Jul
29
10 Best Cars of 1974, Best Buys of 1974

Consumer Guide selected 10 Best Buys for 1974, along with several “second choices.”

The Consumer Guide Best Buy program is now more than 40 years old. For 2015 Consumer Guide divvied up the new-vehicle market into 19 categories. Back in 1974, 10 segments got the job done. Here we present all 10 of CG’s ’74 picks, plus the second-choice picks presented for some categories.

All the text below is extracted directly from our 1974 magazine without editing. For fun, take note of how often the words “roadhandling” and “roadability” are used. It’s a little amusing now to think of the Plymouth Fury III as a class leader in handling prowess, but apparently that was the case.

The 5-Best Cars of 1975

 

Subcompacts

Best Buy: Ford Pinto

1974 Ford Pinto

1974 Ford Pinto

Base Price: $2292

Base Engine: 80-horsepower 122-inch four 

“In the three years the Pinto has been in production, it has built a good record for reliability and a low repair incidence rate. The car has not been involved in any serious callback campaigns.”

 

Second Choice: Fiat 124 Special

1974 Fiat 124 Special

1974 Fiat 124 Special

Base Price: $3026

Base Engine: 90-horsepower 1600cc four  

“The Fiat 124 has been in production since 1966, so Fiat has had ample time to work the bugs out.”

 

 

Compacts

Plymouth Valiant Sedan

1974 Plymouth Valaint

1974 Plymouth Valiant

Base Price: $3819

Base Engine: 105-horsepower 225-inch six

“With the 225-cubic inch slant six, the Valiant offers a unique combination of performance and economy. This engine also is renown for long life and trouble-free operation.”

 

Second Choice: AMC Hornet Hatchback

1974 AMC Hornet

1974 AMC Hornet

Base Price:$2499

Base Engine: 100-horsepower 232-inch six 

“For those who want a 2-door compact, CONSUMER GUIDE recommends the smart-looking but practical hatchback model in the Hornet line. It has first-class economy of operation and is known as a quality product.”

Our Apologies: The Personal Luxury Cars of 1975

 

Sporty Compacts

Best Buy: Chevrolet Camaro

1974 Chevrolet Camaro

1974 Chevrolet Camaro

Base Price: $3366

Base Engine: 100-horsepower 250-inch six 

“The right size and the right look—that’s how CONSUMER GUIDE views the Camaro. The GM entry also offers sensible powertrain combinations and an exceptionally good compromise of ride comfort and road-holding.”

 

Second Choice: Pontiac Firebird

1974 Pontiac Firebird

1974 Pontiac Firebird

Base Price: $3335

Base Engine: 100-horsepower 250-inch six

“Essentially the same car as the Chevrolet Camaro, the Pontiac Firebird has a certain style distinction, a positive Pontiac identity, and its own list of options. Price level is usually higher than the Camaro, but trade-in values usually come out even.”

 

Intermediates

Best Buy: Oldsmobile Cutlass (All)

1974 Oldsmobile Cutlass

1974 Oldsmobile Cutlass

Base Price: $3793 (coupe)

Base Engine: 180-horsepower 350-inch V8

“The Cutlass has superb ride comfort—right up there with the big cars. Roadholding and stability are among the Cutlass’s strong points, too. Olds engines have a strong pull and will run with above average fuel efficiency.”

 

Standards

Best Buy: Plymouth Fury III

1974 Plymouth Plymouth Fury III

1974 Plymouth Plymouth Fury III

Base Price: $4268

Base Engine: 180-horsepower 360-inch V8 

“The suspension system, and brakes are improved for 1974, with results that give the Plymouth a great advantage over its competitors in roadholding and stability without giving up any significant degree of ride comfort.”

Review Flashback! 1975 Ford Granada

 

Medium Standards

Best Buy: Chrysler Newport

1974 Chrysler Newport

1974 Chrysler Newport

Base Price: $4677

Base Engine: 185-horsepower 400-inch V8

“The Chrysler Airtemp air-conditioning installation with eight higher-level outlets is possibly the best in the industry. Steel-belted radial tires are optional and strongly recommended.”

 

Second Choice: Oldsmobile Nighty-Eight Regency

1974 Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight

1974 Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight

Base Price: $5776

Base Engine: 210-horsepower 455-inch V8 

“The Olds V8 has positive valve rotators on both intake and exhaust valves. This gives longer valve life, as well as improved valve seating for better engine efficiency.”

 

Luxury

Best Buy: Mercedes-Benz 450 SEL

1974 Mercedes-Benz 450 SEL

1974 Mercedes-Benz 450 SEL

Base Price: $17,400

Base Engine: 220-horsepower 450-inch V8 

“There is genuine luxury in the 450 SEL. Seats are contoured for comfort, and front bucket-seat backs recline. The seat cushions may seem hard at first, but they produce less fatigue than soft American-type seats on a long trip.”

 

Specialty

Best Buy: Buick Riviera

1974 Buick Riviera

1974 Buick Riviera

Base Price: $5678

Base Engine: 210-horsepower 455-inch V8 

“If you only have a small family and are going on a long trip, the Buick Riviera is your first-class ticket.”

 

Second Choice: Citroen SM

1974 Citroen SM

1974 Citroen SM

Base Price: $13,350

Base Engine: 185-horsepower 2965cc six 

“Ride comfort is unequaled, except by other Citroen models. The SM has no metal springs, but rides on air-filled containers dampened by oil. The power steering works on a new principle, with power assist variable according to car speed.”

 

Low-Priced sports

Best Buy: Audi Fox

1974 Audi Fox

1974 Audi Fox

Base Price: $4110

Base Engine: 75-horsepower 1471cc four 

“The interior of the Fox is well appointed, roomy, and practical; and the trunk is surprisingly spacious. The Fox has front-wheel drive, giving a flat, low floor, and excellent down-the-road stability.”

 

Second Choice: Fiat X 1/9

1974 Fiat X 1/9

1974 Fiat X 1/9

Base Price: $3920

Base Engine: 75-horsepower 1290cc four 

“Small and light, the Fiat X 1/9 has soft springs and a remarkably well-cushioned ride for a car that can go around corners as it does. The engine is not noisy, either; it gives great economy, and gives the car a top speed over 90 mph.”

 

High-Priced Sports

Best Buy: Datsun 240Z

1974 Datusn 240Z

1974 Datusn 240Z

Base Price: $5364

Base Engine: 151-horsepower 2393cc six

“The 240/Z has advanced, but not radical, engineering. The engine has a single overhead camshaft—it is not a twin-cam job. It has independent rear suspension but uses regular coil springs all around.”

NOVA(S): The General Motors Compacts of 1975

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