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Yes, 1976.
Sometimes, I miss it a lot. What do we really need that wasn’t there back in 1976.
Cars were big a quiet, gas was still almost cheap. And these giants looked like no other cars anywhere.
American cars were not afraid of looking, well.. American.
Their looks were closer to architectural designs that car designs. Almost evetything was vertical.
Looks at these grilles and fenders!

And they came with weird and wonderfull words like, velour, landau and vinyl top, opera windows, brougham and the best of all: Corinthian Leather!

Here are some examples of over the top designs from 1976. Except for the few sensible Japanese designs.
American car makers were just starting to be out of touch with what people really wanted: smaller and more reliable cars.

But still, they looked great in cop shows!

Do you have any good stories about these cars????
I know I don’t. I didn’t drive in 1976…

Conversation 11 comments

  1. Most of the cars posted were variations of early 1971-1972 designs. And they were indeed wonderful interstate cruisers. When you say the Detroit makers were out of touch, remember those Detroit cars were designed in the late 1960’s. For example, the Cadillac DeVille shown was a reworked 1971 model.

    Let me speculate: Fresh in the minds of auto designers and executives were the 1967 riots in Detroit, Vietnam and the Cold War. Directives for size/styling could have been for vehicles that would look safe in a dangerous world (sound familiar for SUV’s?). Most Detroit suburbs then only extended 25-30 miles out, and many auto-types lived closer to work than that. And 1969 Detroit rush hour traffic was slowish, but nothing like big Eastern cities or LA. Thus fuel economy at the time was not the concern it would have been in LA or for the Japanese. And while most 1969 cars cost about the same to produce except for a little more steel, big cars had higher prices.
    Thus safe appearing big cars became the norm from Detroit in 1971 (restyled to 1976+).

    I guess the architectural themes were related to trying to make the cars have cues with the 1930’s (and other early) cars. Stylists had to please their bosses, and in many cases those boses wanted the cars to have cues to remind them of cars of their youth, perhaps 1930-40’s. Thus, the retro-yet-modern, in a Detroit-way, looks.

    Yes I live there but not woking for the auto biz.

  2. Very well said!
    And I think there was a kind of obsession with designing cars that looked more expensive than they were.
    Remember the ads for the LTD, claiming (I’m sure they were actually right) that the Ford was indeed quiter than a Rolls Royce.

  3. yeah, but those car handled as badly as they looked and were built with coke cans rattling around inside the doors. I hate the way when u see a car like that go round a corner or over a bump the suspension shakes and shudders for hours!

  4. If you like “vetical” styling, then the Chrysler 300 is right up your alley. You are evidently not alone,if the success of this car is any guide.

  5. I think the Chrysler 300 is a caticature of a 70’s car.
    This is now a fully German company. And the 300 looks to me like what Germans think an American car should look like. Just like the Rover 75 looks like a caricature of a British car.

    I didn’t like the 300 at all when it came out. But it has grown on me. Except the interior still looks too simple and cheap for a large car.

    And the combination of small windows and oversized grille tends to give it a bit of an obnoxious personality, like an SUV.

  6. Thanks for the look back. Our family had a Volare, which I would almost say was the worst car ever (the body rusted off the frame!), but the Vega we had (our engine melted and the body was all rust after a few years) takes that prize.

    You know what? I sometimes feel that designers in US companies secretly still want to design stuff that looks like that. You know, somewhere in the bowels of GM, a senior designer is going, “What the hell is wrong with people. What do they see in these M45’s and SL’s? It never got better than horizontal speedometers and tufted velour seats. But, damn it, they tell me to put the shifter on the center console, fine, I’ll do it… But no one’s gonna get me to move that parking brake pedal off the floor, where G*d intended!”

  7. Vince, a shrewd choice of year… I agree with your suggestion that 1976 was the turning point when US automakers began to fumble the ball. All of the cars pictured (except the Toyotas) are clunky beasts with obsolete engineering and badly-executed emissions equipment. The Volare is a great case in point: in 1976 it replaced the Dart/Valiant, by any standard a better car. The American cars just got worse and worse as the 70s continued… I also agree, the Chrysler 300 is a pathetic throwback to the gaudy styling and bunker mentality (described my the first poster) of the 1970s.

  8. I remember the 76 Toyota, Being shoved in the back seat with my 2 siblings. Your nees in your you face.
    There was about a 1/2 inch of space between the back of the front seat, and the back seat.
    When we finally got the 1978 Dodge Omni that replaced this car it felt like riding in a limo!!!
    I still have nightmares about that stupid little Toyota.

  9. My dad bought his second Porsche. A 1976 911S red/black Targa. One good thing about 1976, it was the first car to use galvinized metal (only the lower half) to stop rust. Also first and only Magnesium block. 30 years later Porsche,BMW and others are using Magnesium again.

    I still have the car!

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