By on December 8, 2011

We went all 20/20 hindsight on the 1970 Motor Trend COTY choice yesterday, and today we’ll be jumping right into the depths of the Malaise Era for the MT gurus’ 1976 choice: the Dodge Aspen/Plymouth Volaré
The Volaré and Aspen were the successors to the successful-but-aging-poorly A-Body compacts, the Dodge Dart and Plymouth Valiant (though the Dart and Valiant were available along with the Volaré and Aspen for the 1976 model year). The new Mopar compacts had reasonably modern chassis and suspension design, but the styling was frumpy and they were far thirstier than the Dodge- and Plymouth-badged Simca and Mitsubishi captive imports. Car of the Year material, or not? For the sake of flame wars argument, we’ll include imports (for reference, the Toyota Celica Liftback won MT‘s Import Car of the Year award in ’76). What’s it going to be? The hot-selling ’76 Cutlass Supreme, with its perfect-for-the-time styling? The Pucci Edition Lincoln Mark IV? The Plymouth Arrow? Discuss.

Image source: Old Car Brochures

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97 Comments on “Car of the Year Revisionism, 1976 Edition: If Not the Volaré/Aspen, What?...”


  • avatar
    VanillaDude

    The 1976 first generation Honda Accord should have won.

    The Volare/Aspen was discontinued within four years, while the Accord is still kinda popular.

    • 0 avatar
      geozinger

      By 1980, the Aspen/Volare was the same car as it was in 1976. The 2011 Accord is not even remotely like the car it was in 1976. The Fit is about the closest you could come to the original Accord in today’s lineup.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        The 1st generation Accord was replaced in 1982. More importantly, it was replaced by another Accord. The name had a great deal of brand equity after one generation, while Chrysler wanted people to forget their Volare and/or Aspen experiences so they would consider a Reliant or Aries. The Accord is still around, because Honda has never built one that was bad enough to damage the name in the market place. The reason I wrote ‘their Volare and/or Aspen’ was because a neighbor had one that was both. Quality control was so poor that their car was delivered as a Volare on one side and an Aspen on the other. Then there was the rust, the flawed front suspension, the water leaks, the abysmal fit of the roof on the coupes…

      • 0 avatar
        geozinger

        I logged a fair amount of time in a 1978 Accord, and while nicely assembled, it wasn’t ready for prime time. These cars had the 2 speed Hondamatic, the biodegradable front fenders, the saggy interiors and the problematic CVCC emissions controls. Granted, the emissions controls were something of an issue for just about everyone.

        I will say that most Honda dealer(s) went out of their way to fix issues with the cars. You showed up at the local Dodge dealer with your rusty, misfiring Aspen out of warranty (and sometimes even in-warranty), and you were sh!t out of luck.

        That Honda followed up with a vastly better Accord in 1982 is what saved the nameplate.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        I knew a lot of people that were Honda evangelists because of their early Accords, not that I was ready to listen to them yet. I didn’t think they were appreciably better than our Horizon, based on seating comfort, ride quality, wind noise, the quality of the window cranks… Still, we ditched the Horizon when it became an expensive headache of a rattle trap. It had almost 70,000 miles. My friend ditched his early Accord hatchback when the struts came up through the hood. It had about 280,000 miles, on the gentle streets of Long Island and in Pittsburgh.

      • 0 avatar
        geozinger

        @CJinSD: Maybe your friend could tolerate a car for 280K miles? I’m working on 250K+ miles on one and you have to be pretty tolerant of old cars.

        EDIT: I meant to add, that after that length of time, I want to see a different dashboard…

      • 0 avatar
        golden2husky

        That first generation Accord certainly had its share of issues and compared to the second generation Accord, it wasn’t so great. However, compared to an Aspen, the first gen Accord may as well have been an Aston Martin. The Aspen was that bad. Sad, to as the engines and transmissions were carryover units for the most part. Yet almost everything else sucked, including the crappy cooling systems for which early and mid 70s Mopars were notoriously undersized. I know of not one Mopar from that era that could sit in heavy traffic with the A/C on without overheating. I recall that the car was rushed to market before it was finished being developed and tested…

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        Aston Martin? It was the opposite of an Aston Martin. I worked with someone whose parents had an Aston Martin in the mid-’80s, and it never completed a trip without a tow truck or flatbed being called.

