Every decade seemingly has its own personal fad. Most recently (and seemingly entering its second decade in the ’20s) it was the combover. Oops, I mean crossover, heh. Before that it was the SUV and before that it was the minivan. But the gotta have it vehicle type in the 1970s was most definitely the personal luxury car.
To wit: A two door coupe or two door hardtop with a long hood, short deck, gigantic doors, and likely sporting a stand-up hood ornament, opera windows, opera lamps, a landau top and wire wheel covers.
This type of very American Motor Vehicle got started in the late 50s with the four-seat 1958 to 1960 Ford Thunderbird. It was followed in roughly chronological order by the 1961 Oldsmobile Starfire, 1962 Pontiac Grand Prix, pricier and more exclusive 1963 Buick Riviera, 1966 Oldsmobile Toronado (with front-wheel drive, wowie zowie!), the 1967 Cadillac Eldorado and the 1969 Lincoln Continental Mark III.
But these were primarily very expensive top-of-the-line cars and the rapidly emerging middle class wanted one of their own versions-albeit in a slightly smaller, more price-friendly fashion.
This new type of more affordable midsize middle class personal luxury car got started with the 1969 Pontiac Grand Prix and 1970 Chevrolet Monte Carlo.
The Monte Carlo was a success from day one and people rapidly stormed Chevrolet dealerships in ’70 to buy their copy.
Clearly Detroit had struck gold. Starting in 1970 Oldsmobile got a Cutlass Supreme coupe with its own unique formal roof to set it apart.
Then in 1973 Buick got its own version in the Regal, though it shared its formal roof with the second banana Century Luxus coupe.
Meanwhile FoMoCo was looking on at GM with envy. Sure, they had the Mark and T-Bird, but nothing in that fat midsize personal-lux segment. So they got rolling…
Starting in 1974 the Mercury Cougar stopped being a companion to the Ford Mustang and moved Uptown to the mid-size Montego’s chassis. It was fatter, plusher, and had those ever more important opera windows, hood ornament and extra chrome. And Ford got a version.
It debuted as a top-of-the-line Gran Torino listed in the dealer brochures as the Gran Torino Elite.
Naturally, it was very similar to The Gran Torino 2 door hardtop and the Mercury Montego 2 door hardtop and the Mercury Cougar XR-7, but with a different nose with single headlights in a massive chrome bezel, unique, glitzy grille and different taillights.
It also sported unique dual opera windows. Hey, it was the style during those turbulent, bell-bottomed, leisure-suited times. And it sold like dime beer at a baseball game.
In 1975, the Elite lost the Gran Torino badging and became simply the Elite, with a new fender emblem in appropriately fancy script.
For 1976 the Elite appeared for the last time, with only minor changes.
Yet it still managed to sell 146,475 copies, with a base price of $4,879. Standard equipment included a 351 CID V8, SelectShift automatic transmission and power front disc/rear drum brakes.
As you would expect for a personal luxury midsize coupe there were plenty of optional extras. Options included cruise control, power windows, a power trunk release, SelectAire A/C, a power sunroof, bucket seats and console and a 6-way power seat.
This fantastic green and white example was spotted recently by your author on Seattle Craigslist, where it was listed for a mere $2,500. The ad has since disappeared so I guess somebody got a deal. But I’ve always loved that ’70s Ford jade green, and I only worked this morning, so it was a good way to keep busy on this partly cloudy Thursday!