Cars Born In The 1970s

Posted on: 06 May 2009 by Gareth Hargreaves

With a lasting legacy, our selection of cars born in the 1970s have had a lasting effect on the motoring industry.


All these cars were launched way back in the 1970s, but most of them are still influencing the cars we drive today.

Jaguar XJ Series II

This revamp of the 1968-launched XJ was born at a time of maximum industrial strife at British Leyland. It soon earned a reputation for poor quality, though you could still get a high level of comfort at a high speed on a good day.

An image falling somewhere between golf-club-flash and getaway-car-dodgy was set in stone the moment Arthur Daley pulled up in one when Minder appeared on our screens in 1979.

Though it was only in production from 73-79, the XJ of today owes a lot, style-wise, to this beauty.

The legacy: The re-birth of Jaguar.

Range Rover

A radical machine on its launch in 1970, the Range Rover transported the whole family in comfort with enough room for muddy wellies and muddy Labradors in the boot, while the V8 engine gave you enough oomph to pull a horse box out of a boggy field.

Immediately popular with the hunting, shooting and fishing set, this was the first blood-sports utility vehicle.

Initially fairly basic inside, they became ever-more luxurious and found a market with Sloaney types, earning the nickname Chelsea Tractor along the way.

The legacy: A whole new breed of motors: the SUV.

Austin Allegro

It's hard to believe, but the unloved Austin Allegro was co-designed by Sir Alec Issigonis, the genius behind the Mini.

They purposely avoided the sharp edges and wedge styling fashionable at the time in an effort to create a car that was beyond fashion. We'll leave you to add your own punchline here.

Other innovations included a squared off steering wheel which was not popular with conservative British consumers, despite having genuine ergonomic advantages.

Even with an image problem it sold respectably and remained in production for 10 years. And if you think the Allegro was unloved, spare a tear for its replacement, the Maestro.

The legacy: It hastened the end of British Leyland.

Rover SD1

British cars of the 70s weren't all dowdy and, well, rubbish. The Rover SD1 looked sleek and mean and went fast thanks to the 3.5 litre V8. This was no ordinary saloon.

The old Bill loved them so much they stockpiled them when Austin Rover pulled the plug.

The legacy: It showed the British we'd still got it.

VW Golf

VW was struggling in the early 1970s after several near misses. They were saved by a car almost as iconic as the Beetle which set them on the road to becoming the automotive superpower they are today.

Launched in 1974, it was tidy, sharp and modern. The crisp lines were courtesy of Giugiaro, the legendary Italian car designer, who also had a hand in the DeLorean and the Lotus Esprit.

Now in its sixth incarnation, its silhouette still resembles the iconic original but has become flabbier over time. If you're pining for those original origami folds, the Mk1 Golf is still manufactured in South Africa.

The legacy: The hot hatch started with the Golf GTi.

Porsche 924

Porsche's cheapest car by some way when it was launched in 1976, this was a Porsche you didn't have to be middle-aged banker to afford.

It handled well, went fast enough and sold well making the 924 became a relatively common sight.

You didn't even have to give it up when you had kids, at least not immediately, thanks to the two small seats in the back.

The legacy: The 924's success saved Porsche. Its spirit lives on in the Boxster.

Ford Cortina

Launched in 1976, the mark IV Cortina was the first with the squared-off body shape which leaves it looking remarkably modern three decades on.

The Cortina was the best selling car in the UK from 1976 to 1981 - it was king of the road and nothing could replace it. Especially not the Sierra.

The legacy: It gave the mass market a taste of a big saloon with a decent engine, and they still have a place in our hearts.

Lotus Esprit

Launched in 1976, the paint had barely dried on the Esprit when it earned immortality as a Bond car in The Spy Who Loved Me.

It may have been slower than a modern day hot hatch, but it still looks great and was a British Sportscar (OK, so it was designed by an Italian) without an ounce of quaintness about it.

The legacy: One day, the Top Gear challenge will be to turn a car into a submarine.

Saab 900

This strange looking beast was such an unusual shape it managed to stay in production for 15 years without looking dated.

Though the silhouette remained largely the same, the lines softened over the years and the 900 turned into a sleek car with big appeal to designer types. The convertible option was strangely majestic too.

The legacy: It took Saab from being a cult to, well, a more popular cult.

Lamborghini Countach

Staggering looks and performance with a staggering price tag.

It launched in 1974 in the middle of the oil crisis. Not that it made any difference to sales: if you had to ask the price of petrol, you definitely couldn't afford it.

The car's name is an Italian dialect word that an impressed Italian man might say when an attractive lady passes by. Very apt considering the number of bedroom walls posters of the Countach adorned.

The legacy: A dream in the heart of millions of men that will forever remain unfulfilled.

Did you own or drive any of the cars on our list? What was your dream car in the 1970s?

Let us know by leaving a comment in the box below,

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