THROWBACK THURSDAY: The Cars from “Let’s Make a Deal”

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UPDATE 7/9/2018: We got an intriguing email from Carmen Ramirez about a car she won on Let’s Make a Deal some time in the early- to mid-1970s:

“Hi there! My name is Carmen Ramirez and I won a new Buick Opel on Let’s Make A Deal but don’t remember the exact year. I think it was 1974 or 1975.
I no longer have the car. Husband crashed it 4 months later! I divorced him!
Anyway, maybe you can help me.
I am trying to get ahold of the taped show when I won the car.
Do you have any idea how I can get access to this?
Thank you!”
In the 1970s, Opel was a European GM powerhouse, but here in the US, Opel was its small car offering sold through Buick dealers.
GM had a hard time describing exactly how Opel related to Buick. It didn’t, really, other than the fact that Opel cars were distributed through Buick dealers, as if it a Buick dealer had also picked up a Toyota franchise.
At times, the ads called the cars “Buick’s new Opel,” and sometimes they were described as “Buick’s Foreign

Carmen didn’t mention which model of Opel she won on the show. If it was 1974 or 1975, Opel had a few models available. Chances are pretty good that Carmen either won an Opel GT or an Opel Manta.

The GT was the car most people remember. It was a two-seat sports car that looked like a baby Corvette. The more practical, and frankly, better driving option was the Open Manta, a 1900cc-powered sports coupe with a fully independent suspension and taught, European handling.

There’s one examples of Monty Hall handing out a Manta on YouTube, but none we can find with Carmen as the prizewinner:

Here’s what we know: BUZZR currently runs Let’s Make a Deal episodes. If anyone would have access to the episode that Carmen was in, it would be them. Their social media team is great. We’ll try to make them aware that Carmen is looking for the episode, but we could use your help. Tag them in public social media posts and let’s see if we can help Carmen find the episode she was in.

Their email is

Now, on with the show:

In the midst of the fuel crisis, the 1970s game show Let’s Make a Deal was handing out cars by the trailerload. Here’s  a look at what was behind doors number 1, 2 and 3.

Let’s Make a Deal arrived on NBC way back in 1963, but it really hit its stride when it moved to ABC in 1968. The host was an affable Canadian named Monty Hall, who co-created the show with Stefan Hatos.

Lets Make a Deal Monty

The show’s basic premise is that members of the studio audience — known as “traders” — make deals with Monty Hall, who provided an item of value and then dangled the change of an even better prize hidden from view.

Lets Make a Deal Doors

The show’s climax was the “Big Deal of the Day,” where traders who won prizes had the opportunity to trade that prize away for what was behind one of the show’s three secret doors. Sometimes the prize was some lovely wood paneling and a patio furniture set, but the Big Deal of the Day was typically a lifetime supply of Taster’s Choice freeze dried coffee and a car.

In retrospect, the cars were remarkably cool. Full-size American cars from Cadillac and Plymouth were regular awards:

Lets Make a Deal Cadillac


Camaros and Firebirds all made it to the Big Deal of the Day. One one episode, a couple won a pair of Camaros to share.


Lets Make a Deal Firebird

In the early stages of the episode, a lot of odd 1970s-era European cars had their moment, with regular appearances by cars like the Opel 1900, the Opel Manta and the Renault 12.

Lets Make a Deal Opel Manta

There were also a surprising number of campers, including this 1973 Dodge Adventurer pickup, with a slide-in Chinook camper in the bed.


In 1973 and 1974, Japanese cars were just coming into their own, and they were a part of the giveaways on Let’s Make a Deal. Datsun seemed to be a mainstay, providing vehicles like this lovely 1974-ish 620 pickup:

Lets Make a Deal Datsun Truck

The Datsun 260Z also made an appearance, pegging this episode to 1974, the only year that car was available in the United States.

Lets Make a Deal Datsun 260z

A few of the odd cars awarded on the show include this AMC Gremlin, in optional Gremlin X trim, which appeared in 1971 and for $300, included body side tape stripes, a body color front fascia, slotted road wheels with D70x14 Goodyear Polyglas tires, a blackout grille insert, bucket seats, and “X” decals.

Lets Make a Deal AMC Gremlin

Let’s Make a Deal also gave away a Pontiac LeMans T-37, which arrived in 1970 as the lowest-priced hardtop coupe in GM’s entire lineup, until the Chevy Malibu came along and undercut it a few weeks later. The T-37 was only available between 1970 and 1972.

Lets Make a Deal Pontiac LeMans

Then there was the Bricklin.

Lets Make a Deal BricklinThe Bricklin SV-1 was one of a handful of cars made by a Canadian company. Canada builds lots of cars, but they’re typically American. The Bricklin SV-1 was a gullwing sports car built in New Brunswick. Only 2,854 Bricklin SV-1s left the factory between 1974 and 1976.

The SV-1 was ostensibly designed for safety, with an integrated roll cage, a giant 5 mph bumper up front that looked distressingly like an 8-track tape, and stout side beams that helped protect occupants in a crash. Unfortunately, thanks to all the safety equipment, its AMC V-8 (and later Ford V-8) could never adequately provide a whole lot of performance.

The fiberglass body came in five “safety” colors including white, red, green, orange and a color called “Suntan,” provided your tan was the color of Silly Putty. The car also had no cigarette lighter or ashtray, because the car’s creator — Malcolm Bricklin, who was the first to import both Subaru and Yugo models to the United States — thought smoking and driving was dangerous.

Here’s the challenge for you, dear reader: Let’s Make a Deal gave out cars left and right in the 1970s. One of you must have heard of someone who brought one home. We’d love to find out if any of these Deal of the Day cars survived all these years later. If you know of one, drop us an email at


Craig Fitzgerald

Craig Fitzgerald

Writer, editor, lousy guitar player, dad. Content Marketing and Publication Manager at