A Guide to 1975 Cars

1975 marked a definitive end to the age of muscle cars, allowing classics like the BMW 3 Series and Volkswagen Golf to establish niches.
Written by Cameron Thiessen
Reviewed by Jessica Barrett
At a time when Americans were reeling from soaring fuel prices, cars like the
Jaguar XJ-S
Volkswagen Golf
got a chance to shine a little brighter in the U.S. market. They were two of the best cars of 1975, along with the Ferrari 308, Cadillac Seville, and a handful of others.
The year 1975 wasn’t great for the United States. The Vietnam War ended mostly in embarrassment, and to make matters worse, much of the Western world was descending into economic turmoil. 
The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries agreed a year prior to raise crude oil prices by 10%, leading to a 24% decrease in U.S. auto production by the end of 1974 compared to 1973. By 1975, the age of American muscle had ended, falling prey to inflated gas prices and new emissions control regulations. People were ready to zip around in smaller cars that consumed less gas. 
Curious about the best cars of 1975? Prepare to nerd out—here’s a guide to 1975 cars presented by
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The best cars of 1975

The ‘70s were a fantastic decade for automotive innovation, despite being a difficult time for American automakers. By 1975, it was clear that most of the world had gotten over the death of the ‘60s muscle cars, just 10 years after the debut of the
Ford Mustang
The best cars of 1975 weren’t necessarily more powerful than their counterparts from the previous decade, but they became quicker, nimbler, and more fuel-efficient. It was a key year in automotive history, bringing many firsts—a year that proved the auto industry could still be adaptable.

The best car of 1975: BMW 3 Series (E21)

Average price: $25,153
Powertrain: 1.6L, 1.8L, or 2.0L I-4 with 3-speed automatic transmission
What makes it special: 
debuted its 316, 318, and 320 models in 1975. The numbers referred to their engine sizes. And while they would soon become the first six-cylinder cars in 1977, their debut I-4 engine made up for its initial lack of power by being ridiculously fun to drive.
The 3 Series executive cars were meant to replace the 02 Series, but they would go on to define the future of the premium compact class—the basis of BMW’s success up until the SUV revolution.
Featuring the first of BMW’s now-signature center consoles, the 3 Series has persisted into the present day, still constantly setting standards in performance and luxury.

The best family car of 1975: Volkswagen Golf

Average price: Around $15,462 
Powertrain: 1.1L I-4 with 4-speed automatic transmission
What makes it special: 
Volkswagen Rabbit
was cheap, fun to drive, and economical. It could tour like nobody’s business and was one of the most reliable vehicles on the road when it first hit America in 1974. 
Everywhere else, it was known as the Golf—a name the U.S. would adopt soon after. It would go on to be the 14th-best-selling car in Britain for the 1975 sales year, a mere two years after the Beetle’s tragic fall from glory.
The Golf proved to be a well-earned upgrade from the Beetle, a perfect daily driver right out of the gate. The
version debuted in March 1975 in Frankfurt, signaling the beginning of its nearly five-decade dominance as a ridiculously practical hot hatch with incredible racing capabilities—perfect for all the parents who needed to be in two places at once.
The VW Golf comes in a close second to the 3 Series as our best car of 1975, as it established a legacy in being one of the top value cars ever made.

The best sports car of 1975: Ferrari 308

Average price: $70,884
Powertrain: 2.9L V8 with 5-speed manual transmission
What makes it special: 
The 308 GTB was Ferrari’s hottest, newest kid on the block in 1975, a year when Ferrari’s prized 365 “Daytona” car was the biggest and baddest racecar around—it had won the 24 Hours of Le Mans GT class the past three years in a row.
The 308 GTB was the replacement of the Dino 246 and an upgrade of the Dino 308 GT4. Both the GT4 and the GTB carried Ferrari’s Dino V8 engine, the first Ferrari V8 to be produced.
The Ferrari 308 would go on to become arguably the most recognizable Ferrari shape of all time, specifically because it was a pop culture star by the time the ‘80s rolled around. It was made famous by Tom Sellick in Magnum P.I., who drove one of the rarer GTS models. 
Speaking of the ‘80s, the next decade would prove the 308 to be a key part of Ferrari’s history, as its V8 models became the company standard.

