The Pacer is a car that drivers equally love and hate, but nevertheless, it is legendary and widely recognizable. It was AMC’s effort to produce a compact car, but it turned out to be less compact than its competitors and with numerous flaws.
However, the design and the legend that revolves around its charm makes the AMC Pacer one of the most quirky and iconic ’70s legends of them all.
1971 Buick Riviera
Buick offered the original Riviera way back in 1963. But it wasn’t until 1971 that the Riviera became a design classic with the introduction of the iconic “boat tail” design. Even though it was in production for just three years, the Buick Riviera left a big mark on the industry with its unusual yet elegant styling.
After decades of producing the venerable Beetle, VW decided to introduce a modern compact hatchback. Soon they created a revolution with the Golf, or Rabbit as they called it in the USA.
The simple design, great build quality, and economical engines were an instant recipe for success. In fact, the Mk1 Golf was so influential, it spawned a whole new marketing segment in the automotive industry.
Behind this unusual name lies an interesting little car from Fiat that was popular in the ’70s. It came with a mid-engine layout, giving it great handling capabilities.
The little X1/9 was an affordable driver’s car from back in the day. Unfortunately, rust claimed most of them, which makes intact X19s highly desirable today.
The Ford Pinto was a huge success but it was also involved in a big lawsuit for Ford. At first, the company was delighted that its small compact car was selling so well.
It was obvious that American drivers were turning to more sensible cars. But then, all sorts of problems emerged, and the Pinto became infamous for bursting into flame due to a serious design mistake. Today, the Ford Pinto is a notorious little car that many people still remember.
It was 1976 when Mercedes introduced this mid-range car. Soon, it became their most successful car up to date. It featured an elegant design and wide engine choices, as well as an overall build quality that guaranteed a million miles. Most of the examples Mercedes produced are still on the road today. That’s a living testament that there are cars that can last almost forever.
In the mid-70s, Lancia wanted to go rally racing, so they made their first purpose-built rally car they named the Lancia Stratos.
But although they had the design, they didn’t have the engine, so Lancia borrowed a compact V6 from Ferrari. When powered by the Ferrari engine, the Lancia Stratos became a legend as well as the world champion for 1977.
Despite being famous for producing the 911, Porsche was ready to try something new, introducing the iconic 928 in 1977.
The car was completely new with a V8 engine and transaxle gearbox, as well as a space-age design and features. The Porsche 928 is fast and amazing to drive, even after 40 years.
Honda debuted the first-generation Civic in 1972 with modest dimensions and simple design. However, it was so well-made and affordable, it became widely popular as the main form of basic transportation.
Honda’s success with the small Civic led to the company’s growth. Thanks to this model, Honda is now one of the world’s leading car companies.
BMW 2002 Turbo
Although it is not the first turbocharged production car, the BMW 2002 Turbo was one of the fastest and the first of its kind in Europe. It was a hot little car with good performance and an interesting body kit that was instantly recognizable. However, all that innovative technology meant that it was expensive, so they are scarce today.
The Stingray or C3 ‘Vette originally debuted in 1968, but in 1974 it had a big redesign. Chevrolet transformed it into a true ’70s legend with swooping lines, big fenders and a classic sports car shape. Even though the power was lower due to environmental reasons, the design and style were still eye-popping.
Porsche 911 Carrera 2.7 RS
The Carrera 2.7 RS was much more than just a fancy 911. It was a fully-lightweight car with a wider rear track, revised suspension, racing instruments and distinctive rear ducktail spoiler. It was easily the lightest and fastest 911 up to date. All that made it the perfect racing car to conquer the world racing scene in the ’70s.
Porsche needed 500 of them, but since the car was so good, they built 1,580 cars in the end. Today, the Carrera 2.7 RS is a highly-sought-after classic collector’s car with an extremely high price tag.
Luxury SUV models are common these days, but all of it started in 1970 with the introduction of the legendary Range Rover. It was the first offroad car that provided all the creature comforts.
Also, it came with an attractive design and great on-road manners. It sold well, and it proved to be highly influential right up to this day.
On the wings of the everlasting DS, Citroen presented the perfect avantgarde limousine for the ’70s in the form of the CX. It featured several unique design cues and interesting interior details, making it one of the coolest cars of the era. Also, it is one of the most comfortable rides ever, but although it looked powerful, it wasn’t all that fast.
