Can You Name These Ugly Cars From the '70s?


By: Deborah Beckwin

6 Min Quiz

Image: Wiki Commons via Greg Gjerdingen

About This Quiz

Recognize the names of these cars? The Pacer. The Pinto. The Thing. They're from an era of carmaking that brings both cheers and jeers--the funky 1970s.

The backdrop for the 1970s was an exciting yet turbulent time of transition, with events such as the Vietnam War, Watergate, two energy crises (one in 1973 and another in 1979), and the advent of disco transforming culture.

The previous decades--the 1950s and the 1960s--focused more on sleek, aerodynamic designs, while the 1970s saw form following function. Styling was also a bit confused, with one foot in the past (hello wood paneling!) and one foot in the future: some cars either looked very angular or had some aerodynamic inspiration, but no real appeal or allure.

With car designs from the 1970s, one major shift which influenced styles was the implementation of American federal regulations requiring more fuel efficiency, lower emissions and increased safety in cars. This period of time, which spanned from the early '70s to the early '80s, has been called the "Malaise Era" of American automotive design.

There were definitely some stylish standouts from this time period, such as the Pontiac Firebird and the Chevy Camaro. But the focus on horsepower and souped-up engines shifted to features such as fuel injection and anti-lock brake systems. 

These horrendous designs didn't just plague American cars. Foreign carmakers also dabbled in the ugly, especially if they had to import to the U.S.

Overall, the 1970s had a lot of memorable and controversial styles, and we think you'll get a hoot out of going back in time to look at some of the ugliest cars of that decade.

What American compact actually had terrible fuel efficiency?

Built by the American Motors Corporation, the Gremlin had everything going wrong for it--poor handling, terrible gas mileage and a scary safety issue: the hatchback window could break when flipped up. It was retired in 1978.


This American station wagon became famous in the movie "National Lampoon's Vacation".

Created in the 1950s, the Ford LTD Country Squire was a family car with actual authentic wood paneling. Eventually, that was replaced with more economical laminate siding.


This German car was created more for function than for form.

Officially known as Volkswagen type 181, the Thing was created to be more utilitarian, borrowing its styling from military vehicles. So even though it was ugly, the Thing was tough and could be easily taken for off-road excursions.


What French compact car was sold in the U.S. through AMC dealerships?

Renault Le Car was marketed to the U.S. Everywhere else, this car was known as the Renault 5. The Le Car model also had a colorful, limited edition version called Le Car Van--complete with a carpeted interior.


This American hatchback was seen as a futuristic car and even had an electric version.

Nicknamed the fishbowl car, the oddly-shaped Pacer was a hot item during its debut in 1975, but quickly got the reputation of being a little too weird-looking to drive and was retired in 1980.


Which American crossover-type car was more of a muscle car until the oil crisis of 1973?

Known as "the path" in Spanish, the Chevy El Camino's transformation heralded a transition away from the muscle car and its robust engine. With the energy crisis came new American regulations, and the El Camino's horsepower and engine size was greatly reduced. It was retired in 1987.


What popularly hated American subcompact car also had cruising wagon and hatchback models?

The Ford Pinto was not only ugly, it was dangerous due to the placement of the gas tanks facing the rear of the car. It's no surprise that this model didn't make it past 1980.


What European coupe was one of the first to have an audible alert to fasten one's seatbelt?

Swedish carmaker Volvo already had a reputation for prioritizing safety in its cars. So when more American safety requirements were enacted, Volvo was ready. This two-door coupe was popular in the U.S., with customers buying more than 75 percent of the more than 6,000 cars produced.


An earlier version of this car is what the main characters in the TV show, "The Dukes of Hazzard," drove.

What you see pictured is not the General Lee, what Bo and Luke drove. It's the 1977 model of the Dodge Charger. This car went through quite a makeover during the 1970s.


What American car came with the model names "Demon" and "Swinger"?

The Dodge Dart went through significant changes in the late 1960s, transforming from a family car to a compact car with a lot of muscle, including a V8 engine. The Demon model was dropped after just two years because some religiously conservative people in the Deep South were offended by the name.


What American car was plagued by major engineering and manufacturing issues?

The Chevrolet Vega is an example of what happens when a car is made with only corporate oversight. The car became quickly popular and then was quickly reviled and retired in 1977.


What American compact car was one of the first to have a designer trim?

The AMC Hornet Sportabout (a station wagon) had a luxury trim designed by Gucci. The interior had Gucci detailing designed by Aldo Gucci.


What American car did a James Bond villain fly around in during the movie "The Man with the Golden Gun?"

The AMC Matador Coupe was used as a getaway vehicle for James Bond villain Francisco Scaramanga. The car transformed into a plane and Scaramanga flew away.


What popular American compact car wasn't the fastest but got excellent gas mileage?

The Chevy Chevette's gas mileage is still rivaled by modern cars today, with up to 40 mpg on the highway and 28 mpg in the city. Although its styling wasn't the greatest, it was a popular car in the late '70s and early '80s before its departure in 1987.


What American station wagon had a domed glass roof on top?

What this car lacked in looks, it made up for with sheer power. The Vista Cruiser 455 model had a 370 hp, 455 CID V8 engine.


In 1976, this was America's best-selling car.

The Oldsmobile Cutlass introduced a model with a V8 engine in 1975. That boost in engine power helped gain appeal with younger drivers.


What American sedan had Ricardo Montalban as its spokesperson in a car commercial?

The Cordoba was Chrysler's entry into the personal luxury car market. The car was known for its "rich Corinthian leather."


What Japanese import was better known by the model name Cherry?

