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Happy 40th Anniversary to the Malaise Era

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2013 marks the 50th anniversary of icons like the Corvette Sting Ray and the Porsche 911. If Corvettes and Porsches aren’t your thing, it’s also the 50th of the Aston Martin DB5 and the 60th of the last great Packard, the Caribbean. Lost in the hoopla, however has been any mention of the fact that it’s also the 40th anniversary of the Ford Mustang II, the de facto standard bearer for the automotive dark age that came to be known as “The Malaise Era.”

Pollution regulations, safety standards and a fuel crisis that saw pump prices skyrocket created the perfect mediocrity storm that forced Americans – and most of the rest of the world – into cars that were as bland and gutless as the Carter administration. The start of the malaise era is roughly marked by the Arab oil embargo of 1973 and the resulting great muscle car extinction, and it lasted until the introduction of the 200 hp + Buick Regal Grand National and the Ford Mustang GT 5.0 in 1985. Here are some of the malaziest from the era.

1974 Ford Mustang II (above)

The Pinto-based Mustang II nearly killed the Mustang franchise. Its sole claim to fame being a bit of product placement on the original Charlie’s Angels series. Plain chick Sabrina drove the notchback Ghia model, smoking hot Kelly (played by Farrah Fawcett) naturally got the Cobra. But the joke was on her – its smogged-choked V8 put out about 140 horsepower. In a rare moment of understatement, Road & Track simply called it “neither fast, nor particularly good-handling.”

Rob Sass is the Publisher of Hagerty Classic Cars magazine. He is a regular contributor to the automotive section of the New York Times and is the author of “Ran When Parked, Advice and Adventures from the Affordable Underbelly of Car Collecting.”

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Happy 40th Anniversary to the Malaise Era originally appeared on Autoblog on Wed, 17 Apr 2013 18:29:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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