1973: The Malaise Era was just kicking off, with the Arab oil embargo and Nixon's Saturday Night Massacre letting everyone know that pessimism would be the order of the day for quite a while. The Vietnam War was clearly not going to result in another hide for Uncle Sam to nail onto the barn, and- perhaps worst of all- engine compression ratios were getting smaller and car bumpers were getting bigger. Into this quagmire slogged the '73 Pontiac Grand Am Colonnade, with wild styling that showed the how the Pontiac Division wasn't going to let those freaks over at Buick outdo them with the boat-tail Riviera.
Check out that nose! I knew I'd hit Early Malaise Era paydirt when I spotted this fine machine parked across the street from the minister's '77 Camaro. This car is in excellent, probably original, condition; this being Alameda, I wouldn't be shocked to find it's still in the hands of the original owner.
Pontiac's once-mighty 400 had lost quite a bit of oomph since the late 60s, with only 170 horses in the '73 version.
The rear side glass on the Colonnade has these classy louvers, which let the world know you were rolling in true Grand Am style.
Sure, it's easy to laugh at Malaise Era cars; in fact, it seems an entire industry has since sprung up to laugh at every aspect of the period. But before you laugh too hard, remember that cars like the Grand Am showed a very American optimism in the face of deepening gloom. Or, for a different way of looking at it, watch the following 1973 performance of the Edgar Winter Group and see if that doesn't put Malaise in a different light:
Yes, their outfits are absurdly dated, right down to Edgar's 1st-gen digital watch, and the rock-god posturing of the band might be equally dated. But who the hell cares? Much like the Grand Am, these guys have integrity beneath the silly exterior. You need another example? Fine, just observe what kids watching Sesame Street in 1973 got to see on the tube:
Again, we get the ridiculous Early Malaise Era clothing, but every single member of this band is orders of magnitude funkier than his present-day counterpart. Why, just the horn section alone- watch those guys long enough and you'll fail a drug test! And Stevie- in '73 he was Grand Am-like, but by the "I Just Called To Say I Love You" era he had become a Sunbird. So don't be so quick to dismiss Malaise!