      • 0 avatar
        golden2husky

        I guess I should have said a “modern day Aston”…I am still delirious from the ride in my co-workers brand new DBS…what a machine…as lame as that early Accord was, the Aspen was far, far, far worse. That was the point I was trying to make…

    • 0 avatar

      What VanillaDude said.

      Did the motor trend guys drive the v/a twins? they were awful. My parents bought a ’76 Volare wagon new. Now, its problems probably would not have been nearly so bad had it not been for the recent smog controls, and Chrysler’s inept attempt to meet the standards, but in any case, the car was sluggish and tended to stall out when you accelerated until the thing was pretty well warmed up. One of my mechanic friends said that at his shop, the second time someone brought one of these in for that probem, they would widen some hole in the carb, which would fix the problem (the implication being they didn’t do it the first time because that would cause the car to violate the standards). Unfortunately, my parents’ shop was not doing this, which led, ultimately, to the demise of the Volare. One snowy day, my mother turned onto the main street from their small road, the Volare stalled, and the guy who had been coming up from behind… well, it might have been snow on the windshield, or ice on the street, I do’nt really remember at this point, but the car was totaled (my mother unhurt). When my father found out–and at this point the Volare was only four years old and my parents kept cars forever–he said, “We’re well rid of that car.”

      Postscript: they bought a Chevy Citation. The 1970 Valiant outlasted both cars.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        Did the motor trend guys drive the v/a twins?

        At the time, COTY was limited to domestically-produced cars in their first model year. There may not have been a lot of other choices.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        David,

        You’d think your parents would have concluded that as nice as the Citation seemed, it was MT CoTY, and run the other way.

      • 0 avatar
        redmondjp

        I know exactly what they did in the carb to make it run right, and I had to do the exact same thing to the Rochester 2-jet carb on our family’s 1977 Impala with the 305 engine. The intermediate fuel circuit, which was a hole or slot in the side of the throttle bore just above the idle circuit holes, to pour in fuel to transition from idle to the high-speed circuit, was too lean, and resulted in a dead spot while accelerating until the car was FULLY warmed up.

        My solution was to plug the air bleeds for this fuel circuit (the tiny holes you can see while looking down into the carb) and to drill new, smaller ones, which richened the mixture for that fuel circuit. It worked perfectly, BUT as you said, it would cause the car to fail emissions. So I had to undo the fix to pass emissions, and then do it again! I got pretty good at removing the carb top to do that modification.

      • 0 avatar

        @CJinSD

        My parents did not read car mags or pay attention to COTY. They got the Citation because it did best in crash tests in its class. But thanks for the laugh!

      • 0 avatar
        dvp cars

        ….”inept attempt”…in that era. Chrysler was so proud of it’s new lean-burn system that some motors had enormous “LEAN BURN” decals affixed, and the expression was featured prominently in their advertising as breakthrough technology. As I remember, they barely ran on startup, producing clouds of acrid black smoke. It felt like the muffler was plugged for the first 30 seconds or so. After that. they ran as well as most.

      • 0 avatar
        ciddyguy

        My Dad bought one of the very first Accords back in 1976 but thankfully, out here in Puget Sound Country, rust isn’t an issue so many of these lasted for a long time and I still occasionally see one still chugging along even today though they ARE a rare site tho.

        That being said, he bought the 5spd manual and as has been said, cloth seats, rear wiper, intermittent wipers, rear electric defogger were all standard along with the AM/FM radio and I don’t think they were stereo at first as it looked like they had a single speaker in the top of the dash. But at least it WAS AM/FM though!

        Those early CVCC motors didn’t require a catalytic converter so leaded gas was still OK to use and they often bettered the smog cars in their emissions output!

        However, by 1981 with the introduction of the CVCC II motor, the cat was required then so unleaded gas was then required but they STILL performed so much better than most everyone else for the same size motor. I know as I had a 1983 Civic 1500 CVCC hatchback with 5spd and it was such a fun car to drive, even with over 113K miles on it and was still a very strong motor when I sold it with almost 183K miles on it.

