1975. A great year for cinema. And wine. And pickup lines. Cars? I'm pretty sure no.
April 14, 2010 3:04 PM   Subscribe

What's the best 1975 car a guy can get?

So I'm thinking of getting a second car, a classic, for fun. And I think I'd like to get the coolest car I can that's also as new as I can get it. Which is 1975

Why? Emission standards. IN California anything prior to that year is grandfathered in and doesn't need to be smog checked. ANything after that year? Needs to pass a smog. Which is pretty much impossible without a disreputable shop and bribery.

So what's YOUR pick for a good 1975 car? I'd like some amenities if possible - air conditioning. A decent electrical system. But I also want the coolest thing from that year.

posted by rileyray3000 to Travel & Transportation (34 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Not 1975, but close. A 1974 Karmann Ghia.
posted by youcancallmeal at 3:11 PM on April 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

Here's my personal favorite: a Datsun 260Z (though I intend to someday go with a '72 240Z before the EPA got to it with all the smog crap). Looks like it came with factory A/C, though I can't speak to the quality of the electrical system as I don't own one yet...
posted by stufflebean at 3:13 PM on April 14, 2010

Bricklin SV-1
posted by Sys Rq at 3:14 PM on April 14, 2010

'75 Oldsmobile 442. The website is awful, but the car is awesome.
posted by anansi at 3:21 PM on April 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

Yes, I was going to mention the 442. If I had the opportunity and know-how, I'd jump at the chance to restore an old Cutlass or Nova.
posted by TrialByMedia at 3:22 PM on April 14, 2010

You know you can buy an aftermarket air conditioner (and any other amenity you could imagine) for say, a '57 Chevy, right? Don't rule out pre-75 classics if you're only interested in 1975 cars for their amenities.
posted by entropicamericana at 3:23 PM on April 14, 2010

Yes, what entropicamericana said. Because if you're willing to go older, I'd say a '67-'69 Camaro.

Or a '74 Plymouth Barracuda.
posted by MexicanYenta at 3:32 PM on April 14, 2010

The Chevy Monza was Motor Trend's 1975 Car of the Year.
Monzas sold in California and high altitude areas of the U.S. were available with a version of the 5.7 liter (350 cid) V-8 engine with a 2-barrel carburetor tuned to just 125 hp (93 kW).
Only 125 HP from a 5.7 liter V8?
posted by notyou at 3:34 PM on April 14, 2010

Response by poster: Well I'd also like power seats and windows and anything else we take for granted today. I'm just wondering what the best car using those metrics would be.
posted by rileyray3000 at 3:39 PM on April 14, 2010

I'd also like power seats and windows and anything else we take for granted today.

You are significantly narrowing your search with those criteria and also reaching a cost issue with getting a 1975 car that not only has those but that work!

I think I'd like to get the coolest car I can that's also as new as I can get it.

I think you need to revisit your reasons for this logic - why do you want it to be as new as it can be? If it is for 'modern-ness' then that depends on the manufacturer and the place of origin (European and British cars in 1975 are significantly more advanced than US cars of the same era except in areas such as airbags and air con). If it is for anything approaching reliability or any of the more traditional reasons for 'newest is best', then this logic is flawed. No car over 10 years old will have any of these advantages. This may free you up to consider cooler cars than you had previously.

What do YOU consider cool? What do you like in a car? Form over function? Icons of your youth, or true trendsetters of an era? Domestic only or are you more open?

Without question, I'd look for a 1975 Triumph - 2500S if a roof was ok with you, or a TR6 if you wanted a convertible. Great cars; reliable and cheap to maintain. They also handle very well - not so much grip but excellent handling and fun to drive. I know there are many of these in California.
posted by Brockles at 3:54 PM on April 14, 2010

Looks like BMW started making the 320i in '75.
posted by Danf at 3:54 PM on April 14, 2010

If money is no object…
Sterling GTdefinitely the Sterling GT.
Pantera GTS
Ferrari 308
Jaguar E-Type

More reasonably…
Alfa-Romeo Giulia GT

- all 1975 editions
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:19 PM on April 14, 2010

If you're willing to sacrifice the convenience of four wheels for cool and for fun on the road, there's nothing—nothing—cooler than a decent 1970s bike.

To start with, there are the British bikes; Norton Commandos and Triumphs especially. If riding around with a drip tray, electrical equipment and full toolkit to strip down the engine is your thing, you can't do better. BMW made what I think are extremely cool bikes, but apparently they're an acquired taste: think R90S and R75/5s.

Yamaha SX650 twins have cool oozing out of them, as do SR500 singles and RD350 two strokes (if fucking horrible pollution is what you're after). Actually most Japanese standards from the era will put a smile on your face quite nicely, and they'll be much cheaper to run than a 70s car. Alternatively: four-cylinder go-fast monsters like the Kawasaki Z1 and Honda CBR750.

Seriously, give consideration to motorcycles.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 4:26 PM on April 14, 2010

1975 wasn't exactly a great year for cars. If you're looking for a car of this era, I'd focus more on cars from, say, 1968 to 1975, and focus on the condition of the actual car you're looking at rather than what model year it is.

