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

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Retrowow - vintage, retro and social history

20th Century History ★ Antiques & Collectables

Retrowow - vintage, retro and social history

★ 20th Century History ★ Antiques & Collectables ★