10 Best Sports Cars of The 70s
The 1970s was a sports car era that changed how a sports car’s appearance was previously perceived. Gone were the rounder and softer shapes and highly experimental designs, and in were fiercer, edgy, angular models.
When considering the most prominent car decades and their role in society, it’s clear to see the 70s were unique. It was a difficult time for the engineering of sports cars because of the US oil shipment crisis that occurred from 1973 to 1974. Additionally, the many government mandates that came about during the decade also had a profound impact.
Despite this period being brief, it changed how many people perceived sports cars and the general public’s attitude. This event spurred vehicle manufacturers to do bigger and better things, and the result was sports cars that have become some of the most iconic and sought after to date.
In truth, many people still animatedly discuss 1970’s sports cars and many collectors keep a keen eye out for many of the models on our list. We have considered the many great sports cars to come out of this decade with careful deliberation and have, with some difficulty, managed to narrow down a list featuring the top 10.
You may not yet realize why these models are some of the best. Although looks play a huge factor in whether a sports car is well received, it isn’t all that matters. That’s why we’re going to take a much closer look into what’s underneath the bonnet of these 1970s sports cars.
1. Ferrari 365 GTB
Our list wouldn’t mean much if we didn’t feature the 1971 Ferrari 365 GTB, which was the fastest car of its time. Not many can forget the beautiful appearance and impressive vehicle specifications of this model. Additionally, this sports car has three unique elements that set it apart from other comparable models of the decade.
It was engineered by Ferrari, created by Scaglietti, and designed by the infamous Lionardi Fioravanti at Pininfarina. This combination easily made the car a triple threat in the sports car market. However, what makes this model one of the most sought-after Ferrari sports cars of all time is its rarity. The Ferrari 365 GTB was not mass-produced, with only 800 ever made.
The design of the Ferrari 365 GTB took seven days of non-stop commitment from Fioravanti to complete, and he has often described it as his best work. The sports car features slight angulations that avoided aerodynamic mishaps. Additionally, it had a long hood, steeply angled nose, a cutoff tail, and four lights under a durable plexiglass shell.
As we mentioned previously, the vehicle specifications of the Ferrari 365 GTB were mighty impressive, especially for a model produced in the 1970s. The Ferrari had a 4.4-liter V12 engine capable of reaching an astounding 170 mph because of its 352 horsepower.
2. Lamborghini Countach
The 1970s Lamborghini Countach is one of the most memorable sports cars to come out of this decade. Its distinctive appearance and impressive engine capabilities are attributed to its success. In fact, this vehicle was almost certainly the sports car that everyone wanted to own in the 70s.
Unlike certain other sports cars of the decade, the 1976 Lamborghini Countach had an incredibly unique and exotic design that focused more on aesthetic style than aerodynamics. Its angular, razor-sharp, lightweight aluminum alloy body featured two ultra-low seats, windows that only rolled down halfway, and scissor doors. The scissor door design is still one of the most distinguishable Lamborghini features seen on the company’s most iconic models.
Arguably it’s thanks to Lamborghini that the angled Italian “Wedge Shape” became popular. The Lamborghini Countach was a two-door coupe equipped with five-speed manual transmission. It had an impressive 5-liter V12 engine which was capable of producing 440 horsepower.
However, the engine had some issues with overheating, which caused the model to be unreliable. When Lamborghini became aware of these problems, they decided to do something about it. They replaced the engine with a 3.9-liter V12 that was designed by Bizzarrini, which was just as impressive if not significantly more durable than the previous engine.
3. Citroën SM
When people were looking for one of the most advanced sports cars of the 1970s, they turned to the 1970 Citroen SM. This vehicle was a high-performance coupe that was interestingly powered by Maserati. Its impressive specifications allowed it to place third in the 1971 European Car of the Year contest and win the 1972 Motor Trend Car of the Year award in the United States.
Compared to other sports cars of the 70s, the Citroen SM provided a mix of sharp handling, comfort, and braking that was not available in any other sports car when it was released. According to the magazine Popular Science, the Citroen SM had the shortest stopping distance.
The 1970 Citroen SM had a futuristic design that enabled it to stand out from the competition. This sports car featured an advanced hydraulic control system that controlled the braking suspension and steering. Moreover, there was even a small hydraulic system that solely worked the inner headlamps and balanced the front wheels.
We mentioned previously that Maserati powered the Citroen SM, and you might be wondering what that means. It means this sports car featured a powerful Maserati 90 degree V6 engine. Another notable achievement attributed to the Citroen SM’s success was its ability to maintain an estimated 125 mph for hours without compromising stability or handling.
4. Aston Martin DBS V8 Lagonda
Not all sports cars of the 1970s were a coupe design. The best example of a four-door 1972 sports car is the Aston Martin DBS V8. This vehicle provided more interior space without sacrificing appearance or performance. It was a sports car that could also double as a family car if need be.
The Aston Martin DBS V8 featured the signature Aston Martin grille and was equipped with revised camshafts that boosted its performance and countered its heft gross weight. Unlike previous DBS models, the 1972 DBS V8 has two headlamps instead of four. Additionally, some of the other distinguishable features present with this model included a larger front air dam and a lack of wire wheels.
The Tadek Marek designed engine of this vehicle quickly entranced people because of its performance and originality. The 5.3-liter V8 engine had four camshafts that featured Bosch mechanical fuel injection, which allowed it to produce 315 horsepower.
Interestingly this engine acted as the basis for all Aston Martin power plants over 20 years. Furthermore, the Aston Martin DBS V8 could reach up to 170 mph and reach 60 mph in an impressive six seconds flat. This effectively made it the fastest four-seater sports car in production globally at the time.
