How much did cars cost in the 70s?

Rolls-Royce Camargue, 1977
The Rolls-Royce Camargue was the most expensive car of the 1970s Image by Andrew Bone licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

When I was growing up in the 1970s I always wanted a Rolls-Royce Corniche. Back then it cost nearly £32,000. I thought I'd be a millionaire before I was thirty, so that was no problem. Things didn't turn out quite like that.

The most expensive British car of the 70s was another Roller, the 1979 Rolls-Royce Camargue, which had a list price of £56,756 [in today's money £220,000].

Today's top cars sell for millions of dollars. It is an indicator of the growing divide between the super-rich and the rest of us.

At the other end of the scale, a 1970 Fiat 500D sold for £498 [or £5,500 in today's money]. Cheap cars were also much cheaper than today.

Inflation was a huge problem in the 1970s. At the beginning of the decade a basic Ford Cortina 1300 cost £914. By the end of the decade the Cortina 1300L was the cheapest in the range. It cost more than double the price of the 1970's car, at £1,979.

Cars at the top end of the market went up spectacularly. A 1970 Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow cost £9,925. In 1979, the Silver Shadow II cost £39,219; a four-fold increase.

In cash terms, used cars held their price in the 1970s. They could go up in value as the purchasing power of money declined.

A 1974 Morgan 4/4 cost £1931, but in 1976 the same car in first class condition was worth £2,300. The famous waiting list kept prices high. More mundane cars held their value too. A 1973 Morris Marina cost £1090. In 1976 the same car in top condition was worth £1,130. So who says cars aren't a good investment?

Another car which was a good investment was the VW Beetle. Volkswagen introduced the Golf in 1974. The Beetle's days were numbered. In 1976 they were able to charge a premium over the Golf for the Beetle. Older Beetles sold for around their new price, provided the owner maintained them in first class condition.

This table shows a range of well-known cars and their prices in 1976.

Cost In today's money
Citroen 2CV 6 £1,364 £7,200
Lada 1200 saloon £1,395 £7,300
Mini 800 saloon £1,496 £7,800
Datsun Cherry 100A 2d saloon £1515 £7,900
Ford Escort Popular 1000 £1,599 £8,400
Reliant Kitten saloon £1,671 £8,800
Austin Allegro 1100 £1,771 £9,300
Vauxhall Chevette hatchback £1,934 £10,100
Ford Cortina 1300 2d saloon £1,950 £10,200
Volkswagen Golf £2,099 £11,000
Triumph Spitfire 1500 £2,184 £11,500
Volkswagen Beetle 1200L £2,228 £11,700
Vauxhall Cavalier 1600L 4d £2,325 £12,200
Austin Maxi 1750 5d saloon £2,383 £12,500
Chrylser Alpine GL 5dr £2,457 £12,900
Ford Cortina 2000 Ghia saloon £3,121 £16,400
BL Princess 2200HLS £3,627 £19,000
BMW 316 2d coupé £3,679 £19,300
MGB GT V8 2d coupé £3,881 £20,300
Mercedes Benz 200 saloon £4,475 £23,500
Lotus Esprit 2d coupé £7,883 £41,000
Jaguar XJS £10,507 £55,000
Aston Martin V8 saloon £14,836 £78,000
Rolls Royce Cornische 2d convertable £31,998 £168,000

Source:'Motorists new and used car price guide', published December 1976, pages 19-23

Add your comments

To prevent automated Bots from spamming, please enter the text you see in the image below in the appropriate input box. Your comment will only be submitted if the strings match. Please ensure that your browser supports and accepts cookies, or your comment cannot be verified correctly.
Retrowow - vintage, retro and social history

20th Century History ★ Antiques & Collectibles

Retrowow - vintage, retro and social history

★ 20th Century History ★ Antiques & Collectibles ★