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Top 35 Disappointing Muscle Cars Of The 1970s

Cameron EittreimMay 22, 2020

Muscle cars have long been one of the most popular types of vehicles on the road. Most car fans have dreamed about owning one or owned a muscle car at some point. The muscle cars of the 1970s came out of a change-filled decade. From new emissions laws to the varying stylistic changes of new car models, there was a lot to remember from the 1970s. There were quite a few disappointments that came from the 1970s as well.

For instance, take the Ford Pinto-based Mustang, just one of many disappointments from the 1970s. Ford had the technology and the know-how to build something better but instead decided to short loyalists. In the Mustang’s case, this was a far cry from any Mustang model on the market prior to this. Read on as we take a look at 35 of the most awful disappointments from the 1970s via Motor Biscuit below. Not even the best problem-solving fluids can save these cars.

Stutz Bearcat
via: Mecum

35: Stutz Blackhawk

Exotic cars were all the rage during the 1970s and there were quite a few start-ups. One of these companies was the Stutz and their Blackhawk, a V8-powered roadster. The shag carpeting in the interior is just one of the unique features. But the performance was downright disappointing in addition to the high price tag. The Blackhawk had the look of a domestic muscle car but the prestige of an export.

Stutz Bearcat
via: Meccum

Sadly, the Blackhawk was a major letdown in a lot of areas, and this lead sales to be abysmal. You don’t see the Blackhawk too often at collectors venues and there’s a good reason for that. The car just didn’t deliver on its promise. Consumers from this era wanted true performance out of a car and not just a shag-carpeted interior.

Lamborghini Countach - Captain Chaos
via: Car and Driver

34: Lamborghini Countach

While you might consider the Countach an exotic car, it was also a monstrous, V12-powered ride. If you wanted to stand out during this period, this exotic was the way to do it. Lamborghini has maintained this extreme design language to this day. Interior-wise, the Countach was also a much more well-appointed option than what was on the market during this time. There was no cheap vinyl and the seats were designed to cradle the owner.

Lamborghini Countach - Lamborghini
via: Car and Driver

And don’t forget the exemplary amount of cargo space that was inside of the Countach. This was an exotic muscle car that you could live with. For the longest period, the Countach was one of the fastest production cars on the market. But the extreme design didn’t sit well with drivers and the car was a pain to maintain.

Car - Ford Pinto
Ford Pinto

33: Ford Pinto

We know what you are probably going to say, and we agree that the Ford Pinto wasn’t a muscle car. But this car did lay the platform for many prominent muscle cars of this era such as the shrunken Mustang II. While the Pinto had a plethora of opportunities to become a force, early design flaws deteriorated the sales and reputation rather quickly. The fact that Ford used this car as the platform for many of their muscle cars was embarrassment enough.

Ford Pinto - Subcompact car

The Pinto has sparked interest in the secondhand community these days, but the car is still lacking. The reputation has been forever tarnished by the deaths of the explosion period, and the car has never lived up to the hype. Even the Mustang II is a disappointing aspect of the muscle car era that has been forgotten.

Lamborghini Huracan EVO - Lamborghini Miura concept
via: Lamborghini

32: Lamborghini Miura

This one was more suited to the muscle car market, but it wasn’t without its faults. The Miura was rushed to design and there were a lot of reliability issues. When you look at the fit and finish of this car, it reeks of desperation. Lamborghini wanted to corner a larger part of the market and they assumed that appealing to the muscle car demographic would do it.

via: Lamborghini

Initially, the Miura had a decent amount of power under the hood, but the car spent more time in the shop than on the road. The Miura didn’t live up to the expectations that consumers had for it at this period, although the car has spiked in value. This particular Lambo model might not be the one to tickle your fancy though.

Mercury Cougar
via: Barnfinds

31: 1979 Mercury Cougar

By the latter part of the 1970s, the Cougar had lost that charm that made it unique. No longer was the two-door coupe based on the Mustang, instead of taking the form of the fancier Thunderbird model. This was a letdown for consumers in two departments, gas mileage and performance. The Cougar didn’t deliver on either of those things, and reliability was downright shoddy to boot. This left a bad taste in a lot of consumer’s mouths, something that Mercury didn’t ever fully recover from.

