Top 10 Tacky Automotive Features of the 1970s

In many ways, the 1970s was a time of both transition and decline. This is especially true with regard to the American automotive industry, which began to struggle under the weight of increasing fuel costs, strict government emission and safety regulations, as well as a deluge of fuel-efficient foreign competitors. While American automakers tried their best at producing small, fuel-efficient cars such as the AMC Gremlin or Ford Pinto, they were never really good at it. Rather, most vehicles rolling off Detroit assembly lines remained large, and simply traded their muscle for more luxurious appointments. As the decade progressed, this focus on luxury trickled down even to lower-priced intermediates. By the late 1970s, a sort of pseudo-luxury car was left with emission system-choked small blocks, thick velour interiors and tacky chrome-on-plastic accents. Here’s a look at some of the tacky appointments domestic luxury cars of the 1970s received, listed subjectively from the somewhat useful to the less-so. Some are not exclusive to the 1970s, but were still widely used at the time.

10 Spare Tire Humps

Like many other styling features on this list, spare tire humps were attempts to mimic the custom-bodied cars of the early 20th century. The first Lincoln Continental sported a covered spare, which was both functional and attractive. Lincoln designers pushed this feature on many Continental models over the years, even when they were no longer used for housing a spare and looked awkward, if not tacky, on more modern luxury cars. However, some (like the Continental Mark III) wore their tire humps tastefully, leading me to place this styling feature at number 10.

Opera Windows

Those who lived during the 1970s will likely remember the immense popularity of two door “personal” luxury cars. These luxury coupes almost always featured small, fixed decorative rear passenger windows that were separated from front windows by a thick b-pillar. The idea was to give rear passengers a sense of privacy, or to some, claustrophobia, while complementing the luxurious appearance of the car. Even less expensive coupes like the Chevrolet Monte Carlo sported small rear windows reminiscent of a formal carriage. Though sometimes tacky, these windows were still somewhat useful (and a few looked good). Thus, they are rightfully placed at number 9.

Pillow-topped Seats

Who wouldn’t want pillow-topped seats for those long, boring road trips? While present-day luxury cars often feature stiff, conservatively padded bucket seats, in the 1970s designers stopped at nothing to provide the utmost in derrière comfort. Cars like the Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz featured thick button-tufted pillow-topped seats, which were literally pillows attached to additional padding below. It is perhaps the closest thing to driving your couch down the expressway. Of course, today these comfortable seats appear geriatric at best and downright garish at worst.

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