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SPORTS CARS OF THE '70s

hpmctorquehpmctorque Posts: 4,600
edited March 2014 in Datsun
Okay, the '70s wasn't a good decade for sports cars, but a few, like the Datsun 240Z, were good. Others, even from the same manufacturer, as was the case with Datsun's 260, weren't. As the decade progressed, it's interesting to consider how various makes and models coped with the ever tightening emissions and safety regulations.

Let's talk about the good ones, the decent ones, and the awful ones.
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Comments

  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,482
    It's a painful era to trace, for the sports car lover. It started off in grand fashion but by 1979 we had to witness the death of the British sports car industry and the total humiliation of the Corvette into a car that STILL nobody wants.

    It's kind of fascinating...you can almost draw a line at 1975 between "good" and "bad".
  • fintailfintail Posts: 52,628
    So does this mean a TR7 isn't a great car?

    RX-7 came out in 1979 I think...that wasn't so bad.
  • hpmctorquehpmctorque Posts: 4,600
    ...the Datsun/Nissan 280Z was exciting. Oh sure, not today, but back then, yes, even though the swapping of sport for comfort was regretable to those who were unhappy to see the original sports car transformed into a sporty boulevard cruiser. And while the 280's value proposition may not have been as appealing as the 240's, it was still a solid value.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,482
    Hard car for me to love, the 280Z, and not much loved by collectors either. Basically it is viewed by some as a bastardization of a pure form into a bit of a slug.

    But you are right, it's a good value for how little you have to pay for one today. Trick is to find one that hasn't been run to death by owners who couldn't afford to take care of them.
  • hpmctorquehpmctorque Posts: 4,600
    "Hard car for me to love..."

    My thinking on this is that the 240 set people up for a disappointment, and that memories and regard for the 240 undermine the value of the 280. Consequently, if the 280 had been the first generation Z car, it would be held in higher regard today, just as the first generation 4-seater T-Bird would be. Why? Because, despite the fact that they're little more than used cars today, the 280 and the
    Square Bird were innovative and popular in their day. Today they'd be viewed as positively differentiated, whereas their more highly regarded predecessors are more unique.

    "Trick is to find one that hasn't been run to death by owners who couldn't afford to take care of them."

    True. Also, Nissan doesn't support its older models with new parts the way BMW, Mercedes and GM (with its muscle cars) do. That may be true of most or all Japanese manufacturers. Stocking new parts for older models helps the image and value of the brand, but apparently the Japanese manufacturers are more focused on the disposal and replacement of their old cars than in nurturing heritage. Oh well, that's a topic for another discussion.
  • hpmctorquehpmctorque Posts: 4,600
    "It's a painful era to trace, for the sports car lover. It started off in grand fashion but..."

    Shifty, could you elaborate on which models qualified as "grand fashion" examples. I presume the '70-72 Alfa and Fiat spyders, Datsun 240Z, and perhaps certain Porsches might be among the non exotics you might list.

    Acknowledging that the (roughly) '73-'82 decade represented the nadir (or Nader?) for sports cars, which are the least bad examples, and how did these compare with their counterparts from the '50s and '60s?
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,482
    Well if you start with 1975, the first really "bad" year for sports cars, you still have a few decent candidates:

    I'm only trying to include cars that can really be driven as a sports car, and which aren't total mechanical disasters that make ownership onerous.

    TR6--the 1973 and earlier cars are far prettier, but the 74-76s are the same mechanically.

    Mazda RX7 1979-82

    Porsche 914 1975-76

    Jensen Healey 1975 if you can stand to look at it.

    Porsche SC 1978-83 (great cars!)

    BMW 2002 75-76 -- bog slow and heavy but still fun and you can modify them.

    If you include 1974, the Alfa Spider, Saab Sonnett, Volvo P1800ES, Lotus Europa, Fiat 124 Spyder and the last "real" MGB come to mind.

    also the Fiat X1/9, while a piece of crap in build quality, is a really fun car to drive for peanuts.
  • jrosasmcjrosasmc Posts: 1,711
    Would you personally buy an Alfa Spider from 1976-81 (the last of the Spica-injected cars)?

    Oh yeah how about mid-70s Toyota Celicas- would you consider them to be true bona fide sports cars?
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,482
    Sure, nothing wrong with the Spica cars as long as you can find someone who knows how to set them up properly. Once tuned right and dialed in, the Spica cars actually perform better than the later Bosch-injected ones. However, I don't think I'd SEEK OUT a Spica car per se. I'd rather run an Alfa with carburetors and be done with it.

