By on February 23, 2012

So, after Chrysler got those government-backed loans that saved the company in 1979— take note, members of the Iacocca Jihad, that I am not calling those loans a bailout (even though Uncle Sam would have been forced to cover them if Chrysler had failed), and thus you may rest easy that this writer is not lumping your favorite Italian-owned corporation in with the People’s Democratic Cadres’ Bailed-Out Motors Corporation— everything hinged on the K-platform cars being a success. And they were!
The really impressive thing about the Aries (and its Plymouth Reliant sibling) was that Chrysler managed to make a reasonably modern, fuel-efficient front-wheel-drive sedan that still felt like a real American car inside. Bench seats! Lots of room! Comfy ride! Look at this interior— except for the flat floor, you could be looking at the inside of a ’73 Satellite.
It even has hood springs instead of the usual small-car prop rod.
The Chrysler 2.2 engine was still carbureted in 1983, but it had an “Electronic Control System” (which I’m assuming was a primitive mixture-adjusting feedback carburetor setup).
These weren’t great cars by modern standards, but keep in mind that you could still buy the staggeringly obsolete and fuel-swilling Cordoba in 1983. The Aries got the job done, it was cheap, and it felt like a proper Detroit car. GM fell flat on its face trying to accomplish the same feat with the Citation and related X-bodies, and the company never really recovered from that debacle.
Many of us don’t take the early Ks very seriously these days, since Chrysler stuck with the platform and its seemingly hundreds of derivatives about five years too long, plus we’ve spent the last 20 years looking at completely hooptied-out beater Ks limping along on space-saver spares in a trail of oil smoke. However, this was a very important car, and it’s sad that the last survivors are straggling into the jaws of the Crusher.

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

157 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1983 Dodge Aries...”


  • avatar
    PenguinBoy

    While there is no doubt the K-cars saved Chrysler, some have argued that they also killed Chrysler’s reputation as an engineering company.

    The interior seems to have held up well, for a 30 year old car that was never known for high quality materials. Even though the K-cars aren’t normally considered a quality car, they seem fairly durable – I still see one in the wild from time to time, but it has been a *long* time since I have seen an X-car…

    • 0 avatar
      PenguinBoy

      Come to think of it, maybe the engineering in these ~wasn’t~ that bad, by the standards of the day.

      Although they were built to a price, many of the posts below suggest they held up well. And the space utilization and visibility were miles ahead of any car I can think of that’s currently in production…

      • 0 avatar
        Felis Concolor

        Anyone who worked on the 2.2 equipped K-platform vehicles quickly fell in love with Chrysler’s engineering: all the important frequently serviced bits were up front and easily accessed. The 2.2 was a tighter fit in the L-bodies but they were still a wide open design compared to today’s engine compartments.

      • 0 avatar
        geozinger

        @Felis: Absolutely true about the ease of service. For routine things, I never took the car back to the dealer.

        On the 2.2 turbo motors, the water pump was on the outside of the timing belt assembly. One of the easiest (and cheapest) water pump swaps I ever did.

        However, none of the east-west motors ever have enough room to work on the belts easily. At least not for me.

      • 0 avatar
        PenguinBoy

        @Felis Concolor:
        Fair point. I remember putting an aftermarket stereo in my sister’s early ’80s Reliant back in the early ’90s, and being amazed at how easy it was – the trim came off and went back on easily, which is evidence of good design for manufacturablity.

      • 0 avatar
        Felis Concolor

        Ah yes, that’s the one special-use tool I still have around for routine 2.2 service: the extra-length spanner used to access and tension the belt adjusters on the side of the engine. The L-body “access port” for the alternator tensioning bolt was nothing more than a cleverly placed hood latch opening: it was offset to the passenger side directly above the adjustment mechanism, allowing the use of a long socket extension and a flex coupling to quickly add or release belt tension for alternator service.

        And I don’t know if it was common to K-cars as well, but when I performed a similar radio swap in the mid-80s with my Omni, I noticed the factory radio was grounded by a truly massive 3/4″ wide, flat, BRAIDED STAINLESS STEEL grounding strap. Talk about over-engineering! I have yet to see any factory radio chassis before or since which was blessed with such an impressive, noise-free grounding point.

      • 0 avatar
        golden2husky

        The K’s were good cars, especially when they became injected. I had an early build 81. These had a K outline on the dash and the red/white/blue K logo on the right rear window. And they had a metal “crash pad” on the top of the dash. But the early cars had issues. One, those rear windows didn’t open; they had wing vents on the side of the fixed glass. And they had a prop rod on that hood. Head gasket issues, weak front wheel bearings were but a few of the issues we had. CV boots failed early, and on these first year cars the half shafts were held in place by a C clip in the diff. The carbs really sucked. By 115K we gave up and sold it. It was replaced with a used 87 Reliant. What a difference. The head gasket held out to 254K miles. One wheel bearing made it 190K; the other was original. Padded dash, upgraded interior (that accepted leather seats from a NY’r), spring balance on the hood. Both cars had zero transmission problems. These 3 speed units were extremely reliable. The 87 was a poster child for reliability. Only MAP sensors were problematic. I bought a bunch of used ones and kept them in the trunk in case of failure. That was it. The basic design was excellent. I believe the early cars has so many issues because they were rushed to market.

      • 0 avatar
        geozinger

        @goldenhusky: I had a similar experience with a couple of Chevy Celebritys back in the day. My then-employer had a small fleet of cars for employees to use on company business. When I started in 1984, they mostly had V6 carbureted Celebritys, nothing to write home about. In some regards pretty abysmal performers. But by the later 80′s they got the fuel injected 4 cylinder Celebritys, there was a world of difference. It was hard to imagine that the fuelie 4 banger Celebrity was a much improved driver over the older V6′s, but it was true.

        Electronic fuel injection, particularly port fuel injection was a wonderful thing when it was unleashed on us.

      • 0 avatar
        LessRantingPls

        You’re right- in the last year, I’ve seen at least 4 or 5 k cars and I have not seen a citation or other x-body in many years. I see Tempos/Topaz’s occasionally.

        A friend bought 3 citations for his wife in the 80′s and kept complaining about breakdowns.

    • 0 avatar
      jeffzekas

      GOOD ENGINEERING?!! Well, I suppose if you consider plastic radiator tanks that self-destruct at 60,000 miles “good”, then you’d be right. Oh, and don’t forget the fragile aluminum heads: overheat once, and they’d crack! The interior was horrible and cheap, small parts regularly fell off, and the motor was rough running and loud… God, what WASN’T cheap or poorly made on the K car? Let’s all take off the rose-colored glasses and see the K car for what it was: a cheap, crude, not-very-good car that only sold in large numbers to rental car companies and state government agencies.