      • 0 avatar
        texan01

        Redmond, you give me an idea for when my 77 Chevelle starts getting the better of me.

        I’ve got it tuned to the point that it will start and run in 30 degree weather with just one pump of the accelerator. It does hesitate a slight bit while the choke is on.

    • 0 avatar
      Buster Brew

      A couple of points:

      1) The 1976 Accord was an import and that award went to the Toyota Celica.
      2) The 1976 Accord was only available as a Three door hatch. The sedan that made the Accord a mainstream choice was not to arrive until 1979.
      3) A proper automatic transmission (like it or not a mass market must have in the US)would not arrive until 1980.

      The 1976 Accord was the first Japanese car with cloth seats intermittent wipers and an AM/FM radio standard, but it was still four years away from mainstream success.

      • 0 avatar

        My brother bought one of the first ’76 Accords on the market. He owned (still does) a ’63 Mini Cooper and he wanted a modern front wheel drive car. In addition to bulletproof engines in fun to drive cars, the Accords came fully equipped. There were no stripper Accords. Putting a stereo in every car significantly dropped the cost per radio so they were able to sell a well equipped car at reasonable prices. Sure, the early Accord rusted badly and it took a while for the Japanese to learn how to build or buy decent automatic transmissions, but the first Accords sold here were great cars and created very loyal owners. As a result of my brother’s Accord, my dad went from a big Mercury to an ’84 Accord.

      • 0 avatar
        golden2husky

        Another interesting tidbit was the most Japanese makes steadfastly held onto points and breakers while most of Detroit was electronic ignition by then. Mopars transitioned in 1972 as my Fury just missed this and had points whereas many later ’72s had the “orange box” on the firewall. This was a pretty robust system, although the dual ballast resistors often failed after 80K or so…

  • avatar
    GS650G

    I actually liked the look of these cars, better than most offerings at the time. But time was not kind to these cars and looking back they were part of what was wrong with the domestic industry as a whole.

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      I thought they looked great, particularly the wagons and the Super Coupes. They had a really ugly teething period though, which was bad enough to hurt demand if they ever did sort them out.

    • 0 avatar
      Robert.Walter

      I think they still look good.

      Funny thing, looking at them after all these years, they don’t simply appear as they did, but rather I now see what the boys under the design dome were trying to copy or what was copied from them…

      Looking at just the front fascia, for the dodge I see nova and the Plymouth I see mercury bobcat…

    • 0 avatar
      PJ McCombs

      I liked the way they looked too. Nearly bought one with the slant-Six in high school (in the ’90s) for $1000 as a result. Probably best I didn’t, both for financial and social reasons.

  • avatar
    Conslaw

    As I recall, the 2009 Plymouth Fire Arrow (with the Mitsu 2.6 liter engine) was the only popularly-priced car of that model year that could hit 120 MPH. I don’t think the Arrow had the 2.6 liter engine in 1976.

    1976 was a crap year for cars. My first choice would be “none” but if I had to choose, I’d pick the 1976 Plymouth Horizon and Dodge Omni.

  • avatar
    geozinger

    On the face of it, the Aspen/Volare started out as a heavy refresh of the old Dart/Valiant, with much of the drive train held over from the old cars. It should have been a solid car, but it didn’t turn out that way. I mostly remember rust and lean burn ignition issues with these cars. Otherwise, they were average compact cars.

    A friend of mine owned one of these in college, his was a 1980 model with the slant six & autobox. By that time, they had mostly conquered the rust issues, as the car had no real rust on a daily driven car in 1985 in Northeast Ohio. I’m sure the equivalent 1976 version would have been a pile of oxide in the same five year span. He drove the car a few more years after that, but I lost track of him after I moved out of the area.

