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The 1970s was a tumultuous time for the American car. Two oil crises stunted the V8, and it didn’t recover until the late 1980s. That said, a few cars knew how to harness the V8 horsepower and churned out some impressive sheer power benchmarks. Perhaps unfortunately, almost all of those examples belonged to large, heavy, and ultimately slow personal luxury cars. These are some of the most powerful luxury coupes to come out of America in the 1970s.

1971 Cadillac Coupe DeVille: the classic luxury car

1971 Cadillac Coupe DeVille
1971 Cadillac Coupe DeVille | GM Heritage Center

Although it had the word “coupe” in its name, the Cadillac Coupe DeVille was anything but. It had two doors but was a proper limousine. GM fitted it with variable-ratio power steering, power windows, brakes, electric seats, and optional automatic level control. The Coupe got a 7.7-liter V8 that made 345 horsepower, self-adjusting brakes, coil springs in the front, and a four-link suspension setup in the back. It had a massive engine and a decent amount of power, but the name of the game was comfort, which the DeVille achieved in spades.

1970 Lincoln Continental was not a luxury convertible for this generation

A customized Lincoln-Continental driving on a street in Harlem, New York
A customized Lincoln-Continental driving on a street in Harlem, New York | Anthony Barboza/Getty Images

The Lincoln Continental was at one point the pinnacle of American luxury. Lincoln released the Continental’s fifth generation in 1970, and its most potent engine came in the form of a 460 cubic-inch V8, sending 365 horsepower to the rear wheels. The car had coil springs all around and optional four-wheel disc brakes, but its 460 engine didn’t last the fifth generation’s tenure due to new and strict emissions standards. The Continental sold in either four or two-door luxury coupe body styles, without a convertible option. 

1972 Stutz Blackhawk had tons of horsepower but was a slow luxury coupe

Stutz Blackhawk on display in Budapest
Stutz Blackhawk on display in Budapest | ATTILA KISBENEDEK/AFP via Getty Images

There’s only one word to describe the ultra-rare Stutz Blackhawk, and that is “Beauty”. A car with genuinely unique styling, it was built in Italy a Pontiac Grand Prix chassis and upholstered with hand-tailored leather. It used a Pontiac 7.5-liter V8, delivering 425 horsepower to the rear wheels. Despite its enormous horsepower value, it could only manage 60 mph in theoretically 8.4 seconds, but others testify closer to 12.5 seconds. However fast it was, the Blackhawk was good enough for Elvis Presley and Sammy Davis Jr.

Which car is the best to own?

Each of these luxury coupes is unique and desirable in its own right. The Blackhawk, however, is extraordinarily rare and thus can be expensive. The Continental has its own stylish merits. However, it doesn’t capture the authority of previous generations. The clear option here is the Cadillac. It exudes luxury and will turn heads without much effort. 

While these cars had a lot of horsepower, they were built for comfort, not speed. They also weighed a few tons, so they needed the extra horsepower to reach freeway speeds. Their top speeds were in the 120-130 range, but it took a while to get there. These cars were simple, and could be reliable, but the build quality wasn’t like it is today, so keep an eye on things like rust and cracked hoses. Stay on top of oil changes, and the car should last a while.


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