Top 10 cars of the 1970s

Tyler Heatley

17 Jun 2021

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The 1970s were a golden era for special cars. Homologations, new technologies and designer freedom gave birth to some iconic cars.

The 1970s was a great decade for cars with new manufacturing techniques allowing for a more diverse design. Engineers had more freedom, too. Homologation specials were a staple of this decade, something that saw fire-breathing racers made available to the public. It was a real golden era.


It was tricky to pick just 10 stars of the 70s, but here they are.



Porsche 911 2.7 RS




The Porsche 911 had already established itself as one of the top sports cars of its era, but the German marque still had a thirst for motorsport. The 2.7 RS was effectively a means to homologate a Group 4 racing car, but a pleasing side effect was these road-legal, but track-focused, variants.


Today a genuine 2.7 RS is a prized possession amongst Porsche collectors.



BMW M1




Another German car born of homologation was the BMW M1. Famously BMW’s first and only supercar, the project was originally the responsibility of Lamborghini. Once the car was taken back in-house it was decided that this wedge-shaped icon would form a one-make series to support the F1 calendar – Niki Lauda even won the championship.


In total, 399 road-legal examples of the BMW M1 were manufactured.



Lancia Stratos




Yet another homologation special – spotted a 70s theme yet? This iconic sports car was designed from day 1 as a rally car. Rules stipulated that a minimum number of road cars had to be produced, and so the Stradale variant was born. It came into being when Bertone designed a concept car and drove it straight into Lancia HQ. The Stratos Zero Concept was so striking that the car was immediately given the green light.


It proved to be a worthy successor to the Lancia 037 in the world of rallying, winning a trio of championships.



Porsche 911 Turbo (930)




Little did Porsche know what a staple of its range the 911 Turbo would become when launched back in 1975. Porsche really does have motorsport running through its veins, and the direct racing connection for the 930 Turbo was twofold. First, Porsche’s successful experimentation with turbochargers in racing during the 1960s yielded positive results, and so it made sense to transfer some of this performance gain to the road. Secondly, Porsche wanted an even punchier variant of the 911 to go racing, but that car needed to be homologated with a production model. Just like that, the 911 Turbo was born.


Sporting swollen bodywork, a huge whale-tail rear wing, and a turbocharged 3.0-litre engine, the 930 was quite the car. It didn’t take long for Porsche engineers to enlarge that flat-six to 3.3-litres, creating a seriously potent sports car by 1978.


A fun little nugget of information is that the first 911 Turbo, or 930 Turbo as it was officially known, was a 70th birthday gift to Louise Piech. Ferry Porsche’s sister requested that her car featured tartan door stripes and a regular Carrera narrow body.



BMW 2002 Turbo




As demand grew for more sporting variants of BMW’s range, the 2002 Turbo became the marque’s first turbocharged series production model in 1973. This pocket rocket was light and boosted its 2.0-litre to 170bhp – a winning combination!


Sadly, the 2002’s life was cut short due to an oil crisis with just 1,627 ever built.



Porsche 928




Originally designed to replace the Porsche 911, this high-tech sporting GT eventually became a stablemate of the sports car. It made extensive use of aluminium body panels in order to reduce weight.


Ultimately the 928 would be produced from 1977 to 1995 with multiple variants hitting the road. In the end, the Porsche 911 outlived the car set to succeed it.



Mazda RX-7




The Mazda RX-7 is a real cult classic today, but its journey actually started back in 1978. Commonly known as the SA generation, the first RX-7 joined other rotary-engined Mazda’ such as the Cosmo. Its distinctive wedge shape was contrary for the era, and considering how reserves Japanese cars had been up until this point, it was a striking machine to look at. Powered by a 1.5-litre Wankel engined – stop laughing – this piston-less sports car was a huge hit and spawned several successors.


One of the reasons for the RX-7’s huge success in its home market of Japan was that its small dimensions mean it escaped some local taxes. This made the car considerable more affordable for Japanese buyers.



Lamborghini Countach




How on Earth do you replace a car as groundbreaking as the Lamborghini Miura? How about by creating the ultimate poster car just so Ferrari knows that it has got a rival for life? The Countach launched in 1974, becoming more potent and sprout outrageous wings in equal measure with each generation.


Countach production didn’t end until 1994 – a run of 16 years!



Aston Martin V8 Vantage




The Aston Martin V8 Vantage was arguable the UK’s first ‘supercar’ when it launched in 1977. Here was a muscular coupe capable of 170mph that firmly reminded rivals in Europe that Aston martin was alive and kicking. Updated ‘Oscar India’ cars were introduced in 1978 with sleeker bodywork and power from that V8 engine upped to 390bhp.


You might be thinking that this British brute is more associated with the 1980s, and you’d be right thanks to a production run that spanned an incredible 12 years. James Bond was reunited with Aston Martin in 1987’s The Living Daylights after Roger Moore’s bond took advantage of a Lotus Esprit and Esprit Turbo.



Ferrari 356 GT/4 BB




Meet Ferrari’s very first mid-engined road car. A stubbornness for tradition meant that Ferrari was behind rivals such as Lamborghini when it came to placing the power unit midship. BB stands for Berlinetta Boxster, but technically speaking the this was still a V12 engine.


In 1976 a heavy revision of the car saw it become the BB 512, a much-improved car in many respects.



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Tyler Heatley

17 Jun 2021