FIVE-ORITES: Remembering the Brougham, Vinyl Seats and Chrome Bumpers—1974 Ford cars from Pinto to Thunderbird.

Many a car aficionado will point to the 1970’s as having some of the worst automotive designs in history. Being a child of 70’s I choose to view the period differently. It was a time in my life when I began my life’s passion around automotive design, and I look fondly back at the admittedly awkward designs with fond memories, and perhaps rose-colored glasses.

In 1974 the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) mandated regulations to passenger car bumpers allowing direct impacts at 5-mile-per-hour with no damage to the car's lights, safety equipment, and engine. Most carmakers responded to these regulations by bolting-on energy absorbing chrome bumpers that looked (on most cars) as if it was a poorly designed aftermarket product. “Integrated bumpers” was not yet a concept.

My first car was a 1974 Ford Maverick. It was a hand-me-down given to me on my 17th birthday—a gift from my parents who purchased it new from Thoedore Robins Ford in Southern California. Bolted-on energy absorbing chrome bumpers and all, I loved that car—which carried me through college.

So today, we take a look at one the 1974 passenger car line up from Ford. There were six passenger lines that year—Pinto, Mustang, Maverick, Thunderbird, LTD, and Torino. It was an age of opera windows, Broughams and muscle cars. Not to mention the ubiquitous vinyl roof, split bench seat, woodgrain trim (and paneling), and chrome, chrome, and more chrome. Please put on your rose-colored glasses and enjoy the ride.

Let's start out with the 1974 FORD PINTO

The Ford Pinto was one of the leaders of the subcompact movement of the 1970’s alongside the Chevy Vega, Pinto’s were mass-produced from 1971 to 1980. Ford offered the Pinto in "Runabout" hatchback and wagon models. The Pinto's legacy was marred by controversy surrounding the safety of its gas tank design—suggesting that a rear-end collision could force the gas tank to explode. A study examining actual incident data concluded the Pinto was as safe as, or safer than, other cars in its class.


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