‘When asked about the ugliest cars of the 1970s, we're tempted to say "All of them." Between the big hair, the wide ties, and the gaudy vehicles, the Nixon-Ford-Carter era was not exactly a high point for design of any kind. Still, some cars stand out as particularly ugly, even by the standards of the decade. Here are the first three cars:
1970 AMC Gremlin
The Gremlin sold for two-thirds the cost of most small cars, which is appropriate, because it looked like two-thirds of a car. Truth be told, the Gremlin was a stroke of corporate genius, cheap to develop and right for the times, and it was a runaway sales success, at least by AMC's modest standards. But did it have to be so ugly? As we outlined in our brief history of the Gremlin, it could have been worse: AMC considered a shortened version of the Hornet that design chief Dick Teague said was even uglier—though considering that he signed off on the Gremlin, we're not sure his opinion can be trusted.
1970 Buick Riviera
The second-generation Buick Riviera was a breathtakingly beautiful car—at least from 1966 until 1969, with its racy lines and inboard hidden headlights. And then… this happened. It takes a moment to appreciate just how ugly this car is, probably because of the mind's defensive mechanism of blocking out extreme trauma, but look long enough (you poor thing) and you will see it: The way the grille seems to be sliding down off the front of the car, the way the skirted rear fenders seem to be growing over the wheels like runaway mold, and the whole body is bloated. Riviera sales, steadily rising through the late '60s, dropped like a girder in free-fall when this blob hit the showroom floor. Mercifully, it was replaced by the controversial but beautiful boat-tail Riviera in 1971.
Photo by GPS56, used under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license
1970 Ford Thunderbird
The late-60s T-Birds were, if not exactly pretty cars, certainly non-offensive—and then 1970 came along and Ford decided to stick a giant beak on the front. The emphasis should be on Thunder, not bird.’
- Automobilemag, 4/10/2020 & Photos from Automobile Mag & GPS56