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dannyp84
dannyp84 Reader
10/5/21 10:12 a.m.

So over the course of the last year, a friend and I have been sending craigslist ads to each other for mostly mid to late 70s luxury coupes like the Grand Marquis, Delta 88, New Yorker etc. To he and I, who were born after that era, these cars in a lot of cases have great lines, a variety of wild color options and the coolest interiors, which at least look comfortable in photos. I see these cars for sale regularly, but never see anyone driving them. The engine bays are huge, and with the GM stuff I assume an LS swap would be fairly simple and make for a great cruiser/daily driver. These cars also seem like great candidates for the torquey 2.0 turbos that are found in so many modern cars, but it seems like no one messes with them. What gives? Are they terrible to drive? Rattle traps? The closest I've come to experiencing cars of that era was an '84 El Camino, which I felt was an overdrive gear away from being a perfect daily. I want more crushed velour in my life..

z31maniac
z31maniac MegaDork
10/5/21 10:30 a.m.

In reply to dannyp84 :

I got my Grandma's '85 Lincoln Town car when she purchased a new car while I was in college. We took it on a road trip to Houston for one of OK State's bowl games. It was a great cruiser on the highway, but I didn't like driving it around town because of how damn huge it was. 

Blue with blue vinyl top, blue leather, blue carpets and dash SO MUCH BLUE!

eastsideTim
eastsideTim PowerDork
10/5/21 10:33 a.m.

It seems like the full size cars from almost any era are the last to be collectible, so reproduction parts for them are harder to come by, which probably creates a feedback loop of people not being too interested in messing with them.  I like 70's land yachts, too, but if I bought one, I'd want to make sure any unique body and interior parts are intact.

amg_rx7 (Forum Supporter)
amg_rx7 (Forum Supporter) SuperDork
10/5/21 10:38 a.m.

They drive terribly. 

02Pilot
02Pilot UltraDork
10/5/21 10:48 a.m.

Awful steering, awful suspension for anything but straight highways, a lot less power than you'd think, awful gas mileage...the list goes on. If you plan to swap in a more powerful engine, or build the stock one to non-malaise specs, and do a bunch of suspension work, then at least it would be decent to drive. And some do have good lines.

captdownshift (Forum Supporter)
captdownshift (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
10/5/21 10:51 a.m.

27 turns lock to lock and 2 and a half turns in either direction before the front end considers starting to do anything. Speaking of that front end, it'll wander more than a set of virgin eyes at a nude beach. Brakes, well they're merely a suggestion. Terrible pedal feel, questionable at best levels of assist, suspect venting, almost always drum rears and ABS...it's simply not happening. 

 

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
10/5/21 10:53 a.m.

We owned this for a while: 1975 Pontiac Catalina Safari.

We were the second owners.

My advice: Enjoy it as is. Don't try to make it something that it's not. It's a cruiser, not a race car. 

Ours offered surprisingly good steering. Ride was soft but composed once I put Konis on it. Fresh tires helped, too. Brakes never caused any puckering. I got it aligned, too. 

It always started and idled smoothly. We replaced the radiator and went through the cooling system. No mechanical issues. Seats never got uncomfortable.

Ours had a TH400. It was happy at 55-65 but did get a bit wound-out at 75. Plus economy suffered. 

Our a/c didn't work, and I never bothered to get it fix. With windows open, it was cool and comfortable. 

It parks easier than you'd expect. Terrific outward visibility. You could daily it--as our parents did.

It got people talking everything, from local supermarket to Porsche club events.

I wanted something with three-point belts, hence why I didn't go much earlier. Plus I always dug these lines. 

But, yeah, just enjoy it. Don't swap engines or cut it up. Just go cruise. 

 

Opti
Opti Dork
10/5/21 11:08 a.m.

In reply to 02Pilot :

You are just describing 95% of old cars.

I think thats the fun in them.

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
10/5/21 11:15 a.m.

