GM Infographic Compares Subcompacts Of Today With Land Yachts Of ‘73


I’m not sure why cars grew to such epic proportions starting in the early 1970’s, but there was a time when even “compact” cars were growing fatter and longer. As you might imagine, fuel economy suffered as the Big Three American automakers produced engines up to 500 cubic-inches (8.2 liters) in size. Today though, small cars, not big ones, are all the rage, and GM has put together an oddly entertaining infographic comparing the land yachts of the 70’s with the subcompacts (like GM’s upcoming Spark) of today.

For its comparision piece, GM averaged out the size of 1973 full-size sedans from the Big Three, which came in at a whopping 222 inches, or 18.5 feet long (though I should note that the 1959-60 Impalas were 225 inches long.) That is literally almost twice the length of Chevy’s upcoming Spark subcompact, which measures in at 144.7 inches from front to rear. The Spark and other subcompacts average about 6 inches taller than ‘73 sedans though and both the Spark and most ‘73 sedans came on 15 inch wheels. Oh how I long for the days when wheels were just wheels…

Now you might be saying “Well that’s all well and good, but those land yachts had tons of room!” And you wouldn’t be wrong…though in terms of actual passenger space, the Spark and ‘73 sedans were quite similar. How is that possible? Well you need a big engine bay to hold an 8 liter engine, and the trunks on these cars were huge as well. That didn’t leave as much space as you might think for the people actually driving the car.

And let’s talk gas mileage. While rated at around 10 mpg, my friend had a ‘73 Cadillac Coupe de Ville convertible, and even though that car drove as though it floated on a cloud, he swore he never got better than 6 mpg…and this was back when gas only cost $1.50 a gallon. I doubt that old Caddy sees the road much these days. The Spark should get at least 40 mpg from its 1.2 liter engine.

I am still waiting for someone to come along and convert an old land yacht into either an electric or alt-fuel vehicle. Biodiesel might be the best bet, because it takes a ton of torque to move three tons of American land yacht…or you could just buy a subcompact like the Spark instead. Me? I’ll take the Caddy…

Source: GM

About the Author

A writer and gearhead who loves all things automotive, from hybrids to HEMIs, can be found wrenching or writing- or else, he's running, because he's one of those crazy people who gets enjoyment from running insane distances.
  • Just Dave

    222 inches should be 18.5 feet long, not 8.5 feet.

  • Seth

    Have you seen Neil Young’s Lincoln Continental?

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  • Alan

    The comparison is completely bogus. Passenger cabin volume is is not that significant. Rated payload and towing capacity are better metrics of a cars utility. I also suspect that 2012 passengers are significantly larger and heavier than the norm in the ’70s.

    A better comparison would be my first car, a 1978 Datsun B210 GX. Actually , my first choice was the Honda Accord Hatchback, but they were too difficult to find so I settled on on the lower quality car. The B210 was a 2000 Lb. rear wheel drive hatchback powered by an 80 HP 1.4L I4 push-rod engine, with a 5 Sp manual transmission. It had good performance for its class. The manual steering provided excellent road feel, and it even did well in the occasional Autocross. I’d buy a car with the same specs today if I could. ( Well, with a modern RWD power train,) Congress effectively killed the small car. The closest thing available today would probably be 3000-3250 LB., FWD, power steering, slightly lower lower utility, and evil handling with a stability control band-aid, and a much higher price, even accounting for inflation.

    I’m not unfamiliar with ’70s gas guzzlers, Back in 73-74 I briefly drove an Olds Delta 98 with the Rocket 455 engine, but that;s another story. You can make comparisons between new and old cars, just not the pointless comparison Chevy wants to make.

    • You know what’s really neat? A car that can survive an accident. Those 70’s pigs were horribly unsafe, and I consider BEING ALIVE to be pretty utilitarian.

    • @ Alan

      How is towing capacity and payload a better metric for measuring a car’s utility? When’s the last time you saw a 70’s land yacht towing anything. Sure, you could fit a few bodies in the trunk that you couldn’t do with the Spark, but unless you’re regularly killing people, most of that trunk space goes to waste.