    No Celicas aren't sports cars in any way...they are incredibly boring to drive and they handle like mush. A Japanese appliance...albeit a very good appliance.
  • hpmctorquehpmctorque Posts: 4,600
    Saab Sonnett? Really? I'm surprised you included it because, while it may have been an interesting car, and Saab's only attempt at building a sports car, from what I've read it wasn't a good car. However, I suppose that, just as the Fiat X1/9 was fun, but not good, so too the Sonnett may have been fun.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,482
    Well the last Sonnett, Series III I think it was, had a more pleasing shape and was pretty competent as a sports car, if you could excuse the FWD I mean. True they suffered the fate of all Saabs (lousy transmissions) but for a low buck two seater with a distinctive look, hey, why not? With MGAs and Bs pushing 20K they are starting to look more attractive to the average guy on a budget.
  • We have a Sonnet floating around the autogroup some where in the classic car collection.

    Not sure what type or year it is though. It seems like a good little car.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,482
    Well it has the typical Saab foibles...weak transmission, torque steer and in the case of the very early Saabs, a rather raucous V-4 engine that is not particularly pleasant to listen to. I always thought a Sonnett III with the Ford Cologne V-6 2.8L would have been an interesting car.

    But it was rugged like old Saabs were...you could beat the crap out of them and drive them on railroad tracks all day if you wanted. And unlike British sports cars, they had heaters that WORKED!
  • I would hope the heaters worked in any old SAABs or Volvos...

    How much of Sweden is within 75 miles of the artic circle?

    The heater in our 59 Rover works great if you want your legs burnt and your head frozen... :cry:
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,482
    British cars always amazed me like that...the engine temperature on a cold day would be hot enough to melt steel and yet, just on the other side of the firewall, a mere 6 inches, it was a meat locker.

    Model A Fords used to have a little tin tunnel that you clamped on the exhaust pipe, and it ran like a little mouse labyrinth through the firewall, where you opened a tiny trap door and let the exhaust heat in...and the carbon monoxide, too.

    The British play tennis in the rain, so that explains a lot.
  • Those silly brits... :sick: They could never get AC to work either. I remember a bunch of people who reviewed the Mclaren F1 said that the AC sucked in that car too.

    Ohh and on the 59 Rover only your right leg gets hot the left leg freezes.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,482
    A friend of mine ended up putting a Bedford truck heater in his MGB-GT, and that worked very nicely.
  • hpmctorquehpmctorque Posts: 4,600
    I read that a '71 Hemi Barracuda convert sold for (whew!) $2.2 million at a Phoenix auction last month. While the 'Cuda is a pony car rather than a true sports car, it's close enough to be noteworthy in this discussion. Talk about a bubble! I'd be awfully nervous about having paid that much, if I were the buyer. My advice to him would be to look for another greater fool baby boomer immediately.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,482
    Well that's one of the rarest cars in the world---it's not a good example. They only made 7 (yes SEVEN) of them in 1971 and if it was a 4-speed, they only made 2 or 3 of those.

    This is a case where you have every conceivable desirable option PLUS extreme rarity. So the "supply and demand" equation is skewed way in favor of the seller.

    You want a '71 Hemi Cuda ragtop? You either buy mine for 2.2 million or you wait the rest of your life for another one to show up.

    So in my opinion, while the price is inflated, you're right...still I can at least see some rationale, some human logic, to the price...incredible rarity.

    It's the people paying $100K for clones that makes me shake my head---they are going to get stung big time.

    I bet that '71 will hold its value, even after the coming crash...maybe not quite 2.2 million, but it won't tank.

    7 cars will always be 7 cars, and after the next garage fire, it'll be 6 cars.
  • hpmctorquehpmctorque Posts: 4,600
    It will be interesting to watch what the next of the 7 sells for. I agree that you can't argue with the market, since it's the final arbiter on price. I just have a hard time wrapping my head around $2.2 for 'Cuda, no matter how rare or great it is.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,482
    Oh yeah, well, if you step back and view it with cold reptilean eyes, you have to conclude "Geez, it's a PLYMOUTH!".

    Which is true...that's all it is, and it drives like one.

