Yesterday’s post wasn’t exactly read by a lot of people. Basically, Monday had the same number of views as Sunday, a day without a post. That’s quite discouraging to me.
On another personal note, 1973 was the year I was bar-mitzvahed. Do I have to explain what that is? When a Jewish boy turns 13 he assumes all the rights and obligations of a Jewish adult. A ceremony is usually held, in a synagogue, to celebrate that event. Two of my best friends, Dr. Zal and Dr. Hoss, were also bar-mitzvahed in 1973. In fact, our three ceremonies were held eight days apart.
My bar-mitzvah (meaning “son of the commandment”) was, in one way, a horror show. My parents were on the road to divorce, with my father driving the car, and did not sit at the same table during the reception. One can imagine the tension that created for me.
On the other hand, 1973 was the year my (i)ncomparable niece was born. Her presence has been a supreme blessing for all of us.
What American car from 1973 was named to Edmunds’ list of the 100 most beautiful cars of all time in 2012? It wasn’t the Corvette, the Camaro or the Challenger. It was this car:
This is a 1973 Pontiac Grand Am. From Edmunds: “The most daring nose ever put on a GM product. Clean elegance for the everyman, but still masculine. Looks best with honeycomb wheels and the optional Ram Air hood with two NACA ducts.” Yes, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but my eyes also see a great exterior design. Here is another picture, this one from The American Car by the Auto Editors of Consumer Guide®.
Of course, the most significant development for the US auto industry in 1973 was the OPEC oil embargo that began in October. As “punishment” for its continued support of Israel (including during the Yom Kippur War that occurred that month), OPEC–dominated by Arab nations–stopped directly exporting oil to the US. The embargo led to gasoline shortages, long lines and large price increases. (The embargo was lifted in March of 1974.)
The price of a barrel of oil increased four-fold during the embargo. While it ultimately led to more enlightened policy to make the US more energy independent, in the short-term the embargo and its effects greatly contributed to a long-lived recession that lasted through 1975. While this post is about 1973, it is worth noting that US car output declined from more than eight million units in ’73 to just 6.5 million in 1975. All of the figures from 1973-75 were still below 1965’s mark of 8.8 million cars produced.
Other 1973 developments:
All US-made 1973 model year cars had to be equipped with front bumpers that protected the car from a 5-MPH crash as well as 2.5-MPH rear bumpers. Cars built after January 1, 1973 had to have protective beams in the doors.
Exhaust gas re-circulation (EGR) valves were mandated for 1973 to reduce nitrogen oxide emissions.
A new Federal law required dealers to formally disclose mileage on used cars and banned tampering with the odometer.
In order to meet ever increasing emissions standards, in addition to responding to insurance practices that made owning performance cars quite expensive for many, US cars lost much performance. Take the Corvette, for example. The last Threes And Sevens post was about 1967. The base engine for the Corvette that year had 300 horsepower; the highest-rated engine was 435 HP, but the L88 option probably had at least 100 more HP than that even though it was rated at 430.
Granting that some of the decline was due to a change in how engine output was measured, but in 1973 the base Corvette engine had 190 HP–a 37 percent decline from 1967. The highest rated Vette engine in ’73 was the 454 big-block rated at 275 HP, also a 37 percent decline from 1967’s highest official rating and about a 50 percent decline from the likely output of the L88.
As I have written before, and as most car aficionados know, in time automobile engineers would outsmart the government and the insurance companies. In 1973, though, no one knew that would happen. In some ways, the period from 1972-73 through the early 80s could be seen as the Dark Ages of the US automobile industry, a time when things moved backwards from a performance standpoint.
As for how the makes ranked in production/sales, Chevrolet led with 2.58 million cars compared to Ford’s 2.35 million. Oldsmobile was third at about 923,000. Once again, the Impala was the Bow Tie’s best seller at nearly 550,000 units. The four-door sedan variant, shown below, just edged out the Custom Coupe as the top-selling Impala.
These Threes And Sevens posts could all easily be 1,500+ words, but I think people’s eyes glaze over at anything more than about a thousand. I’ll stop here. If you like this blog, please let your friends know about it. Many thanks.
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10 thoughts on “Threes And Sevens: 1973”
How could the comment about the Monday read be true? I read your post about the generator. It made me wonder why more builders don’t just include it so its cost can be amortized over 15/30 years. Especially now with power being a fickle thing-in our house in MD, we have experienced three outages over an hour long in five years-a generator is nice to have.
Thanks, Doc. Sadly, readership continues to decline. Short of using Fack Fucebook, I suspect that trend will continue.
There’s a reason the lowest quality of items like cabinets and faucets is called builder-grade. Like a car dealer, builders have a higher profit margin on the upgrades. Higher-end homes have higher quality “standard” installs, but even those houses have upgrades available.
And my first car, a 1973 Celica.
Turns out my daughter was born on the same date, June 24, as my Bar Mitzvah.
1972 was the beginning of the end for factory performance, ’73 was the nail in the coffin. It started to change in the mid 80’s for the better but for 10+ years life was tough for those who liked performance.
The only good thing I remember about 73 is that’s the year I became a legal road user (got my license).
Thanks, DDM. Once again, at the time virtually no one could have foreseen the technical/engineering advances that would bring unimaginable power, handling and other features to automobiles.
1973 was the second year of our marriage and it was an eventful year. I was assigned to an unaccompanied tour in South East Asia which meant the my lovely wife would live and work in Arizona while the USAF would have me living and working in Ubon, Thailand. We spent March, April and part of May moving back to Arizona from Texas, and then going to Colorado and Florida for me to be trained on the new aircraft and systems the Air Force assigned me to work on. From May 1973 to May 1974, I spent a year and five days away from my true love. We did have a wonderful reunion when she met me in San Francisco on my return from Thailand.
Some people’s 1973 was better than others, and some were worse. You decide.
Many thanks for sharing such a significant story, Philip.
I don’t know what happened to the 5 MPH bumper. A couple of years ago, I accidentally hit a high curb with my car while driving into a parking spot at less than 1 MPH. I did $1200 worth of damage.
JS, welcome to the world of modern cars.
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