      • 0 avatar
        golden2husky

        I’ve never seen a K with a plastic tank on the radiator, much less self destructing plastic. Sounds like you are confusing this with the materials used in BMW cooling systems…

        Cheap car? Yup. Marginal assembly quality? Yep. 2.2 a bit coarse? yep. But they ran forever. And the 3 speed trans was incredibly durable. I know of not one person with a 3 speed failure…

      • 0 avatar
        Moparman426W

        @Husky, I saw his post yesterday but didn’t bother wasting my time. The “plastic radiator tank” was all it took to see that this person obviously doesn’t know much about them.

      • 0 avatar
        ponchoman49

        Not surprising considering the X-body Citations ceased production in 1985 and the K-car went up to 1989 and the Tempo lasted until 1994.

  • avatar
    OneidaSteve

    I like cheap basic cars that move the masses, and I remember these cars (when new) very well. Had a family member with a later 80s version with the Silent Shaft 2.6 Mitsubishi engine – compared with the 82 Cavalier my family had, that dodge was smooth, torquey and quiet. Interestingly enough, both cars ran reliably in daily service well past 150,000 miles.

    I think there is always a solid base of the car buying public that is looking for modest reliable transport – I suppose proof of that is the toyota corolla with all the excitement of a tax accountant.

  • avatar
    Pete Kohalmi

    Yup! the old Aries K. My dad had an ’82 wagon–maroon with fake wood paneling and maroon vinyl interior, 2.2L, 4 speed manual. I learned to drive on it. Soon after I got an X car–a 1980 Pontiac Phoenix. The K car was WAY more reliable and sturdy. Compared to the other cars in my family at the time, a Buick Regal and a Ford Fairmont, the K car was the best engineered and best built of them all. Later on we had a Dodge Daytona and a Chrysler LeBaron. Long live the K car!

  • avatar
    NotFast

    My first car! My first car! Though mine was a metallic ‘baby blue’ hand me down from my parents. It was okay, but developed an oil leak that no one could solve.

    • 0 avatar
      dolorean

      My mother had a metallic blue ’83 Aries K with matching blue interior as a company car from GE. The flat floor made it possible for a CB radio to be installed without losing any room in the car. It ran and ran and ran, got close to 30 mpgs and was remarkably quiet and roomy inside. It was the first car I remember having that had power windows and cruise control. The K car was livin’! after the god awful ’78 Chevy Nova she had prior to taking the job.

      I always found it funny that the engineers went with the shape of a car every child draws when they’re five. square front end equal to the square rear end with a proportional, but bigger square in the middle. Classic.

      • 0 avatar
        Dynasty

        I knew a guy with a 78 Nova. That has to be bar none the most uncomfortable POS GM ever built. There was hardly any leg room in the front, the seats were terrible. There was about the same amount of legroom in back as typical GM 2 door car, and the back seat was even less comfortable than the front seat.

    • 0 avatar
      Reptarcar

      Though I am not sure of the year, my friend’s first ride was a hand me down light blue Ares that seemed like the most fuel efficient and nimble vehicle in the world next to my own hand me down, an ’87 Chrysler Fifth Avenue.

      The only praise I can give my barge of a car over the Ares was its over-stuffed, red “leather” interior. Like driving your living room around town.

  • avatar
    morbo

    I learned to drive in this car. Well, technically I learned to drive in my Dad’s ’88 Caprice, but they both left a trail of blue-black smoke along their travels and both were indestructable, save for the 90% of the non-powertrain parts which were eminently destructible.

    That said, doing my 6-hours behind the wheel in this car, i hit a curb on Rt. 30 in South Jersey at 50 mph. Net result, I drove the now slightly wobbly Reliant (or Aries, whichever one it was) to the driving school facility, they took a hammer, and literally banged the wheel back into shape (ahh, the days of steel wheels). And off we went.

    I also remembering thinking that as we drove up the Rt.30 bridge out of Atlantic City, and how the car struggled, something must have been wrong with the engine. Not realizing that the small block Chevy V-8 in the caprice I was familiar with was the exception to that era.

    Now I return to my 363hp / 390lb-ft torque Hemi-powered, satelite-linked, radar collision warning, parking spot measuring, blind spot monitoring Chrysler 300. It literally hurts my brain to think that the Reliant I learned to drive on shares some DNA with my 300C.

  • avatar
    obbop

    There is a gulp valve sitting serenely somewhere within that engine compartment.

    Grab one from your local dismantling/recycling facility (it is not a “junk yard” ye heathens) and use it for presentation purposes of a past era.

    Perhaps alongside an 8-tracke cartridge.

    Make a diorama, perhaps.

    The Disgruntled Old Coot now directs thee to milling within the mall confronting a human herd oblivious to all around them while they keep a cell phone plastered to their ugly heads.

    Welcome to your new era.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    Ignoring all the political garbage, I liked these cars – the Plymouth and Chrysler versions, not the Dodges, and we owned several versions including an original 1981 Reliant we drove for seven years. Add to that my father-in-law was impressed, he bought three of them through the 1987 model year! We owned a 1984 E-Class – a stunningly beautiful car which we drove for eight years.

    The example above was the first year the back windows actually rolled down, however awkward the design looked – the divider bar was ‘way too far forward, which was addressed in a later MY that had a much more balanced appearance.

    Our Reliant had a carburetor idle stop solenoid which eventually carboned up and had to be taken apart and cleaned a year or two before we sold it. As ours was a first-year model, it had its problems – things I/you wouldn’t tolerate today – which Chrysler bent over backwards to fix – and did, but boy, was it a blast to drive!

    Wifey and I loved it, as it was like driving a sports car compared to most other cars on the road, and being FWD, ran rings around them when it snowed!

    Our E-Class had TBI and was one classy ride.

    • 0 avatar
      geozinger

      I never owned an actual K-car, I was in plenty of them. One of my former co-workers had one years ago. We would take turns carpooling to work with two other guys (you drove one week a month that way). It must have been amusing to see all of these tall guys get out of that car everyday as I was the shortest at 6 feet tall.

      The Reliant he owned was a beast of a little car, 2.2 carb and 3 speed autobox, but it never failed to get us to work. Although, in the summertime with the A/C on, it was only slightly faster than a turtle on caffeine pills. I gained great respect for that little box, as it handled about 800+ lbs. of humans with a fair amount of grace.

