Many of us look back on the 70s as being a time of tackiness gone wild. Some of those now retro luxury options, though, really need to make a comeback in today’s cars.
Some of us remember the 1970s. At least, vaguely we might. Being a child of the 70s, I remember the times as being good. Cars were huge and roomy, the hair bands that ruined heavy metal hadn’t started yet, and you could still look under the hood of the car with your dad and name the dozen or so parts visible on the engine with certainty.
My how times have changed. Today, nobody rebuilds carburetors, driveway oil changes are unusual, and cars are tiny with a lot more electronics than steel. The land yacht whose safety relied on sheer size and mass has been replaced by air bags and collision sensors.
Of course, some of these things are good. Cars today get more than double the mileage their 1970s counterparts did. But who can deny the sheer opulence of the 1977 Lincoln Continental Mark V with its affluent, efficiency-mocking 7mpg?
Luxury in the 70s was all about trim levels. The up-fit models had some of the most sumptuous additions available on cars before or since. Sometimes, I wish some of those would come back. Here are my favorites:
Today, cars generally feature seating that is stiff and bucket-shaped. Sure, it’s comfortable, but only just so. We pillow-top our mattresses, couches, and office chairs. Yet we leave our automobiles with what amounts to carved rocks for seating. Bring back the pillow top so we can snooze at long lights again!
Limousine Windows and Lights
Called “opera” windows and lights, these were the little touches added to coupes and sedans to hint at their luxurious limousine-like interiors. It let the world know that you weren’t driving just any standard Buick. Nope, it’s the luxury model!
Big Hood Ornaments
Ya, they’re aerodynamically unsound, but big hood ornaments were awesome. In fact, they were so cool that some after-market kits allowed you to make them removable (like the face-plate stereos of the 1990s) so that hoodlums wouldn’t steal them to make necklaces. Some were so theft-proof, you could tie a tow strap to them and pull the car to the garage if you needed to.
Cool Trim Titles
Remember when trim designations were more than just a letter or number? Today, it’s the “5” or the “M” that says it’s the “upfit” model. Back in the day, though, it was the “d’Elegance” (not just elegance, but French elegance, damn you) and the “Regency” (GM had a special flair for coming up with these titles). When you told your friends that you’d bought a new Cadillac, you could say it was the “Seville Elegante” to make sure they knew that you got the primo package for ultimate opulence.
Remember when cars had wood (or at least faux wood) on them? Even the lamest of mobiles could be upgraded to bitchin-ness with a little plastified wood. Questionable automobile choices like the Ranchero looked less so when you added the faux wood treatment with its ultra-tacky borders. Of course, the ultimate in wood treatments were the station wagons of the day. No family land yacht that seated 100 was complete without backward-facing seats and faux wood paneling and dash treatments. With a million horses under the hood, all that wood around the car, and a suspension that made the term “body roll” mean something akin to ocean going liners.. those were the heyday of family vacations on the road.
Bring these features back, I say! Sure, the flecked paint and chromed plastic on the newest line of today’s luxury cars might be great and all, but unless they throw on some faux wood paneling, add in pillow-top seats, put on some Opera lighting and windows, attach a big royal crest-appearing ornament on front, and call it the “d’Awesome Gucci Ninety-Eight”, I’m not buying.