The 1970s was an amazing decade for cars. The American muscle car took off, and the interruption of emissions standards took a toll. The oil crisis, Vietnam, bell bottoms and shag carpet all made up a background full of tension. The rides released during this time ran the gamut from cheap, small, commuter cars to vehicles that were an homage to excess. Chrome, vinyl, and faux leather hit the vehicle market. And with them came some of the most expensive cars ever to hit the road. Cadillac, Lamborghini, Pontiac, and Stutz are just a few of the brands that produced amazingly expensive vehicles that captured the public's imagination. Stars across the globe tooled around in fast moving and insanely styled cars that ate gas and growled down the highway.
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Take everything that made 1970s style something you don't want to remember and pack it into a car. If you did, you'd have the Stutz Blackhawk. Shag carpet, gold-plated trim, and custom-engraved plate holders were all part of the package with this luxury sedan. With an MSRP between $22,500-$75,000, it was an extremely expensive ride. That might be why some of the people known for driving one happened to be notable stars like Lucille Ball or George Foreman. Even Elvis Presley took a turn in one of these overly styled cars.
The Pontiac Firebird will live on in American iconography, and it was an amazing car. Featuring a 400-CID V8 engine that delivered a whopping 345-hp, this car was ready to race. It was also surprisingly reasonably priced at $3,370. Of course, today you'll pay closer to $75,000 for the same car. But, it's worth every penny for its growling engine, clean performance, and the shaker scoop that protruded through the hood. It might not have been one of the most expensive cars of the decade, but it was one of the most fun to drive.
The Lamborghini Countach rolled off the production floor as an icon. The earlier concept car had drawn plenty of notice, and when it was finally available in 73, it drew even more eyes. The scissor door and dramatic wedge shape were unlike anything else on the road, and a 200mph top speed was seriously competitive with anything else available to wealthy consumers. With a starting price of $52,000, it wasn't a car for the average joe.
Few cars are more likely to have enthusiasts jumping out of their skins to test drive than something like the Lancia Stratos. It's the holy grail for speed demons everywhere. This rally car was built for racing and trimmed just enough to be street legal before being released to the public. From 0-60 in 7 seconds flat, this was a car known only to those that love fast cars. And, with only 500 planned for production and only 492 actually made, it's a car that's rarely seen and expensive. A recent auction finished at a whopping $475,000.
As the first mid-engine sports car available to consumers, you might have expected the Fiat X1/9 to take the top spot, but the reused and recycled tech puts it pretty far down the list. The X1/9 used the standard 4-speed gearbox, and the engine only delivered 61-hp. The low horsepower was particularly problematic since the car was heavy. Very heavy. About 2,000-lb heavy. All of which combined to create a luxury sports car that was as expensive as a fully featured Mustang without any of the oomph.
Selling 386,000 units, the Ford Mustang II was an instant hit. It was smaller, lighter and less powerful than many of its predecessors, but it hit the market at just the right time. Remember the oil crisis of the '70s? It sure helped Ford sell the Mustang II. While this car still had plenty of get up and go, it was only available in a V4, V6, and a very underpowered V8. Give the people a luxury sports car that doesn't gobble the gas, and they will buy. At least, they will during an oil crisis.
When the Ford Mustang II was selling at just over $4,000, the Aston Martin V8 Vantage rolled off the production floor with a whopping $33,950 MSRP. Of course, it delivered on that price tag with a 40 percent power boost, 10 percent more torque and a 0-60 time of just 5.2 seconds. That's impressive in any decade. While cars today are hitting outrageous numbers like 2.2 seconds, most of them include electric components. Aston Martin did it all with good old fashioned mechanical know how.
If you're looking for iconic America luxury cars, the Cadillac Eldorado is a must. It was big, bold and just begging for some steer horns on the front. Sure, the engine was a 500-cu V8, but it was a comfortable ride. Add in the bright chrome trim, white-walled tires, and the soft top convertible, and you had a car that made its way into practically every movie made during this decade. It was the luxury sedan to own, and at $7,751 it was expensive, but within reach for the middle class.
With a price tag of up to $15,965, the Buick Riviera was a top luxury sedan. It hit the roads at the end of the decade and combined a lot of the features we still look for today. It was lighter weight, making it better on gas, and designers spent more time focused on the comfort of the ride, and less on speed. The low-end price of $2,580 also meant that this car rolled off the lot with a lot of optional hardware at the top end.
Ferrari has always been a name that is synonymous with speed and luxury and nowhere was that truer than with the introduction of the 512 BB. This high-speed addition to the lineup delivered 360bhp with a compression ratio of 9:2:1. Add in the lower front nose, and aggressive look of the four rear tail lights and you had a car practically ready to take off by itself. Today, this classic averages a sale price of $181,800.
The Chrysler Imperial, a luxury sedan like no other, was specifically designed to take on similar models from Cadillac and Lincoln. While it never sold as well as its competition, it still produced a luxury vehicle worth the ride. The Custom, Crown and LeBaron models all made it into the general lexicon of available sedans, with remarkably comfortable seating and plenty of options. The killer for Chrysler was the challenge of separating out the Imperial from the rest of the brand. In the end, the last Imperials rolled out in 1975.
Luxury sedans took a turn during the 1970s. Many brands started sizing down, but not the Lincoln Continental. This behemoth continued to roll at 19 feet long with chrome trim and leather seats. Buyers could choose from one of 23 custom color combinations and drive around with a 460-CID V8 engine. Plenty of power, a smooth ride, and wide seats made the Continental a go-to for those uninterested in downsizing and unworried about the rising cost of gas.
With a base price of $7,897, the Fleetwood was definitely a luxury car. It had all the beauty of a box, but with some shiny chrome trim and a vinyl top. Add in the optional 8-track player for an additional $406, and you were ready to roll. The 472-in. V8 engine powered this larger size car, but only until 1974. Every year after that used the 500-in. V8, making this a changeover year that was worth watching.
The 1973 Mercury Cougar was the last year of this convertible. The 1971 Super Cobra Jet was another big coup for Mercury, but none of these luxury sports cars sold well under the market pressure of the 70s, and the convertible was retired after 73. It was a lighter version of the model, but even with a few pounds shaved off it didn't hit the fuel efficiency of the Mustang II or the luxury market of the Ferrari, leaving it floundering somewhere in the middle.
The Bora was an instant icon. Low slung in the front with a lifted rear and plenty of style; the Bora was exactly what you wanted in a fine-tuned Italian sports car. And, with the Maserati brand, you know it was top of the price list, too. It was a mid-engined 2-seat coupe with a V8 engine and a top speed of 171mph. The average Joe might drool over the pictures of one of these, but at $28,900 it was an expensive option.