1974 Chevy Laguna Type S-3 (Image/OnAllCylinders)

The decade of the 1970s has adopted the ominous nickname “malaise era” among gearheads.

At first glance, it’s easy to see why folks aren’t too fond of the seventies—performance was down, styling was subjective, and the rise of the import market forced cars to downsize (both externally and under the hood).

But to disparage the entire decade is to overlook the critically important role it played in the evolution of the automobile.

Besides, throughout the 1970s, engine performance gradually recovered, car designers learned to integrate federally-mandated safety systems, and the Japanese showed they could build game-changing performance cars like the Nissan 240Z and Mazda RX7.

yellow nissan datsun 240z front at a car show

The 1970s gave us other great car stuff too.

Including some of the most significant TV/movie tie-ins in pop culture, like the Dukes of Hazzard Charger, Smokey & the Bandit Trans Am, Mad Max Falcon, and Vanishing Point Challenger.

And what about the Fox Body Mustang? It was introduced in 1979 and has since become a drag-strip mainstay—practically every gearhead has either owned, driven, or ridden in a Fox Body at some point.

The Mustang II paved the way for the Fox Body. (Image/OnAllCylinders)

While we’re at it…

Ever avoid a wreck because of anti-lock brakes?

Did you have a poster of a Lamborghini Countach on your wall?

front driver side quarter shot of a red 1972 detomaso pantera
Or if you dig your Italian cars with American V8 power, there’s always the Pantera. (Image/OnAllCylinders)

Do you like car-crushing monster trucks?

Well, friend, you can thank the seventies for all these things.

The 1970s clearly represent the Best Decade in Automotive History. Can ya dig it?

front of 1979 chevy g20 van
Author: Paul Sakalas

Paul is the editor of OnAllCylinders. When he's not writing, you'll probably find him fixing oil leaks in a Jeep CJ-5 or roof leaks in an old Corvette ragtop. Thanks to a penchant for vintage Honda motorcycles, he spends the rest of his time fiddling with carburetors and cleaning chain lube off his left pant leg.