Imagine it’s 1975 and you’re looking to plug in a Doobie Brothers 8-track and take a summer road trip through the Rocky Mountains.

What would be your vehicle of choice?

Most car guys would think in terms of a Z-28 Camaro, Boss 302 Mustang or AAR Cuda, but I would pick something a lot less mainstream.

Jerry Sutherland

I would opt for a full-sized land yacht convertible–because an open air run through the Rockies appeals to me more than rocketing through the mountains in a classic pony car. That may sound like high treason because a majority of car guys are tuned into raw power, not a comfortable ride.

This is the part where the journey is more important than the destination. That’s why I would go for one of the Big Three convertibles before I would pick one of the Big Three pony cars.

The full-sized Chevy Caprice convertible is a great place to start. They ended the Chevy convertible run in 1975 with the big, bad Caprice—a car built for comfort—not speed.  The high end of the engine options came in the form of the 454 cubic inch V-8. It wasn’t the powerhouse version you saw in the 450-horse SS 454 Chevelle because this smog era version only pumped out 225 horses, but it would be enough to climb every hill in the Rockies.

These Caprices were like riding on clouds plus the option list was off the charts. An open-air road trip through some incredible scenery would be like a day in the mountains on a moving couch—with full stereo sound.

Ford’s last full-sized convertible was built in 1972, so you would be driving a gently used car–a ’72 LTD on a 1975 road trip. You’d have to make sure your used car came with the big, bad 429 cubic inch  V-8 because  even though it pumped out a meager 208 horsepower, the torque would easily power it over the mountain passes.

The LTD would be another loafer on the highway so a wind-in-your-hair run would be a soft, comfortable experience.

You’d forget all about a Boss 302 Mustang because this LTD would make the run with little or no pain—unless it rained. That’s when the roof goes up and you’re still warm and dry in your big Ford soft-top.

The last entry in the full-sized convertible Rocky Mountain Run of 1975 would be a five-year-old Plymouth Fury III convertible because they quit making full-sized Plymouth convertibles in 1970.

The car may be five years old, but that gives you two advantages. The price would go down and the power would go up because a 1970 Fury III had a free-breathing, big block T-code 440 option. This wasn’t the choked-off smog era version because it pumped out 350 horsepower.

The Fury wouldn’t be as smooth as the other two, but its torsion bar suspension would carve the mountain roads–and it would still ride better than a Cuda.

The big convertibles were in their sunset years back in ’75—and most gearheads would pick a sportier car (then and now) but for me any one of these land yachts would be a Doobie-Brothers-on–the 8-track, Zen moment.    

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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