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StartcarsThese five cars perfectly explain the '70s

These five cars perfectly explain the '70s

The eighth decade of the 20th century marked the end of the Swinging Sixties, with many things from the 1960s going out of style or simply evolving into something else. For example, Paul McCartney released a press release in April 1970 stating that he is no longer a Beatle. A year later, the bassist formed Paul McCartney and Wings.

Much bigger headlines from this era include the Anti-War Movement versus the Vietnam War, the Post-Civil Rights Movement replacing the Civil Rights Movement, the Gay Liberation Movement, plus a political scandal that shook America to its core.

Watergate is a watershed moment in modern history, with many major scandals after being given the “gate” suffix.

The Dieselgate scandal comes to mind, a mistake that led the Volkswagen Group to abandon its turbodiesel ambitions in favor of all-electric vehicles.

This decade of the 70's was bad for many countries aligned with the Soviet Union, but, unfortunately, the West was not in a good phase either.

High inflation, slow economic growth and high unemployment epitomize stagflation, which turned Keynesian macroeconomic theory on its head.

On the bright side, the 1970s saw Steve Jobs and the other Steve create the company with the bitten apple logo, Space Invaders ushered in the golden age of arcade gaming, and the jumbo Boeing 747 revolutionized commercial flying.

How can we sum up the 1970s in five cars? As difficult as it seems at first glance, it's not exactly difficult, considering how many decade-defining moments we have to choose from.

Check out the 5 cars that explain historical contexts of the 70s:

1. Porsche 930 Turbo: Turbochargers becoming popular

The turbocharger was born in 1905 in the form of a patent, with the first prototype completed in 1915 for aircraft engines rather than car engines.

The Oldsmobile Jetfire and 1962 Chevrolet Corvair Monza are considered turbocharging pioneers, although Porsche did more to popularize turbos in the 1970s with the 930.

The 911 sales brochure lists this Neunelfer variant as the Turbo Carrera. Offered between 1975 and 1977 with a 3.0 liter boxer in less than 3,000 examples, the 930 was fitted with a slightly larger engine in 1978.

Production eventually stopped in 1989 when the Model G (911s from 1973 to 1989) was introduced, retired in favor of the significantly improved 964.

In addition to the significant advances over the technology of the 1960s, turbocharging entered the mainstream in the 1970s due to a few other reasons.

For starters, the 1973 oil crisis and subsequent events forced many automakers to consider forced induction to make their engines more efficient.

But more importantly, the Environmental Protection Agency gradually reduced lead levels in US gasoline and required that passenger vehicles be equipped with catalytic converters starting in the 1975 model year, resulting in the dreaded Era Malaise.

2. Dodge Omni: The Oil Crisis in the 70's


The Omni and Plymouth-branded Horizon introduced Chrysler's L-platform, a front-wheel-drive architecture with loose connections to a 1960s French economy car.

The Dodge Omni and Plymouth Horizon were born as a result of the first oil crisis. The first American-built FWD economy cars helped popularize this layout in the United States of America, where monocoque vehicles generally have front-wheel drive to this day.

Chrysler did not receive the criticism it deserved for taking inspiration from the Volkswagen Rabbit (aka the Golf Mk1) of the era. Although the Omni and Horizon are not collectibles, these five-door hatchbacks helped Chrysler survive an extremely difficult period for America's third-largest automaker of the Big Three in Detroit.

The oil shock of 1973 also proved that the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries is driven by profit and something else a little more worrying.

This other factor forced Nixon and subsequent administrations to rely less and less on OPEC-supplied oil. US crude oil exports averaged 3.6 million barrels per day in 2022, and the world's most powerful economy is expected to become a net exporter in 2023.

3. Ford Mustang II: The Malaise Era

The start of the 1974 model year in the fall of 1973 marked the end of the muscle car and the beginning of the Malaise Era.

The federally mandated bumpers of that period might not be to a car enthusiast's liking, but restrictive exhaust systems, lower compression ratios, and retarded ignition timing completely turned car enthusiasts away from all things four-wheeled. .

The national speed limit of 55 mph (almost 89 km/h) didn't help either.

It's funny that Germany produced a plethora of performance-oriented machines during the latter part of the 1970s when the American automotive industry was at its lowest point.

As fate would have it, technological advances such as electronic fuel injection led to the slow but steady end of the Malaise Era. The three-way cat and oxygen sensor also helped with this.

One of the most offensive machines of that depressive period is the Mustang II King Cobra, like the 1978 model pictured above, one of about 4,300 units equipped with the King Cobra package that year.

Known for sharing its foundations with the Pinto, the Mustang II could be had with a 139 horsepower V8 engine in 1978.

4. R107 Mercedes SL: Women's rights gain momentum

The Nineteenth Amendment gave women the right to vote in 1920. Nearly five decades after its passage, approximately 50,000 women gathered on Fifth Avenue in New York City for the Women's Equality Strike March.

One of the most defining moments for women's rights in the 1970s was Roe v. Wade in 1973, a lawsuit that resulted in the Supreme Court ruling granting women the right to have an abortion.

Feminism really took off in the 1970s, and strong female characters were often featured on the small and big screens. Lynda Carter as Diana Prince in the 1975 to 1979 television series and Wonder Woman comes to mind, a symbol of female strength, resilience and courage.

Lynda Carter has driven many vehicles in her roles as Diana Prince and Wonder Woman, both of which are elegant. What made the most impression was the Mercedes-Benz 450 SL of the R107 generation.

5. La Dalat: The Fall of Saigon

The United States had a lot to resolve internally after the 1973 oil crisis. The Watergate scandal forced Nixon to resign in August 1974.

With Gerald Ford presiding over America's worst economy since the Great Depression, the Politburo of the Communist Party of Vietnam felt emboldened to expel what was left of the ARVN and American forces from South Vietnam.

They did this with a major offensive in March 1975, with South Vietnam's second largest city, Da Nang, easily falling to communist forces in the north.

The fall of Saigon on April 30, 1975 was preceded by the largest helicopter evacuation in history. Available footage of that disgraceful moment for the United States of America includes a plethora of square vehicles on the streets of Saigon that are not American military jeeps.

Enter La Dalat, which is a Citroen in everything but the name. Built around the A-series platform of the 2CV and the Mehari, the La Dalat only lasted five years in series production.

The first civilian vehicle to be mass-produced in Vietnam went into production with a 25:75 ratio of localized parts. In 1975, when the final example of the model rolled off the Saigon Automobile Company assembly line, the ratio increased to 40:60.

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