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SPORTS CARS OF THE '70s

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  • lemmerlemmer Posts: 2,676
    I have a partial answer to your question - Circa 1987 a friend and I simultaneously test drove a '75 Corvette with an automatic versus a '79 280ZX with a five speed. We drag raced away from a traffic light to around 80 mph. To our dismay, the Corvette was the clear winner.

    The 280 was arguably still a better sports/gt car.
  • kyfdx@Edmundskyfdx@Edmunds Posts: 25,970
    '79 was the first 280ZX.. ugh..

    I also like the C3 Vette, up until '73, which was the last year for the chrome rear bumper... not so much, after that..

    Moderator - Prices Paid, Lease Questions, SUVs

  • graphicguygraphicguy SW OhioPosts: 6,926
    It's really me, lemmer......GG!

    -forgot about those early 240Zs. Revolutionary. But, weren't the other iterations of '70s Z cars less than sterline (thinking the 260z, here)
    -RX7....no debate
    -Posche's....can't comment. I never drove anything but a 928. But, that was about 10 years ago. Very nice sports car, though
    -MGBs? I had a '69 MGB-GT. Fun car. Spent every weekend working on it, though. The ones after that had the "BIG BUMPERS", right?
    -Alfas....no opinion. I've seen them, but rarely. Heard the horror stories, though.
    -Fiat...my older sister had an 850 (?) Spider. Road in it. Fun car. Nowhere near reliable if I recollect, however.

    Maybe it's the mid-70s sports cars I'm thinking of. That's when I first started to take an interest in cars (well before I even got a license).
  • andys120andys120 Loudon NHPosts: 16,403
    -forgot about those early 240Zs. Revolutionary. But, weren't the other iterations of '70s Z cars less than sterline (thinking the 260z, here)

    The 260Z was essentially the same as a 240Z, with a little more displacement to compensate for the different carbs required for emmission controls. Smog controls began sapping the performance of nearly every car beginning in 1974.

    -RX7....no debate

    Outstanding car for it's time with plenty of performance and a rev-happy engine that delighted sports car purists.

    -Posche's....can't comment. I never drove anything but a 928. But, that was about 10 years ago. Very nice sports car, though

    The 928 is regarded as a mixed bag. Some think of it as a "German Corvette" but it's size and weight led most to regard it as more of a Gran Turismo than a true sports car like the 911. 911s oif the era suffered from emissions controls and heavy bumpers like everything else but in '76 they got galvanized steel bodies, a significant step forward. Early 70s 911s with the 2.7 motor are considered among the most desirable 911s, especially in Carrera RS form.

    -MGBs? I had a '69 MGB-GT. Fun car. Spent every weekend working on it, though. The ones after that had the "BIG BUMPERS", right?

    By 1969 MG-Bs were obsolescent thanks to the emergence of competitors like the Fiat 124 Sport and the Datsun 240Z but yes, they were fun, tossable and delightful to drive. The Triumph TR-6 with it's body-on-frame construction was even more obsolescent but the silky six was very nice. Big bumpers and revised ride heights ruined both cars in '74.

    -Alfas....no opinion. I've seen them, but rarely. Heard the horror stories, though.

    Early 70s Alfas included some highly desirable cars, my personal favorite being the GTV 1750/2000. Not a true Sports car with it's four seats, it was the very definition of the term Gran Turismo IMO.>
    image

    -Fiat...my older sister had an 850 (?) Spider. Road in it. Fun car. Nowhere near reliable if I recollect, however.

    I bought a 124 Sport Spider 1608 new in '71 and drove it thru 77K miles until 1979 it was no more problematic than any 1970s automobile with rust being the worst problem (cheap Russian steel!). I can't think of many affordable '70s cars I'd rather have. By the end of the decade they were ruined by big bumpers and jacked up suspensions to meet headlight height requirements.

    Maybe it's the mid-70s sports cars I'm thinking of. That's when I first started to take an interest in cars (well before I even got a license).

    Yep, it was all over after '73 thanks to the regulations on emissions and crash-worthiness. '70-73MY sports and GT cars were often quite nice.
  • I think people confuse Alfas with Fiats. Back in the early 70s, they were much more distinctly their own car and a much better-built automobile than a Fiat. Also Alfas were enthusiastically raced in SCCA in the early 70s, beating the snot out of much more powerful and expensive cars. Of course, these were specialty built race cars, not showroom cars.

    Next to an MGB, an Alfa of that era is like a machine landing from another galaxy, built by an advanced civilization.
  • andys120andys120 Loudon NHPosts: 16,403
    Every now and then I get a yen for one of those beautiful 230/250/280SLs, some are actually priced within reason considering they represent a generation of Benzes that were considered the best-made cars in the world and the styling IMO is truly elegant.

    I wonder if Shifty or anyone who has driven one could tell me if they feel as ponderous as my Dad's old '72 Mercedes 240 sedan? If I thought they were nice to drive I might seriously consider a Pagoda.
  • MrShift@EdmundsMrShift@Edmunds Posts: 43,699
    I used to own one, and have driven quite a few.

    The 230/250/280 SLs are...well...very feminine in how they drive and feel. The shift lever is delicate, the power steering is light, with a HUGE steering wheel, poofy seats, tiny little control knobs. This is not a Cobra or a Sunbeam Tiger, that's for sure.

    They handle quite well and if you remember to drive them as the engineers intended, quite lively in performance for a 2.8L. But you have to wind the hell out of them to get excited.

