It’s no secret that the 1970s brought us a seemingly endless stream of bad cars. Generally, their styling wasn’t nearly as crisp and proportioned as those from the 1960s. Horsepower had suffered as well, as ensuing factors from the OPEC oil crisis, as well as environmental and insurance concerns, would see a drastic cut in output levels on a strong portion of the world’s passenger cars.
Still, not all cars fell victim to the malaise of the 1970s. High-powered engines weren’t entirely extinct, and as far as bodywork design goes, this decade produced a distinct sense of styling that’s seldom seen elsewhere in history. From the intimidating snarls of American muscle cars to the angular, wedge-themed exotics of Italy, the 1970s still gave us a plethora of classic cars that inherited their own sense of aggressiveness. Here are our top 10 picks for the most macho cars of the 1970s.
10 1970 Oldsmobile Cutlass 442
The Oldsmobile Cutlass was one of the best-selling cars of the 1970s, although the 442 package is far more potent. The 1970 variant was one of the prime examples that got powered by a massive, 455-cid V8 that churned out 375 horsepower and an astounding 500 lb-ft of torque – almost enough to alter the axis of the Earth’s rotation.
Billed along with the Chevrolet Chevelle and Pontiac GTO, the 1970 Oldsmobile Cutlass 442 still stands as one of the best muscle cars of the decade. Its boxy lines and overall sense of business gives this Olds a purposeful approach with few frills.
9 1971 Alfa Romeo Montreal
The Alfa Romeo Montreal was built from 1970 through 1977 as a V8-powered sports car from the famed Italian manufacturer. Just one glance at its front end shows that this Alfa is far from the rounded curves of the brand’s more gracefully styled models from the 1960s.
Its V8 engine only displaced 2.6 liters, which is a fraction of that from other sports cars of the 1970s. Still, this engine’s ability to shout its way up to 7,000 rpm makes the Montreal sound as menacing as it looks.
8 1972 De Tomaso Pantera
The De Tomaso Pantera garnished a long production run which lasted from 1971 all the way through 1992, and it’s easy to see why. This mid-engined, Italian supercar was one of the earliest production examples of its kind and instilled dread into the hearts of Lamborghini as they touted their midship Miura and Countach during the same era.
Powering the De Tomaso Pantera was a Ford 351 Cleveland V8, which put some American muscle at the heart of this Italian thoroughbred. Through a contract with Ford, the Pantera was even sold through Lincoln-Mercury dealerships until 1975, although the Pantera still found its way stateside via importers for years afterward.
7 1973 BMW 3.0 CSL
The BMW 3.0 CSL was built as a homologation special in order for the Bavarian marque to qualify for the European Touring Car Championship and consequently conquer the Group 2 series. The CSL is essentially a lightened version of the production CS, although with several key touches for motorsport.
Some of these features included a bodywork crafted with thin-gauged aluminum to help shed pounds for the racetrack, which was also used for the hood, doors, and trunk. Perspex side windows replaced the factory glass units, and the cars were stripped of all soundproofing to further lighten the load. Altogether, the BMW 3.0 CSL proved to be an absolute legend in European racing and certainly looks the part.
6 1970 Dodge Super Bee
As a performance package for the Dodge Coronet, the Super Bee brought this iteration of Mopar’s B-Body platform up to the same leagues as the Charger, Challenger, Barracuda, and Road Runner.
Although the higher end of drivetrain options were identical to its counterparts, available with engines as large as the 440-cid Six Pack and 425-cid Hemi, the 1970 Dodge Super Bee brought an inherent sense of menacing appeal, which is exactly why it’s on this list.
5 1977 Aston Martin V8 Vantage
The original Aston Martin V8 Vantage first set off in 1977 as the fastest, four-seater production car in the entire world. Touted as Great Britain’s first supercar, the V8 Vantage was an evolution of its predecessor, the Aston Martin DBS V8, although the Vantage would take performance to uncharted territory for the British brand.
Initial figures saw Aston Martin rating 0–60 mph times of 5.2 seconds and a top speed of 170 mph, putting the V8 Vantage in the same realm as some of the best cars in the entire world during the late 1970s. Later versions would see power figures set as high as 444 horsepower, which further established the Vantage’s status as a true competitor.
4 1971 Plymouth GTX
The Plymouth GTX is an often overlooked relic of the muscle car era, but still packed more than enough energy to get the job done as good as any of the competition. The 1971 model year was host to a complete redesign of Plymouth’s Belvedere, in which the GTX had been based on, that certainly gave this muscle machine an aggressive stance and styling.
Under the hood, only big-block power was offered for the GTX, cementing its status as a proper muscle car, and also one of the last of its kind. The optional 426-cid Hemi made the GTX a feared weapon at the drag strip, although this would be short-lived, as 1971 would be the year that Chrysler finally pulled the plug from this legendary engine. Only 30 examples of the 1971 Plymouth GTX were built using the Hemi, making these cars highly sought after.
3 1970 Iso Grifo
The Iso Grifo was an impressive GT built from 1965 through 1974 and designed to fully match the most powerful offerings from heavy hitters like Ferrari and Lamborghini.
In addition to its styling, what makes the Iso Grifo truly stand out is the company’s decision to utilize big-block American muscle underneath the hood. Both the Chevrolet L71 427-cid V8 and the LS6 454-cid V8 were offered, as well as a ZF five-speed, which allowed these cars to reach speeds in excess of 180 mph.
2 1970 Monteverdi Hai 450
The Monteverdi Hai 450 was one of the earliest and most extreme examples of a mid-engined supercar. Built in Switzerland, the Hai 450 implemented one of the most powerful engines in the entire world, the Chrysler 426 Hemi. This elephant of a V8 was mounted directly behind the seats and fixed to a ZF five-speed transmission, which allowed for reported top speeds as high as 174 mph.
Although slated for a larger production run, Monteverdi initially built only two examples of the Hai 450. However, founder Peter Monteverdi stated that as many as 11 cars were delivered, although this figure can’t be accurately proved nor disproved. During the 1990s, two further examples were constructed using parts leftover from the failed production run.
1 1970 Lancia Stratos Zero
The Lancia Stratos Zero is an absolute spaceship of a car, seemingly taken from someone’s dream (or nightmare), then brought to life by Bertone with an alien sense of form over function.
Based upon the legendary Lancia Stratos, one of the greatest rally cars ever built, the Zero concept took the entire wedge design format of the 1970s to the absolute extreme. Unfortunately, only one was ever built and currently resides in a private collection.
Sources: Bertone, Hagerty, Hemmings, Mecum Auctions, Bring a Trailer