Mercury Cougar
via: Barnfinds

With a long, swooping design and a lot of the same elements as the Thunderbird, the Cougar just didn’t bring anything unique to the table. The concept was the same as the Monte Carlo but the car just didn’t deliver when it came to the performance factor. Nevertheless, you still can find these on the road from time to time.

Mercury Capri
via: Classic Carb

30: Mercury Capri 2000

Another car that boasted a promising future was the Capri 2000. At a time when Toyota was making inroads on the compact market, Ford came up with a way to offer performance on a budget. Unfortunately, the Capri 2000 suffered from build quality issues that hampered the sales of the car. The lightweight design of the Capri lead to a cramped interior, and since Americans are bigger, this was a problem.

1973 Mercury Capri
via: Classic Carb

Reliability was horrible and these cars spent more time in the shop than on the road. Not to mention the fact that the trunk space was extremely limited. You weren’t going to fit your golf clubs and luggage in this car for a weekend getaway. Sales were horrible and the Capri 2000 was a forgotten blemish for Mercury.

Chevrolet Vega GT
via: GM

29: Chevrolet Vega GT

Chevrolet was attempting to launch its lightweight line of performance cars around this period. The Vega GT had an intimidating nameplate, but the car itself was tame as a house cat. Style-wise, you had a mixture of the Capri and the rest of the GM lineup. Designers were going for a car that was fuel-efficient and would resonate with younger buyers. The Vega did neither, and sales suffered.

Chevrolet Vega GT
via: GM

If you’ve ever had the pleasure or misfortune to drive one of these, then you’ll know what we’re talking about. Its performance was lethargic and the reliability was even worse, the car did nothing to entice buyers in the long run. This is why you don’t see a Vega in the GM portfolio today because it was just bad.

Plymouth Cricket
via: Car Domain

28: 1973 Plymouth Cricket

With a name like this, you probably don’t expect much from this car and you’d be correct. The Cricket didn’t provide much in the way of performance. The lightweight design was a pleasant surprise for this era, but there was no performance behind it. The reliability was perhaps the biggest letdown of the lightweight Plymouth model. Chrysler was already fighting quality issues around this period.

Plymouth Cricket
via: Momentcar

Buyers were not persuaded by the car’s seemingly sleek design. Instead opting for a competition that offered a better ride and performance. The Cricket was a blip in the Chrysler portfolio, sticking around for three model years. If you do find one of these, beware, because body rust is a major issue.

Plymouth Volare
via: Cargurus

27: 1976 Plymouth Volaré

You’ve got to give Plymouth an A for effort, at least the company was trying to get buyers into their showrooms. The Volaré had the look of the much larger Fury, which was sort of what the automaker was going for. The problem was that reliability was mediocre at best, leaving most Volaré owners on the side of the road. To make things worse the performance was lackluster at best, with the engine lethargically trying to keep up with oncoming traffic.

Plymouth Volare
via: Car and Driver

Few cars have tarnished this decade as the Volaré did, and you seldom see these things anymore. For a cheap restomod, the Volaré might be a great project, otherwise, steer clear of these rust buckets. The Plymouth name was tarnished by cars like the Volaré taking up space on an otherwise stellar lineup.

Chrysler Galant
via: Wikimedia

26: Chrysler Galant

The Chrysler Galant was one of the most disappointing Chrysler two-doors to come out of this decade. This car shared its nameplate with a newcomer that was known as Mitsubishi. Chrysler Corp found that it was more cost-effective to just import an existing compact car model to rival the Japanese. Unfortunately, the Galant was lacking in quality in just about every aspect of the car, from the fit and finish to its performance.

Chrysler Galant
via: Hot Rod

The Chrysler Galant didn’t last very long in the lineup and with good reason as the car was a terrible badge job. It was cars like this that managed to tarnish Chryslers otherwise noteworthy reputation during this period. The Galant managed to get domestic muscle cars labeled as cheap and lacking in quality.

1971 Plymouth Duster
via: Hot Rod

25. 1971 Plymouth Duster

While the Dodge Charger was gaining all the stardom at Chrysler, Plymouth was the overlooked stepchild. The Plymouth Duster of the 1970s paled in comparison to other muscle cars on the market at the time. From an exterior looks standpoint, the Duster was a great addition. But this all changed once you got behind the wheel and felt what it could offer.

