via: Ford

The performance wasn’t a strong selling point for the Cougar, but the design did look a lot better than the Mustang. Unfortunately, the Cougar never managed to sell much more than the Mustang as the 1971 model was extremely overhyped.

Dodge Demon
via: Bring a Trailer

3: 1972 Dodge Dart Demon

The smaller Dodge Dart Demon was not much of an improvement over the outgoing generation of the car. The size was a lot smaller in stature and the V8 had a lot of emissions controls on it, which caused performance to dwindle. Chrysler was going for a fuel-efficient muscle car that would still appeal to the diehards. But the Dart Demon was lacking that sense of personality that muscle cars before it had.

Dodge Demon
via: Bring a Trailer

Dodge did a massive marketing campaign on the Dart Demon but it didn’t do any good. The sales of the Dart were still lackluster at best and the car eventually faded into obscurity. You can still find these in decent shape from time to time, but it’s not an instant classic.

Goldberg Next To His Charger
via: Hot Rod

2: 1971 Valiant Charger

Although it became common practice in the 1980s and ’90s, the 1971 Valiant Charger was not a carbon clone of the Dodge. Chrysler did a lot to differentiate the two cars although there was a lot of hype that surrounded this one. The performance was not a vast improvement over the Dodge, and in some ways the Chrysler was lacking. Due to the heavier weight of the vehicle and the added luxury features, a lot of the Valiant Charger was more exterior appearances than performance.

via: Mopar

You don’t see these very often as the Chrysler stablemates didn’t sell very well. Aside from that, the 1971 Valiant Charger will go down in history as a failure for the brand. Chrysler continued to badge engineer vehicles well into the future although this never worked very well for the company.

Mercury cyclone GT
via: Mercury

1: 1970 Mercury Cyclone GT

Finally we have the 1970s Mercury Cyclone GT, a sad example of what happens when a muscle car is overhyped. The Cyclone had a lot of potential with a razor-sharp design and adequate marketing, but when it hit the market, its performance juat wasn’t there. The Cyclone GT was lacking in terms of V8 performance, and this was partly due to the issues with the new emissions controls.

Mercury Cyclone
via: Mercury

Sales of the 1970s Mercury Cyclone GT were lackluster at best, and you don’t mor,ally see these on the market anymore. If you are looking for a classic example of a Ford, the Cyclone GT might be worth seeking out for several reasons. Yet it lives on as a failed muscle car of the ’70s that did not live up to its own hype.

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