In reply to Opti :

Yup, just enjoy it for what it is. And I had a totally different experience than 02pilot. Was it like a Miata? No, but I always enjoyed the driving experience. I miss that one. 

wspohn
wspohn SuperDork
10/5/21 11:16 a.m.
02Pilot said:

Awful steering, awful suspension for anything but straight highways, a lot less power than you'd think, awful gas mileage...the list goes on. If you plan to swap in a more powerful engine, or build the stock one to non-malaise specs, and do a bunch of suspension work, then at least it would be decent to drive. And some do have good lines.

Exactly - what is there to love about that? 

I've owned a few as tow cars but there is just no joy in ownership - once the minivans came on the scene they were the tow car of preference unless you were racing something big and heavy. 

I have no issue with fuel mileage as long as you are enjoying the drive. I could get one of my V12 cars down to almost single digit mpg but I enjoyed doing it. And I actually did run one big V8 car around our local road racing track. Fun?  Not so much - inadequate roll stiffness, a 455 HO engine and under specified brakes. I understand that there are people for whom the sound of a big V8 is quasi-orgasmic, but I need the all over performance package to enjoy a car. Those barges you speak of are the antithesis of driving enjoyment.

I'm old enough to have read a memorable car articles by Tom McCahill in Mechanix Illustrated and recall him writing that a particular car cornered like a charging rhinoceros on a wet clay bank.  Fun?   

02Pilot
02Pilot UltraDork
10/5/21 11:20 a.m.

In reply to Opti :

I think there's a difference between "not up to modern standards" and "awful". Every 70s land-barge I've driven has been closer to the latter than the former, whereas European and Japanese cars from the same era tend to be a lot better, especially in handling and brakes. Different cars for different purposes, sure, but drive them back-to-back and you can see why the American car industry suffered once mainstream foreign competition appeared. If you can live with brakes that mushy and steering that slow and vague, more power to you.

Appleseed
Appleseed MegaDork
10/5/21 11:24 a.m.

Slo-Touring. Friebuger once said they are perfect for cruising.  Lowered, awesome wheels, and nice exhaust for tone...and cruise. And for that they are perfect.  

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
10/5/21 11:30 a.m.
Appleseed said:

Slo-Touring. Friebuger once said they are perfect for cruising.  Lowered, awesome wheels, and nice exhaust for tone...and cruise. And for that they are perfect.  

I like that.

When we bought the wagon, I had just three main requirements:

  • Bench seat.
  • Chrome bumpers.
  • Automatic on the column. 

We have enough sports cars. We hadn't owned anything with an automatic since 1999. We just wanted a cruiser. And we got that.

Still, nothing got people chatting like that wagon--like, even at the supermarket, people would come up and ask questions. It got the point where the locals at the Porsche club would ask the same questions: Where's the wagon? 

Fresh shocks, tires and brakes helped a lot. We did Koni FST shocks, Cooper tires and just stock-type brake parts. 

Good times. 

drock25too
drock25too Reader
10/5/21 11:34 a.m.

I had a 1976 Buick Electra 225 with a 455 and th400. Rebuilt the front suspension and put new tires and brakes on it and it was great.  Did it turn like rack and  pinion? No, but it handled great for what it was designed to do. I miss that old car. 

dannyp84
dannyp84 Reader
10/5/21 1:29 p.m.

In reply to wspohn :

Any photos of using one to tow?

914Driver
914Driver GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
10/5/21 1:59 p.m.

Didn't have cell phones then, but my brother used to pull a track car behind a 1968 Dodge wagon.  360 with a tranny cooler, no issues.

MadScientistMatt
MadScientistMatt UltimaDork
10/5/21 2:26 p.m.
02Pilot said:

In reply to Opti :

I think there's a difference between "not up to modern standards" and "awful". Every 70s land-barge I've driven has been closer to the latter than the former, whereas European and Japanese cars from the same era tend to be a lot better, especially in handling and brakes. Different cars for different purposes, sure, but drive them back-to-back and you can see why the American car industry suffered once mainstream foreign competition appeared. If you can live with brakes that mushy and steering that slow and vague, more power to you.