    With this being the ascendency of the malaise era, I really can’t think of anything truly good to be the Revisionist COTY. Nothing really stands out. I had some familiarity with the Accords, they were well assembled, but not ready for prime time. Gutless wonders that had all of the problems of the Aspen/Volare. Wait until those CVCC vacuum lines all rotted. At least Lean Burn had a (relatively) easy fix…

    • 0 avatar
      Joe McKinney

      My parents owned a 1980 Volare sedan with the slant six and automatic. They bought it used in 1981 and kept it until 1990. They never had any rust or significant mechanical problems with this car. The early Aspen/Volares were lemons, but most of the quality issues were eventually corrected.

  • avatar

    These cars were HOT in 1976. No one else offered a car quite this size, and many people wanted one. My parents and my uncle both bought the wagons. My uncle’s Aspen had the V8, but ours had the 90HP slant six and would frequently stall while making turns. Chrysler eventually figured out that there was a problem with the float in the carb. My mother drove the car for ten years until the transmission died around 110k. Replaced with a first-year Sable wagon.

    • 0 avatar
      JCraig

      I’ve heard stories and watched shows about how poorly cars were made in the 70’s. Was your mother’s stalling problem occuring from day one? It reminds me of the story about a guy who bought a new Lincoln and so much was wrong with it that he drove to the factory and set it on fire.
      Also, I’m guessing the dismal HP numbers were offset somewhat buy low end torque?

      • 0 avatar
        golden2husky

        Yes, the torque was still pretty decent. I’ve said it before: People who learned to drive on mid/late 80s cars have no idea how cars sucked back then. Generally speaking the Japanese stuff was assembled well and reliable for the day. But they rotted out, were underpowered, and quirky. Most domestic cars had marginal assembly quality, had reliability problems early in the ownership period, handled like a boat and swilled gas. But after the initial repairs in the first few years, they often would prove to be rather durable. And as pointed out by others, people in the know could make them run much better than factory. European stuff? Benzes were the best. BMW meant Bring Me a Wrecker or Breakdown Motor Works. Most other Euro stuff offered really good handling characteristics but were neither reliable or durable. This period was caused Malaise for a reason. Other than MB and a few other models here and there, it SUCKED back then. We are so lucky today.

    • 0 avatar
      JCraig

      Yeah my first car was an ’87 ‘Mazda 323 DX 1.6i’. They put all that on the back so I thought it must be good haha. It was very well built but the engine began to self destruct after about 120k. Followed that with an ’88 VW Fox that had none of the build quality but an engine that refused to die, made it over 300k before the clutch cable broke and I got to buy a ‘new’ car, an ’88 Honda Accord, which had the best of both worlds. It’s just hard to imagine cars being any worse than those were.

  • avatar
    Conslaw

    What I remember about the Aspen and Volare is that they were big cars for the price – but there were corners cut in quality even judged by the lax standards of the time.

    I can recall that, even though these cars were popular when they came out, five years later, the only ones that I was seeing were one step away from the junk heap. I can remember making the decrepitude of the Aspen a plot point in a story I wrote in college in 1981. The Aspen rose and fell with John Denver’s chart success. (Which is better than rising and falling like John Denver.)

  • avatar
    newfdawg

    The award in 1976 should have gone to the Honda Accord, which was a truly revolutionary vehicle and put Honda on the map. Unfortunately,
    ad revenue(in my opinion) triumphed.

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      The Accord launched in May of 1976, long after the award was determined. The whole CoTY thing is about ad revenue in my opinion. Looking at the cars of the ’70s that really did move the bar and turn out to be big successes, a few of them were garbage when they arrived. Look at the VW Rabbit. There were several months in 1976 and 1977 when Rabbits sold in the US were strong fuel injected performers with nice assembly quality and exceptional space efficiency, fuel economy, ergonomics, and styling that dated everything else. But they weren’t released in 1976. Instead, they’d have been import CoTY contenders in 1975, when they were evil teething junk with crummy carbureted engines and as many defects as a Toareg has.

  • avatar
    drylbrg

    My parents had the Aspen with a 318. It was the first brand new car that they ever bought and it was the worst car they ever owned. When it was running it was fine but the engine had a tendency to blow oil all over the engine compartment which would in turn take out things like the alternator. The dealer couldn’t fix it and there was no such thing as a lemon law here back then. They eventually traded it in on a used pickup.

