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The 1970s A Cleaner Style

I’d sooner die than imitate other people . . . That’s why we had to work so hard, because we didn’t imitate.”


The 1970s was as turbulent for the car industry as it was for society and the world economy at large. With fuel prices subject to wild fluctuations, manufacturers of fast and powerful cars faced a rocky road. In the US the muscle-car era ended abruptly, while in Italy Maserati struggled, and its rival Iso vanished entirely. The UK’s Jensen went out of business, but Rolls-Royce and Jaguar managed to survive.

However, the early 1970s did see some iconic high-performance, wedge-shaped supercars come to life. For example, the mid-engined Lamborghini Countach and Ferrari Berlinetta Boxer both offered excellent handling and aerodynamism. Japanese companies such as Toyota, Datsun, Honda, and Mazda produced mass-market cars whose reliability and specifications were revelatory. Europe fought back with design brilliance: the Renault 5 defined the popular supermini breed, while the Volkswagen Golf proved a watershed in versatile family motoring.

Declining air quality in big cities and all over California forced car-makers into a new environmental awareness and impelled engineers to strive for lower emissions and improved fuel economy. Meanwhile, Volvo hit on a totally new selling point: safety. Seatbelts, crumple zones, and padded interiors were a prelude to airbags and antilock brakes.

While the development of alternative fuels—particularly electricity—was a hot topic, a new generation of quieter and more efficient diesel engines proved the most practical innovation. Turbochargers were soon added to these, just as they had been to petrol-engined cars, in an effort to boost performance without the need for massive extra cubic capacity.

Key events

> 1970 British Leyland launches 4×4 Range Rover and the convertible Triumph Stag.

> 1970 Russian firm VAZ builds its first Fiat 124-based Lada car.

> 1970 The Citroen SM is built as a collaboration between the French car-maker and Italy’s Maserati.

> 1971 Lamborghini Countach show car is revealed

> 1972 The 15,007,034th VW Beetle is built and overtakes the Ford Model T as bestselling car ever.

>1972 The Honda Civic and Renault 5 start the market for economical and versatile superminis.

> 1973 Ford responds to the worldwide oil crisis with its drastically smaller personal car, the Mustang II.

> 1974 The first Volkswagen Golf comes off the Wolfsburg production line; the Golf GTI arrives a year later.

>1975 Jaguar launches its successor to the E-type, the XJ-S grand tourer.

> 1976 Jensen Motors declares bankruptcy.

> 1978 The front-engined Porsche 928 becomes the only sports car ever to win European Car of the Year.

> 1978 Mazda demonstrates its renewed faith in rotary engines with the launch of the RX7 sports car.


It is a quote. The Classic Car Book – The Definitive Visual History 2016

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