The best SUV of 1975: International Harvester Travelall

Average price: $27,313 
Powertrain: 3.8L I-6 with 3- or 5-speed manual or 3-speed automatic transmission,
2.5L or 3.2L I-4 with 3- or 4-speed manual transmission or 4-speed Hydra-Matic automatic transmission
What makes it special:
The Travelall’s claim to fame was becoming the first SUV (referred to as a station wagon at the time) to be equipped with four doors.
This was a pinnacle moment in the history car classes. From this point on, innumerable trucks, vans, and station wagons progressively morphed into the types of SUVs that dominate modern roadways.
Unfortunately, 1975 would ultimately see the tragic end of the Travelall, as its horrible 10 to 12 mpg fuel efficiency just wasn’t up to snuff in the aftermath of the 1973 oil crisis.

The best luxury car of 1975: Cadillac Seville

Price range: $100,000–$200,000
Powertrain: 4.2L I-6 with 4-speed manual transmission
What makes it special: 
A smaller Caddy than Americans were used to, the 1976
debuted in May 1975—a paradoxical first affordable luxury car
It looked and felt like a Cadillac, but it was quick, responsive, and resourceful in tight squeezes, while still providing a ton of power to the driver.

The best supercar of 1975: Porsche 911 Turbo (930)

Average Value: $307,222
Powertrain: 3.0L turbocharged flat-6 with 4-speed manual transmission
What makes it special: 
When it debuted in 1975, the
Porsche 911 Turbo
—also known as the Turbo Carrera or the 930—was an instant superstar in the eyes of car enthusiasts.
It had become expected of Porsche to break speed records, but new racing regulations meant that they’d have to tone back the fuel consumption of cars like the Porsche 917. The 911 Turbo sufficed to meet these new regulations, and it was the basis for Porsche’s acceptance into the 1976 FIA season.
Even in its first year, it had a 5.2-second 0 to 60 time, barely beating the 917’s best record of 5.3 seconds from five years prior. And in 1978, the Porsche 911 Turbo logged the fastest 0 to 60 time (4.9 seconds) of any car that year.
It was never meant to have matched the maximum top speed of its beefier predecessors, but as a car designed specifically to win races, that’s exactly what the Turbo Carrera did.

The best truck of 1975: Ford F-150

Average price: $20,500
Powertrain: 3.3L V6, 2.7L or 3.5L twin-turbocharged V6, 5.0L V8 
What makes it special: 
In 1975, the
was a new addition to Ford’s legendary lineup of F-Series trucks. Its main purpose in ‘75 was to comply with emissions regulations recently imposed on American car manufacturers. 
It’s unlikely anyone was expecting the F-150 to become the sensation that it did—that is, the best-selling truck of all time, with
726,004 sold in 2021 alone
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What cars came out in 1975? 

We already talked about a few cars that debuted in 1975, but here are some more that you may not have known about!
Vehicle type
Average value
2.3L I-4
Much-needed upgrade from the Vega
1.2L, 1.4L, or 1.6L I-4
The first South Korean-made car
Luxury grand tourer
5.3L V12
Ill-timed indulgence post-fuel crisis
AMC Pacer
3.8L or 4.2L I-6
Electric vehicle pioneer of 1978
3.8L V6
Buick’s V6 Monza
Roadpacer AP
Full size
1.3L 13B Wankel
An early failed attempt at hybrid tech
Leyland Princess 1800
Compact SUV
1.8L straight-4
Large family car
Lancia Montecarlo
Sports car
1.8L or 2.0L I-4
Toyota’s first production sports car
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If you’ve got a 1975 classic or are looking to make the first addition to your collection, you’ll likely want
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Deserving of an honorable mention for the best car category, the Oldsmobile Cutlass was the best-selling car in America at a time when Oldsmobile was at the top of its game.
Because of the emissions control regulations placed on American cars, top speeds dwindled in the mid-’70s. However, it was the 1975 Jaguar XJ-S that posted the top speed that year: an impressive 162 mph.
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