From July 12-14, the Iola Car Show will open its gates to some not-so-special vehicles, not all of which are normally allowed on the showgrounds during the annual event in Iola, Wis. For 2018, the Iola Car Show will expand its 1990 model-year cut-off of show cars to 1995 especially for members of Malaise Motors, an enthusiastic Facebook group dedicated to the history, design, manufacture and roadability of vehicles it calls the “unloved cars of the ‘Malaise Era,’” those domestic and imported vehicles built from 1972 to 1995.
“In the early ’70s, insurance regulations, along with the infamous gas crisis, Department of Transportation safety regulations and Environmental Protection Agency emissions regulations managed to suck the joy out of just about every vehicle platform offered for sale in the United States,” said Chuck Sherman, an administrator to the Malaise Motors Facebook group. “Factor in Corporate Average Fuel Economy requirements and much of what was sold between 1972 and 1995 can best be described as ‘penalty boxes.’”
With the passage of time and the nostalgia that follows, vehicles of the “Malaise Era” have developed a following for those who fondly remember them. Sometimes it’s the 1970s sedan that dad drove; other times, it’s the minivan that mom used to pick them up from school during the 1980s. Perhaps it was the older neighbor’s sports car that today’s “Malaisans” remember so fondly. All have a place in Malaise Motors.
In determining the “Malaise Era,” the Malaise Motors group chose 1972 as a starting point because it’s the year that manufacturers switched to net horsepower ratings and lower compression ratios. 1995 was selected as the end year because it marked the last year before OBDII diagnostic electronics were universally adopted.
“In the rearview mirror that is life, however, [“Malaise Era” vehicles are] not without their charm,” Sherman adds. “They’re fun to poke fun at and, well, they can be fun to drive in their own way. With all the constraints placed on engineers and designers at the time, it’s a wonder they were able to produce anything capable of moving down the road under its own power. In spite of this, some spectacular cars were designed and produced in the era.”
As relatively modern collector vehicles, malaise-era cars and trucks are some of the most affordable vehicles on the market today. In some instances, these vehicles are probably undervalued and have the potential to be good investments. Sherman notes that good driveable, rust-free examples can currently be had for less than $2,000. Translated into 1970s currency, these are the modern equivalent of a $500 transportation special.
The Iola Car Show plans to park pre-registered Malaise Motors members’ vehicles together in an area at the west end of the show car area, putting the group’s malaise cars and trucks adjacent to the theme area. The theme of this year’s show is movie vehicles and service vehicles.
While at the show, Malaise Motors member will have the opportunity to peruse the Iola Car Show’s 4200 swap meet spaces, 2500 show cars and nearly 1000 cars for sale in the car corral, which is bound to include a few “malaise” examples.
Find the Malaise Motors group on Facebook at www.facebook.com/groups/1649370045277547/ or simply search “Malaise Motors” on the social media site. The group can also be reached via e-mail at Malaisemotors@gmail.com.