1971 Plymouth Duster
via: Hot Rod

Its paltry performance was only hampered even more by smog restrictions of the 1970s. It also had a cheap interior.. Plymouth was getting the short end of the stick during the 1970s, and the Duster was getting the brunt of it.

1973 Chevrolet Chevelle
via: Hot Rod

24. 1973 Chevrolet Chevelle Laguna

Toward the latter part of the 1970s, the Chevelle became a shadow of its former self. Gone were the glory days of the SS for a car that was grossly over-designed. The Chevelle had been through a lot during the decade that it was released. The Laguna was an updated version of the Chevelle, but a few things made it come up short. The overall styling was a huge departure from the car that had come before it and wasn’t what buyers wanted.

1974 Monte Carlo
via: Collector Cars

The performance was lackluster because of emissions standards, and this negatively affected most muscle cars from the 1970s. After this disappointing decade, the Chevelle all but disappeared from the GM lineup. GM has yet to revive the nameplate.

1970 Gran Sport
via: 2040 Cars

23. 1970 Buick Gran Sport 455 Stage I

Buick was in a state of transition during the 1970s. The Gran Sport was one of the main victims of this. Buick had a mixed reputation for creating luxury cars during the 1970s that weren’t quite up to par with Cadillac. GM went the rebadged route with this one.

1970 Gran Sport
via: Youtube

Performance-wise, the Gran Sport could run a quarter-mile in 13.38 seconds, which is respectable. But the technological limitations around this time due to emissions control just made the car feel choked. This was the last of this body style of GM muscle car. For the most part, it was a letdown.

AMC Hornet
via: Barn Finds

22. 1971 AMC HORNET SC/360

By the 1970s, AMC was on a downward spiral. Cars like the Pacer were on the horizon, but customers were quickly moving onto other models. The Hornet SC/360 was a great concept initially. But there were several drawbacks AMC wasn’t able to address because of the company’s downward trajectory in the 1970s. The Hornet had a powerful engine. But after the car was panned for poor mileage, the company continued to lose market share.

AMC Hornet
via: Hemmings

AMC was trying to innovate during thw 1970s, but the company couldn’t afford to really innovate. The SC/360 actually had a good deal of performance innovations. The overall design was panned for a boring exterior design and bland interior. The Hornet could have been a popular performance car from the 1970s, but failed to live up to expectations.

Duster 340
via: Hot Rod

21. 1970 Plymouth Duster 340

Plymouth was a strong seller around this time period, but smog regulations of the 1970s really hit the Plymouth lineup. The Duster is one of the most recognizable names from the early muscle car days. But since then, the car was scaled back and became an unrecognizable version of itself. The Duster 340 had mundane features. When you compared the Duster 340 to other muscle cars on the market in the 1970s, it was uninspiring.

1970 Plymouth Duster
via: Hot Rod

Plymouth really started to lose its edge with this release, and from this point on the company just began to sell rebadged Dodge models. Plymouth was another unfortunate victim of the tough times that hit the automotive market during the 1970s.

1974 Pontiac GTO
via: Hot Rod

20. 1974 Pontiac GTO

The 1974 Pontiac GTO was like some sort of bad joke that was designed to make Pontiac buyers run the other way. The car was dramatically downsized because of tough new restrictions placed on domestic automakers in the 1970s. With this downsizing came a car that really couldn’t hold its own. The car was lethargic at best coupled with a puny V8 engine featuring a weak amount of horsepower.

via: Pinterest

Interior-wise, the ’74 GTO was far from innovative. Cheap plastics galore and there were reports of radio dials falling off. Overall the 1974 Pontiac GTO isn’t a 1970s muscle car you really want in your driveway. It took a marvelous nameplate and turned it into something that was laughed at.

79 Oldsmobile 4-4-2
via: Hot Rod

19. 1978-79 Oldsmobile 4-4-2

Oldsmobile was another unfortunate victim of GM marketing and design. This affected cars late in the 1970s era as well, and the 1978-79 Oldsmobile 4-4-2 was a prime example. The 4-4-2 name was one of the most synonymous muscle car names around, and with good reason. It offered a spectacular blend of performance. But the later models were sad examples of late 1970s GM engineering. Not only were the cars not innovative at all, but they lacked performance.

