Question of the Weekend – What 70s Styling idea would you bring back?

I thought this would be the perfect question for the Malaise-O-Rama weekend. Yes, the 70s cars were weird, styled in cartoonish proportions, with every gimmick thrown on for good measure. Some of the additions were a bit overwrought, while others were well thought out. Continue past the jump for some of my ideas…

I’ll start out with the items that I don’t ever see making a comeback. Things like padded Vinyl Roofs are out as we strive for a more aerodynamic appearance. Along those same lines, I don’t see stand-up Hood Ornaments making a comeback, blunt front-ends, or a lot of filigree glued onto the flanks.

However, wouldn’t some additional windows in the rear help with visibility? I would also like to see some additional bodyside molding, to protect from the inevitable moron who dings your door at the parking garage. Front cornering lamps are a brilliant idea that was only recently discontinued in some Nissans and Mercurys.

On the inside, I would like to see color…. any color beside black, charcoal, gray, or beige. And while we are at it, how about the option for a bench seat, which would be useful in SUVs and large four-door sedans. Last thing I would like to return is actual names for cars and trucks…….. Now its your turn. What would you bring back from the 70’s into today’s cars and trucks?

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  1. tonyola Avatar

    I have in my '94 Buick: 1. blue cloth bench seat; 2. fake wire wheel covers; 3. horizontal dash with no center stack; 4. foot pedal parking brake; and, 5. a real car name (LeSabre Limited). That's quite enough '70s remembrance for me.
    As for the deep-dish cast aluminum wheels as shown on the upper right hand corner of the lead picture, my Dad had those on his '77 Marquis. Good-looking rims.

  2. Maymar Avatar

    Bench seats, absolutely. Both because it'd help allow us to downsize even more (Fiat Multiplia, I'm lookin' at you, even if I'm sort of squinting when I'm looking at your exterior), and because if it's getting harder and harder to buy manual transmissions, I want something in return. I'm more than a little disappointed the North American Nissan Cube has a centre console.
    I also second the multiple colours – both inside and out. I've had cars with 70's tux blue and bordello red interiors (perhaps thankfully not on the same vehicle). I wouldn't mind seeing at least a dozen colours available on each vehicle. And I mean actual colours, not assorted shades of neutral (like the Nissan GT-R – black, white, three greys, and red). It makes me a little giddy that the Dodge Grand Caravan's available in bright orange.

    1. tonyola Avatar

      I've always thought that console-mounted automatic shifters were a slightly silly idea done mainly for "sporty" looks, especially in this age of steering wheel paddles. 99% of people are just going to shift an automatic into D and be done with it anyway.

      1. bboxy Avatar

        Same here. Bring back the column- (or nearby, anyway-) mounted shifters and give us our middle seat area back for other stuff

      2. From_a_Buick_6 Avatar

        Yep. If the car can't be had with a manual transmission, don't waste my time with a floor shift. The small, column-mounted shifters Mercedes uses on the E and S Class are probably the best way forward. I'd rather have an extra seat or more console storage.

        1. mdharrell Avatar

          I'm okay with column shifters for manuals, too.

    2. ptschett Avatar

      I liked the contrasting color options for the interior. For example my dad's '78 F-150 was black with a red interior, and his '88 F-250 was white & blue two-tone with blue inside. Now you maybe get to choose between grey, beige and black (and many cars don't have a choice.)

    1. jjd241 Avatar

      Works every time!
      <img src="; width="400">

  3. ptschett Avatar

    I liked the driver-centric dashboards. Here, for example, is the controls just to the left of the steering wheel in a '73 Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight (shamelessly yanked off flickr via Google Image Search). Passenger wants to meddle with the fan or the temperature setting? Too bad.
    <img src=""&gt;

    1. JayP Avatar

      My dad's Plymouth Satellite had everything to the left of the driver… almost to the point that the passenger was a second thought.

    2. tonyola Avatar

      It's a "Comfortron"! That's almost as good as the "Dyna-Ride" suspension on my Buick.

      1. Black Steelies Avatar

        This really calls for another Hooniverse asks:
        Words car brands make up for pre-existing technology.

    3. Black Steelies Avatar

      Just noticed today how incredibly horrific the ergonomic placement of these controls are located on dad's brand new 1993 Dodge Dynasty. Everything is a full arm's stretch to the dash and the radio controls are conveniently located right behind the column shifter. Aside from this I love the car, but such lack of thought.

    4. IronBallsMcG Avatar

      My damn passenger doesn't need to fiddle with my controls. Just sit there and be quiet.

    5. Rollo Grande Avatar
      Rollo Grande

      I had a 1973 Olds 88 with that dash. It had dual front ashtrays! A big one each for the driver and the passenger…center-mounted right next to each other. Also if you were cheap the Comfortron was plain old Heat and A/C, and there were no switches above it…just a forlorn plank of fake wood panel next tt the headlight switch.