I've only been to Detroit once, but seeing these cars made it quite clear what their natural habitat was: straight grids of roads that were cracked and potholed by frost. A big land yacht with a soft suspension would be just as at home there as a Triumph Spitfire on a British "B" road.

dculberson
dculberson MegaDork
10/5/21 3:29 p.m.

I've not spent a lot of time behind the wheel of a 1970s land barge, but I put many thousands of miles on my 1966 Bonneville Consort which is a short wheelbase ambulance/hearse combo. It was soft, had a lot of body roll, and was amazing to drive on the freeway. I'd put it up against any E36 M3ty 1970s Euro car for long distance touring. As said, these aren't Miatas, but most people don't want to take a Miata on a 2,000 mile road trip. That thing flat out hustled, too, for something so big and heavy it could really move and sound amazing doing it. Improve the 70s cam and emissions systems and you'd have something comparable, I'm sure.

I loved that car and really don't know why I don't have something like it again, honestly.

Cooter
Cooter UberDork
10/5/21 3:57 p.m.


My '73 Imperial was one of the best Road Trip vehicles I ever owned.   We took it on a 1,000+ mile vacation trip around Lake Michigan in the middle of a July heatwave with the wife and 3 teens and encountered no issues aside from a Captain and Tennille 8 track we found getting stuck in the factory stereo. (and it wasn't even their "good" album)

My '95 Roadmaster wagon possibly had a better ride (it was close), and the mileage was definitely better, but the Imperial was more reliable, sat 5 more comfortably for long trips, and had AC that would make your nipples hurt in 100 degree temperatures.



 




I sold it to buy my '78 D200 Crew Cab, which was only a little longer than the Imperial.

Tom1200
Tom1200 UltraDork
10/5/21 4:00 p.m.

In reply to dannyp84 :

We had a 65 Galaxy as a tow vehicle for a while. It towed my 1600lb car w/800lb trailer really well.

One of the California Rally Series guys (Pete Morris I think) used an early 70s LTD wagon as a tow car for years. Big block motor & AC.

 

Tom1200
Tom1200 UltraDork
10/5/21 4:10 p.m.

In reply to 02Pilot :

US Luxobarges are meant to be flying sofas; they totally isolate you from everything. It took me years to appreciate them for what they are .

stuart in mn
stuart in mn MegaDork
10/5/21 4:17 p.m.

I had a '71 Catalina for many years as a daily driver.  My comments would pretty much echo what said about his '75 Catalina Safari.  It was a supreme highway cruiser, handled surprisingly well for a car of its size, was great in the winter, and was very reliable until it finally died of terminal rust.  

Regarding Cooter's Imperial - when I was in high school my girlfriend's dad had a 1970 Imperial that was awesome.  It was like a plush living room inside, and with the 440 under the hood it would move.

914Driver
914Driver GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
10/5/21 4:22 p.m.

The only thing  not to like are  slippery vinyl bench seats and NO seatbelts!  A hard left and you're looking at the pedals.

But if you're going to a Drive-In movie .....

 

 

Streetwiseguy
Streetwiseguy MegaDork
10/5/21 6:03 p.m.

All you whiners must have been driving Plymouths.  A mid or full sized GM product, with suspension designed after radial tires became common, is a perfectly nice thing to drive.  It will never be an autocrosser, but for covering vast distances, I will for goddam sure take a Catalina, or even a Galaxy 500 before a 2002 or a 142E.

stuart in mn
stuart in mn MegaDork
10/5/21 6:21 p.m.
914Driver said:

The only thing  not to like are  slippery vinyl bench seats and NO seatbelts!  A hard left and you're looking at the pedals.

Lots of cars from that era had cloth seats.  Seatbelts were standard from 1964 on, and shoulder harnesses from about 1971 on.

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