Oldsmobile 4-4-2
via: Hot Rod

Again, tough smog regulations kept these cars in their place. Which is why a good deal of 1970s muscle cars were tough to look at. The 1978-79 Oldsmobile 4-4-2 can be had for a dirt-cheap price, but the engines are so hampered down by smog and emissions control that you really can’t get good performance from one.

1978 King Cobra
via: Ford

18. 1978 Ford Mustang King Cobra

Perhaps one of the most embarrassing ideas of all time, the “Pinto”-based Mustang was about as lackluster as they come. It was weak with a measly 139HP. There were some special features such as snake decals and special-edition snake wheels. But when it came down to it this was nothing more than a dressed-up Ford Pinto. The pony car community roared valiantly at this sad excuse for a Mustang, and Ford innovated with the next model.

Ford Mustang King Cobra
via: Hot Rod

You really don’t see these Pinto-based Mustangs around anymore. Reliability was shoddy at best and to even find parts for one is a mission. We’re not sure what Ford was thinking in the long term, but this was a piece of history Mustang enthusiasts want to forget.

Plymouth Volare
via: Hot Rod

17. 1976-80 Plymouth Volare Road Runner

Another sad Plymouth model from the 1970s was the 1976-80 Plymouth Volare Road Runner. This Road Runner couldn’t outrun anything. Styling was lackluster at best, as the car was a mixture of lightweight, cheap build quality. Tough emissions standards and fuel prices of this time meant that this Road Tunner was never going to achieve anything special. Chrysler finally let this model go toward the end of the 1970s.

1976 Plymouth Volare
via: Hot Rod

It’s tough to see such legendary nameplates went through such a rough time in the 1970s. It was an especially rough time for Chrysler. If you see a 1976-80 Plymouth Volare Road Runner on the road, just stay away from it. It’s is a sad piece of domestic automotive engineering from the 1970s.

Gremlin GT
via: AMC

16. 1978 AMC Gremlin GT

Believe it or not, there was a time when AMC was the biggest automaker in the world. But as the 1970s wore on, the company began to lose its footing. When tough emissions laws and high fuel prices were beginning to take hold in the 1970s, no one wanted to pay for a car with horrible mileage. You also had the fact that the Gremlin was just plain ugly to look at.

AMC Gremlin
via: Motor Junkie

When you look back on the 1970s, you can’t help but wonder what AMC was thinking when they designed this car. The obscene styling and lackluster performance made the Gremlin one of the most forgettable cars of this time period. You can still find this rather unique-looking example of AMC engineering on the auction block.

1977 Monza Mirage
via: Amazon AWS

15. 1977 Chevrolet Monza Mirage

GM had its own version of a “Mirage” at one point in time. Most automotive enthusiasts from the 1970s wish the car was a mirage. Lackluster styling and a small engine made the Monza a laughable excuse for a muscle car. Although there were some cool styling features, the car was hampered by new emissions control equipment.

Chevrolet Monza Mirage
via: Autopolis

There was a time that it was thought that GM would replace the Camaro with the Monza. But the Camaro had a very loyal customer base that stuck with the brand through the worst times. The Monza will go down in history as a forgettable muscle car lacking any innovation or features.

Ford Maverick Grabber
via: Muscle Car Cult

14. 1971-1975 Ford Maverick Grabber

Ford had quite a few failures during the 1970s muscle car era. One of the most notable was the Maverick Grabber. This awkward car was about as noticeable as you could get, but that was it. The gist of the design was lackluster at a time when Ford was focusing on design and trying to get past new EPA regulations. The weakened V8 was no improvement over the Pinto-based Mustang , which left a bad taste in many Ford enthusiasts’ mouths.

Ford Maverick Grabber
via: Hot Rod

The Maverick will go down as an interesting concept, but the car just lacked innovation. When it came to beating Japanese automakers during the 1970s, Ford failed. Domestic automakers didn’t innovate and as such, muscle cars of the 1970s were increasingly lackluster.

Pontiac Tempest
via: Barn Finds

13. 1968-70 Pontiac Tempest

The Pontiac lineup of the 1970s was negatively impacted like most GM brands of the time. The Tempest was a lackluster choice in a world where muscle cars were beginning to lose performance. When you got under the hood the car was just lacking in terms of performance. Pontiac continued to suffer the same fate as other GM brands around this time period.

