1970 Ford Maverick, to be featured in the upcoming Detroit Underdogs exhibit. Photo courtesy AACA Museum.
American automakers occasionally hit an out-of-the-park home run, producing cars with appeal that transcends generations. Success stories like the 1963 Corvette and the 1955 Thunderbird are rare occurrences, leaving the majority of automobiles produced, though popular in the day, largely ignored (and thus affordable) in their later years. Every month in the pages of Hemmings Classic Car, columnist Milton Stern recognizes these Detroit Underdogs, and from May 13 – August 27, 2017, these oft-forgotten classics will be celebrated at the Antique Automobile Club of America (AACA) Museum in Hershey, Pennsylvania.
The Detroit Underdogs exhibit will focus on the “often overlooked, under-appreciated and easily attainable cars we fondly recall from our youth.” That’s a large population, and examples of cars previously covered by Stern in his column include the Buick Apollo and Skylark; the R-body Chryslers that debuted in the late 1970s; Ford’s LTD II; the Fox-platform Mercury Capri; the 1971-’76 Cadillac Coupe de Ville; the Rambler American and postwar Plymouths, to name but a few. All were popular in their day, but none, perhaps, was aspirational to buyers decades after leaving the showroom floor. Today, these vehicles often represent an easy and relatively pain-free point of entry into the collector car hobby.
1981 AMC Concord two-door coupe, the co-star of Detroit Underdogs.
Detroit Underdogs selected for display in the exhibit include a 1970 Ford Maverick two-door hardtop and a 1981 AMC Concord two-door coupe. The Maverick, which debuted for the 1970 model year, was Ford’s initial answer to the success of imports like the Volkswagen Beetle and Toyota Corolla, though the Pinto would fill this role beginning with the 1971 model year. In 1970 alone, Ford built 451,081 Mavericks, all in two-door hardtop form, though the product line would later expand to include a four-door sedan as well. The Maverick remained in production (in North America) through 1977, and in 1971 was joined by the badge-engineered Mercury Comet. Excluding the Mercury, Ford produced 1,670,382 Mavericks in eight years of production, and clean examples can still be found four decades after production ended.
AMC’s Concord hit the streets in 1977, as a 1978 model, and remained in production through 1983. Available in a variety of body styles, including a two-door hatchback, a two-door coupe, a four-door sedan and a five-door wagon, the compact front-engine, rear-drive offering did battle against the Ford Fairmont and Lincoln Zephyr; the Chrysler Volare and Dodge Aspen; and the Chevrolet Nova, Buick Apollo and Pontiac Phoenix. The Concord sold 121,293 examples in 1978, its debut (and most successful) year, and total production eventually reached 409,968 units.
Due to exhibit space limitations, other vehicles from past “Detroit Underdogs” columns will be represented by banner graphics. The exhibit was conceived by Hemmings Classic Car editor Richard Lentinello and Stern, and the latter serves as guest curator. Other upcoming temporary exhibits at the AACA Museum include Camaro & Firebird 50th Anniversary and Garage Finds: Unrestored Cars that Survived Time, both of which run from May 13 – October 8, 2017. For additional details on the museum or upcoming events, visit AACAMuseum.org.