Threes And Sevens: 1977

An old adage states, “You can catch more flies with honey than you can with vinegar.” Therefore, I will present this as a challenge instead of as a threat. When the next installment of Hall of Very Good Cars is posted (probably on Thursday the 7th), please do all you can to make sure it has more views than the first edition. The number I have in mind is that its views on the day of publication should be greater than or equal to the combined number of views the first post had on the day of publication and the day after. Thanks.

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For me, 1977 is the Seinfeld of years in the US automobile industry: nothing happened. Well, nothing exciting, anyway.

A tangent: I believe the whole “Seinfeld was the show about nothing” axiom arose from the Season 2 episode, The Chinese Restaurant. The episode takes place in only one locale, a Chinese restaurant (duh). I’m not sure if it was after he read the script or after he saw the produced but unaired episode, but then-NBC President Warren Littlefield commented, “Jerry, isn’t something supposed to happen on the show? Nothing happened.” Many upper-level NBC executives did not want the show produced after they had read the script and most of them did not wanted the show broadcast. Eventually, of course, the show aired and was one of the landmark episodes, one very different from standard sitcom fare at the time.

Back to 1977 in the US automobile industry: by this time, foreign manufacturers had made significant inroads in the US market. For example, in 1967 Toyota sold about 38,000 vehicles in the US. By 1977 that figure had grown to 439,000. Sales of imported cars in the US reached the two million mark for the first time. I guess that event was of some importance, but the foreign car “invasion” began long before 1977.

US manufacturers produced 9.1 million cars for the 1977 model year. That represented a healthy increase of about a million from 1976, but was not substantially higher than the 8.8 million for 1965.

Chevrolet led all domestic manufacturers with production of 2.54 million cars. Ford was second with 1.84 million and Oldsmobile–now defunct, sadly–finished third at 1.14 million. General Motors continued to dominate domestic car production/sales as Pontiac (also sadly defunct, of course) and Buick finished fourth and fifth, respectively.

Perhaps the fact that GM beat its Big Three competitors to the market with downsizing of their full-sized models led to its market share exceeding 60 percent, excluding foreign makes. I would love to write a book on the history of the US automobile industry, but very little in the 21st century interests me and no one would buy it, anyway.

After a long run of dominance, the Impala was not Chevrolet’s best-selling model in 1977. Anyone want to guess what was? Here it is:

 

See the source image

 

This is a 1977 Chevrolet Monte Carlo. The Landau coupe is shown here even though the S coupe was more popular that year. I couldn’t find a good photo of an S spec.

Monte Carlo production reached 411,000 in 1977, of which the S spec was about 55 percent. Combined, the Monte Carlo, the Caprice and the Nova had production/sales of 1.12 million units.

What else happened in 1977? Do you care that American Motors introduced a Pacer wagon, which–not surprisingly–did not help Pacer sales? Neither do I. Do you care that Chevrolet added the Concours model as sort of an upscale Nova? Neither do I. Like I wrote, 1977 was basically a year when nothing of note happened in the US automobile industry.

As always, I welcome thoughtful comments.

 

#ThreesAndSevens

#1977

#somanyCARSjustonelife

#disaffectedmusings

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9 thoughts on “Threes And Sevens: 1977

  1. I haven’t owned very many vehicles from the 70’s, I think 4, but one was a bit memorable. In 1985 I bought a used 1977 Monza Spyder with the 305 engine. Paid $400 for it, with just under 100K miles on it, because it was only running on 7 cylinders. I figured I would give it a tune up, even though the previous owner had paid to have one done. Bought the parts and got at it. After trying every combination of socket extensions and swivels I could NOT get out the rearmost drivers side spark plug. Called a friend that worked at a Chevy dealer and asked him what the trick was? He told me the dealership paid a flat rate of 5.5 HOURS for a tune up. First remove the fan and fan shroud, remove the driveshaft and put a plug in the transmission output, disconnect the shift linkage, unbolt the motor mounts and transmission mount, remove some wiring from the motor and disconnect the fuel line. Then use an engine hoist to LIFT UP THE ENGINE and pull it forward to get access to that spark plug. I did all this and once I got the plug out it became obvious that if it wasn’t the original, it was nearly so as the electrode ground was GONE. Not worn, gone.

    Put it back together and it ran on 8 cylinders, mostly. Drove it for about 45 minutes and gave it the old “Italian tune up”, in other words manually shifting to get some RPM’s. Soon it became happy to run on all 8 and could even chirp the tires on the 1-2 upshift.

    I was familiar with having to do strange things to be able to get to spark plugs before, on vehicles that I had built. This was my first experience with something like that, that had FACTORY engineers OK it. SMH

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  2. ‘Perhaps the fact that GM beat its Big Three competitors to the market with downsizing of their full-sized models led to its market share exceeding 60 percent’
    I know for my car (1976 Grand Prix, closely related to the Monte Carlo) there was a huge sales increase. Pontiac set records for the model as sales jumped from about 85,000 in 1975 to 228,000 in 1976 and 288,000 in 1977. A large part of that was Pontiac removed content and lowered the price. Standard engine went from the Pontiac 400 to the Pontiac 350 from the Lemans line, and the base GP had bench seat and column shift (buckets and console formerly standard), crank windows (vs power). This had a lot to do with Monte Carlo and Cutlass Supreme (as well as Torino and Cordoba) being strong competition in the segment.
    That said, much of what I have read and heard leads me to believe that the market backlashed against the down-sized B- and C- bodies from GM. I know Ford marketed their 1977 LTD as truly full-size cars, and I believe their sales jumped substantially (hard to know about Chrysler as they were having financial issues that kept some customers from buying their product). The jump in sales over the 1976-77 period for the Monte, GP and Cutlass (full line) etc is often attributed to consumers who didn’t want to miss out on the last big cars. (Side note, my Grand Prix, classed an intermediate, is listed at 212.7 in long, while a 1977 Impala full-size is listed at 212.1in.)
    Of course, by 1979, the manufacturers had all downsized their cars, so the market adjusted. But, the market reacted in similar fashion not too much later. Pontiac discontinued their B-body Bonneville in 1982, moving the nameplate to the G-body (intermediate) platform. Dealers got feedback from customers upset that Pontiac no longer sold a full size car. In 1983, GM began ‘importing’ Pontiac Parisiennes from Canada. The Parisienne was a holdover from the old Auto Pact. Oshawa plant built Pontiacs for the Canadian market that looked like US Pontiacs, but were engineered to fit on the same smaller Chevy Impala frame and using Chevy running gear (which by 1983, was now Corporate GM running gear).

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    1. Many thanks, Mark. Going back a few years, as much as I like the looks of the first-gen Monte Carlo I actually like the ’69 Grand Prix more. I am also a big fan of the ’67 Grand Prix convertible.

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      1. Ah the fabled 1-year-only Grand Prix convertible. They are great looking cars. The 67 Pontiacs are oddly attractive to me, with the way they split the stacked headlights with the chrome. But the GP treatment solves that well.
        I also like the first gen Monte Carlo but the more I look at it the more I see many Chevelle cues. I like the Chevelle, but the similarities make me think the MC loses some distinction. The 1969 Grand Prix though seems to borrow almost nothing from the Lemans or GTO, or even the full size cars. Very unique.

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      2. Of course, I have a strong affinity for ’67 Pontiacs given my first car was a ’67 GTO. I think the ’67 looks better than the ’66 because of the taillights, which are unappealing to me in the ’66.

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