    Basically at these prices these machines have ceased to be cars any more, they are works of "art", and like other forms of art, they may fall way out of fashion, like large granite busts of Stalin....I don't know....nobody knows....
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 24,367
    of the type of person who would pay $2.2M for a car. I'd imagine it's not your typical Joe Sixpack? Probably a person who would put less thought into spending that money than I do when I go to Burger King and think do I really want to spend an extra 40 cents to get a slice of cheese on my Whopper?

    Heck, if $2.2M suddenly landed in my lap, that would probably be enough to fund my retirement, starting now, at the age of 36! :surprise:
  • fintailfintail Posts: 52,628
    Ha, same here....even at a mere 5% interest you'd be bringing in well over 100K (pre-tax)...quite a bit more than I make now.
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 24,367
    Ha, same here....even at a mere 5% interest you'd be bringing in well over 100K (pre-tax)...quite a bit more than I make now.

    Plus, you wouldn't be paying social security on that interest. And depending on how it's invested, they even tax you lower. I think long-term capital gains are only taxed at like 5-15%, depending on your tax bracket. So just sitting back and collecting that $100K+ interest, you'd still be better off financially than if you had to go out and work for it!

    Honestly I'd have no use for a $2.2M car. I'd be afraid to even sit in the thing, let alone drive it!
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,482
    That kind of person doesn't look at 2.2 mil the way you and I do. For them, 2.2 mil is discretionary income...it's like us writing a check for $5,000 bucks.
  • starrow68starrow68 Posts: 1,142
    It seems lots of the high prices are paid by those with a
    business model that will provide some return, draw traffic
    into a business or provide a display piece that can travel
    and drum up business. Those with money seem to make more
    off joe/sixpack even after spending $2.2M.
    Randy
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,482
    Nah, cars are generally a lousy investment except for the rare and lucky few who hold on for decades (as Warren Buffett would advise).

    Everybody is a genius in a raging bull market.

    Besides, the recent WSJ survey that showed that 14% of all CEO bonus money made by male company officers went to hookers and mistresses suggests that $250,000 Plymouths are sort of in the same category. (Source: The Week Magazine).
  • oregonboyoregonboy Posts: 1,653
    but I really liked these back in the late 70s. (No, I never actually drove one)

    image
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,482
    What's that---the original Scirocco? Actually a fun little car to drive that has a minor following these days. People stuff all kinds of hotrod VW motors into them.
  • kyfdxkyfdx Posts: 179,901
    Oooohhhh.... that was one sweet ride..

    I bought my first new car in '77 and wanted one of those so bad, I could taste it... Funny how $2.30/hr doesn't go very far.. :surprise:

    Did you get a good deal? Be sure to come back and share!

    Edmunds Moderator

  • lemkolemko Philadelphia, PAPosts: 15,306
    ...he actually lusted after the Triumph TR-7!
  • andys120andys120 Loudon NHPosts: 21,736
    That was the only Triumph sports car I never lusted after :P

    2001 BMW 330ci/E46, 2008 BMW 335i conv/E93

  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,482
    There's some guy online here, over in Speed Shop I think, who has a TR-7 and TR-8 and loves them. I guess the TR8 is all hotted up, but I am amazed he keeps the TR-7 running as he does.
  • fintailfintail Posts: 52,628
    I remember when I was a little kid, maybe 5 years old, I really liked the TR-7 coupe, the ugly wedge thing. I recall seeing one on a TV show being driven off a cliff (a good use for one, I now know), and I was upset.
  • oregonboyoregonboy Posts: 1,653
    For your viewing pleasure:

    image

    (sorry) :P james
  • kyfdxkyfdx Posts: 179,901
    "THE SHAPE OF THINGS TO COME"

    Well... sort of.. I guess.. maybe..

    Did you get a good deal? Be sure to come back and share!

    Edmunds Moderator

  • oregonboyoregonboy Posts: 1,653
    I always thought that the convertibles looked better, but that doesn't say much. :sick: Black would look better since the bumpers and trim would blend in, but I couldn't find one. Here's a white drop-top:

    image

    james
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,482
    Ah, the "Cat in Heat" School of Design :cry:
  • fintailfintail Posts: 52,628
    I have no idea what I was seeing.

    Of course, as a little kid I also had a thing for MGs and Triumphs, VW Caddy pickups, along with more normal cars like Porsches and RX7s. I even had an attraction to the Renault Fuego. So maybe I was just a little off. Luckily the MB fixation came along and straightened me out :blush:
  • andys120andys120 Loudon NHPosts: 21,736
    not counting certain very expensive German ones ;)

    image

    My 1971 Fiat 124 Sport Spider looked almost identical to the one in the pic which is the same Positano Yellow. It wasn't a perfect car but it was fun to drive great to look at and listen to (ANSA exhaust) and pretty good on gas.

