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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Britain’s Decade of Dominance

Lotus+Espirit+from+The+Spy+Who+Loved+Me
Lotus Espirit from ‘The Spy Who Loved Me’

I have a confession to make: I am a huge fan of American cars. I own a Mustang and I melt at the sound of a cross-plane V8. Superchargers make me a little too excited, and steel is the correct material for everything in a car.
With that out in the open, trying to decide which country ruled the ’70s was extraordinarily difficult. I was originally planning to say that yes, America wins again—muscle cars are best, and that’s that.
Unfortunately, the oil crisis of the ’70s effectively declawed American muscle cars, turning them into detuned barges circling the economic drain. Obviously, this wouldn’t work. I needed a new country.
While they are not known for their build quality or reliability, I have to say that England manufactured the best cars in the 1970s. Some of you may be shocked by this verdict, yet I encourage you to look at the facts this way: Who else made good cars in the ’70s? 
Not the Japanese, right? They made boring, reliable cars that everyone wanted. Nor the Germans, right? They made the Golf Mark I, the best hot hatch of all time.
But the English made the ultimate ’70s cars. There are over a half a dozen of British cars which caught the imagination of the ’70s. They encompass the most sought after characteristics in vehicles and the perfect compromises during the oil crisis. 
First is the British Motor Company Mini.
Introduced in 1959, the Mini was a ‘people’s car,’ much like the Ford Model T or the Volkswagen Beetle, but it topped both by being small and fuel-efficient. It offered practical storage space and exciting performance, even though the small 4-cylinder wasn’t exceptionally powerful.
The engine performance peaked in 1970 with the Mark III Mini and the following the Mini, as Ford of Britain produced desirable, fuel efficient vehicles that appealed to the average consumer.
The Ford Capri, Cortina, Fiesta, and Escort were all produced in the 1970s. These performance vehicles were produced by a company that, domestically, was experiencing fuel shortage. Along with that they were creating luxury vehicles that boasted large engines and larger performances; they kept increasing without any available resources.
Britain cornered the market on this segment as well. Rolls Royce was the last word in indulgence; the marque recognized as the ultimate chariot for the upper tiers of society. During the ’70s they produced two notable cars, the Phantom VI, and the Silver Wraith II.
Rolls sold an unprecedented number of vehicles to affluent clients during this decade, which was absolutely fine with Rolls Royce, because if you could afford it you could fill it up.
Finally, Lotus captured the imagination of the whole world when they introduced the Esprit. This small mid-engined sports car was the working man’s supercar of the era, and played a role in the James Bond film “The Spy who Loved Me.”
In the film, Q outfitted the car as a submarine, and the footage was kept under close security. It was never stated outright in the film, so that when the car plunged into the sea, the audience was taken completely by surprise.
So while they were not the most well-constructed or reliable cars of the era, British auto makers produced the perfect cars for the 1970s. They were exactly what the people wanted, as well as what they needed.