A Guide to 1971 Cars

Weird and wonderful, here are a few of 1971’s most notable cars.
Written by Amber Reed
Reviewed by Jessica Barrett
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The innovations of the 1971 Mercedes-Benz 450 SL were a significant milestone for the venerable German automaker, at least as far as the US market was concerned. But some of the other best cars of 1971 were American-made. 
The 60s were over, the 70s had begun, and things were…a bit funky. 1971 was an odd year for cars, and the specimens of the day are nothing if not conversation-inducing. We’ve played a little fast and loose with some of the categories here, but that seems somehow appropriate for the dawn of the age of Disco.  
Cruise along with insurance
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Jerry as we take a look back at the cars of 1971. A lot has changed since then, but at least one thing has stayed the same—no matter what you drive, you need to have good
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The best cars of 1971

From celebrity-feud inducing luxury cars to some really heavy metal, here are a few of the automotive highlights of 1971. 

The best car of 1971: Mercedes Benz 450 SL 

Market range: widely variable, averages around $15,000
Powertrain: 4.5-liter V8 engine, four speed manual or three speed automatic transmission 
What makes it special: 
An ultimate automotive classic, the
Mercedes Benz
SL line began production in the 1950s. Made exclusively for the US market, the 450 SL was introduced in 1971 and was a landmark for several reasons.
This model year was the first SL with eight cylinders under the hood, and was also developed with a keen eye towards safety.  The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration had just been founded in 1970, and the SL 450 was designed specifically to meet the growing US safety standards. Crumple zones and stronger A-pillars brought an already beautiful and iconic car into the modern age, and the result was a rampant success. 
This particular formula was produced until 1981, and it’s safe to say that the combination of classic styling and modern updates was integral to Mercedes’ continued success in the US market. 
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The best luxury car of 1971: Stutz Blackhawk

Market range: variable, one currently listed for $235,000
Powertrain: V8, automatic transmission
What makes it special: 
The year is 1971, and you want a luxury car. Sure, you could get a Rolls Royce. You could get some plush-filled land yacht. Or you could be one of the proud few who purchased a Stutz Blackhawk. This fabulously ludicrous ultra-luxury vehicle was the “it” car among the celebrities of the day, and it’s rumored that Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley argued over who got to buy the first one. (Elvis won, btw). 
Sold for between $22,000 and $75,000 at the time, it was one of the last cars to be designed by Virgil Exner, which is a name you should know if you’re into classic 50s and 60s auto styling. 
The Blackhawk had real leather, real wood, genuine 24-karat gold plating, and a mink lined trunk—because the 70s. 
It wasn’t just good enough for The King, but actual kings as well—the Blackhawk was also popular with Middle Eastern royalty. Lucille Ball, Sammy Davis Jr, Johnny Cash—they all had a Blackhawk at one time or another. Dean Martin had three—one of which he crashed whilst having the vanity license plate ‘DRUNKY.’ You can’t make this stuff up. 

The best SUV of 1971: Chevrolet Suburban

Fair market range: highly variable
Powertrain: 6.6-liter V8 engine
What makes it special: 
SUVs as we know them today didn’t really exist in 1971—at the time, the manual for the
Chevy Suburban
classified it as a “Carryall.” No matter what you call them, the Suburban paved the way for the modern day SUV. There were only about 10,000 of these produced in 1971, so they’re kind of a collector’s car—especially if they’re restored and/or in good condition. 

The best luxury SUV of 1971: Chevrolet Blazer

Price at auction: $440,000
Powertrain: 6.2-liter V8  with automatic transmission
What makes it special:
If the idea of an SUV didn’t quite exist in 1971, then a luxury SUV was really beyond the pale. With that in mind, we’ve taken some liberties with our selection of the best luxury SUV of 1971. The
Chevy Blazer
of 1971 was another great example of a proto-SUV, but this particular 1971 Blazer is an entirely different creature.
Sold at auction in early 2022
for a whopping $440,000, this Blazer has been taken down to the bolts and rebuilt in over the top luxury. 
Sandblasted, smoothed, and painstakingly restored, this Blazer boasts a black leather interior, a Vintage Air climate control system, and an original-style steering wheel. In a particularly posh touch, the headliner has a backlit floating star effect akin to the Rolls Royce Phantom. 

The best family car of 1971: Pontiac Grand Safari

Average NADA value: $29,000
Powertrain: 6.6 or 7.5-liter V8, three speed automatic transmission
What makes it special: 
Bringing things back down to earth with a mighty thud is the Pontiac Grand Safari, which at a whopping 5,300 pounds is the heaviest vehicle
Pontiac
has ever made. This top-of-the line full size station wagon made its wood-paneled debut in 1971, and while it was sized down a bit for the second generation, the first run was big. Brady Bunch big. The Grand Safari was only sold between 1971 and 1978, making it a true 70s icon.  

The best sports car of 1971: Jaguar E-type Series III Roadster

Fair market range: $36,000 on average
Powertrain: 5.3-liter V12 engine with three speed automatic or four speed manual transmission
What makes it special: 
Jaguar
introduced its new V12 engine in the E-type series in 1971, and it was both a gorgeous car and a turning point for the brand. Not only did the new hardware under the hood mean that the Jag could stay competitive in the field, it was also the first appearance of the flagship engine for the long running and incredibly successful Jaguar XJ12. 
With a cylinder count that could only be matched by the likes of Maserati and Ferrari, the 1971 E-type produced 314 horsepower and could go 0-60 mph in 7 seconds. It was smooth and quiet too—Jaguar advertised it as the “Ultimate Cat” for its absence of engine noise. 

The best truck of 1971: Chevrolet El Camino

NADA average retail value: $29,500
Powertrain: Various inline 6 or V8 engines, manual or automatic transmission
What makes it special: 
Yes, we could’ve picked one of those beautiful, blocky old trucks like the classic
Chevrolet
C10. But we didn’t, because this is the 70s we’re dealing with, and strange things happened. 
The truck/coupe/muscle car that is the Chevrolet El Camino actually started production in the 1950s, but the models of the first few years of the 70s are the ones that are the most sought-after today for their iconic style and in-your face versatility. Is it a truck? Is it a car? Do we love it? Do we hate it? What we do know is that there’s only one El Camino. 
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What cars came out in 1971? 

The dawn of the 70s brought a lot of things with it. Disco, enormous lapels, and quite a few really interesting cars.
Model
Vehicle type
Engine
Fair market range
Notes
Rolls Royce Corniche
Luxury car
6.75-liter V8
$23,100 to $63,200
Rear wheel drive, available as a convertible or a coupe
AMC Matador
Coupe, sedan, or wagon
Inline 6 or V8
$2,900 to $13,100
Commonly used as family cars and in police fleets
Ford Pinto
Subcompact car
Various inline 4 or V6 versions
$1,250 to $6,925
Boom! The car that spawned a thousand jokes
Dodge Ram Van
Full-size van
Multiple V8 iterations
$1,700 to $7,825
A Van Life icon is born
Mitsubishi Galant FTO
Sports car
Inline 4 or inline 6
no data available
Not many made, pretty rare today
Buick Centurion
Luxury car
5.7 or 7.5 -liter V8
$7,200 to $23,500
Was a concept car in 1956, but not built until 1971
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FAQs

The best selling car in 1971 was the
Chrysler
New Yorker. Sleek yet heavy, it looks like something Dirty Harry would commandeer during a car chase on the gritty streets of San Francisco.
There were quite a few muscle cars and speedsters in 1971, but the Maserati Bora was among the fastest with a top speed of 171 mph.
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