You have to keep in mind what $9,000 was worth in those days. It's not like you could expect to buy a full-size car today for that. But you did get more for your money back then.
I bought my first home then for 36k; now with the current market, it's 225k. My salary is 4 times as much now. So you are right, you had far more purchasing power then on cars and homes etc. Also you took 3 year car loans then. You buy today over 5 or 6 years with tons of miles, or you trade and never own. Pretty sad.
More durability, safety, and comfort, obviously. And the 8-tracks and old style stereos worked just fine. Technological improvements are really only very marginal since those days - they're marketed and propagandized as somehow making huge improvements in people's lives, but in fact the lifestyle and the material standard of living was far superior in the 1970s for 99% of the people.
Yes, that's exactly what you got! Who in their right mind would want to pay the same amount for a Toyota Camry as they could for a large full-size car like a luxurious Buick Electra (considering you could still buy cars like that now)? In 1976 a Buick Electra cost around $8-9K; in today's money that would be about $30,000. I know I would much rather have the comfortable, luxurious, 6 passenger car with a trunk nearly twice as large as a Camry and a big V8! A no brainer in my opinion.
It would be a waste of time to argue with anyone who thinks that the sound systems available in today's cars represent only a "marginal" improvement over 8-tracks. My first car had a radio that needed to warm up for a minute before it began playing, because it had tubes in it. It was junk compared to what is available today.
Well I think it is pointless arguing with someone who thinks a great radio makes a great car! Sadly today most consumers only care if their car has Bluetooth, navigation, XM radio, and so on and so on. Those things are all nice, but by no means make the car. People care less what the car looks like and how it drives. That is why we all drive cars that look like turtles and have harsh, uncomfortable rides.