      Kind of sad to see this old soldier end up in the boneyard.

  • avatar
    flameded

    Ahhh yes..the K car.

    My friends mother had one when we were teens. We used to beat the *^%$ out of that thing…and it held up for quite some time.

    I still see one around my neighborhood…white convertible, WITH sim woodgrain.

    I do not agree with this statement however. :
    “it felt like a proper Detroit car.”

    -But what did around that time? Not much from detroit, In MY OPINION.

    They did sell a zillion of em,and it probably saved chrysler…again. But what were the other choices of the time? Ew.

    T.

  • avatar
    ciddyguy

    Being I was in HS when these things came out, I remember them being looked as a savior for Chrysler and they sold well enough. Sadly, no one in our family, but my middle sister for a brief while ever had one.

    In about 1990, my Dad bought a light green ’87 Reliant that had been used for the army division at one of his last GSA auto auctions for her. It was a decent enough ride but she accidentally got into a rear ender and had to have the front fixed, all cosmetic of course. I don’t think she drove it much after that as she soon remarried in 1992.

    But my parents had 2 of the GM X body cars, the 83 Skylark they bought new and the 83 Citation my Dad bought at one of the GSA auctions in 88 to replace it (too nice for him after they’d bought an 85 Honda Accord used that they’d purchased Dec, 87 for Mom). Neither were horrible in the reliability dept but the Citation was never fantastic either. I hated that car, uncomfortable and all that, never mind the sucktastic brakes and other maladies like the steering rack issues, the grabby rear brakes when cold etc.

    As for this car, seems part of why it’s in the bone yard despite it being a very clean example is the rust since it looked to have spent a good amount of its life in PA.

    Otherwise, the car looked to have been well taken care of and may still be drivable otherwise.

    Nice find and back in HS, I had entered a contest to win one of these, and at the time, wanted the wagon as it was the sportiest looking of the bunch.

    You have to give Chrysler credit designing these quite well for the day. I will agree Muralee that the interior could almost be mistaken for a mid 70′s Dodge interior, though that dash and steering wheel would give it away for it definitely says, early 80′s, I mean, just LOOK at that steering wheel! It says it all!

    Anyway, always likes these for what they were but I’m a sucker for early 80′s styling nomenclatures and such right now.

  • avatar
    I've got a Jaaaaag

    I remember car shopping with my father and Grandmother in about 1982 when she decided to replace her aging 74 Monaco with the 440 and looking at these, my grandmother would have nothing to do with a front wheel drive and bought a Caprice instead. I remember thinking at the time that the Caprice looked old fashioned and she should have bought the “Modern” K-car instead.

  • avatar
    IronEagle

    It is elegant and simple! I wish someone could save it.

    With this and the ’84 “A-Team” Corvette on BAT I am having 80′s flashbacks today!

  • avatar
    VanillaDude

    By 1983, America was too sober for any more Malaise Era nonsense. Baby Boomers discovered the downside of fake leather, fake cotton, fake luxury and grew up enough to recognize that fashion was not real. Denim was for jeans, not leisure suits, car interiors or Inaugural Day tuxedo wear. While the next generation discovered neon colors, Boy George and the PC, Baby Boomers discovered they were now the adults in the room and it was time to settle down, make a family, and get responsible.

    The cars that appealed to them at this time were honest simple cars that were markedly different from the ones they raced down frontage roads in, or went to discos in. Out went the Bordello Specials and in came the Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, Ford Escort, GM X-Cars, and the K-Cars.

    These cars offered a break from the Malaise Era and offered a return to simple honest transportation. While the X-Cars were an infamous exception, these cars looked like the kind of cars that were reliable, fixable, roomy, light, FWD, four cylinder, solution to the Malaise Hangover.

    K-Cars fit the times and needs of the biggest demographic at a time when those in that demographic were growing their families and needed exactly this kind of transportation.

    The crowning achievement was the FWD Chrysler minivan. It was exactly what the Baby Boomers with babies needed. It was marketing perfection arriving on the back of a company that proved to America that it remembered how to make a new Dart/Valiant. After Volare/Aspen and Fury/LeBaron, Chrysler demonstrated it could return to making clean, simple, honest family wheels.

    The K-Car was a triumph and it was history making in good ways.

  • avatar
    70Cougar

    In death, as in life, the K leans back at a 5 degree angle. Why do they all do that?

    • 0 avatar
      Chipper Carb

      and old two door Explorers??

      • 0 avatar
        texan01

        The explorers case it’s saggy leaf springs. Mine has the same problem but it’s a 4 door.

        My 77 Chevelle had the low-rider look going for a while with the collapsed coil springs. Once 6 of us piled into it, and it was on the stops thanks to those tired springs.

    • 0 avatar
      golden2husky

      K cars tended to settle in the rear. When mine passed 170K or so I replaced the rear springs with extra heavy duty aftermarket springs for the station wagon, even though I had a sedan. Car rode nice and level, even when I carried a ton of building materials in/on it. I put at Thule rack system on the roof and remember putting 12 sheets of drywall on the rack, plus some heavy stuff in the trunk and she handled it just fine.

    • 0 avatar
      IronEagle

      You are my hero. Hilarious and true!

  • avatar
    Sinistermisterman

    I have a real soft spot for these cars. My first set of wheels when I arrived in Canada was one of these. It had sat idle for over a year due to a death in the family of the previous owners, and after a tiny bit of haggling it was mine for $250. The beige beasty wasn’t perfect, the head liner sagged, so did the rear suspension and the was a definite smell of ‘old man’ which I could never quite get rid of. But for a car that was punching 25 years old, it did what was asked of it every day until I killed it.
    It was sad to see her go. If I was to add a cheap and cheerful runabout to the fleet today, I’d love to take one of these and swap in the turbo II motor. If you’re wondering why, take a look on youtube and search for ‘Fasssssst K-Car’.

  • avatar
    p4nya

    My buddy used to have a POS blue Dodge Aires. I always hated that there was no passenger side rear view mirror. It threw the symmetry off, looked cheap, and just felt odd when you were riding shotgun. Was there any purpose in not adding the mirror except as a cost saving measure?

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      It was to save money, Chrysler could build some decent cars in the 80′s but were not afraid to cut corners to save an extra $3 per a car.
      They also wouldn’t throw tape players in every radio, depite using the same one on each car.

      Then we get to OmnisHorizons which used K-Car trannies, but with cheaper parts.

