It was the best of times, it was the worst of times… wait, scratch that “best of times” part.
The 1970s were a rough time for the car industry: Automakers struggled to cope with new emissions standards and buyers were stung by two oil embargos — and yet some cool cars did somehow manage to arise out of this rather funky decade. Here are 10 unmistakably 1970s cars that you can put in your driveway for a reasonable price.
What 10 Iconic Cars of the ’70s Cost Today
Chevrolet Corvette C3
The third-generation Corvette was introduced in 1968 and stayed in production until 1982, and the updates it received the 1970s reflected buyers’ changing tastes. Chrome bumpers gave way to body-color polyurethane, the flying buttress C-pillars gave way to a glass fastback, convertibles gave way to T-tops, and loud engines gave way to loud paint schemes. And yet through it all, the Corvette always managed to look good.
Thanks to their rust-proof fiberglass bodies, plenty of these cars survive today, and you’ll find several on the market at affordable prices: Projects and basket cases for less than $3,000, clean runners for $3,000 to $5,000, and show-quality restorations in the $12,000 to $25,000 range.
Find your C3 Corvette for sale here.
With gas prices rising, automakers found a growing market for their compacts — simple, sturdy cars with indestructible straight-six engines.
Ford’s entry was the Maverick, which featured a semi-fastback roofline, curvy fenders, and upright grille that illustrated the uneasy transition from the sexy ’60s to the uncertainty of the ’70s. Ford sold them by the bushel, and you’ll find running coupes in the $1,000 to $5,000 range while souped-up examples and restomods fetch closer to $10k. One interesting variant is the performance-oriented Maverick Grabber — it’s a collector car, but you should be able to grab one for well under $15,000.
Find your Ford Maverick for sale here.
Back in the ’70s, buyers were just starting to figure out how good German vehicles were, and one of the cars that helped them figure it out was the BMW 2002.
While American cars were awash in chrome and tape stripes, the 2002 was a simple box-on-wheels that offered one thing: Great driving dynamics. The 2002 remains a joy to drive even by today’s standards, and it’s reasonably affordable: You’ll find rough potential projects for as little as $1,500, polished gems asking as high as $25,000, and plenty of good, drivable cars in between.
Find your BMW 2002 for sale here.
Like Ford’s Maverick, the Chevy Nova was known for its simplicity, economy, and rock-solid reliability — but it also had lots of room under the hood, which made them popular as muscle-car conversions.
Early-’70s Novas feature rounded styling that dates from 1968; powerful SS versions are collectible, so these cars tend to fetch higher prices — rough runners can go as high as $5,000, with cleaner cars and restomod projects reaching into the high 20s. 1975-79 Novas are less desirable, but a better representation of 1970s motoring, and they command lower prices: Even the nicest examples often sell for less than $6,000.
Find your Chevy Nova for sale here.
The Pinto was one of Detroit’s (or perhaps we should say Dearborn’s) first serious assaults on the imports: A small, fuel-efficient and space-efficient car with a four-cylinder engine. The Pinto soon became infamous for its inconvenient tendency to burst into flames when hit from behind (a defect that was corrected, though not before the car’s reputation was ruined).
Today, these cars have caught the interest of collectors. Prices are higher than you might expect, but still reasonable: We’ve seen Pinto Squire wagons sell for as high as $8,000, but $2,000 to $5,000 is a more typical price range for restorable hatchbacks.
Find your Ford Pinto for sale here.
Ford Mustang II
Some say that Ford ruined the Mustang when they moved it down to the Pinto platform, but the small, fuel-efficient Mustang II was a strong seller and arguably the right car for the times.
Survivors are few and far between, but the Cobra II and King Cobra models are cool icons of the ’70s, with their far-out-and-funky tape-stripe graphics and emissions-choked engines, while clean four-cylinder cars are a neat novelty. Original Mustang II Cobras sell in the $5,000 to $15,000 range, while lesser Mustang IIs, when they make one of their rare appearances on the market, will often go for less than $4,000.
Find your Mustang II for sale here.
Dodge Dart / Plymouth Valiant
The Dart of the ’70s was actually designed in the ‘60s, but it became an icon of bulletproof motoring throughout the Nixon and Ford eras.
A lot of Darts have been turned into muscle cars, but there are still survivors out there, and you can often find them for $5,000 or less. Darts are cool collector cars, and their engines — Chrysler’s legendary Slant Six and 318 V8 — are simple and virtually indestructible, which makes them practical and easy to own.
Find your Dodge Dart for sale here.
The 1970s saw car manufacturers trying to deal with the end of the horsepower wars and the beginning of a new consumer skepticism. The Granada reflects their unease with this new direction: Pitching it as an affordable luxury car, Ford compared the Granada to Mercedes in a series of ads that seem laughable today.
Formal and frumpy, the Granada seems to go perfectly with the wide ties and solid hairdos that dominated the 1970s. The carbureted engines with their fledgling emissions equipment can be tricky to tune, but with prices in the neighborhood of $2,000 to $6,000, Granadas are a bargain. Keep an eye out for the Granada’s near-twin, the Mercury Monarch.
Find your Ford Granada for sale here.
Cadillac DeVille and Eldorado
Cadillac lost their image as the “Standard of the World” in the 1980s, but back in the ’70s, a Caddy was still seen as the penultimate sign of success.
We like the last of the big DeVilles, an era that came to an end when the car was downsized in 1977, though the giant front-wheel-drive Eldorados (downsized in ’79) are just as cool. You’ll find these land yachts selling for $2,000 or less, with well-preserved low-milers topping out around $10K and convertible Eldos (arguably the most desireable of 1970s-era Cadillacs) going for $10,000 to $20,000. Just be sure to budget lots of money to spend on gasoline.
Find your Cadillac Eldorado for sale here.
The ’70s were heady days for Chevy’s pony car. The Camaro rolled into 1970 with a new fuselage-profile body that made the Ford Mustang look hopelessly dated. By the mid-’70s, when the Dodge Challenger was gone and the Mustang had been turned into a Pinto, the Camaro was still going strong, with styling updates in 1974 and 1978 that helped it keep up with the times.
Nowadays, you’ll find a gaggle of these Camaros for sale, ranging from unmolested originals to factory muscle cars to high-power restomods. You’ll find rebuildable basket cases for under two grand, nice runners in the $3,000 to $6,000 range, and collectible muscle editions fetching $10,000 to $40,000 or more.
Find your Chevrolet Camaro for sale here.
The Wise Guide team writes about things we think you’ll like, introducing you to great products, services and special deals. We do have affiliate partnerships, so we may earn revenue from the products and services you buy.