  • avatar
    fincar1

    Never owned one, but I did have a good test-drive in a 1980 Aspen cop car. With the 360 engine, upgraded suspension, and big cop car wheels and tires that stuck out almost past the edges of the body, that car would not only handle, but haul ass. It drove very similarly to the 1976 Dart Pursuit car I ended up getting a couple of years later.

  • avatar
    MrBostn

    Can’t help thinking about Drunky Dean Martin singing “Volare”

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    Every year between about 1968 and 1984 should have been “No Award”.

  • avatar
    geeber

    The Cutlass Supreme wasn’t new in 1976, and neither was the Continental Mark IV (the Lincoln was in the final year of that body style).

    The Volare and Aspen were reasonable choices for that time, given the lack of any other new domestic cars on the marketplace. GM, Ford and AMC did not offer any revised cars for 1976, so Chrysler won by default.

    I remember that the “isolated transverse-mounted torsion bar front suspension” was heavily touted in the initial advertisements. It turned out to be a dud, offering very sloppy handling without much improvement in the ride. It also felt loose from day one.

    The styling was reasonably attractive for the times, and the wagon scored a real hit with buyers. If I recall correctly, the Volare wagon quickly became either the best-selling wagon, or one of the top three wagons in sales. When it debuted, the only other domestic compact wagon on the market was the AMC Hornet Sportabout. The Volare offered more passenger room and a much bigger cargo compartment.

    The quality problems stemmed from Chrysler Corporation’s woes during the 1974-75 recession. The corporation was dangerously low on cash, so Lynn Townsend basically laid off the entire engineering department for several weeks! Chrysler wanted these cars to launch on time for the 1976 model year, as compacts were its bread-and-butter in the 1970s. So the cars were launched without the final development touches, resulting in rusty front fenders and other defects.

  • avatar

    My younger brother would have picked the Volare. He still has his ’80 and loves it less than his wife and kids and more than his dog. http://www.mystarcollectorcar.com/2-features/stories/79-1980roadrunner.html

  • avatar

    1976 – Domestic COTY – “None of the Above”.

    I’d rather try to stuff a log in my eye than try to restore/hot rod a 1974-76 anything save maybe a V8 Monza with a 4-speed.

  • avatar
    jpcavanaugh

    Geeber is correct. During 1974-75, if you were in Chrysler engineering and were not working on issues directly related to government mandates for safety or emissions, you were on layoff. When this car was under development, Chrysler’s management was setting new standards for dysfunction. Internally, the company was a disaster, and it is amazing that the cars came out as good as they did. But nobody outside knew how bad it was, and these cars were eagerly snapped up – the right size, nicely appointed inside, and everyone knew that the cars would be great coming on the heels of the legendary Valiant and Dart. Oops.

    What else was new from a US company in 1976? Was there anything else from a US manufacturer that was not a carry-over? If there was, it escapes me at the moment.

  • avatar
    sportsuburbangt

    My dad was in the middle of buying one of these in ’80. It was a ’77 Aspen SE wagon, nice car. He left a deposit, and was supposed to pick it up in a few days. The Aspen burned up the night before he was to pick it up. Electrical fire!

    They resolved all the issues with the Diplomat/Fifth Ave(M bodies). The later M bodies were amazing when it came to rust. They are still around here in the north east.

  • avatar
    Buster Brew

    As I recall the Aspen/Volare were rushed to market before all the kinks were worked out. Multiple recalls and front fender rusting soiled the twins reputation early; however, Volare/Aspen exceeded 1.8 million US sales in 4 years, that ain’t bad. The need for better fuel economy resulted in their replacement with the K platform in the 1981 model year. The very similar M body (Diplomat, LeBaron, New Yorker Grand Fury and Fifth Avenue) came out in 1977 with a much better reputation. The latter platform soldiered on until 1989. Between them the F and M bodies were almost as long lived as the A body had been. On balance I’d say the COTY award was well deserved.

  • avatar
    Mark MacInnis

    AAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! My eyes!