      My 1990 Plymouth Horizon didn’t even have “Plymouth” on it anywhere, oddly prophetic though.

  • avatar
    patman

    My grandparents bought an Aries Wagon in ’81 or ’82 and my grandparents took my mother, lil’ sister and I on a road trip from DC to Yellowstone and back again in it. It was seriously underpowered when loaded with family and luggage, the A/C was pitifully inadequate, it felt like a tin can and the velour seats were hot and itchy.

    Their other car was a ’78 Gran Marquis 2 door, which was a magnificent vehicle by comparison, although I imagine Paw Paw appreciated the improved economy when driving from their home in Illinois to visit us in Virginia or my brothers in Alabama.

    Though garage kept, The paint and fake wood paneling started fading within a couple of years and surface rust started appearing on the hood and roof very shortly after. As far as I know, it was reliable while they owned it though.

    Granny traded it in eventually for a ’89 Mercury Sable which was miles nicer and better. Sadly, she sold the Gran Marquis to a mechanic at the Mercury dealer for a song – that car still looked and drove like new whereas the Aries appeared ready for the scrap heap despite the GM being 3 or 4 years older. The Sable ended up being an excellent car. They were always Mercury people at heart.

    In a shootout of my family’s crummy 1980′s small wagons, my parents’ 1980 VW Dasher diesel was superior to the grandparents’ Aries. The VW was even slower and also had crappy A/C but was much more solid feeling and held itself together over the same period of time much much better.

  • avatar
    patois

    When I moved to the episcopal wilds of New Hampshire at the age of 7 I learned of vehicles I had never seen before, Saabs, Sabarus and K-cars. Baby blue K-car wagons were the de rigeur choice for my ultra wealthy neighbors who wouldn’t be caught dead in a luxury sedan or randomly adding French to sentences. If they had a merc it was at least 20 years old. In season, when the hills were full of people war criminals and or people with networths of 100,000,000 or more, the club parking lot could easily have doubled for K-card dealership. When I see a K-car, especially if it is clean and ancient I think man, that person must be riiiich and I’m usually right.

    • 0 avatar
      PenguinBoy

      Back in the day my parents were friends with a well off lawyer who drove a K-car wagon. Before that, he had a base model Dart…

    • 0 avatar
      Felix Hoenikker

      Man,

      If a K car was a rich man’s car in NH, what did the average citizen drive?

    • 0 avatar
      Lemmy-powered

      The wagons were very popular with the wealthy where I live, too. Practical, inoffensive, inexpensive, versatile second vehicles. Remember, it wasn’t in vogue at the time to live like Elvis.

      The four-doors were more popular with those with less wealth.

      The two-doors, well, they were bought by the elderly.

      • 0 avatar
        PenguinBoy

        Hard to argue with the space utilization and visibility of a K-Wagon. Compare and contrast: 1982 Reliant Wagon and 2012 Honda Crosstour – it’s amazing how far we *haven’t* come in 30 years…

        Kind of ironic, considering that the K Car based minivans helped kill the wagon in North America. It’s too bad a modern K Wagon isn’t offered these days. No need for Diesel Power and Ostrich skin trim for non-enthusiasts, but I still see a space for something with a bit more room than a sedan, but not the size or bulk of a crossover…

    • 0 avatar
      morbo

      I think the Ford Escort and mitsubishi Lancer wagons are the closest things in size and function to the K-wagons currently available.

      Of course God forbid they be called wagons. Lancer ‘Sportback” and ’5 Door Hatchback’. Can’t have a functional square back which improves visibility and interior space, gotta have those curvy swoopy notches out there.

      Get Off My Lawn!!!

  • avatar
    gslippy

    The K-cars were great for their time, but don’t forget that their drivetrain came from the Omni/Horizon (“H-car”?) which was launched in 1978. Really, both products helped save the company.

    The K-cars later morphed into the 85 Lebaron GTS & Lancer, and even later into the Sundance/Shadow twins, as well as the Daytona.

    Most importantly, the K-cars provided a lot of DNA to the 83 Dodge Caravan.

    • 0 avatar
      patman

      I had a ’91 Daytona for a while and it was remarkable how far the K-car had come from its beginnings (see Aries Wagon anecdote several posts above). The Daytona was a very nice driving and riding car that felt pretty well put together compared to the tin can that was the Aries. It never had to haul as much mass around as the Aries wagon did but the 2.5L felt a lot more adequate than the old 2.2L did. It did have some fading paint issues on the hood and roof though but that was a pretty common problem around that time for everyone.

    • 0 avatar
      Omnifan

      The 2.2 was originally designed for the K car, and later was the optional engine in the L body (Omni). Even later, it became the only engine in the L body.

      • 0 avatar
        Felis Concolor

        As an L-body fan, the P-car platform makes me sad as the latter sucked up the supply of common block 2.5 engines. A run of Omni Americas with the 2.5 would have been an excellent last hurrah for the aging econobox, with its fat and flat torque curve.

    • 0 avatar

      Actually, the Omni/Horizon started out with an engine that was Simca-derived. It got the 2.2 Chrysler engine in ’81, same year the K cars got it.

      • 0 avatar
        Ryoku75

        Actually it had a modified VW block with Mopar stuff on it, to make it just a litre more (1.7 instead of 1.6). There are rumors of a diesel OmniHorizon but if it exists it much be rare, like convertible L-Body Charger rare (at least one exists).

        Later it got the 2.2, which in my book always felt a little too big for the OmniHorizon.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        Our 1979 Plymouth Horizon had Audi’s four rings prominently cast on its engine block. The 1.6 liter Peugeot/Simca engine was the last engine family introduced to the Horizon/Omni in the US, replacing the 1.7 VAG unit in as the base engine in 1983, when it was only available with a manual transmission. It was available until 1986, but I can’t recall ever seeing one. The 2.2 introduced in 1981 made the cars reasonably quick, while the 62 hp 1.6 must have been working pretty hard. The 1.7 had 75 hp according to Wikipedia, although I thought it was more like 70. Whatever it had, more power would have been preferable to less.

      • 0 avatar
        geozinger

        It’s kind of amusing to talk about the L-bodys, for some people these cars were family cars. I can’t imagine ANY family car these days that has less than 100HP under the hood… I don’t think there are any that are under 120…

    • 0 avatar
      geozinger

      gslippy: FWD Mopars of the 80′s (off the top of my head)

      E body = FWD E-class cars, Dodge 600 and convertibles
      H body = FWD LeBaron & Dodge Lancer and variants
      K body = Aries/Reliant, all variants
      L body = Omnirizon four and two door variants
      P body = Sundance & Shadow all variants
      T body = Original minivans

      Many folks make the assumption that anything FWD from Chrysler in the 80′s was a K car. Not true. Like many car companies do today, there was a lot of sharing going on, but the actual platforms were different.