Pontiac Tempest
via: Barn Finds

The 1968-70 Pontiac Tempest could have been so much more, but the brand didn’t have direction. With tough emissions laws taking hold on the automotive industry, the 1968-70 Pontiac Tempest was another disappointment. Surprisingly, they have been experiencing an uptick in value as of late.

AMC AMX
via: Hot Rod

12. 1968-1970 AMC AMX

Another interesting AMC model from the 1970s muscle car era was the AMX. AMC was throwing anything at the wall to see if it would stick, and the AMX was a promising concept. The car had a noticeable design that was similar to other downsized muscle cars at the time. Coupled with the fact the AMX had a decently rated V8 engine and it could have been great. But lackluster build quality and reliability began to affect the car.

AMC AMX
via: Hot Rod

AMC was at a crossroads at the time, trying to sell muscle cars and adhere to the new EPA regulations. The company was oozing out money and research and development went out the window. Still, the AMX has developed a loyal following over the years for its unique design.

Chrysler 300
via: CC Marketplace

11. 1971 Chrysler 300

The Chrysler 300 is actually a nameplate that has been around for a long period of time. Modern 300’s are a prime example of what an automaker can do right. But the 70s 300 was a sheer example of lazy engineering at best. The massive behemoth of a car tried to mask a lack of design innovation with a cushy interior and a land yacht ride. But when it came down to it the big burly V8 just struggled to pull the massive vehicle around. Cheap build quality made the Chrysler 300 a sales disaster, and most consumers went elsewhere.

via: Flickr

The Chrysler 300 was probably the brand’s most forgettable design of the The Chrysler brand has since made an effort to improve quality but the 1970s were a tough time for the brand.

1971 Pontiac Grand Prix
via: Hot Rod

10. 1971 Pontiac Grand Prix

Pontiac had a disappointing run during the 1970s with the Grand Prix at the forefront. The Grand Prix was the bread and butter of the Pontiac lineup for a long time. It was a family sedan that combined sportiness and style instead of mundane existence. But when it came down to a new model for the 70s, the car was hampered by a long nose and bland styling.

Pontiac Grand Prix
via: Azure Edge

We’re not sure what GM was thinking with this one, other than rushing it into the marketplace. But either way, the Grand Prix was a sad shell of what it once was. The hideous styling and lack of performance made the sedan a distant memory for most.

via: Classicvehicleslist

9. 1974 Buick Apollo GSX

The Apollo GSX had the same V8 engine that was the lethargic powerplant we saw in other GM models. Although GM boasted about the Apollo’s characteristics, the bottom line was the car was a sad example of domestic engineering. There were far better choices than the Apollo on the market, and most consumers went elsewhere. EPA restrictions were bad enough, but the Apollo just added to the problem with lackluster engineering.

Buick Apollo GSX
via: Pontiac Ventura

These cars sold so poorly that you rarely see one on the road. The Apollo was a far cry from what a Buick shopper was looking for. This is why the car failed for the most part, and the Apollo nameplate is a shadow in Buick’s otherwise long and storied heritage.

Pontiac GTO
via: YTIMG

8. 1970 Pontiac GTO

The GTO is one of the most legendary muscle car nameplates of all-time. The car redefined the muscle car era. But toward the 1970s and its EPA regulations, the GTO was quickly losing luster. The car couldn’t compete with the high price of fuel. When you think of legendary cars, the GTO is one, but the 70s version was a sad example.

Pontiac GTO
via: Hot Rod

The resale value of these models is still extremely high because of the GTO name. But when you think about all of the things that GM had to do to please the EPA, you’ll realize this version of the GTO couldn’t live up to its potential. GM had many different muscle cars during this era but they all suffered from the from the same thing.

Pontiac Firebird
via: CC Public

7. 1974 Pontiac Firebird

The Firebird of the 1970s was another victim of high fuel prices and tougher EPA regulations. The engine was hampered by all types of different emissions controls that made the car increasingly powerless. The Firebird was always a car known for high performance. So when the new gas prices hit, the car was compromised. There were some cool aspects of this generation, like the fact that the car starred in ‘Smokey and the Bandit.’

