The 1970s Car Knowledge Test. How much do you know?
By: Torrance Grey
Image: National Archives and Records Administration, College Park [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
About This Quiz
Consider yourself a classic car connoisseur? Can you tell a Stutz from an AMC without looking for the emblem? Could you spot the difference between a Pinto and a Vega, or a Blackhawk and a Firebird without breaking a sweat? If so, this '70s car quiz might be the perfect chance for you to prove your automotive IQ!
Seventies car manufacturers were subject to all kinds of factors, resulting in a complete overhaul of the entire industry. As a result of this overhaul, cars went through more changes during the decade than in any other period before or since. Pressure from foreign automakers increased, especially as American buyers flocked to the uber-popular VW Beetle, leaving U.S. car companies struggling to maintain market share. At the same time, more stringent safety and emissions standards shifted focus away from design towards things like better bumpers, more effective airbags, and reduced pollution. Lurking above everything else was the oil crisis, which made gasoline harder to come by and drove buyers away from the steel hulks of the '60s, towards more fuel-efficient models like the Pinto, Gremlin or Vega.
What was the classic family car of the 1970s?
The station wagon was a roomy car with a cargo area accessible by a tailgate. In the 1970s, the suburbs were full of them. The minivan and then the sport-utility vehicle have rendered the station-wagon mostly obsolete.
Which car was controversial because of its vulnerability to deadly fires after a rear-end collision?
The design and position of the Pinto's fuel tank made it prone to fires after a rear-end impact. What really hurt Ford's reputation, though, was a paper trail indicating Ford knew about the problem and did not issue a recall.
Which was the top-selling import in the US as the 1970s opened?
Though Japanese cars would enter the American market in a big way in the 1970s, the first year, 1970, was still all about the beloved "Bug."
1970 saw the introduction of what term for a car with a wide rear door accessing a cargo area?
In the US, the hatchback is known as a car of convenience, not sexiness. But fans of the UK's "Top Gear" might recognize the term "hot hatch" for a hatchback car with sexy body styling and decent speed.
Which car that debuted in 1970 takes its name from the Latin word for "heaven"?
"Celica" is derived from "coelica," which means "of heaven or the firmament." The Chevy Nova's name, meanwhile, is derived from the Latin word for "new," but there was an unintended consequence in the Latin American market: "No va" means "it doesn't go" in Spanish.
Which carmaker debuted the Colt in 1970?
The Colt was actually a rebranded Mitsubishi. Though its name implied a pony car, the Colt was definitely an economy car.
What kind of car was famously featured in 1971's "Vanishing Point"?
Barry Newman's disillusioned former police officer, Kowalski, drove a 1970 Challenger. Nearly four decades later, the same model of Challenger was featured in Quentin Tarantino's, "Death Proof."
Which carmaker came out with the Gremlin?
American Motors Corporation was a competitor to the Big Three until it was bought by Chrysler in 1987. Most people in the US only recognize AMC as the former "American Movie Classics" channel, now just "AMC."
Which car, still produced today, debuted in 1972?
The Honda Civic is one of the greatest success stories in all of Japanese automaking. The Civic line gave birth to the surprisingly sexy two-seater "CRX" in the 1980s, and went hybrid in the 2000s. You can buy a tenth-generation Civic today.
In 1973, the Oldsmobile Toronado was the first GM model to offer what?
Thanks to Retrowaste.com for this historical tidbit! (If this quiz whets your appetite, you might want to visit Retrowaste and check out the articles on automotive history through the various decades).
What year was the oil crisis that inspired lighter, more fuel-efficient cars?
The 1970s saw not one but two fuel crises. In 1973, middle-eastern nations forced an oil embargo in protest of several Western nations' support of Israel in the Yom Kippur War. Then, in 1979, the fall of the Shah in Iran destabilized oil production there, causing a less-severe "oil shock."
Consumer desire for gas-efficient gas led to the rise of the "four-banger." What exactly is this?
By 1975, the expectation that a family car would have a V8 engine was decidedly a thing of the past. A four-cylinder engine was all most consumers needed (it helped that family sizes were also shrinking).
Which car maker is now known as Nissan?
Datsun was always a Nissan brand. The "re-badging" of Datsun vehicles as Nissans in North America began first with expensive models, and eventually the Datsun name was phased out. It was revived, however, to sell inexpensive cars in Third World markets.
Which import shared its name with a type of wind?
Volkswagen introdced the Scirocco in 1974. Though it ceased production in 1992, you will still see vintage Sciroccos on the road -- they have a loyal fan base.
Which of the following '70s offerings qualifies as a "muscle car"?
Both the Nova and the Duster had powerful engines; the Duster's was 340 cubic inches. The two also look a lot alike; it's easy to mistake one for the other on the street.