    You could make an argument that a Porsche 914 or a Datsun 240Z was a better Sportscar but I wouldn't have missed the 124 Sport for anything less than a 911.

    2001 BMW 330ci/E46, 2008 BMW 335i conv/E93

  • kyfdxkyfdx Posts: 179,901
    I guess that comes from being in high school in the '70s...

    It is amazing how much I miss cars from an era when the average car was terrible... I guess that is why the good ones were so memorable.. :)

    Did you get a good deal? Be sure to come back and share!

    Edmunds Moderator

  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,482
    Nice cars the Fiat 124s. A 914 felt primitive in comparison. A 240Z was equally sophisticated but not nearly as much fun as a drop-top.

    Main problem with the 124 was the spooky Italian electrics (somehow the wiring diagram needs a priest to read it properly) and the fact that they aren't easy to work on. But gee, what a nice comfortable ride, decent heater and an oh-so-easy convertible top. They should have made British engineers flip a Fiat top up and down until they "got it".

    People call them "baby Alfas" but really, the Alfa was a much better built automobile.
  • andys120andys120 Loudon NHPosts: 21,736
    People call them "baby Alfas" but really, the Alfa was a much better built automobile.

    That seems unlikely. I don't know much about Alfas but I do know they got their electrics from the same place
    as Fiat, Magnetti Marelli and the Spider bodies were built in the same place, Carozzerria Pininfarina.

    I could see how the Alfas might be better but "much
    better" seems a stretch given the common sourcing .

    2001 BMW 330ci/E46, 2008 BMW 335i conv/E93

  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,482
    You'll have to take my word for it---there's a noticeable difference in fit and finish, and in materials and technolgoy used. Electrics notwithstanding, the Fiat is a piece of tin compared to the Alfa of the times. Junky interior, cheap chrome, lots of stamped out parts. I mean Fiat didn't even get fuel injection until 1981 or so, Alfa used it since circa 1970. They (Alfas) sported leather, bigger brakes and tires, etc. It was an upgrade, no doubt about it.

    I suppose in the late 1980s, the distance between the two got closer, that's true.

    And yes, the electrics were just as crappy until Bosch took over in the electric brain department for Alfa, in around 1981 I think. That solved just about all the problems.
  • oregonboyoregonboy Posts: 1,653
  • andys120andys120 Loudon NHPosts: 21,736
    The Alfa Bertone Cabrio wasn't nearly as popular as either the Bertone coupe or the PF Spider but it looks pretty good from certain angles. I personally like the coupes best but the Giulia Sprints are GTs, not sports cars since they have reasonable back seats.

    At least that's the way we thought about them back in the day.

    2001 BMW 330ci/E46, 2008 BMW 335i conv/E93

  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,482
    The GTV coupes are worth double or triple a common Bertone Spider from the 80s, that's true. They are wonderful cars to drive, the GTVs.

    You can always tell a truly beautiful car because even in a wrecking yard, with all the pieces removed and the body all dull and shabby, the shape is still attractive and interesting to look at. A GTV abandoned on the side of the road still looks great!

    But a Bertone with that ugly whaletail is only partially attractive to my eye, from the windshield forward. In 1990 or 91 they smoothed out the trunk area and it's a prettier car---the marketplace thinks so, too, as the "non-whale tails" fetch far more money. I don't care, however, for that Quadrofoglio cladding business they put on some of them.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,482
    Yes, Pinanfarina. Since we are talking about the 70s, that would be correct!

    I guess the last Bertone Alfa was around 1967 or so? Oh wait, Bertone did the Montreal...I know Pinanfarina did the Duetto, which wasn't all that popular. And of course Touring also did some design, and the factory itself designed the Berlinas...

    Aside from a few obvious home runs, German sports car design leaves me cold.
  • cptchetcocptchetco Posts: 32
    Don't forget the TR-7 someone mentioned. Great car to drive, but lots of problems. Lamborhini, but I never drove one. And, drum roll, didn't the 70's see the Sumbeam Tiger? An exceptional car. Ford 302 and tranny in a light car that was unbelievable in performance. '70 & 71 Cameros, 70-72 Javelines and Mustangs were also damn fast and with great handling for the era.
This discussion has been closed.