    That Orange and Black monstrosity HAS to be one of the Fugliest vehicles of ALL TIME…..

    I don’t recall…p’raps one of the B&B can help me…wasn’t the Aspen/Volare a perennial on the TWAT lists during the Farago era?

    If not, we were remiss. This car was a dead pig….

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      Um, the car is RED and black. Also, neither the Farago era nor TTAC go back that far. We all had to wait patiently for Al Gore to invent the internet. There was an older Unix-based computer net around, but unlike the modern internet, it was filled with cranks, weirdos and porn.

      BTW, my uncle bought a ’76 Aspen wagon new, and kept it until 1990. He was a car mechanic and realized how little rust-proofing the car had. He took the inner fenders off and undercoated everything he could reach. I don’t know what he did to the 318, but my uncle raced Dodges in the ’60s, and knew how to enhance performance. The hardware (door handles, window cranks, etc.) was junk, but that was a feature of the old Darts and Valiants too.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      The Chrysler Aspen SUV was a common TWAT award winner.

  • avatar

    Forgot to mention that I’ve put in a fair amount of time behind the wheel of a Volare. Pretty decent car for its time, though not even in the same league as the Accord.

  • avatar
    Keith_93

    Dad got a Volare in 1975… it had that Corintheeeeeaannnn leather. At age 17, I thought it was luxurious.

    (I’m willing to deny I actually wrote this post)

  • avatar
    monomille

    The Slant Six, despite its many virtues, always had trouble with cold stalling partly because of the very long very heavy & cold cast iron manifold runners. These same runners gave good performance once it was fully hot. Eventually there was a two barrel carb Super Six setup that seemed to work better both hot and cold.

    The Slant Six always reminds me of the several I owned and the song by Greg Brown that begins with “She’s got a slant 6 mind and a supercharged heart”

  • avatar
    gottacook

    The success of the Aspen/Volare wagon (which really had the segment to itself until the advent of the Ford Fairmont/Mercury Zephyr wagon a few years later) leads me to think that the 1967-76 Dart and Valiant offerings should have included a wagon as well; I wonder whether one was designed but not produced for some reason. The pre-’67 Dart and Valiant wagons were useful and popular, as I recall.

    I remember seeing a Volare-based Road Runner once, with a horizontal-slat applique over the rear quarter windows, etc. What a joke, the 360 V-8 notwithstanding.

  • avatar
    acuraandy

    I dunno, I had an 1989 Plymouth Gran Fury police package and it was a fairly decent car.

    Til the guy I sold it to decided to overrev the final year old-style lean-burn 318 and disintegrate #5 cylinder.

    I really should’ve kept it. And it was very similar to the Volare/Aspen. They simply don’t make them like that anymore…even Panthers have been discontinued…

  • avatar
    DownEaster

    Don’t forget about the new for 1976 Chevrolet Chevette!! I had a 78 Chevette in the 1980s with an automatic. I remember driving up a slight hill with a headwind and the best the car would do was 40 mph!! The Aspen and Volare were decent cars overall and at least the drivetrain was durable. They also made Darts for 1976 also too while selling the Aspen and Volare. The Aspen and Volare were brought out too soon and not enough quality testing was done. The ’78-’80 Aspen and Volares had the bugs pretty much worked out of them. And the M Bodied Diplomats, Lebarons, and Gran Fury were made till 1989. Chrysler Fleet Car. Also don’t forget the New Yorker Fifth Avenue of the 1980s based on the M Body!

  • avatar
    skor

    I remember a while back someone had done a survey of mechanics who had worked during the 70’s. They asked which cars were the bottom of the barrel from that era. The Volaré and Aspen twins won hands down. That’s really saying something, considering what the auto companies were offering up in the 70’s.

  • avatar

    By the mid-to-late 1970s, Chrysler had nothing approaching a sporty car. So they came up with the Aspen/Volare Sport Coupes.

