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Quick Reads

British Cars in the 70s

The 1970s were a time of change.

In everyday fashion midis or max skirts replaced the iconic 60s miniskirt, and men let their ties grow as wide as their trouser bottoms.

The cars we drove saw some significant changes too.

That once pervasive chrome grill fell out of favour, and those wood and leather interiors became a historical look rather than a cutting edge statement of style.

In their place stepped up the coke bottle styling that was imported from America, a preference for plastic, and a reliance on the monochrome intensity of the matt black grill.

Many will remember the 70s as a time when strikes, walkouts and discontent made the future of the British auto industry look distinctly bleak… yet it was far from all grey doom and gloom.

Let’s not forget the thrill of the early 70s IROC races where the brightly painted Porsche’s created a spectacular sight on our new colour television sets.

If you, like us, look back on the 70s fondly, here are the British cars that brought some colour to our roads.

1.    Ford Cortina

1970's Ford Cortina Cars


Images sourced from Wikipedia

The car that dominated the decade was immortalised in song by the Tom Robinson Band at the close of the 70s:

“Wish I had a grey Cortina – whiplash aerial, racing trim – Cortina owner: no one meaner – Wish that I could be like him”

It has to be the Cortina Mk III that epitomises the 70s. This replaced the minimalist Mk II in 1970 and it injected into the model some real glamour.

Later the more sombre MK IV spelt the end of the ‘glam rock’ Cortina look and the end of an era.

2.    Mini

1970's mini cooper cars


Images sourced from

Although widely associated with the 60s (“You’re only supposed to blow the bloody doors off!”) – the Mini continued to dominate the 70s British motoring scene, and there are some great models to look out for.

Amongst these are the Clubman with its cute squared off nose, the estate version that is adorned with fake wooden panelling on the outside, and the sporty 1275 GT version.

3.    Morris Marina

1970's morris marina cars


Images sourced from Autotrader

The Marina was BL’s attempt to pull the rug from under the Escort’s feet, but it did not tug hard enough to prevent the financial troubles that loomed ahead.

Hiring ex-Ford stylist Roy Haynes to work on the Marina was a statement of intent. The exotic and wild styling of the interior was a sign of the times, and the fact that the Marina has a less loyal following than the Minor is simply a major shame.

Interest, however, has peaked since the piano dropping antics of Top Gear – so there are some out there still showing some love to the Marina.

4.    Vauxhall Viva

1970's red vauxhall viva cars


Images sourced from Wikipedia

Vauxhall focussed on the body rather than the engine to capture our imagination with the Viva.
The model itself had been around since the early 60s, but it was in the 70s that it really came to life.
The new 1970 Viva, known as the HC, was a small car made large. It looked wide, it rode low and it was packed with a swaggering sense of style.

5.    Austin/Morris 1100/1300

1970's Austin Morris cars


Images sourced from Simoncars

The 1100/1300 range sold so well for Austin/Morris in the 60s, that they neglected to do much to it in the 70s. It continued to do well for them, however, and there are some classic 70s touches to look out for – namely the outrageous colour variations that were introduced, including proud purple and bright orange.

6.    Ford Capri

1970's ford capri cars


Images sourced from Flickr

Ford claimed that the Capri was the car you have always promised yourself. It certainly broke new ground in bringing the sports car vibe into the reach of the mass market tribe.

It effortlessly combined the comfort of a four-seat saloon cabin with some glamorous fastback styling.

At the top of the range was the 3000E, which offered some very real benefits and some more dubious ones. Its top speed of 122mph – and its 0-60mph in eight seconds – truly impressed. Less convincing, perhaps, were such ‘prestigious’ touches as a steering wheel and gear knob covered in mock leather.

7.    Hillman Avenger

1970's Hillman Avenger cars


Images sourced from Wikipedia

The Avenger is 70s British style with a vengeance.

The period touches include the stylish plastic black grill, the coke bottle styling, the sloping rear end, and distinctive lamp clusters.

The car launched in 1970 and sold respectfully throughout the decade, staking its own place besides the Escort and the Viva.

What, no Allegro?

So there you have it: seven British classics from the 70s and deliberately not an Allegro in sight!

Cormac Reynolds

Cormac Reynolds

Community User

Cormac is a contributor in our Write for Us series. He is delighted to write for Preloved because he loves the world of cars. You can visit his business website, or follow him on Twitter @brightoncormac.