Ford Mustang King Cobra
Even though it was just a dressed-up Pinto, most people remember the 1977 Mustang King Cobra. The wild graphics, big spoilers, and great sounding V8 made it a true ’70s ride. However, despite the great looks, the car was dead slow because its 5.0 V8 only produced approximately 140 HP.
When Datsun introduced this car in the early ’70s, the 240Z was the perfect car for the times. It was an exotic import with a straight-six engine and sufficient power.
Also, it came with a great looking body and good build quality. The Datsun 240Z opened the doors for Japanese manufacturers, creating a new segment of import sports cars.
Built on the gorgeous Citroen DS base, the SM was a Gran Turismo coupe with a Maserati V6 engine. It had the perfect design and sublime comfort.
Debuting in 1970, it was a fantastic alternative to the Mercedes SL or Cadillac Eldorado. Unfortunately, Citroen ceased production in 1974 after only producing 12,000 of them.
Porsche 930 Turbo
The beginning of an era for Porsche and sports cars, in general, was in 1975 when they unveiled the 930 Turbo. This was the first turbocharged 911 and an iconic car in its own right.
The 3.0-liter flat-six produced 260 HP, which was more than enough to launch the 930’s lightweight body to prohibited speeds in the blink of an eye.
Pontiac Firebird Trans Am 455 SD
In 1974 Pontiac completed the first restyling of the whole Firebird range. With the new front and rear end came an improved interior and other details. They carried the SD 455 model over from 1973, but in the new package, it featured an upgraded suspension and brakes.
The standard 455 V8 delivered only 215 HP. However, in SD trim, it developed 290 HP, which was absolutely fantastic for 1974.
Chevrolet Camaro Z/28
The 1977 Camaro is important for two reasons. The first reason is that it marked the return of the Z/28 option after years of absence. The ’77 Z/28 had just 185 HP, but it came with a special body kit, graphics package, and spoiler, so it looked wild.
However, the second reason is much more interesting. In 1977, the Chevrolet Camaro outsold the Ford Mustang for the first time since 1967.
The 1975 Seville was a shock to Cadillac purists because it was the first downsized Caddy ever. As an affordable luxury car, it was a brilliant move by the company and one of the best U.S. sedans of the late ’70s. The 1975 Seville turned out to be the perfect car for the time, so the sales went beyond the company’s expectations.
The Seville was elegant, perfectly sized and reasonably powerful. Also, it came with a long list of options and trim choices, including the interesting Slantback body style. Buyers could even get the Gucci-themed trim package.
Alfa Romeo Montreal
Even though Alfa Romeo never officially sold the Montreal in Canada, this sports car had a big impact on the early ’70s auto market. They built it on the Giulia chassis, adding a timeless Bertone body and a high-revving V8 engine in the front.
All that made the Montreal fast, stylish, and exclusive since the production number was just 4,000 cars.
Mazda presented the first-generation RX-7 in 1978 and it stayed on the market until 1985. During that period, they built almost 500,000 RX-7s, selling most of them in America.
Under the hood was a 1.1 to 1.3-liter Wankel rotary engine, which was the RX-7’s most notable feature. This extremely compact and light engine produced 102 to 135 HP, which was more than enough for a lively performance from this little coupe.
Mercedes Benz G-Klass
Originally developed as a military vehicle, Mercedes introduced the timeless G-Klass in 1979.
It was a highly capable and durable off-roader with minimal luxuries and a spartan interior. Over the years, it evolved into a luxury SUV. Since the G-Klass is still in production, it is one of the longest producing models in the world.
BMW 6-Series E24
When they presented it in 1976, the new 6 Series was BMW’s entry in the Gran Turismo market. Also, it was one of the most elegant coupes of the period with its recognizable design, four headlights, and a big BMW grille. They built the 6 Series on the 5 Series base, but it only featured those powerful six-cylinder engines.
The 6 Series proved to be popular, spending over 13 years on the market. BMW managed to produce over 100,000 of them, all of which are still highly-desirable models on the used car market. Interestingly enough, more than half of the examples BMW produced were sold in the USA.
Plymouth Roadrunner Superbird
Plymouth based this car on the Roadrunner. It came with a 440 V8 motor as standard and the 426 Hemi was the only engine option. However, to make it as aerodynamically efficient as they could, Plymouth installed a nose cone, hideaway headlights and an enormous spoiler on the back.
Also, they transformed the rear glass from a standard concave-shaped one to a regular-shaped glass, which proved more slippery in wind tunnel testing. Sadly, it was just a one-year-only model for 1970.