    Alas most of the time we see them driven very leisurely by lovely women in big straw hats.

    Me myself---I'd prefer a stripped down 230SL with a stickshift. Although smaller in displacement, they are lighter in weight than their 280SL brethren, hence just as "fast".

    The AC totally sucks as you would expect from a 70s German car. The build quality is superb.

    One thing to watch out for is that someone didn't put a cylinder head from a 280 sedan on it. The head surfaces corroded on these cars, and the sedan head was a quick substitute. Also many of the body panels are coded to the VIN number.

    Some colors cause a loss of value, like Brown, Mauve, Beige and Black. Silver looks great, and so does White oddly enough. Red is okay, BRG is very nice, my favorite.
  • andys120andys120 Loudon NHPosts: 16,403
    edited April 2010
    But you have to wind the hell out of them to get excited.

    Then it's my kind of car! the motor in my Dad's old Benz didn't care to rev very much.

    Unfortunately, I need to get an Automatic, my left side limbs don't work well. Have you driven an A/T W113? Any particular ergonomic problems aside from the tiny controls? The throttle on my Dad's car had a hellaciously strong return spring so that it was an effort to hold the pedal to the metal?

    I'd love a nice dark brown, BRG or Navy Blue example. IMO silver is a cliche on a German car, white I don't like on any sports car; Black Red would be Okay.

    Price ranges for a good 280SL w A/T?

    Thanks for your help Shifty.
  • fintailfintail Posts: 32,943
    I am pretty sure 113s, at least the earlier ones, have the same auto as my fintail. It's a very solid unit with low failure rates, but it is weird. Fluid coupling for clunky downshifts, 4 speed with 2nd gear start, early upshifts. You'd probably end up wanting to shift it yourself now and then as I do, you can squeeze out some more speed that way. I think all MB of that era had hard throttles...every MB I have ever driven has had a stiffer pedal than a normal car.

    From what I can tell, probably something like half of earlier cars, 230SLs especially, were white. Colors became more diverse as the years passed.

    I know a good driver 230SL can be had for no more than 20K, I think a 280 does carry a good premium, maybe 25% or so.
  • MrShift@EdmundsMrShift@Edmunds Posts: 43,699
    edited January 2007
    I think fintail pretty much summarized the automatic transmission---the shift lever is this spindly little thing and if you shift it manually (which I also recommend) you feel like you're going to break it off---but you won't.

    I'll second guess The Fin and say that really decent 280SLs that are nice drivers without major problems (certainly not show cars however) start at around $30K these days, and run up to $80,000 for super nice ones that have been restored. They get real ratty under $20K.

    A 230SL is, IMO, a better buy all around, but less likely to find an automatic, and more likely to be a European car. Most 280SLs are automatic, the vast majority and most are Federalized cars, which is good.

    Most come with hardtops, which weigh about as much as the car itself and require two sturdy people to install---hence, if you find a car without a hardtop, you can pay less for it. Most people who use the hardtop put it on in September and take it off in April. It's a real pain to lift, store, etc. A pulley system helps.

    Gear ratios and differential benefit acceleration, not highway cruising, so at 70 mph the engine sounds really busy. This can be annoying to some.
  • andys120andys120 Loudon NHPosts: 16,403
    Thanks, Fin and Shifty. From what you are saying it looks like I ought to find one to drive and see if I like it.
  • MrShift@EdmundsMrShift@Edmunds Posts: 43,699
    You'll be impressed with how solid they are for convertibles.
  • texasestexases Posts: 5,424
    edited April 2010
    "Most come with hardtops, which weigh about as much as the car itself and require two sturdy people to install"

    So that's why I was always seeing these in car accessory catalogs:
    image
  • andys120andys120 Loudon NHPosts: 16,403
    You'll be impressed with how solid they are for convertibles.

    I recall reading that the first place to look for rust is behind the headlights, esp. at the top of the fender, Anyplace else?
  • fintailfintail Posts: 32,943
    edited April 2010
    If it's anything like a fintail - which in a way I think it is - floors, rear fenders, and trunk. But, a lot of these cars have lived relatively sheltered lives, so they survive pretty well.

    I know of someone who, a couple years back, bought a nice looking driver quality 230SL, old but nice repaint, I think white on blue (the most popular combo in 64-65 I would bet) for around 16K. It had both tops and a good Becker radio too.
  • MrShift@EdmundsMrShift@Edmunds Posts: 43,699
    Prices are all over the place on these, but the minute there's anything shabby on the car the price drops a lot. So faded paint, a rip in the top, a good dent or two, and price guides go out the window. (I just described $12,000 in repairs).
  • fintailfintail Posts: 32,943
    This car was a non-original color repaint, I think that damaged values a little, as the dash wasn't painted the same as the body.
  • andys120andys120 Loudon NHPosts: 16,403
    This car was a non-original color repaint, I think that damaged values a little, as the dash wasn't painted the same as the body.

    Yep, the dashes were metal and chrome and the metal should match the body color
    as should the centers of the wheel covers. I think it makes the car look less original iof the wheel covers are all chrome.
  • fintailfintail Posts: 32,943
    Yeah, people do that to fintails all the time. I think the body colored wheel covers are a nice touch, people always seem to comment on them on my car.

    The last 280SLs could be ordered with bundt wheels I think.
  • andys120andys120 Loudon NHPosts: 16,403
    Yep, I think the Bundts were pretty rare but I actually prefer the color matching covers.
This discussion has been closed.