    There are so many malaise era trends in those cars they belong in museums. Early body kit with fender flares and spoiler, decals, slats on the back window and rear side glass. Though it’s tempting to say that it was a mediocre car it was actually one of the faster cars you could buy that year. It had a 360 with a 4 barrel carb and was faster than the Z-28 Camaro, TransAm Firebird and L82 Corvette. Though that may say a lot about the general state of performance in 1978 than anything particular about the Sport Coupes. Remember, this was a time when AMC put a fender kit and hood decals on a Hornet and called it an AMX.

    http://www.carsindepth.com/?p=5463

    • 0 avatar
      dvp cars

      …….”spoilers, decals, and slats”……forgot about those amazing side louvers……wonder whose (wicked) marketing idea that was. I know Lamborghini pioneered the rear ones. Wasn’t there a “King Richard” Petty Edition around then? I can see the carmag 0-60 times being right at the time, but I don’t remember “Volare” being a particularly intimidating nameplate. Like you inferred, best of a bad lot.

    • 0 avatar
      geozinger

      I remember the “Super Coupes”. They were the fastest production cars in 1978, but that ain’t saying much. I think an Aveo can outrun most of these mid malaise mobiles.

      Also, there was the Super Coupe Kit Car, or something called to that effect. It was a body in white with all of the stuff to make your own race car. IIRC, it came with the 360 but I don’t recall what else, beyond the body kit.

      I think these ran in the old NASCAR Sportsman series. There was a Super Coupe Kit Car done up in STP livery for Richard Petty, but I don’t remember if he actually raced the car(s) or not. I think these cars were featured in ads, but I didn’t follow the Sportsman Series back then…

      • 0 avatar
        rudiger

        I believe there were two ‘Kit Cars’ available. The first (and most well-known) was street-legal with (supposedly) NASCAR-inspired spoilers,along with decals in the trunk for the owner to affix if they so chose.

        Then there was the ‘track-ready’ Kit Car that was a stripped, body-in-white car with the same spoilers and an operational drivetrain. It might have been technically street-legal, too, but it was devoid of a lot of equipment (including all sound deadening) and would have been made an already miserable street driving experience about as bad as could possibly be imagined.

  • avatar
    Andy D

    I had a 500$ ’66 Valiant and a 50$ ’74 Dart. I couldnt find any decent ones , so I went to 528e s and never looked back.

  • avatar
    Astigmatism

    Look at cars introduced in 1976 and ask which of them are still on the road today. If the answer to this question isn’t the W123 Mercedes, I don’t know what awards are for. After the bomb drops, cockroaches will be driving around 240D’s modded to run on liquified human goo.

  • avatar
    AthensSlim

    I didn’t see that anyone has listed the other ’76 COTY candidates to this point, so I’ll do the honors:

    Chevy Chevette
    AMC Pacer (even though I thought this came out as a ’75, it was in the running. Guessing it was a mid ’75 intro?)
    Cadillac Seville

    Not sure how the voting broke down, but them’s the choices

  • avatar

    Both dog and car are maintained very well in their senior years, although he has spent a lot more money on the dog.

  • avatar
    ciddyguy

    My brother in law Bob for a short time had a base Aspen wagon, a ’78 model that he bought second hand in I think 1989. The car had very high mileage and may have had the slant 6 but it DEFIANTLY had the 4spd (I think) manual though. The previous owner had put in a cassette deck and a pair of 6×9 speakers in the back tailgate.

    It was a decent car when they bought it, copper metallic paint with white vinyl interior and dog dish hubcaps. Anyway, being it was extreme high mileage, its reliability didn’t stay for long though. I think he only kept the car about 2 years at most.

    I’ve always liked the coupes best of these cars as the 4 door sedans and wagons were quite frumpy as has already been said.

    I had the pleasure of riding in my cousin’s ’78 2 door coupe back in 1982 from her parent’s home in Jacksonville FL to Orlando (about a 2 Hr drive) when we went to Epcot Center and it rode nicely enough.