You might also want to figure out what really appeals to you, what your budget is, and how much work you're willing to do (or pay someone to do) to keep this car running.

That said - if it absolutely has to be a 1975 car, my vote for coolest would be the Porsche 911 if cost is no object. If cost is an object, and you're just looking for a fun cruiser that won't break the bank to buy or keep running and has A/C, power seats and other amenities, take a look at a '75 Lincoln Mark IV (or its sibling, the Ford Thunderbird)
posted by zombiedance at 4:38 PM on April 14, 2010

The World Famous: "The A/C in a car from the '70s is going to be crap"

You have *got* to be fucking joking. The a/c in my '70 Impala, before I put in the hot motor (which couldn't mount the compressor), could just about cool my house. In the summer, when it was 100+ in the St. Louis humidity, in a black interior, I'd have to turn it *down* to keep from freezing, and I worked in a meat cooler at the time.

That said, look at a 1970 Impala. 1971 and up, they look like smoggy beasts. anything from the 60s (including the only-a-mother-could-love-it 1969) has a premium just for that decade. Mine is a four door hard top, which means the roofline is sportier, and anyone who gives you trouble because it has four doors is an asshole.
posted by notsnot at 4:40 PM on April 14, 2010

I would totally go for a Karmann Ghia. The styles changed a bit throughout it's production run (ending in 74). So, you should spend some time looking at details. A 57, a 62 and a 74 can have sometimes subtle but significant differences.
posted by oddman at 4:45 PM on April 14, 2010

One big trend I see going from 60s cars to 70s cars is in the use of plastic. And the plastic from the 70s is not great. It's hard to replace those deteriorated plastic parts, and so it's harder to keep a '70s car looking good. From Civil_Disobedient's suggestions, I bet you'll find that the MG, the Alfa, and the Jaguar all hold their value better for late '60s models than for the early '70s models. Same for the BMW 2002 -- besides, the earlier models have the round tail-lights, and they stopped making the tii version in 1974. And I think The World Famous is right that AC and power window are going to be hard to find in working order from that era.
But if you are set on the '75 model year, I'd look at the Triumph TR6, or an Opel Monza. I like the Citroen DS as well, but even there I'd look for an older model.
posted by Killick at 4:51 PM on April 14, 2010

Try going back to 1970 and taking a peek...Cuda's, Camaros, the 442, GTO, Mustang Boss, oh man, if I ever won the lottery!
posted by lobstah at 5:16 PM on April 14, 2010

Seconding a BMW 2002. I've had several over the years, and they are the suprisingly reliable for a 35 year old car, incredibly fun to drive, easy to park, cheap to insure, etc...and have great style. They are also totally capable in modern traffic. A nice clean, slightly hotted up '02 is in the prime spot in my dream garage.
posted by gofargogo at 5:22 PM on April 14, 2010

Another vote for a 1975 Porsche 911 or BMW 2002. Both have large fan groups which will make getting advice and sorting parts easier.
posted by arcticseal at 5:29 PM on April 14, 2010

"1972" *Nudge Nudge Wink Wink* Mini Cooper.

More honestly my choice would be a 74-75 Mustang (with the 2.3 which has significant performance potential without wallet draining gasoline consumption of the 302 which is only available in 75). Because of the popularity of the fox platform as a donor for hot rods; parts, both direct replacement and performance, are easy to get. I think they are cool, especially in Cobra Trim (not available till '76 but clonable) but Ford guys think they are ugly. YMMV. An Ford sold 150-200K copies every year between 74 and 78 so their are lots of them out there.

Going older a 55-57 T-Bird or 65-67 Mustang can practically be built from nothing but a title. IE: Parts availability approaches 100%. Including complete bodies.

notyou writes "Only 125 HP from a 5.7 liter V8?"

Nothing in 1975 had decent power. Even arguably the most advanced mass market engine offered in 1975, Honda's CCVC, only eked 53 horsepower out of its 1.5 litres. Quite a let down from the many choices pushing or exceeding one horse per cube only a few years before.

The World Famous writes "I notice that you're writing in the past tense. Back when you could recharge an old-fashioned A/C system with the good stuff, sure, it could keep your dairy products from going bad. Nowadays? Forget it."

Any competent A/C technician is going to be able to make 1975 A/C work better than when it came out of the factory. This is because several of the drop in replacement refrigerants for R12 are more efficient than R-12. However, that may mean replacing everything under the hood as 35 years takes their toll on rubber, corrosion eats up condensers and lack of use kills the seal in the compressor. Such are the perils of classic/antique cars.
posted by Mitheral at 6:04 PM on April 14, 2010

Any other year and I'd vote BMW 2002 too (it is, without a doubt, my all time favorite car. My '76 is more dear to me than any child ever could be), but the 1975 model year was a fairly shitty one for the 2002s, all else being equal (especially the California market ones, which were fitted with ridiculous, inefficient emissions control systems). You'd be much better off looking for a '74 or earlier, if at all possible.
posted by saladin at 6:09 PM on April 14, 2010

Sorry, just realized that wasn't entirely clear: all US 1975 BMW 2002's were fitted with crappy emissions control systems, especially the dreaded thermal reactor and EGR units. They also had a different, lower compression piston profile than '74 or '76 models, and a lower final drive ratio. Total suckfest.
posted by saladin at 6:14 PM on April 14, 2010

I will sell you my '73 Porsche 914.

