The 1970s wasn’t a vintage decade for sports cars in America, but there are American 70s muscle cars you can drive without looking like a down-on-his-luck gigolo.
The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) stopped shipping to the US from October 1973 to Spring 1974 and the relatively short oil crisis had a lasting impact on the whole decade.
At the same time, the public moved to smaller, more efficient cars. Insurance premiums went up for bigger-engined cars and The 1970 Clean Air act called for manufacturers to curb emissions, too. It was almost a perfect storm and the 70s were a time for austerity, not excess.
It’s no coincidence, then, that a lot of the best cars of the decade were there at the start of it, since it was basically all downhill after one glorious, trouble-free year.
The angular, blocky design language of the decade hasn’t aged well, either. Still, there are some diamonds among the rough and here are the best 70s muscle cars that you could still drive today.
1. 1970 Ford Mustang Mach 1
The Ford Mustang will always be the iconic American muscle car, but it really went off the boil during the 1970s. The Second Generation Mustang was unveiled in 1974 and it was a styling nightmare, while the Third Gen in 1979 wasn’t really even a Mustang anymore – it was a donkey.
The good news is that the early cars were a work of art. This is the first generation Ford Mustang, a curvaceous 60s design that just kept going. It’s expensive and you can easily spend $300,000 for a piece of American muscle car folklore if you go for the 7-liter BOSS Mustang 429 V8, or the 100K Ford Mustang BOSS 329.
The Fastback Coupe, pre-1974, is a better option than the convertible. It looks to be one of the more convincing 70s muscle cars. That’s in part due to the Shelby-tuned GT500s that became legends thanks to Gone in 60 Secondsturning ‘Eleanor’ into an icon. Nowadays, there are hundreds of Shelby copies, tributes and modern cars with many times more horsepower than the 335 hp originals.
Here is the Hollywood version, in all its magic, together with a mildly ridiculous stunt to round it off.
Now, the Mach 1 is a very different car, mainly because the performance just doesn’t match up to the looks. If you want to cruise rather than race, however, then this is an epic muscle car for the modern world. It looks and sounds the part, which is enough for some.
It comes with a performance package that includes an air scoop on the hood, a front splitter, and a wing on the rear. They provide accent touches, but you can find a smoothed-down Mustang without the appendages and you can also find some modified, faster cars out there.
The 300 hp Mach 1 gets the 327 cu-in engine, otherwise known as the 5.8-liter. That works in harmony with the four-speed automatic gearbox to pull this icon to 60 mph in 8.3s which, akin to its 122 mph top speed, is not exactly great.
There are cheaper Mustangs on the open market and you can pick up a rough and ready project car for as little as $10,000. The Mach 1, though, is one of the finest Mustangs of the 1970s, because it’s really a muscle car child of the 60s.