  • avatar
    nova73

    My parents bought a 1976 Volare Premier wagon. I was 12 when they ordered it. I played a role in choosing the car, to my everlasting regret. The COTY article and a favorable review by Consumer Reports heavily influenced my thinking. With the recommendation of those unimpeachable sources, how could we go wrong. We ordered in the fall on ’75, the car arrived in April ’76. I still remember running out of the house with only socks, no shoes, when Dad brought it home for the first time. The honeymoon didn’t last long for that car. Yes, it had the slant 6. All the problems chronicled in the above posts afflicted our Volare. The car rusted throughout but soldiered on for 8 or 9 years, ending up as the family beater. I often wonder if MT test drove specially prepped Volare ringers, or bothered to test drive one at all.

  • avatar
    Dr Lemming

    You’ve GOT to go with the AMC Pacer. That car deserves acknowledgement for violating every American design rule in the book . . . and anticipating some styling trends as far as a decade into the future.

    It was also a thoroughly modern car with an isolated front subframe and rack-and-pinion steering. And much more reliable than the Volare.

    The Pacer’s main problem was it was too wide and heavy. Okay, and they overdid it on the glass area. But otherwise it wasn’t such a bad car for the time.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    I came home from the hospital in a then-new 1976 Aspen wagon. It was rusting and stalling from new.

    It was, by the way, the car that put my whole family, including my grandfather (who worked for a Chrysler supplier, and owned a series of them since he got off the boat) off of Chrysler, and American cars, permanently.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    My Volare story – The Chowder Boat! My best friend in High School’s family had a late ’70s Volare Wagon in fetching black with fake bark.

    One icy cold Maine winter’s day they were heading over hill and dale to Grandma’s house with a BIG pot of fish chowder in the back. Which spilled, and then froze overnight. Come the spring thaw, that car had a, shall we say, AROMA that soon earned it the nickname. The car was quickly handed down to the kids and Mom got a shiny red K-car LeBaron to replace it.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    My buddy’s mom bought one of these in silver. A few months later, a streak of rust appeared on the front fender, just ahead of the door on both sides, soon eaten through! Fenders replaced. Car replaced soon after!

    After dad died, I’m thankful to this day that when mom had to get a car, I steered her to the 1979 AMC Concord she bought new. Drove it until she had to stop driving in 1990! One great car. That’s the car that should have won COTY.

  • avatar
    pb35

    As I’ve mentioned previously, my Dad was a Chrysler salesman for most of the 70s (now I know why we were poor lol) and we had plenty of tan and brown Volares as demos. I remember them being ok, mainly because they were new and we didn’t have them for more than 6k mi.

    As for me, Dad secured me a nice, low miles 78 Aspen for a time that I was “in-between” cars sometime around 1989. It was a coupe with dog dish hubcaps and zero options, not even power steering. It had that big, 3-spoke steering wheel leftover from the Duster parts bin (you Mopar fans know which one). That wheel could have snapped your finger off when it was returning from a turn. It was not a bad car and I don’t recall having any issues with it. I don’t even think it was rusty in the usual places.

    Ah, the good old days when things were simple. My Volvo is in the shop as we speak having a front axle replaced (again) and it ain’t cheap!

  • avatar
    gmrn

    Don’t forget, the wagon variant (without doors) greeted visitors on Fantasy Island. That wagon in orange color with white spoke wheels looked pretty tasty to my young eyes.

  • avatar
    acuraandy

    My parents when I was a growing up had a s#!t brown on tan 1978 Volare 4 door sedan with Slant-Sick. I distinctly remember driving from the Twin Cities to Willmar, MN one autumn afternoon and hitting Litchfield. Wheel bearing decided to take a s#!t. Took out the knuckle, spindle and bearing; wheel damn near fell off.

    With that said, i’d rather put my kids in that than ANY Camcord. And this is as a current owner of one. :)

  • avatar
    and003

    My grandmother once owned a 1979 Dodge Aspen sedan. It proved to be troublesome at times. Sometimes it wouldn’t start during the cold, and at one time it stalled out on me when I was at a traffic light … on a rainy day. When it came time for me to go to college, she and my father had to get me a Chevy Cavalier.

    Still, I have a fondness for the coupe versions of the Aspen and Volare, particularly the R/T and Road Runner variants. With the technology of today, access to a professional hot rod shop, and the necessary financing, I could easily see myself transforming a Volare Road Runner or Aspen R/T into a high-performance restomod. :)


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