5 one-year-wonder muscle cars from the Malaise era


The 1970s marked a particularly grim time for high-performance cars. The muscle car boom peaked at the start of the decade, but soaring insurance rates, tightening emissions standards, and the gas crisis brought down the curtain almost immediately thereafter. Despite the headwinds, Detroit didn’t want to quit the category and kept taking stabs at it. Sadly, most of their attempts were weak or short-lived. These five cars came and went in a single model year, making them the Malaise era’s one-year wonder muscle cars.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://www.hagerty.com/articles-videos/articles/2019/03/28/5-malaise-era-muscle-cars
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That King Cobra is truly an impressive cheese. I’d been embarrassed even to walk by it. This list should have included the most unexpected. oddball post-muscle car, muscle car of them all – the AMC Gremlin V8. But I guess it lasted more than one year so it’s disqualified.

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I’m not a MOPAR guy but I love that Richard Petty 78 Volare/Aspen. It’s a good looking car and it still had a 360, no matter how detuned it may have been.


1971? Malaise? You could still get a Hemicuda for goodness sake! The Malaise era started a couple model years later, so the SC/360 does not count as a musclecar from that nadir time of Detroit muscle. Nice try.


Laughing my head off about the Hornet. Whenever I list all the cars I’ve owned, I forget this one. Had a '73 360 4 speed I bought in '77. Had swivel buckets, I added glass packs exhaust and air shocks, then left it stock.

Unimpressive car. Only memorable thing was passing a Mich State Cop at 105MPH on US131, then getting away with a “Energy ticket” for doing 70MPH after I had the trooper in stitches during our “do you know why I pulled you over?” talk.


I would like to add the 1976 Chevy Nova SS. The last year for a SS option on the mighty Nova. The Bi-Centennial year of America

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I really despise these articles, probably written by someone who wasn’t around for the decade of the '70s, and to disrespect the term Muscle Cars by even thinking of attaching it to any of these pathetic examples of cars is absurd. The writer obviously has been seduced by a bunch of stripes, spoilers, stick on body cladding and gaudy decals into thinking this translated into performance. Memo to author Joe Lorio - don’t embarrass yourself writing about things that you obviously do not understand.

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Pontiac’s Can Am was actually not a poor performing car. I don’t know the actual numbers, but it didn’t really feel any different than the Trans Ams that year. And the shaker scoop was functional, like the early T/As, so it sounded better at full throttle. I understand that the short run was due to the machine which made the rear spoiler breaking in mid-run, rather than poor sales. At least, I don’t remember them hanging around in the dealerships, like the Superbirds did.


The cool thing about those cars is that they all came optional or standard with a V8. In the 1980’s it was so very easy to ditch the emissions crap and drop a hot engine in a smaller bodied $100 mustang II, Fairmount, Monza, Nova, Hornet, Monte Carlo, Grenada, Volare etc. and have a cheap, fast hotrod. For a time they were extremely plentiful. Only problem is that they were so poorly made that finding a good car became harder and harder and that era quickly vanished.


The guy properly termed the period the “malaise era.”

How did he disrespect muscle cars? Seems to me he was beating up on these cars and the times just perfectly for you.

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In 1981 I owned a '79 Dodge Magnum GT with the Police Package etc. While getting my Associate Degree at Fox Valley Tech. Appleton WI. my friend had a Aspen Super Coupe with the same E58 package. We had a break in between classes so we raced to the bar before the next class. EVERY time I would beat him by half a car length. In 2016 I finally found another Magnum GT with the E58 package except another color and more options. Another friend now has a Aspen Super Coupe and I kindly refer it as a “Chicken Coupe”.


Re: the Hornet. You forgot to mention the AMC Rebel for 1970. 340 HP Stock, more than the SC Ramblers 315. The last true Muscle car before the dog days of the 70’s.


I was thinking that the SD-455 Trans Am should be on here. But then I looked it up and found it was a 2 year car - 73/74.

So even though it missed this list, talk about a car that gave the finger to the start of the detuned, smogged out, reduced hp malaise era!


I am ready for the upcoming abuse from the readers, but I am the age where I was a bit late for true 60’s performance cars and grew up with the 70’s smog-mobiles. And in some strange ways, I liked them. The ones from the 60’s were showing up in high school parking lots by now. The ones from the 70’s were easy to modify if you were into that. I remember big engine bays where things bolted up nicely and trash cans being filled in the garages with smog and emissions equipment. At the time they had new car smell, drove tight since they were new, and bizarre colors with plaid interiors matched Farrah Fawcett’s swimming suit and hair style.

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In the mid 70’s, everyone I knew had late 60’s early 70’s muscle cars. They were cheap and plentiful, and you could get parts anywhere to raise your performance level as high as you wanted. New cars were simply laughed at, and for myself, I wasn’t interested in anything less than 300 hp.


My brother had the 75 Pontiac Lemans Sport coupe with the NACA duct hood. Very handsome car in Burgundy/white Landau top and white interior.

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No mention of the 1974 Pontiac GTO, the only year based on the Ventura which was a facelifted Chevy Nova. It even had a Shaker hood.


The 71 hornet sc/360 was a muscle car, it still had all the compression and no smog components, Shouldn’t be on this list. What should be is the 1974 Nova Spirit of America one year only and it was awesome… also the Impala and Vega got one year only SoA options as well.


Another article from Harerty bashing classic cars they insure. I like the sporty cars from the 70’s. They may have been down on power. Most had gained safety features, plus had better handling and braking over the cars from previous decades. The articles should state all of the gains that 70’s cars had. Bumpers that protect the cars and drivers. Many 70’s cars had much better rack and pinion steering, better brakes and suspension. Many options and wild interior colors. Strips, scoops and spoilers. As far as horsepower. That was down some in the 70’s. Not as much as many people think. The horsepower ratings were changed from gross to net in 1972.

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I had a Monza coupe with a V8. I think it was roughly a ‘76 model. I don’t recall what size and don’t know if I ever knew the HP but I knew it went fast and burnt tires. 140hp?