The 1970s brought us bell bottom jeans, star wars, Roger Moore Bond films… and the gas crisis. While disco may have killed rock music, the gas crisis killed the muscle car era. Automakers focused on fuel economy, flashy paint schemes, and luxury cars. Not all 1970s cars are bad, nor are all the cars on this list. Some of them are really cool and could be a good project. Some cars just aged like disco or tube socks.
So put on an 8-track and find your curlers, here are ten muscle cars from the 70s that failed to hold their value five decades later.
9 1979 Dodge Aspen R/T (Plymouth Volare Road Runner)
The Dodge Aspen and the Plymouth Volare were twins, the only difference being the badging on the grille. These cars were competitive for the day, with around 155bhp and all the tacky paint schemes and chrome you could want. The 318-cubic-inch V8 and three-speed automatic are forgettable by modern standards, though, and chances are you’ve never seen one until now.
Many of these cars have been crushed, crushed or left to rust in junkyards, so it’s rare to see them for sale, but they still make an occasional appearance. The only Volare Roadrunner on Bring a trailer only made $6,500 and it was in mint condition.
8 1978 Dodge Magnum
To relive Dodge’s glory days in NASCAR, the Magnum was released. The underpinnings were similar to the legendary Charger but lacked the same magic, with the optional Magnum producing just 190 horsepower…from a 400 cubic inch V8. The Magnum had all the features popular at the time, such as t-tops, chrome wheels, and plush interior parts.
The Magnum proved unpopular in NASCAR and caused many drivers to switch to GM or Ford cars in the 1980s, eventually causing Dodge to withdraw from NASCAR altogether. No Dodge Magnums were sold on Bring A Trailer, but several auction sites are showing high bids at around $15,000 for a factory-fresh example.
seven 1975 Chevy Cosworth Vega
Chevrolet launched the Vega with the aim of competing with the legendary Plymouth Duster and the spunky Ford Maverick, but didn’t do anything serious. Many Chevy fans were disappointed with the lack of large engines for the car, with only inline-fours and inline-sixes being offered. In an attempt to salvage Chevy’s name and reputation, GM has teamed up with English tuner store Cosworth.
The resulting car had stiffened suspension, a custom inline-four with fuel injection, and a neat exterior. The car was a hit with critics but failed to create a lasting legacy; being overshadowed by the legendary Camaros and Corvettes. Low mileage 1975 Cosworth Vega was sold on Bring a trailer for just $9,400.
6 1979 Chevrolet Monte Carlo
The Monte Carlo started life as a serious competitor to Ford’s Thunderbird. It was offered with a range of V8 engines and luxury features, and the car sold like hot cakes. After the gas crisis and a few dodgy 1970s fads, the Monte Carlo became another boring square car with sticky upholstery and an anemic V6. 1979 was also the last year for a manual transmission in Monte Carlo.
Although the car had some success as a NASCAR chassis, it proved unpopular in showrooms during the 1980s and GM soon released a new Monte Carlo in 1982. No example of these is could be found on Bring a trailer either (starting to see a theme here?), but a 1979 Monte Carlo is listed on Guide to smart motors for the modest sum of $5,200.
5 Dodge Challenger 1978
Mopar fans are already cringing at the mention of this one; an ugly scar on the history of their favorite brand. Dodge imported the Mitsubishi Galant and tried to trick buyers into thinking it was a continuation of the legendary Challenger.
The yellow stripes, shiny paint and chrome wheels should have made it a hit, but it didn’t find a market. The Challenger had an anemic inline-four that couldn’t even produce 100 horsepower. Critics disliked the look and it lacked the characteristics of classic American muscle cars. No luck finding this car on eBay, luckily most of them have already encountered the junkyard or the crusher. One sold on BarnFinds for $6,900 in near factory condition.
4 1979 Mercury Cougar XR-7
Ford launched the Cougar as the premium Mustang for sale under the Ford division, and it did that well. When the gas crisis hit and personal luxury cars became a fad, the Cougar was moved to the Thunderbird chassis and gained a lot of weight and lost a lot of power. In 1979, the Cougar lost most of what made it so special in the 1960s.
Sure, it had a big V8 and still had the XR-7 trim, but it wasn’t the same. The Cougar never recovered from the 1970s and never enjoyed the fanfare of 1980s Mustangs and Thunderbirds. A perfectly garish example sold on Bring A Trailer for $3,200…the same price as some used economy cars.
3 Dodge Charger Daytona 1975
The 1969 Dodge Daytona destroyed competition in NASCAR, before it was finally banned by NASCAR in 1971. Many Mopar fans would call it one of the best, if not the best, cars Dodge made in the 60s. Unfortunately, the gasoline crisis and personal luxury trend of the 1970s took a toll on the Dodge Charger and turned it into a soft, cushy ride for grandpa to take to church. The sheet metal was so ugly and eye-catching that Dodge asked not to use it in NASCAR.
Dodge tried to boost sales and rebuild the Charger’s reputation by introducing the Daytona trim in 1975 and running it through 1978. The trim gave the Charger chrome wheels, a heavy-duty suspension, and a wait. .. a 190 horsepower, 400 cubic inch V8. . Sales were slow due to the gas crisis, Dodge’s lack of success in NASCAR, and the shift to economy cars. Most of these cars rusted due to Chrysler’s poor quality control in the 1970s. Both the Charger and Daytona names were used by K-cars in the 1980s, much to the disapproval of many Mopar fans. Due to the previously mentioned rusting issues, these cars are actually extremely hard to find, but one is for sale on Auto Trader for just under $8,000.
2 1975 AMC Matador X
The Matador was quite a popular family vehicle at the time, used in police and taxi services. AMC has often been left out of the conversation, but the Matador has proven to be a hit for the small automaker. The Matador X was an attempt to introduce a fastback coupe to the line, primarily so the Matador could compete in NASCAR. Reviewers at the time called the car good looking and were impressed with AMC’s styling capabilities.
The car featured a range of straight-6s and V8s, with the optional V8 making 235 horsepower. 60 was reached in a respectable 8 seconds. A Matador X has yet to be sold Bring a trailerbut Hagerty appraises a good one at $9,000.
1 1978 Ford Mustang II King Cobra
The Mustang II is an unpopular car among Ford fans, muscle car fans, and even non-car fans who are old enough to know what they are. The Mustang II was Ford’s model to save the Mustang name while building a car that was good on gas, small, and still delivered performance.
The Mustang II was actually one of the best-selling Mustangs, despite the negative connotation it has in today’s automotive culture. Carroll Shelby was in temporary retirement in the late 70’s so Ford couldn’t call on him to modify their models, but they did their best to emulate what he would have done, thus the King Cobra was born. The King Cobra models only came with a 5.0 V8, hood scoops, and cobra vinyl on the hood that should have alerted Pontiac’s lawyers. A good example on Bring a trailer sold for an impressive $12,250, still a stone’s throw from the Mustang Gen 1’s values.
5 ’70s Cars That Are Insanely Expensive (And 5 You Can Buy Cheap)