      I want my H-body Lancer Turbo back.

      • 0 avatar
        Zackman

        @Geo:

        I think you forgot EEK – the lengthened WB models like our E-Class and the Caravelle.

      • 0 avatar
        gslippy

        Thanks geozinger; I had forgotten all the code names. I still miss my 85 LeBaron GTS; it was a great-looking, durable car.

      • 0 avatar
        Lorenzo

        “I want my H-body Lancer Turbo back.”

        I hear you. The H body Lancer was a very utilitarian 4 door hatch, and Chrysler actually improved on the K car’s ergonomics and space utilization.

        I had an ’87 Accord 4-door hatch, and my cousin had an ’87 Lancer turbo. Both cars were very close in dimensions and layout. The Accord felt tighter and better put together, but the Lancer was pretty decent for the time, had seemingly more interior space, and it’s turbo outclassed the Accord’s 98 HP. The standard 2.2 was close to the Accord’s 2.0 in output.

        It’s hard to believe, but Chrysler actually went head to head with a car comparable to a Honda in the late ’80s and was very competitive doing it.

      • 0 avatar
        threeer

        Other than a clutch that felt like it came straight out of a Freightliner, I loved my Lancer Turbo! Gun metal grey, upgraded to aftermarket rims/tires and a rather incredible stereo system (ah…to be a youth again and not care!)…it was a great ride for a college kid. The 2.2 turbo was a tricky customer though…look up the term “turbo lag” in a dictionary, and I’m fairly certain you’ll see that drivetrain. Still, it was good on gas, cleaned up well…and most importantly, my then-girlfriend dug it (after coming out of a 1976 VW Rabbit, driving the Lancer was like winning the lottery). Guess that’s why I have a soft spot for Dodge/Chrysler and really am rooting for them to do well.

      • 0 avatar
        geozinger

        @Zackman: *Technically* everything that wasn’t an actual K, was an EEK. Other than my Lancer, the other EEK I would like to have is the Kleenex box with an attitude, an 600ES Convertible Turbo. Probably even more than the 1989 Shelby Daytona my MIL destroyed. Close call.

        @threer: the boost lag was an issue, but once it got pressurized, look out. Even my stock Lancer could take turbo Saabs from a standing start.

      • 0 avatar
        Zackman

        “Even my stock Lancer could take turbo Saabs from a standing start.”

        You betcha! My buddy in Missouri had an ’85 turbo Lancer 4 door and that thing screamed! He scared the daylights out of me in that thing. Of course, the turbo went out and he fixed it. What a ride. He still drives like he did in high school, still scares me to death…

      • 0 avatar
        windswords

        E body = FWD E-class cars, Dodge 600 and convertibles
        H body = FWD LeBaron & Dodge Lancer and variants
        K body = Aries/Reliant, all variants
        L body = Omnirizon four and two door variants
        P body = Sundance & Shadow all variants
        T body = Original minivans
        GSlippy

        I’ll fill in the rest:

        G body = FWD Dodge Daytona and Chrysler Laser
        J body = FWD Chrysler LeBaron coupe (replaced the Laser in ’87)
        C body = FWD Dodge Dynasty and Chrysler New Yorker
        Y body = FWD stretched C body Chrysler Fifth Avenue and Imperial
        A body = FWD Dodge Spirit, Plymouth Acclaim, Chrysler LeBaron seden (replaced the original K cars but still had many common components)
        K body also included the Chrysler LeBaron coupe, sedan, convertible, and the fake wood paneled Town and Country wagon (the square boxy ones) before the J body LeBaron came out.

        The L body Dodge Omni and Plymouth Horizon were NOT K cars, but an entirely different platform.

  • avatar
    Chipper Carb

    I remember the story of my friends K wagon after a parking lot got flooded. They went looking for their car and found it nose first in the water with the rear end floating around the drain. A sad way to go for the old girl. Still yell out KWhagan whenever I see one!

  • avatar
    Felis Concolor

    Somebody really loved their K-Car; that’s not the factory preordered A/C but the more pricey dealer installed Mopar unit. You can tell by the presence of the stamped steel mounting cradle as opposed to the 4-post aluminum unit used for preordered compressors.

    And that front interior shot shows off the handsome floating dashboard. Compare that concrete arch simplicity to today’s modern bridge pilings and forced front passenger segregation.

  • avatar

    I learned to drive a 4 speed standard (on the floor) version of the same car, come to think of it everyone in the 1980’s learned to drive in this car.
    They came at the right time; the NA market was sick of poorly built RWD cars that drank gas, but still not ready to buy anything foreign or viewed them as too small.
    The GM X bodies were not up to the task, not even sure what Ford was offering (Fairmont, Mustang, Fiesta?) and Chrysler needed a hit.
    The K car more or less convinced the NA market you can buy a small car with a 4 cyl and not have it look like a small car which IMO is an important point, trouble is Chrysler kept them a little too long (Sundance, Acclaim, Dynasty etc).
    Plain in appearance and crude by today’s standards they are still an important part of automotive history.

  • avatar
    Omnifan

    I still have an 88 Reliant (2.5L) with 20000 miles and an 83 LeBaron convertible (83000 miles). Dated? Yes. Reliable? Absolutely. The Reliant only gets driven once a year for about two weeks when I’m in FL, all you need to do is hook the battery up and turn the key. Has never failed to start.

  • avatar
    elmwood

    They came in white? Around my hometown, most of the Aries and Reliants on the roads — and there were tens of thousands of them — were powder blue.

    Head to the eastern suburbs of Buffalo, and odds are good you’ll still catch a little old Polish lady behind the wheel of an old K. Power blue, of course, and an odometer that is nowhere even close to the 100K mark.

  • avatar
    Wagen

    I wish a car company would be brave enough to make something like this today. The only things that need to be done are: update the understructure for crash protection, add stability control, put in a modern fuel injected 4-banger, add airbags. Things that can stay the same: honest and apparently quite durable interior materials, great use of space, formal roofline, flat floor, reasonably sized wheels/tires, and an actually accessible trunk space. I bet it’d cost less than a Camcodtimabu too!

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      Ford should try this out and call it the “Model T MK.2″, it would be very nice to see something truly functional and honest again.

