It’s pretty easy to pick mainstream classic cars for cool factor, but there were other players in the 60s and 70s that didn’t get the spotlight you see with Camaros, Challengers and Mustangs.

That doesn’t mean these other cars were less cool–it just means they were less well-known.

Jerry Sutherland

Take the 1970 Pontiac Catalina. Pontiac cut its own swath at GM back in 1970 and the Catalina is a great example. The ‘70 Catalina was a large, distinctive car with a unique style of its own.

The grille really told the story about this Poncho, because it was like an updated version of the Edsel horse collar mid-section that worked better. There was no doubt the Catalina buyer coughed up more bucks than the Chevy buyer.

The 1968 Mercury Cyclone fastback was another unsung hero in the 60s-70s era. The Ford Torino got the press at Ford, but it was its lesser cousin–the Cyclone that really refined the intermediate fastback look at Ford.

The Cyclone matched its name because this car looked like it was traveling at Warp 1–even when it was parked. It’s cool and rare because you’ll see 10,000 ’68 Mustangs at car shows before you’ll see one ’68 Cyclone fastback.

You have to work a little harder to find exceptionally cool cars in the mid-70s, but the ’76 Olds 442 fits the description.

Car makers were running a little scared in 1976–heavy bumper laws and heavy smog laws really handcuffed the Big Three. Olds wasn’t intimidated, because the ’76 442 really told the world they meant business–the graphics and badges were like neon signs. Oldsmobile accepted the challenge in 1976 to fight back against a culture where disco music reigned supreme, and most cars couldn’t go faster than 90 miles per hour.

The 1971 Plymouth Fury GT cashed in on the legendary muscle car known as the Road Runner. Most people back in ’71 would recognize the B-Body Chargers and E-body Cudas and Challengers.

Fewer would recognize the C-body Plymouth because guys who bought these big cars were more concerned about passenger capacity than 0-60 times. Nevertheless, the Plymouth Fury GT filled the gap between performance and practicality–the big GT was rare in ’71 and now it’s caught a wave in 2021 collectability.   

The final non-spotlight car is the 1972 Buick GS. This car came after the brute force era of 1970 and ’71, but Buick pulled off a classic with the ’72 GS.

They were clean-looking cars because bureaucrats hadn’t shoved bumper laws down Detroit’s throat in 1972. They didn’t have the stump-pulling torque of the 1970 Buick GS, but they did have spoilers, graphics, and badges that gave buyers a step up on the cool factor–especially in a world where cool factor in cars was becoming extinct.     

Car manufacturers can never predict exactly which car will get the spotlight, and which one won’t, but over time there will always be lesser-known stars (like these five) that will draw a mob at a 2021 car show.                      

Jerry Sutherland

By: Jerry Sutherland

Jerry Sutherland is a veteran automotive writer with a primary focus on the collector car hobby. His work has been published in many outlets and publications, including the National Post, Calgary Herald, Edmonton Journal, Ottawa Citizen, Montreal Gazette, Saskatoon StarPhoenix, Regina Leader-Post,  Vancouver Sun and The Truth About Cars. He is also a regular contributor to Auto Roundup Publications.

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