19th May 2015, 09:40
I can time the shift of the government involvement, as I was there. I got my license in fall 1969. You could work a summer as a high school student and buy amazing used cars easily for 1000-2000. Our school lot had used 389 Tri power GTOs, a couple of 440 Roadrunners, a Camaro SS, and on and on. Our parents drove some new high powered cars such as GS455, 442s, and Cougar XR7s, which if lucky we drove to school at times.
In 1970 horsepower hit its height. Insurance companies put a tremendous amount of pressure on the manufacturers to build new American cars with horsepower restrictions. Some savvy customers found ways around it on their order forms, buying new sleepers with big blocks.
71 was significant - a gradual slide to what was to come. GM had a lengthy car strike in 72. My friend waited forever for his 1972 SS350 Camaro special order to arrive. It was under 3500 new. In 73-74 we started with anti pollution devices that the government pushed on the automakers. They were the sign of what was to come. Many I knew got a new car and threw every bit of it away. Did some performance mods, and inspections were not like today. Now these items and stock air cleaners can bring big money doing a full restoration on certain models.
In 1974 we had the gas embargo, sitting hours for gas. People panicked and traded in amazing cars for Ford Granadas, Volares etc. Then the 5 mph bumper laws thoroughly ruined the look of many cars. Bumpers pushed out with shocks. A few got it right like the Corvette, and the Pontiac Trans Am was a good looking car that held on the longest in the 70s. But overall getting 190 HP out of a 350 V8 in that era was a joke. We had the government and insurance companies to thank for it.
Nowadays manufacturers thankfully have better technology such as air bags, ABS, and tire improvements so they don't make sacrifices as in the past. The period from 1973 up was a lesson. I switched to new imports. I had some new cars that had nice designs such as the Nissan Z cars. You could get a Supra or a 911. Not all new cars were gutless. You had to look around a lot and decide which direction you wanted to go. Economy wasn't really that great then with anti pollution devices added. Cars didn't run very well. And many did away with air to get better numbers. Sunroofs were a craze; many aftermarket. Truly a sad time, and some of the ugliest cars ever. We have a lot to be thankful for today, even if many new cars cost more than our houses cost back then.