5. Lancia Stratos HF
Not many sports cars can also double as rally cars, but the 1973 Lancia Stratos HF was the exception to the rule. While other sports car manufacturers were trying to create the best grand tourer sports car, Lancia was focused on producing the best rally sports car possible.
Lancia proved its commitment to its rally cause when the Lancia Stratos HF won big competitions. The sports car won the World Rally Championships in 1974, 1975, and 1976. Additionally, even after the vehicle lost support from fiat and new engine restrictions were instated, the Lancia Stratos HF was still a beast to contend with on the track.
If you consider other sports cars, you might notice that they are usually not lightweight or are made from aluminum alloy. The 1973 Lancia Stratos HF differed from the rest because it was wrapped in an incredibly durable yet lightweight fiberglass body.
This rally sports car was able to produce 320 horsepower with its 2.4-liter V6 engine. Some of the models could reach 60 mph in only 6.8 seconds and had a top speed of 144 mph.
See more about - The 10 Best Sports Cars Of The 80s
6. Lamborghini Miura SV
According to many sports car fanatics, the 1971 Lamborghini Miura SV was the first sports car ever to be produced globally. With such a grand claim, one would expect the vehicle to be a marvel to behold, and for some, it was. Additionally, the SV models were produced in significantly smaller numbers than the previous versions, so owning one of these was an achievement.
This sports car revolutionized the design of high-performance sports cars of the 1970s. Uniquely the engine was mounted transversely behind the passenger compartment in the car, and it was a rear-wheel drive. The Miura SV was also equipped with extensive drive train and chassis upgrades, which enhanced the output and the handling of the vehicle.
The Lamborghini Miura SV had a 3.9-liter V12 engine with a five-speed manual transmission that produced 380 horsepower. Unlike its predecessors, the Miura SV had no “eyelashes” around the headlights, had wider fenders because of the hardy 9” wide rear wheels and different taillights. Additionally, this is one of the rarest Lamborghini models to get your hands on, as only 150 SV’s were manufactured.
7. BMW M1
When you think of some of the best sports cars of the 1970s, the BMW M1 might not appear on your list, but it should. Most sports cars are made independently by a specific vehicle manufacturer, but the BMW M1 was a collaborative effort between BMW and Lamborghini, so it’s no wonder the car turned out spectacular.
Lamborghini was hired to develop the iconic space frame chassis, suspension, and the styling of the wedge-like fiberglass body. However, despite the Italian influence, the BMW MI was still very much the brainchild of BMW.
The vehicle featured the BMW 3.5 liter 274 horsepower straight-six engine paired with a five-speed manual gearbox. It could achieve 60 mph in 5.6 seconds and managed to reach a top speed of 162 mph.
This sports car is another rare model, with only 453 M1s having ever been built. BMW has never created anything like it since. Many keen collectors constantly have an eye out for this sports car, and in 2011, one turned up in the market. Astonishingly the M1 only had 3,125 miles on the clock and sold for a whopping $423,442.
8. Porsche Carrera RS 911 2.7
One of the best road cars that doubled as a sports car was the 1974 Porsche Carrera RS 911. Incredibly, some have even gone so far as to say it is one of the best Porsches ever built. This model was incredibly luxurious and had many features that set it apart from other 70s sports cars.
Not many of the best sports cars can claim they had an air-cooled rear engine, but the Porsche Carrera RS 911 could. Additionally, this model could be modified for several different purposes: rallying, racing, and other competitive motor vehicle sports.
If you see a 1974 Porsche Carrera RS 911, you’ll likely be able to easily identify it because of its distinctive appearance. This model was fitted with flat flared wheel arches, a unique ducktail spoiler, and an impact bumper, which helped the vehicle flourish during racing events.
The engine of the 1974 Porsche Carrera 911 is a horizontally flat-six 2.7 liter five-speed manual transmission. It was capable of producing 210 horsepower and a torque of 188.0 ft.-lbs. Additionally, it had a breathtaking top speed of 150 mph and reached 60 mph in only 5.6 seconds.
9. Lotus Esprit
Arguably one of the most famous British engineered sports cars of the 1970s is the 1976 Lotus Esprit. Chances are, if you’re a James Bond fan, you’re likely aware of this spectacular wedge design sports car. This car was so well received it appeared in two separate Bond movies.
Curiously, the Italian wedge design of the Lotus Esprit was rooted in the famous 1972 Italdesign concept created by Giorgetto Giugiaro. This design allowed the Lotus Esprit to look like it could rival some of the fastest sports cars on the market in the 70s.
However, the performance of this sports car was somewhat inferior to its competition. Despite the slightly lackluster 2-liter four-cylinder engine equipped in the 1976 Lotus Esprit, this model still became a classic. This is because this model could produce 160 horsepower due to its incredible lightweight that grossed 1,979 pounds.
Equipped with some other notable mechanical features, the 1976 Lotus Esprit was definitely one of the finest mid-engined cars of its generation capable of superb handling and control.
10. Maserati Khamsin
Those who wanted a 1970s sports car that made long travels a breeze often opted for the 1974 Maserati Khamsin. Additionally, this sports car was admired for its stylistic design that was left intact despite the stringent US-spec regulations.
The 1974 Maserati Khamsin was one of the most comfortable sports cars because of its Citroen hydraulic system. This specialized system powered the steering, suspension, brakes, and popup headland pods. Furthermore, this model featured a 3.9-liter V8 engine which provided adequate power for when you needed it to perform.
In 2016 a low millage restored Maserati Khamsin in a striking Gallo color that appeared on the show Jay Leno’s Garage went on auction. When bought, the model fetched an impressive $139,000
See more about - The 10 Best Sports Cars Of The 90s