Which 1970s car was a rare misfire for a popular, long-lived brand?
The Mustang II sold well at the time, but history has not looked kindly on it. Modern car buffs consider it underpowered and tacky-looking compared to nearly all other generations of the classic pony car.
Was the Toyota Corolla first sold in the 1970s?
This economy car actually made its debut in 1966. It gained traction in north America in the 1970s due to, of course, the need for fuel-efficient cars.
Which car made appearances in "Smokey and the Bandit," "Hooper," and "Rocky II," among other movies?
The Firebird Trans Am, made by Pontiac, was a movie star, even into the millennial era. Daryl Hannah drove one in "Kill Bill: Vol 2."
Which company made the Monte Carlo?
The Monte Carlo bucked the fuel-efficiency trend by coming with a standard V8 engine. Though not a huge "boat" like the Continental, the Monte Carlo offered power and a bit of luxury -- its name focusing attention on the latter.
Which of these cars was NOT made by AMC?
Chrysler made the Cordoba. It was smaller than previous Chryslers, while still preserving the comfort of a luxury car.
Which TV actor appeared in ads for the Chrysler Cordoba?
Montalban starred in ABC's Saturday night show, "Fantasy Island." This show about an island where dreams come true -- and then go very wrong -- gave nightmares to '70s kids whose parents weren't around to send them to bed after "The Love Boat."
Mark Hamill hunted down his stolen car in the 1978 film "______ Summer."
Mark Hamill was riding high off the success of "Star Wars" when he made this forgettable movie about a teenager who builds a Corvette Stingray in shop class, only to have it stolen. (Note: "Stingray Summer" would also have worked, and -- we think -- sounds cooler!)
What kind of car did Farrah Fawcett drive in "Charlie's Angels"?
Well, it looked cool at the time. Plus, with Farrah's Jill Munroe at the wheel, we're pretty sure no one was paying much attention to the car.
Which car maker offered the "Z car"?
The Datsun 240Z came out in October 1969 as a 1970 model, followed by the Datsun 260Z and 280Z all through the '70s. It was very popular in racing and you'll still see a few well-maintained specimens on the road today. (This is much less true of other Datsun models). Nissan continues the Z line to this day.
Which actor drove for Bob Sharp Racing in the 1970s?
The humble actor registered for races as "P.L. Newman." He made his debut on the track in 1972, after getting instruction in auto racing for a movie and finding he was good at it.
Which European car maker created the groundbreaking Countach?
The low, streamlined Countach looked like a Lamborghini you could drive through a mail slot, and it also boasted a V12 engine. Its name is an expression of surprise in Piedmontese Italian, similar to French's "sacrebleu!"
Which carmaker created the boxy, ultra-safe wagons so popular in the 1970s?
Like the VW Beetle before it, the Volvo wagon stuck around to become a classic student/stoner car of the 1980s and 1990s. Age has finally caught up with them: you see relatively few '70s Volvos on the roads nowadays.
In 1974's "Herbie Rides Again," what kind of car is Herbie?
Herbie was a VW Beetle with a mind of his own. Herbie made two outings in the 1970s, "Herbie Rides Again" and "Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo."
Which of these carmakers created the Superba?
Carmakers have given their products increasingly silly, no-meaning names -- but we're pretty sure no one has made a "Superba" yet. (It's probably just a matter of time).
Which of these cars did NOT debut in the 1970s?
The Honda CRX is a good example of what is called a "hot hatch" in the UK. It was a speedy little two-seater offered mostly in red, black or white -- but it didn't debut until 1984.
Is the DeLorean a 1970s car?
Almost! ... The DeLorean debuted in 1981 and ceased production in 1983. It was on its way to obscurity when an appearance in "Back to the Future" made it something of a cult item.
1970s cars were the last to have carburetors. What replaced them in the 1980s?
Fuel injection atomizes and sprays gasoline into the cylinder for compression. It's a more efficient technique than carburetion (a process we won't go into here, for brevity's sake).
Which car was the US's top-seller as the 70s came to a close?
Though better economic times were coming, Americans weren't ready to give up compact cars yet -- thus the popularity of the light, low-powered Chevette. If you wanted to feel special, you could get it with fake wood paneling on the doors.
The decade of uninspired car design caused by gas shortages is now called the "_______ Era."
This term was coined by Jalopnik, an online magazine. It refers generally to the period from 1973 to 1983.
What '70s car did Al Bundy drive in "Married ... With Children"?
The show couldn't get its act together on this point. Though more than one script referred to Al driving a Dodge, car aficionados have confirmed the car seen in exterior/driving shots is actually a 1972 Plymouth Duster.
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