      The closest we can get are the Nissan Versa, Sentra, and Toyota Yaris.

    • 0 avatar
      geozinger

      I think that the cheapest models of most mainstream car companies fulfill this role. Just for grins, I was checking out a Dodge Avenger SE(stripper)model, other than the government mandated stuff, and items to keep the car semi-competitive with the rest of the market, it really doesn’t have a lot – compared to the competition. Most of today’s cars seem to have a whole layer of electronics on top of the basic car. When compared to the era of the K car in the OP, even a stripper Avenger is equipped far beyond what the K car could ever be…

    • 0 avatar
      alwayssmilin

      WAGEN I absolutely agree!! I would bet big money if they brought back the aries or reliant with the upgrades you mentioned and no more bench seats, People would flock to buy these things!! First they would be cheap,economical,not break down and make them all with 2.5 motors!! I say this because I know so many people who have said exactly what you said about adding modern standards!! All said they would buy one in a minute!! So theres a huge market if chrysler decides to make money again!! P.S. Keep the body metal not plasticky!!

  • avatar
    krafttj

    Had a great Reliant; probably would still have it except for the allure of a newer car. My son learned to drive in it and always found the car funny for some reason. I think all the K-Car “cool stuff” attracted him. If you haven’t seen it, nothing captures the allure of the K-Car better than Tim’s commercial/review here:

    All in all, you are right, it was an important car!

  • avatar
    Halftruth

    “weren’t great cars by modern standards” ? Does it matter? This car saved the company and was a good car to boot. My only complaint about the 2.2 was the noisy bottom end on many of them had that led to engine failure (in some cases).
    You couldn’t beat the room and versatility.. Look at that bench! Still presentable.

    • 0 avatar
      PenguinBoy

      “weren’t great cars by modern standards”

      Can anyone come up with *any* late malaise era car that ~would~ be a great car by modern standards?

      • 0 avatar
        Ryoku75

        First I need to know what modern standards are, I can’t think of any 80′s cars that had un-intended acceleration, break-off steering wheels, built with just 3-brake pads, caught fire weeks after an accident, over heated and caught fire at low speeds…

      • 0 avatar
        srogers

        “…I can’t think of any 80′s cars that had un-intended acceleration, break-off steering wheels, built with just 3-brake pads, caught fire weeks after an accident, over heated and caught fire at low speeds…”

        Then you’re just not looking very hard. Recalls are hardly a new occurrence.

      • 0 avatar
        ponchoman49

        My friends 1989 Caprice Classic sedan would easily qualify. 150K miles on original 305 injected V8, original 700R4 trans that still shifts smooth, no rust, everytrhing still works including A/C, all power windows and locks, Cruise etc. Even the power antenna still functions. It rides amazing too with the F-41 suspension and will light up the tires at will, easily seat 6 and the trunk flat out embarresses most any sedan produced now.

    • 0 avatar
      golden2husky

      The typical noise of high mileage 2.2s was actually piston slap, not noisy crank bearings. My engine sounded almost diesel-like at idle after it passed 200K…

  • avatar
    friedclams

    I bought a 10-year old ’83 wagon for my mom, it was a very well-packaged car but had some major quality issues. I wish I had known Zackman’s carb repair tip back then, that carb was always a problem and causing visits to the shop. It had many other quirks as well. The end came when a pizza-sized rust hole manifested itself in the front passenger footwell. But there was no other rust on the car! Huh?!

    A later-run one with the quality issues fixed (and fuel injection) would be a great runabout.

    • 0 avatar
      Felis Concolor

      I’m guessing your car had A/C and if so, the condenser drain tube was cut too short and the escaping moisture was wicked back along the open cell foam gasket used to cushion the drain pipe where it met the firewall. From there, the moisture would drip down along the multilayer carpeting and batting where it would pool and eventually rot out that side of the floor pan.

      I discovered the soggy mess in my Omni when I tore out the interior in preparation for an extensive car stereo installation project. After lots of sponging clean and drying out, I traced the leak back to the drain pipe and fabricated a long, downward-curving rubber hose fixed in place with some inner wire. This ensured escaping condenser moisture would actually leave the vehicle.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        Our ’71 Scamp dumped its condensation from the bottom of the A/C vent housing under the dash too. We had a Tupperware canister that caught the drips and had to be dumped every our or two on road trips on humid days.

  • avatar
    jpolicke

    I had the 2.2 in my ’81 TC3 hatch. Mostly reliable. What I hated was its design where the ignition wires had these barbed tips that fit through slots in the distributor cap, thereby becoming the contacts inside the cap. Thus requiring a set of replacement wires along with each cap & rotor change.

    Inlaws had the Lebaron flavor of the K. Pitifully slow with the AC running, but comfy inside. Also fairly reliable.

    • 0 avatar
      Felis Concolor

      I managed to keep my 2.2′s plug wires active through several cap and rotor changes by carefully squeezing the barbed inserts with a pair of pliers until they popped back out. The rapid carbon buildup on the dual tips was dealt with by using a Dremel tool with a polishing wheel to clean off the residue every month or so.

      I heard there were VW GTi racers who sought to modify 2.2 turbo distributors to fit for their larger cap size (30% greater diameter) to prevent arcing with high current ignition systems.

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    Looking back, I would have been better off with one of these instead of the god-awful Buick X-car I ended up buying.

  • avatar

    Can anyone think of a car that has a lower desirability:significance ratio?

    Some day museums will being paying top dollar for pristine examples…and there will be none to be found.

  • avatar
    potatobreath

    Looking at that Aries bench makes me wonder why the current Tahoe doesn’t ship with a floor shifter standard. There’s no room in the Tahoe under the protruding center stack for legs, even a child’s legs.

    • 0 avatar
      Volt 230

      They sold us on the FWD configuration by giving us more room up front without a hump on the floor, column mounted shifters and bench seats up front where you could squeeze in 6 people in a pinch, and now with some cars, it is almost impossible to sit someone in the middle rear seat, unless they’re double amputees.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      My Aunt had a turd brown K-car wagon with 4spd stick and that bench seat. Which was a delight given that my Aunt was 5’1 and I was 6’2″ at the age of 13, and hated riding in the back…

  • avatar
    mistrernee

    I maintain that people who thought these things were unreliable all bought one with that horrid Mitsubishi 2.6l.

  • avatar
    pdieten

    Does anyone ever wonder, if the GM X-cars really had been well built enough that sales would have been strong throughout the early ’80s, that it would have taken enough sales away from Chrysler that they would have gone out of business? I think that might have happened.