  4. BrianTheHoon Avatar

    <img src=""&gt;
    Since vent windows aren't a choice, I'm torn between turning lights and pedestrian-impaling hood ornaments.
    No, definitely pedestrian-impaling hood ornaments.
    Seriously though, I'd trade all my cup holders for vent windows.

    1. Pinkerton1 Avatar

      The side windows are my #1 choice as well. Even though I gave up smoking, these were a very useful little feature.

    2. From_a_Buick_6 Avatar

      Seconded. My cupholders in my Mustang are useless. They're right behind the shifter, so if you have a large bottle, changing gears is really awkward. And because there's zero useful storage space outside the glove box in that car, I mostly use the cupholders to store my sunglasses.
      I'd gladly trade them for vent windows.
      And hood ornaments? There's no reason why we shouldn't be able to have a spring-loaded hood ornament. Mercedes still does it and I think pedestrian crash protection is overrated in this country, anyway. Of course, most brand have taken such a minimalist approach to badging in recent years (another thing I hate; I like having the brand name and trim level spelled out on the car) that no one is libel to resurrect that feature anytime soon.

    3. FuzzyPlushroom Avatar

      Neither of my Volvos has either cup holders or vent windows. I'd tolerate the former and love the latter.

      1. RichardKopf Avatar

        You have a 240 like me, right? If so, the cup holders are in the glove box! I use 'cup holders' loosely here.

        1. FuzzyPlushroom Avatar

          Cup circles. And the 244 has, I suppose, a thirty-degree sealed-container holder in the console as well. The 745… might have those glove-box-door indents, I don't remember; I know 850s and S/V/XC70s do. It came with two of those jam-beside-the-seat cupholders (single piece of plastic) which have stayed in it to hold change, cassettes, and at present a fuel injector.

          1. RichardKopf Avatar

            The space between the E-Brake handle and the passenger seat on my 240 serves as a good cup holder.

    4. mr. mzs zsm msz esq Avatar
      mr. mzs zsm msz esq

      I've got the windowlets but no cupholders in my car. I miss cupholders for storing randon stuff, but they are easier to add than those side windows and they are in fact great. Nice cool wind to the face or up the sleeve. The first keeps you alert even when the heater is on and the second does and incredible job of cooling you down. I've spent some time thinking about how to add a radio and cupholders though. But I notice in your pic another nice feature, gutters, though they tend to only work about half the time when not in motion.

  5. smokyburnout Avatar

    Designs that prioritized room to work under the hood over room for rear seat passengers, hardtops, and interior color choices.

  6. Tomsk Avatar

    Though maybe not the most aesthetically pleasing feature to come out of the Disco Age, the pragmatist in me would love to see bumpers that could withstand a 10-15 mph impact with only slight bends or scuff marks instead of the current bumpers that turn to $800 plastic paperweights at any hit above 5 mph.
    Besides, they double as extra seats when parked!
    <img src="; width="500" />

    1. smokyburnout Avatar

      Not just a seat… Stepstool too!
      <img src="; width="600"/>

      1. mr. mzs zsm msz esq Avatar
        mr. mzs zsm msz esq

        They put a grooved rubber patch on top of the rear bumperlets on my Volvo wagon, so that you could step up on them when loading the roof. Mine has that even though there is no roof rack.

    2. From_a_Buick_6 Avatar

      Yeah, I'm tired of plastic front fascias that are destroyed by the tiniest of impacts. No, I don't want to go back to the railroad ties of the '70s, but a more functional bumper on a plain-jane family car wouldn't be a bad thing. It's not like the styling on a Camry could get much worse, anyway.

    3. Black Steelies Avatar

      Agree. I think this every time someone remarks about how ugly they are. Just another form vs. function debate.

    4. P161911 Avatar

      I actually like the US spec battering rams on my old '87 E30. The thought of a bumper actually being able to take a bump was nice.

    5. TurboBrick Avatar

      One of my favorite rants! IMHO the current style of making exotic shaped bumpers painted in body color, and preferrably with some really expensive paint like pearl white, are perfect examples of the short sighted thinking present in cars sold today. That and the sides without rub strips. Only thing that matters is making it look pretty for the first buyer at the dealership, who cares if it looks like crap in three years.

  7. Black Steelies Avatar

    This styling trend all but died out in the 70s in the advent of safety and monocoque car-bodies. But we can all agree is still one of the highlights of early malaise-era design. Let's see some pillarless hardtop sedan action, eh?!
    <img src="; width=600">

    1. Mad_Hungarian Avatar

      Beautiful! I had a '74 in exactly the same color scheme. Definitely, we need to bring back the incredible range of choices in interior fabrics and colors.

      1. dukeisduke Avatar

        A great aunt and uncle had an Electra just like that. I love those '70s C-Bodies.

