Years ago in a grimy Santa Ana thrift store, I spotted it: the Edmund's Car Prices Buyer's Guide for 1975. The year that may have been the rock-bottom nadir for American car buyers since World War II (when you couldn't buy new cars at all). This yellowed paperback immediately became one of my favorite possessions- the humor value of seeing the dollar figure for every crappy tape-stripe trim option, every emissions-strangled low-po engine, and so on couldn't be beat. Soon I developed a game I'd play with my friends during drinking sessions, a game that went something like this...
Say you've been time-traveled back to 1975. Your wardrobe of rayon leisure suit, mood ring, and gold-razor-blade medallion has been arranged for you, as has your stash of Acapulco Gold and Rorer 714s, and you have only to buy your wheels in order to be ready to score with the foxes at the Peter Frampton show... which starts in an hour. You have been issued the inflation-adjusted equivalent of the money needed to buy a mid-level present-day car, in 1975 dollars; now take this book and pick out your vehicle and options, staying under that price (we'll assume the dealership has every imaginable combination of model and options sitting on the lot). Well, what's it gonna be? Hilarity always ensued once the participants got a good look at their choices. Did you want a big-block V8 wheezing out 140 horses? Could you get a 4-speed with it? It goes without saying that you must have the 8-track player. And so on.
And now it's your turn! We'll pick out a pair of 1975 cars, choose options that make them cost roughly the same amount (trying to get whatever passed for 'high performance" gear, of course), and let you vote! So let's go on to today's WTBI75 contestants:
Oleg Cassini AMC Matador
Back in the Malaise Era, American automakers figured they could make buyers forget about the lackluster performance and ugly crash bumpers on their cars by applying the special styling touch of famous fashion designers to their cars. Ford got inflatable-tank designer Bill Blass for their team, so AMC counterpunched by hiring Oleg Cassini and Pierre Cardin. And that leads us to Choice #1 in today's poll: the 1975 Oleg Cassini Matador!
Ahhh, just imagine lounging in those fine leather seats as you pop an ELO tape into the 8-track! Such style! Let's see what you get with your Matador:
- • Base Matador coupe, V8: $2982
- • Oleg Cassini trim package: $236
- • Brougham package (required with Oleg Cassini): $173
- • 360 4-bbl engine with dual exhaust: $200
- • Twin-Grip differential: $40
- • Optional axle ratio: $11
- • Power front disc brakes: $45
- • Air conditioning: $356
- • Entertainment Center with 8-track and 4 speakers: $237
Ford Maverick Grabber
Ford didn't offer a designer edition Maverick in '75 (you had to go for an LTD or Continental for the touch of Bill Blass), but their anonymous in-house stylists did a fine job with the Grabber package. You got all manner of emblems and tape stripes, not to mention a super-cool hood.
OK, you didn't get the twin-nostril Grabber scoops in '75, but you did get some snazzy graphics that told the world where you were at, man. Not only that, you could get the Maverick with a floor-shifted 3-speed manual (sorry, no factory 4-speed option), and the overall package is cheaper; thus, you get more extras for the price compared to the Matador. So here's our Grabber option list:
- • Grabber Maverick Coupe, V8 (includes 302-2V engine and 3-speed manual trans): $2959
- • Handling suspension: $12
- • Power front disc brakes: $65
- • Floor shift: $22
- • Traction-Lok differential: $40
- • AM/FM Stereo: $191
- • Air conditioning: $354
- • DR70-14 WSW radial tires: $71
- • Aluminum wheels: $45
- • Reclining Grabber bucket seats: $110
- • Power steering: $105
- • Sunroof: $179
Yes, in the real world you'd probably skip the factory stereo and go with aftermarket audio gear (perhaps a nice Sparkomatic rig?), and you'd want to do a quick cam/intake/carb/headers upgrade on the engine. But let's say you're heading straight for the Frampton concert from the AMC or Ford dealership and need your car fully equipped today! In 2007 dollars, the prices of these two cars come to just under $17,000 (admittedly, I'm using base prices instead of MSRP, but with dealerships desperate to move iron off their lots during a period of recession, you should have been able to sweat the salesman down to base price anyway). Can you get anything as cool as an Oleg Cassini Matador or Grabber Maverick for Ford Focus money these days? Does the Focus have a little-known Grabber option package? Come on, Ford, give us a Grabber Focus!
Stay tuned for the next What To Drive In '75 episode, in which you'll get to vote on a couple of imports!