1974 Pontiac Firebird
via: Car Gurus

But aside from that, this Firebird needed a lot of work, and the brand just wasn’t what it used to be. These cars still hold their value, and a common modern modification is to switch out the engine with an LS-Series.

1974 Plymouth Barracuda
via: YTIMG

6. 1974 Plymouth Barracuda

Plymouth was still trying with the Barracuda and the 1974 model was one of the final hurrahs for the brand. Coupled with a bold new styling package, the car was hampered by tough gas prices and even tougher EPA rules like most domestic cars. The Barracuda was a well-known brand, especially for its performance. But this generation was becoming increasingly lackluster.

via: Bring a Trailer

These things still go for a pretty penny if you can put up with all the engine issues. Reliability was questionable as time went on, which caused owners to create quite a stir. The 1974 Barracuda will go down as one of the last cars to bear this legendary nameplate. But at this time, Plymouth was becoming a troubled brand.

1970s
via: Bring a Trailer

5. 1970 Ford Torino Cobra

Ford didn’t just have the Mustang and the Maverick to fall back on during this period of time. There was also the Torino. Made famous in multiple motion pictures the Torino was also the Nascar that Ford was using around this time period. The road-ready version of the 1970 Ford Torino Cobra was also hampered by EPA fixings, as well as high gas prices that effected the entire muscle car business. Americans just couldn’t afford to gas these things up, and the Torino was horrible on gas mileage.

1970 Ford Torino
via: Hot Rod

The 1970 Ford Torino Cobra had some positive features. But for a car that bore the Cobra nameplate, it could have been better. But Ford was nervous around this time period, sales were slipping and the muscle cars that shoppers used to love were falling out of style quickly.

Mercury Cougar
via: Bangshift

4. 1971 Mercury Cougar

The 1971 Mercury Cougar was a far cry from the spectacular first generation. The original Cougar was based on the Mustang. The car had an exceptional showing. But when the second generation hit, it was a mere shadow of its former self. The 1971 Mercury Cougar was quite large, which didn’t help given the fact gas prices were exorbitant at this time. There were some very nice luxury features incorporated into the car.

Mercury Cougar
via: Bangshift

But when you took a full look at the 1971 Mercury Cougar, it was just lacking in terms of performance. The boat-like ride was a major letdown for many consumers who drove the first generation of the car. We’re not sure what made Ford change the direction of the Cougar, but it was the wrong choice.

Dodge Dart Demon
via: Bang Shift

3. 1972 Dodge Dart Demon

When consumers first laid eyes on the 1972 Dodge Dart Demon, it was a series of mixed emotions. The car had a lackluster showing when it came to performance. EPA regulations kept the car from being able to display any semblance of power. Dodge also went for cheap and lightweight design.

Dodge Dart Demon
via: Hot Rod

The interior pieces would routinely fall off, and the price was high for something that really didn’t perform well or offer good mileage. The 1972 Dodge Dart Demon is a sad piece of Chrysler history and one drivers don’t want to look back on.

1971 Valient Charger
via: Blogspot

2. 1971 Valiant Charger

Despite the common practice of sharing nameplaates, he 1971 Valiant Charger was not at all in the same boat as the Dodge Charger. In fact, it was lacking in a lot of aspects that made it a far cry from the Dodge version. The underpowered engine made the car boring to drive, and its oval styling was cheap and lightweight. Chrysler really didn’t have anything special to offer with this one.

1971 Valient Charger
via: Blogspot

The 1971 Valiant Charger has recently been circulating in the automotive resale circle. But the prices are more then the car is worth. These Valiants were poor in terms of performance and even more lackluster when you sat inside.

via: YouTube

1. 1970s Mercury Cyclone GT

The Mercury brand was in transition around this time because of the rapidly changing landscape in the automotive industry. Ford was positioning Mercury as a brand similar to Buick. The Cyclone GT was a personal luxury coupe that offered a decent amount of features. But the total package was a disappointment when you compared it to other personal luxury coupes available, such as the Monte Carlo.

via: Vintage Cars For Sale

Power was lackluster and the car was terribly heavy, which made performance mediocre at best. Mercury was never known for its outstanding performance, but the brand did have a few cars that would smoke the tires. The Cyclone GT was a disappointment for diehard Mercury fans who had faith in the brand. You rarely see one of these on the road anymore, and there’s a good reason for that.

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