MAY 25, 2015 (APRIL 2015): A 1973 PONTIAC LEMANS: A PERFECT EXAMPLE OF A RODNEY DANGERFIELD CAR

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The 70s has taken a lot of heat as a decade.

 

It was a decade that started with the breakup of the Beatles, along with the deaths of Morrison, Joplin and Hendrix, and ended with disco music.

 

Early 70s North American cars were neutered by new emission standards and also given massive bumpers that looked like bad orthodontic work in 1973.

 

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The knee jerk reaction of legislators meant style and tire-melting performance took a seat on the bench in the 70s.

 

However, there was an overall classic 70s automotive look that defined the era and we at MSCC celebrate the Me Decade cars every time we find an opportunity to do a story on these rides. We call them the Rodney Dangerfield cars because they get little respect in the hobby.

 

We spotted a beautiful 1973 Pontiac Lemans Sport Coupe at a show and discovered a great story with current owner Gunter Roschak. The Poncho was bought brand new by his parents back in 1973 and became a part of the family legacy.

 

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In fact, Gunter’s mother drove this car after she passed her driver’s licence at 65 years old. The Le Mans was pampered during its time on the road and only has 80,000 miles on the odometer after 42 years.

 

Gunter has a strong connection to the car, given its history with his parents, and was happy to make the car better than ever when he became its second owner.

 

The original small block Pontiac engine “did not quite do it” in Gunter’s words, so he put a 400 cubic inch engine that was not held back by the former engine’s performance- restrictive emission rules.

 

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Gunter assured us he could now “drive fast” with the engine swap.

 

Another issue that dogged the Rodney Dangerfield cars from the 70s was their handling characteristics. The 70s-era two door hardtops sported a long hood/short deck style that meant more weight on the front end and less weight on the back end.

 

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The common belief was an unbalanced weight ratio on the car meant it plowed into corners and broke loose on the back end when driven into a turn at higher speed. A soft suspension added to the handling problems for the typical 70s car which, along with a longer steering ratio, meant drivers were sawing on the steering wheel during a fast turn.

 

This characteristic was not evident to Gunter as he recounted a trip through the Canadian Rockies when his intermediate-sized Pontiac “drove great” in his words. We share Gunter’s observation because we believe any car can be over-driven by a bad driver.

 

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Gunter clearly does not overplay his hand behind the wheel of the Le Mans and instead enjoys the car in its proper context: a solid highway cruiser with plenty of power for today’s roads.

 

The car has already provided fond memories for the next generation in Gunter’s family because he used it as a wedding car for his daughter in 2013.

 

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The final word in this Poncho’s story goes to Gunter and fully explains our excitement when we discovered his car; “you don’t see many of these at shows.”

 

Jim Sutherland

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