    • 0 avatar
      VanillaDude

      I’ll honestly answer that.

      The Vega/Monza H-bodies needed to be replaced, so by 1975 GM began developing a replacement, the J-body. It was launched in 1981, a year after the X-body. To us, the J-bodies are the Cavalier, J2000/2000Sunbird-fire, Firenza, Skyhawk, Cimarron. The J-bodies would have taken market share away from the X-bodies, even if the X-bodies didn’t turn out to be flaming pieces of death-traps.

      And, the combo X-Body/J-Body didn’t hurt K-Car sales.

      K-Car sales were not high conquest vehicles. K-Cars were sold to folks who remembered and longed for Valiant/Dart replacements and those who yearned for a better vehicle from Chrysler than their replacements, (Volare/Aspen). K-Cars kept Chrysler customers from leaving Chrysler. It wasn’t until the K-Car became the minivan, do we see conquest sales becoming a common occurance.

      In 1979, GM had 60% of the US Market. While the X-Car gets it’s fair share of blame for GM’s massive market share loss during the 1980s, even if the cars were fine – GM couldn’t have kept that market share at 60%. Japanese cars became the Baby Boomer’s choice of contrarian automotive statement.

      • 0 avatar
        pdieten

        I recall conventional wisdom at the time was that GM’s X bodies were better cars than the K-cars. But when GM’s design and reliability problems became widely known in ’81, I think Chrysler actually earned conquest sales from people who would have otherwise bought X cars in the first half of the ’80s. (Remember, in flyover country the Japanese invasion really didn’t begin until Reagan’s second term – if you were car shopping in 1983 in the Rust Belt, you were buying a domestic.)

        The difference was that while the early K-cars were not reliable like Darts were reliable, they were adequate – and more importantly, they were better than GM. It has crossed my mind to wonder, if the K-cars and X-cars were of equal reliability, whether the K-cars would have earned enough Chrysler-loyalist customers to keep the company alive long enough to bring out the minivan.

      • 0 avatar
        Volt 230

        X-cars were more”substantial” than the K cars, I recall testing out both and coming away with that impression, I would have never expected reliability to have been such an issue with the GM bunch.

      • 0 avatar
        golden2husky

        Volt 230 is correct, at least in terms of the overall structure of the car. K bodies were somewhat flexy due to their lightweight design…early cars were under 2400 pounds…pretty damn impressive.

  • avatar
    thekcarguy

    Sad to see an Early K in the junkyard…But on a Plus note the one I have in my collection is a survivor car and never sees winter..[IMG]http://i39.tinypic.com/29zzb0h.jpg[/IMG]

  • avatar
    car_guy2010

    I learned to drive in my father’s ’88 Reliant K wagon. It was a decent sized wagon that got decent gas mileage and lasted probably 7 years before he sold it. When he sold it, the floorboards were infected with tinworm and probably wouldn’t have lasted much longer.

    Lots of fun though and I nearly banged it up a few times.

  • avatar
    Joe McKinney

    My family owned a bunch of K-Cars and I have fond memories of them.
    I had a 1985 Aries coupe. My parents had a 1984 Aries sedan and a 1989 Aries sedan. One of my grandmothers had a 1985 Aries sedan. And, when my sisters were in college they had a 1982 Dodge 400 coupe.

    I bought my 1985 Aries used in 1988. It took me all the way through college and graduate school. This car made many trips between the seminary campus in Kentucky and my parents home in Florida. When I finally traded it in 1995 it had just over 120,000 miles. By this time it was really starting to show its age, but it still had some life left in it.

    By the standards of the time the K-Cars were decent cars. They were inexpensive, simple and reliable. They were not very quick, but they were comfortable road cars. The had a nice ride and the interior was quite roomy for such a small car. There were a few quirks. The carburetors were troublesome and the rear suspensions tended to sag with age so you saw a lot of them riding around with a nose-up stance.

  • avatar
    mygeddygoesyaaahhh

    Wow, my last work-study employee had this baby in maroon-ish. that car was a rattling mess but man, that thing would not die. College kids sometimes own real gem’s.

  • avatar
    sckid213

    Anyone know when they started including the “K” on the badges next to the name of the car? As in “Aries K”? Also, since I was just a kid in the ’80s, I’m curious if the general population was aware of the concept of the “K car” at the time — as in, did people refer to them as “K-cars” back when they were new? Was there an awareness that this platform was so prolific throughout Chrysler’s line-up? If so, was that considered something desirable? Since they were eventually badged as “Aries K” and “Reliant K” it got me thinking that this might be the case.

    Side note, but a whole new generation was (probably unknowingly) exposed to the K-car via the “punk” band Relient K. From the band’s Wiki entry:

    “The band is named after guitarist Hoopes’ automobile, a Plymouth Reliant K car, with the spelling intentionally altered to avoid trademark infringement over the Reliant name”

    • 0 avatar
      Rob Finfrock

      Chrysler referred to the K platform in advertising leading up to the on-sale date — “The Ks Are Coming!” I think there was even a marketing tie-in with K-Mart.

    • 0 avatar
      thekcarguy

      I can help you out on that one.. in 1981 They advertised them as Plymouth Reliant K Front wheel drive, as the owner of an 81 Reliant, The 81′s have a awesome looking K on their trunk and below the Reliant K it has a name plate that says front wheel drive, as well as Reliant badges on the front fenders and a small K on the dash board. in 1982 They eliminated the K for the 82-85 Model years, in 1986 the K returned to the trunk lid.

  • avatar
    Moparman426W

    These were by far the best that detroit had to offer at the time. They were by far the most mechanically simple FWD cars you could buy. The 2.2 had an extremely rugged bottom end because it was designed by one of the engineers of the slant 6. It was his last assignment before retiring. Head gaskets were an issue, but that was common on just about all cars with aluminum heads and cast iron blocks at that time. The gasket manufacturers didn’t yet have the know how to make a gasket that could deal with the different expansion/contraction rates of aluminum and cast iron. Aluminum expands and contracts 3 times the amount of cast iron, which gave what engineers called a “scrubbing effect”, in other words head gaskets were “scrubbed” to death.
    The automatic transaxle was actually a 904 torqueflite with the inner workings rearranged to fit in a fwd case. Very clever engineering indeed. What many people don’t know is that chrysler designed the K car before the bankruptcy, but they needed the cash to bring it into production. What many people seem to forget was that they paid the loan back in full with interest within 2 years even though they were given 10.

