Acrid smoke from the picket line braziers soured the lingering floral fragrance of the 1960’s and the harmonies of the Beach Boys, Fun Fun Fun, until her daddy takes the T-Bird away had by 1973 given way to ZZ Top, Beer Drinkers and Hellraisers. Chris Rea didn’t start Driving Home for Christmas until 1984.
Against a backdrop of oil embargos, petrol rationing and industrial action, power cuts were a regular occurrence. In November 1974 a series of terrorist bombs exploded in public houses in the centre of Birmingham.
Industrial unrest continued to blight the UK and following the ‘Winter of Discontent’ Margaret Thatcher was elected as the UK’s Prime Minister in 1979.
But the 70s weren’t all bad, especially if you had a Raleigh Chopper in the glorious summer of 1976: 16 days with temperatures over 30º and no rain for 45 days. And things got even better if you had a driving licence and could afford a sports car.
Even hangovers from the 1960s like the technically primative MGB represented good value at just £1390. The Jaguar E-Type received a V12 powerplant and was only £750 more expensive than a 2000GTV Alfa Romeo in 1972.
From Japan came one of the sports cars that defined the decade, the muscular and powerful Datsun 240Z. The rotary Mazda RX3 was a unique concept with a distinctive soundtrack, it’s a shame so few have survived the ravages of time.
In the UK small volume manufacturers were still prevalent, the TVR 3000M was true to its roots, fast and loud. The 1970 Marcos fitted with Volvo’s 3 litre in-line six cylinder engine was an absolute delight. Lotus Cars maintained Colin Chapman’s design philosophy, ‘simplify, then add lightness’.
From France came the Renault Alpine A310 and the Citroen Maserati for the brave and optimistic. And in Italy you were spoiled for choice, at the top of the list would be a Lamborghini Countach, the poster car of the 70’s, second only to the Athena Tennis Girl.
Ferrari offered the lovely 246 Dino and the 365 GTB although the Daytona did cost a whopping £10,500, this was replaced by the 365 GT4 BB in 1973. But who wouldn’t want to be seen driving along the French Riviera in a Fiat Dino Spyder, probably one of the prettiest cars ever made.
During the 1970s Germany was in full icon production with the Porsche 911 variations. The 914 was a more affordable option fitted with VW components, an idea which was carried over into the front engine 924 later in the 70s. Whilst the Opel GT was simply a visual delight.
Over in America the Mustang had become flabby and overweight, but the Dodge Charger featuring in the Dukes of Hazard and the Pontiac Firebird immortalized by James Garner in the Rockford Files maintained the muscle car tradition.
In motor sport Production based Saloon and Sports Car Championships were popular in the early 1970s, with high profile events promoted by influential sponsors such as the BBC’s pop station Radio 1, leading to the notorious events at Mallory Park in 1975 when 50,000 fans invaded the circuit to see the tartan-clad Scottish pop group, the Bay City Rollers.
The 70s might have a reputation for being unfashionably ‘brown’ but socially, politically and culturally they were anything but. And like the HSCC 70s Road Sports Championship of today, never dull. Look a little closer and you will find colour, diversity, fun fueled competition and maybe just the occasional flared wheel arch.