    2. ptschett Avatar

      My grandpa had a car almost exactly like this one. I remember being fascinated by the vestigial tailfins and the half-a-B-pillar that the rear doors hinged upon.
      <img src="; width="500">

  8. Alff Avatar

    Chrome sidepipes…
    <img src=""&gt;
    aw heck … chrome anything.
    The Blackhawk also displays the faux spare hump in the trunklid, a feature not seen since the absurd vestigial bulge on the rear of the Lincoln Mk VIII.

    1. packratmatt Avatar

      Oooh. Sweet white walls! A CB and T-tops should also make a comeback. And, while we're at it, how about sedan based wagons and custom vans?

      1. mr. mzs zsm msz esq Avatar
        mr. mzs zsm msz esq

        You can still get new custom vans here in the midwest though the outsides are much more plain now-a-days. If I had the money I'd buy one instead of a huge SUV.

  9. skitter Avatar

    I think we'll start seeing more wheel spats as a byproduct of more serious aerodynamics. But I'm particularly inspired by the glass T-tops from earlier.

    1. scoutdude Avatar

      Ford did shaker hoods on the Mach 1 relatively recently.

    2. Black Steelies Avatar

      Yes, they've also put that console cooler in more recent offerings like a Caliber and maybe a Honda of some sort. Surely nothing as remarkable as a Ramcharger though!

  10. Manic_King Avatar

    You could still get totally red or blue interior only(?) from Porsche and yellow seat belts if you like, also brown is making comeback as interior and exterior color….
    <img src=""&gt;

  11. Abe Avatar

    Do lap coolers count as styling cues or functional elements? In either case I want them back!

  12. P161911 Avatar

    My 2011 actually has several "old" features that I find rather nice.
    -column shifted automatic
    -front bench seat with seat belts for 3 (back bench with seating for another 3)
    -a real metal bumper on the rear at least
    -foot actuated parking brake
    -NO engine cover
    -a hood that doesn't require a stick to hold it up
    -wind up windows
    -steel wheels

  13. Smells_Homeless Avatar

    I'd trade a full point of drag for A pillars I could see around.

  14. Van Sarockin Avatar
    Van Sarockin

    Fastback Louver Panels.

  15. IronBallsMcG Avatar

    The Full-size Personal Luxury Coupe.
    <img src=""&gt;

  16. Jim-Bob Avatar

    The dirt cheap, reliable Japanese subcompact. I am talking a car that is shorter in height and length than the current Toyota Yaris and costs under $10,000 with A/C, a REAL manual transmission and little else. It should also be available in a wagon variant like a Datsun PL510, and like the 510 it should have rear wheel drive and the engine in the front.

    1. FuzzyPlushroom Avatar

      The 510's wheelbase is slightly shorter than the Yaris hatchback's, but the Datsun wagon is fourteen inches longer overall. I'd settle for Yaris-sized, five-speed, rear-drive, and good visibility.

  17. 2stroke4life Avatar

    Small, simple, reasonably high-performance cars like the VW Scirocco, Fiat 128 Sport and Renault R17 Gordini.

  18. Joe Btfsplk Avatar
    Joe Btfsplk

    What ever happened to "Road hugging Weight" and "Perimeter Frame Construction"? These were very good things…and we need "Fine, Corinthion Leather" …..and "Coach Lamps".

  19. LTDScott Avatar

    Carriage lights on the B or C pillars.

  20. dukeisduke Avatar

    Definitely cornering lights. My '68 Bonneville 4-door sedan had them, and I still miss 'em.

  21. sparky II Avatar
    sparky II

    Actual color in interiors, as opposed to the boring boring boring black/blue/gray/mouse-vomit beige interiors we are forced to live with now. Deep red, tomato soup red, gold, green, aqua, white. When (and why) did we all become so scared of color?
    Mmm, white. I once had a '68 Riviera with an all-white interior (except for an awful avocado padded dashboard), and a Plymouth Scamp in white as well. Loved 'em both. And they stayed cooler in summer, a nice side benefit.
    If I get two picks: wing windows, without a doubt.

  22. TurboBrick Avatar

    Smaller wheel sizes. What's the "small" wheel size in today's full size cars, 18"? Fiesta has 15" wheels, remember when SAABs were special because they had the big 15's? was looking at the spec sheet for a Challenger and it came with 20"s. Those used to be donk wheels! Please show me a under $50 thousand dollar car that has brakes that won't clear a 17" wheel.

  23. Dutch Avatar

    We got in a 2011 Charger…black with deep red seats. This Italian thing seems to be paying off already

  24. rocketrodeo Avatar

    Opera lamps! The absolute pinnacle of malaise era excess. Would make a good Encyclopedia Hoonatica entry as well.

  25. gooseboy78 Avatar

    i do agree with some of these but vynil roof wasnt one of them. ive had a vinyl roof and the problem they have is they sweat and rust. in aus column change is an option in the big cars. yes i would bring back obsurdly big cars and engines to match it, also the tiny datsuns (sorry nissans) and ke20/30 corrollas in rwd

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