There are certain things that define a period in time and, alongside fashion, cars are one of the big ones.
In this series, we’re looking at the cars that really stood out from around the world from the 1950s to the 1990s. The 1970s were a decade of change as the optimism of the 1950s and 1960s started to cool somewhat.
In the car world it saw a shift – while big, fuel-guzzling cars were in fashion to begin with, the global oil crisis kick-started a need for smaller, more fuel-efficient motors. It led to a huge range of cars going on sale, some of which we look at here and some of which got it spot on to become classics that are sought after today.
If you’re in the market for a 1970s classic, check out our for sale section.
As a British car that typifies the 1970s, the Jensen Interceptor is it.
It conjures up images of the best and worst of fashion and culture at the time, the kind of car that you’d likely see crop up in gritty police dramas on the TV. It was a GT sports car and was built by Jensen in West Bromwich between 1966 and 1976.
Tellingly, though, the body had some Italian pizazz, being, as it was, designed by Carrozzeria Touring of Italy, which was probably a good move by Jensen. Early bodies were even built in Italy before production was brought in-house.
The Interceptor had style and desirability, but it also had power, with three variants of a mighty V8 available – 5.9L, 6.3L and 7.2L – over its lifetime.
These days you can have a useable version for around £8,000, which isn’t bad at all – at the other end of the scale, you can pay £50,000 or more for a minter.
This one was to become a real legend and a name that lasted for three decades. Ford of Britain introduced the Mark I Escort in 1968, replacing the much-loved Anglia.
It tapped into the needs of the time – small, practical, economical, smart-looking and good to drive. And that made it a commercial success around Europe and not least in the UK. By 1974 it had sold two million, becoming Ford’s biggest-selling car outside of the USA – 60 per cent of those were built in Britain, too.
The Escort was also a big success in motorsport, particularly in rallying, which cemented its reputation and its iconic status today.
Examples can be had on today’s market for as little as £6,000, but expect to pay nearer £20,000 for concours examples.
Fiat 124 Spider
Made throughout the 1970s, the Fiat 124 Spider was Italy’s take on a sports car for that decade. Typically good-looking and lithe, it was a 2+2 convertible that was light and relied on relatively small engines to power its feel-good fun, something that played perfectly when the oil crisis hit.
Over its life engines ranged from a 1.4 to a 1.9, tapping into the fun, simple, sports car vibe – front-engined and rear-drive. And now Fiat has brought the 124 name back for its new sports car – it’s first in quite some years – using the Mazda MX-5 platform.
Values now are anywhere between £8,000 and £30,000.
Before it became somewhat of a laughing stock later in life, Rover made some very good cars and the 3500 was one of them. Part of the P6 series, the 3500 was so-called thanks to its 3.5L V8 engine.
It’s a legend of an engine, for a start, having seen use in everything from this car to the MGB and the original Range Rover. Rover saw the Buick V8 engine as a way to differentiate the P6 from its rival, the Triumph 2000.
The engine was an innovator of its time, being made from aluminium, and it was a big hit with buyers. It meant that the 3500 – not a small or light saloon car by any means – hauled itself to 60mph in 10.5 seconds and on to 114mph. The ‘S’ version, which had a synchromesh gearbox, got that 60mph time down to just nine seconds.
While you can have a smaller-engined P6 for £2,000 or less, the 3500 goes for quite a bit more, with values at around £7,000 for starters.
The BMW 2002 was a car that was big for the German marque. It was one of those compact saloons that caught the attention of the enthusiasts.
It was born out of an internal modification, with two of BMW’s top bods installing a two-litre engine in the 1600-2 for their own use. When they realised that they’d both done the same thing, they put it to the board, while, at the same time, the American importer for the manufacturer was asking for a sporting version of the 02 series to sell across the pond.
It was sold in two versions, a 101hp with a single carburettor and an 119hp tune with a dual-carburettor. There was later a fuel-injected version that produced 130hp, for a top speed of 115mph.
Launched in 1973, the 2002 Turbo was the one that really caught the imagination, with 170hp under the bonnet. The timing wasn’t ideal, though, coming as it did just before the fuel crisis, meaning that only 1,672 were built, making it highly desirable today.
Prices today begin at around £10,000 and can go to four or five times that.