Ed Driscoll

There Is No Hell, There Is Only The 1970s--And Its Cars

This Amazon.com Automotive Editors’ Blog post is the equivalent of the Greenwich Village art & heroin crowd’s love for Manhattan in the Death Wish/Taxi Driver era: they know the 1970s sucked like the proverbial Hoover–and yet they can’t help but want to relive it:

Many 1970s American cars are empirically bad – slow, inefficient, overstyled, under-engineered – but they are still interesting. Most people read history in books or watch it on TV; 1970s cars are rolling history, imbued with the spirit of both the people who design them and the people that use them.

Take, say, the Pinto. Not a great car. In fact, many people think it was one of the worst cars of the 1970s. Somewhere, three decades ago, a designer proudly unveiled it to the bosses at Ford; workers spent their waking hours building it. Young families bought Pintos, showed Pintos off to their friends, washed Pintos in their driveways, drove their babies home from the hospital in Pintos. Some of you drove Pintos; some of your parents or grandparents drove Pintos. Pintos were on TV, in movies, in magazines and newspapers.

The Pinto is part of the fabric of our history. Drive one today, and you can share that. The sloppy suspension, the awkward styling, the tractor-like engine; these place you bodily back in the 1970s. You experience exactly what drivers experienced in the 1970s. The realities of the OPEC difficulties, the emissions crackdown, the priorities of Americans in the 1970s–these are all reflected in the Pinto, frozen in sheetmetal and glass.

There’s a much cheaper way to relive the aesthetic hell of the 1970s–and it’s far less flammable, too.

Update: The American cars of the “naughts” have their issues as well, needless to say.