I will also give you encouragement and pep talks during the time you will spend on it & underneath it attempting to get it to run.

Seriously, though, it's a fun car when it works, and it would be great for doing a Subaru conversion with. If you're not up for the excitement of a half VW/half Porsche beast, then go for a Karmann Ghia (Check to make sure you can fit inside one first!) or a classic Beetle. If you've got gobs of money to spare, get a 21 window Bus.

Another fun one is the Datsun 510, but it's hard to find ones that aren't covered in primer now.
posted by Skrubly at 6:22 PM on April 14, 2010

Jensen Interceptor III convertible.

Mine (they all) have hemi engines and only leak oil when they are standing still. It also only overheats when the outside temperature is over 60 degrees F. But when she runs, she runs fast and proud. I have met so many people who approach me about the car that turn out to be really interesting cats. The added bonus of the 8-track player cannot be understated.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 6:30 PM on April 14, 2010

This is, for all intents and purposes, the world's coolest car. Okay, not for ALL intents and purposes, just for those of us who like a really fine looking car. That runs out pretty good.

Have to admit, though, I wouldn't mind having my Rambler back.
posted by bricoleur at 7:13 PM on April 14, 2010

Best? Porsche. Goes like hell, lasts, you can still get parts.

Cool, fast, and American - I agree that the 442 was one classic muscle car. I don't think they are worth the money these days. Popularity comes with a price I guess.
posted by caddis at 7:16 PM on April 14, 2010

Personally I would choose a 1972 Chevelle coupe. My parents had a sedan with the 350-two barrel and it was a great car. Also, there is no such thing as a reliable 70's British car.
posted by rfs at 8:10 PM on April 14, 2010

This is so hard to answer, in a good way. Do you like getting dirty and fixing things? Do you have a Bridgeport in the garage? What's your level of interest and time for car work?

Given unlimited funds and a knowledge of Italian, I would have a Dino 246. It was built by Ferrari but Mr. Ferrari wouldn't, at the time, call anything but a 12-cylinder car a Ferrari. If you rent the car out, for example to movie studios, you can write off the cost of a trip to Italy every year to get parts and historical data.

Given limited funds and the aforementioned Bridgeport, I'd forget about the A/C and have a Lancia Fulvia Zagato. This car is like nothing I have ever seen or driven before or since. Very light-feeling, happy within its 90 hp or so to do what you want, and extremely rewarding to drive on twisties. The thing that sets pre-Fiat-takeover Lancias apart is the incredible, fussy but lovely engineering. "Jewel-like" really covers the meaning; if you happen to be an engineer you will fall in love. The engine's a V4 and very expensive to make. It shows. The 1600HF is the ultimate but watch the timing. If the engine ever runs backwards you bend valves.

If you want a fun, light-hearted car that sounds and looks great, but doesn't go to quite these extremes, I'd suggest a 1974 TR6. The '75s had ugly bumper over-riders and IIRC the carbs had gotten quite a bit more complex than the ones on the '74s.

If you want to go fast, look great, and sweat buckets get a DeTomaso Pantera (mentioned upthread).
posted by jet_silver at 10:08 PM on April 14, 2010

If you can lay your hands on one in Cali, an Australian-market Ford Falcon XB hardtop. Sounds like a long shot, but I'm told there's something of a small industry shipping old Aussie iron over to the Yanks, much like the long-existing trade in the opposite direction. There's lots of parts compatability, and - for the Americans - it must be like owning a musclecar from an alternate universe. It's still the coolest looking car Ford Australia ever made (even taking into account 1971's legendary Phase III GT-HO Falcon).
posted by MarchHare at 11:27 PM on April 14, 2010

1975 Lincoln Continental Mark IV, if you're sticking, strictly to the 1975 model year. 460 cu. in. V8 was the largest displacement engine in a motor car anywhere in the world, for several years, and is still a reasonably reliable beast, if maintenance is kept up. Electric options were fairly solid, and the model shares a lot of equipment with Thunderbirds of that era, so if you need a power seat motor, or a power antenna, you can find secondary suppliers, and even junk yards with parts.

Also: opera windows.
posted by paulsc at 12:11 AM on April 15, 2010

Seconding the Cadillac Eldorado covertible.
posted by ObscureReferenceMan at 9:25 AM on April 15, 2010

For god's sake don't get a '75 911. They are notoriously unreliable.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 11:16 AM on April 15, 2010

« Older Comprehensive Spanish resource?   |   Buy a case for a double bass? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.