Ferrari 512 BB
This fantastic sports machine wasn’t the first mid-engine car for Ferrari, but it was an advanced offering for the mid-70s.
The Ferrari 512 BB featured a flat 12 engine with a 5.0-liter displacement that pumped out a whopping 360 HP. That was an extremely high power output for 1976. Unfortunately, with the fantastic performance came a lofty price tag, so they only sold 926 of them.
The first BMW sports car was the legendary M1, which they introduced in 1978. Because BMW only sold 500 of them, the M1 was considered a failure. However, the M1 is now a highly collectible car with an enormous price tag.
They mounted a 3.5-liter engine producing 280 HP right behind the driver, which provides this sleek Bavarian with respectable performance numbers.
Jeep was already a well-established company, but in 1976, the CJ7 arrived, sending the sales numbers through the roof. The CJ7 was the perfect combination of an affordable price, compact dimensions, and luxury features, as well as uncompromised off-road ability.
This meant the CJ7 was usable as both an everyday vehicle and a brutal off-road tool. The public loved it, so it stayed in production for 11 years.
Dodge Lil’ Red Express
The Lil’ Express Truck was a special truck Dodge built for just two years, 1978 and 1979, and in limited numbers. The importance of the Lil’ Express Truck was in relation to the strict rules of the late ’70s. They robbed the V8 engine of its power and vehicles of their performance.
But Dodge found an interesting loophole in the regulations that declared all pickup trucks didn’t need catalytic converters. This meant that Dodge could install a more powerful engine to allow it to breathe easier and deliver more punch than their previous models or competitors. That motivation is how the Lil’ Express Truck came to be.
Chevrolet Vega Cosworth
In 1975, Chevrolet presented the interesting yet not-so-successful Vega Cosworth model.
It featured a high revving 2.0-liter four-cylinder twin-cam motor that produced 110 HP. Although it wasn’t particularly fast or strong, the Vega Cosworth was attractive with its striking black and gold paint job and unique wheels. Today, this compact is a highly-sought-after collector car.
Dome Zero was a small Japanese car company dedicated to the production of expensive road-going and racing models. They began production in 1976 and continued until 1986, but it is still unclear how many cars the company built.
The Dome Zero was powered by a 2.8-liter SOHC six-cylinder engine that delivered 147 HP. Although that doesn’t sound like much, the car was extremely light, so the performance was respectable.
Jaguar XJS Coupe
When Jaguar revealed this car back in the mid-70s, the XJS was a big step for the company. Under the long hood, there was the well-known 3.6-liter six-cylinder or the 5.3-liter V12 engine, which was a better choice for the full GT experience.
The XJS was extremely popular, especially in America, where Jaguar sold the majority of the 115,000 cars they made. Due to its elegance, power, and speed, the XJS has remained in production for an incredible 21 years. In fact, it’s still is a respectable car in every way.
MGB GT V8
When they presented it in 1973, the MGB GT V8 was powered by a 3.5-liter engine that produced 175 HP. That was a good figure by early ’70s standards. The car immediately became a strong seller because it combined the practicality of a bigger cabin and trunk with the performance of a V8 engine. It achieved a 0 to 60 mph time of just 7.7 seconds.
American buyers loved the GT V8 since it offered compact dimensions and improved practicality with more power and performance, which was a winning combination.
Toyota Celica A30
Toyota built the Celica on a standard Toyota Carina base. It was one step above the popular Corolla in terms of size, technology, and engine power. They presented the new Celica to American buyers in 1970 with two body styles, a regular two-door coupe and hardtop fastback.
Immediately, drivers compared the new Celica to the Ford Mustang because it was inspired by the Ford pony car. Also, it was a sportier version of a regular production sedan, just like the Mustang.
Chevrolet Monte Carlo
Chevrolet introduced the Monte Carlo as a personal luxury coupe back in 1970. They built it on a modified Chevelle platform.
The Monte Carlo was a handsome coupe-only car with a V8 engine and an attractive interior that offered a decent performance. Even though most Monte Carlos came with the smaller V8 engine for drivers who concentrated on the luxury aspect of this model, there was one crazy muscle option in the form of the SS 454 package.
These are 40 well-known ’70s classics from the disco era. Did you ever own or drive one of these icons? If you can’t afford to buy one, just visit any classic car show, and you’re sure to see some of these ’70s legends in all of their glory.