In the U.S., the bug-eyed Datsun F10 came in two models, a coupe and a wagon. It had great fuel economy (29 mpg city, 40 mpg highway, and 33 mpg combined), but the design definitely was a victim of the Malaise Era.


What Japanese car was known to have mechanical problems and rust issues?

Subaru as a carmaker is now known for its reliable cars. But the Subaru GL Wagon was not one of them. Back in the '70s, these cars were made with metal that was rather thin, making it more susceptible to rust.


Known as the 284 in the U.S., what Japanese import pickup truck added seats in the back to avoid U.S. tariffs?

BRAT stands for Bi-drive Recreational All-terrain Transporter. The two seats in the back avoided steep tariffs colloquially known as the "Chicken Tax."


This tiny Italian roadster's wedge-like styling couldn't quite capture American hearts.

Like the AMC Pacer, the Fiat X1/9 had a futuristic look that didn't quite belong in the present or the future. The modest 128 hp engine left a lot to be desired for American drivers looking for a sportier ride. The car was discontinued in the U.S. in 1982 but continued to be sold under the Bertone name in Europe until 1987.


Which British compact was known for its steering wheel detaching from the car?

The Reliant Robin was created in response to the fuel crisis of the 1970s and to be parked on city streets. Its unique 3-wheel construction allowed it to be classified as a motorcycle. It had the nickname the "plastic pig."


What American car initially was marketed as a compact car but became an economical muscle car?

Still beloved by muscle car enthusiasts, the Ford Maverick was also manufactured as the Mercury Comet. The model was retired in 1977.


In the early 1970s, this car transformed from a sporty car to a personal luxury car.

The early 1970s was the last period of time where the Mercury Cougar was built more like a Mustang. In the mid-'70s, it was pitted to compete against cars such as the Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme and the Chrysler Cordoba.


This Japanese car was created as a competitor of the Toyota Celica.

The Datsun 200SX was meant to be a more affordable kind of sports car. It was sold in the U.S. during the late '70s.


What British car isn't actually named after a fictional spy character?

Another three-wheeled car, the Bond Bug was made by the Bond Motor Company shortly after Reliant had purchased the company. Slow sales eventually bankrupted the Bug's manufacturer.


In a TV commercial, what American car claimed it was an economical version of a Mercedes-Benz 450SLC?

The Ford Granada was around $4000 in 1979. In comparison, the Mercedes-Benz 450SLC was approximately $23,000.


What infamous Canadian import sports car was known for its major design flaws?

The Bricklin SV1 was designed by Malcolm Bricklin and funded by the Canadian province of New Brunswick. Issues like poor brake placement and doors that couldn't fully close doomed the car to infamy.


You could call this compact car the flagship car of communism.

Dubbed as "the car of the people," the Trabant was East Germany's boxy answer to West Germany's Volkswagen Beetle--but it took on average 12 years for East Germans to get their hands on one. One unique feature of the car was that due to a shortage of metals, the Trabant was fabricated out of recycled remnants of the dye and cotton industries. A relic of the Eastern Bloc, you can still see some Trabants in Germany today.


Which British luxury car had two fuel doors and two different horns?

With its slender and elongated design, along with many other styling quirks, the Aston Martin Lagonda is one of the most uniquely styled luxury cars.


In 1970, Neiman Marcus offered a pair of these cars as a "His and Hers" set.

Priced at $25,000, this pair of cars came loaded with luxurious amenities such as a tape center and a sun roof. For him, the Thunderbird had extras such as an electric razor. For her, the car had a complete sewing kit with an 14-karat gold thimble.


What tiny import was one of the first cars available in America from Honda?

Honda's N600 was a souped up version of the N360, both of which came to the U.S. around 1969. Due to its higher gas consumption, the Z600 coupe wasn't a good fit for the 1970s energy crisis.


Which rare touring car from the UK had less than 3,000 cars made for the U.S. market?

The Triumph Stag was created in 1970 by British Leyland, with the last model made in 1977. Only about 25,000 models of this car were created, and it's a collector's item in the U.S.


This popular American car of the '80s and '90s had a much longer length in the '70s.

The Chrysler LeBaron has gone through many changes since its introduction in 1931. This car was another victim of the energy crisis, with its longer shape shortened. As a result, the Imperial edition was retired in 1975 with a newer, smaller model reintroduced in 1977.


This French car had an innovative curved windshield.

Another car seemingly from the future, the Citroën CX was aiming for an aerodynamic look. French carmaker Peugeot bought Citroën in 1976, so the Citroën CX is considered to be the last true car made by the company.


This French car's body is primarily made of plastic and had no seatbelts.

The Citroën Méhari looks more like an SUV to take on the beach or a glorified golf cart. In the U.S., the car was only sold between 1969 and 1970. Back then, U.S. safety regulations for trucks were far more lax, so that's why the Méhari had no seatbelts.


What car was considered to be a "world car" because it was built in 12 countries?

Despite its odd shape, the Renault 12 was considered a great commercial success during the 1970s. The goal was to make the car easy to produce so it could be produced worldwide. There were 2.5 million cars sold on four different continents.


What car was the first to be created by both Mitsubishi and Plymouth?

The Plymouth Sapporo was another answer to the energy crisis of the 1970s. This car also allowed Japanese carmaker Mitsubishi to enter the U.S. market. This car was also known as the Dodge Challenger.


What American compact car was a reconfiguration of a UK car, the Hillman Avenger?

The Plymouth Cricket was a reborn Hillman Avenger and did not sell well in the U.S. Like the Chevrolet Vega, it had terrible issues with rust and was poorly constructed.


What Japanese hatchback made its debut in America in 1977?

GLC stands for Great Little Car, as it was known in North America. It was also known as Mazda Familia. Now, it's known as the 323 or Protegé.


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