  • avatar
    FordTempoEnthusiast

    I would LOVE an early K-car. Sigh. Not as good as a Tempo, but they (for reasons unknown) are more fondly remembered.

    • 0 avatar
      Moparman426W

      The reason they are more fondly remembered than the tempo is because they were much better cars. Much simpler and more solid mechanicals, more room. The tempo did have that uspside down bathtub aerodynamic styling that auto journalists went nuts over, but I never liked it.

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    I remember looking for one of these but I decided to grab a Horizon instead (I liked their hatchback looks, they were lighter, and they still used the trusty 2.2).

    Now I regret that as the K-Cars didn’t get cheapened out as badly as L-Cars, my ’90 Horizon was throwing its tranny out at 89k so I had to sell it.

    What makes the ReliantAries100s of variants so memorable I dunno, they were not bad cars but they weren’t amazingly good either.
    Yes, some examples have hit 200k but Japan and Europe have topped that with 300k cars, though the 900k Slant-Six I saw once still reigns supreme.

    K-Cars did have a very neat design though, somehow Chrysler had a car that was very practical inside, aerodynamic (more than a Corvette of the time!), and with a stick they could get 40mpg, 0-60 in 8 seconds, and looked nice. What modern car offers these?

    If a Chrysler exec sees this, forget about sticking a Honda nose on an Alfa, build us more K-Cars! And please, please offer a pink “Homer Simpson” edition.

  • avatar
    Broo

    I remember when I was shopping for my first (used) car with my father, it was 1994, the K cars were EVERYWHERE. Every parking lot, be it a work place, sales lot or shopping center, where at least 10 % of the cars were Chrysler Ks.

  • avatar
    Geekcarlover

    I have mostly warm fuzzy memories of K-cars. The folks bought an Aries wagon. I lobbied like hell for the car next to it on the showroom floor, a LaBaron convertible. Alas, they just couldn’t understand the needs of their loving 15 yo son.
    For the day, an important caveat, they were excellent cars. They helped people forget Chrysler’s Aspen/Volare debacle.

  • avatar
    3800FAN

    My first car was an 85 reliant with the Mitsubishi 2.6. I ressirected it in 2000 and it gave me 3reliable years. In the end it seccumed to the issue that killed all those Mitsubishi engines, the timing chain guide issue. The bucket seats of the se model were the most comfortable ever.

    The nest thing about these cars was droving in the snow. They were unstoppable. It was impossible to get them stuck.

  • avatar
    3800FAN

    And i learner to drive on my dads 87 reliant. It ran forever. I miss those cars

  • avatar
    svenmeier

    85 mph / 140 km/h speedometer? Was this car that slow?

    • 0 avatar
      Moparman426W

      All cars from 77 to sometime around the early-mid 80′s had 85 mph speedometers because of a government mandate. Even the 5.0 mustang which had a top speed of around 140 had the 85 mph unit for awhile.
      This particular car here wouldn’t have done much over 85, maybe 90-95 which was about normal for a standard 4 banger this size.

      • 0 avatar
        svenmeier

        Ah, thank you for this information.

      • 0 avatar
        acuraandy

        @Moparman: I had an ’87 Camaro ‘Sport Coupe’, 305 V8 w/700R4 (ick, I know) verified in a race back in 2001 with my buddy’s ’85 IROC (that had a 145mph speedo) would do 125mph.

        The speedo? Went to 85mph. What a joke.

        And GM fanboys wonder why I give the ol’ General so much shit…:)

      • 0 avatar
        ciddyguy

        Moparman426W,

        I think the 85 speedo went away in the early 1990′s as my former 1992 Ford Ranger had the 85 speedo. Anytime I went past that, I was more like doing at least 90.

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      Even Ferraris had an 85 mph speedometer:

      http://ferrari308gtsi.multiply.com/photos/album/2/1980_Ferrari_308_GTSi_2003_2008#photo=60

      Ford didn’t seem to take it too seriously with the Mustang SVO:

      http://www.allfordmustangs.com/forums/attachments/5-0l-tech/55773d1227410489-what-cluster-will-work-1988-mustang-84-86-svo-speedometer.jpg

      • 0 avatar
        Moparman426W

        Andy, the 85 mph speedo wasn’t GM’s fault, it was mandated for all cars. The top speed of the camaro can be blamed on GM tho because the 700R4 was designed not to kick into overdrive at wide open throttle regardless of speed. I can see that in a civilian caprice, but it’s a joke in a camaro.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        “the 85 mph speedo wasn’t GM’s fault, it was mandated for all cars.”

        Sort of. The requirement was in place for only 2 1/2 years — it began in September 1979, but was repealed by March 1982.

        However, many of the automakers voluntarily continued to use 85 mph speedometers for some time after the requirement was dropped. Of the automakers that commented on the repeal of the legislation at the time, only Honda stated flat out that it was going to completely dump the 85 mph speedometers, while Subaru was the only one that argued in favor of requiring the speedometers for everyone.

        From the Federal Register circa 1982: “American Motors, Chrysler, Ford, General Motors, Mack, Renault, Subaru, and Volvo White Truck Corporation said they would maintain a maximum scale reading of 85 mph or less. Honda said it would modify its speedometers to show the maximum speed capabilities of its vehicles…Subaru supported the retention of the requirement to limit the maximum speed shown on the speedometer scale to 85 miies per hour, arguing that it would help minimize the temptation for young drivers to drive at excessive speeds.”

        http://www.archive.org/stream/federalmotorvehi19843unit/federalmotorvehi19843unit_djvu.txt

  • avatar
    cheezeweggie

    I still see an old K-wagon being driven around here. It is in amazing condition for it’s age.

    It’s a shame that nobody makes a simple reliable and cheap car anymore. Even Hyundai/Kia jumped on the Bluetooth/navigation/backup camera/LED lighted ashtray with hard drive bandwagon.

    Just try to find one of those $10,900 Nissan Versas they advertise…

    • 0 avatar
      acuraandy

      -As i’ve mentioned before- there’s a guy up here in the NW Twin Cities who regularly drives (when there isn’t salt on the roads) a New Yorker K LIMO. Friggin’ sweet!

  • avatar
    Moparman426W

    @Husky, you are correct, the first year or so they did have a few bugs which was normal for a new model back then. But they were relatively minor, especially compared to the X car. I don’t think GM ever cured the rear wheel lockup problem. CV joints were a weak spot in the K cars, but pretty much all fwd cars needed cv joint replacement before 100k back then, especially a manual equipped car. Some automatic equipped cars that were driven gently went pretty long time on the original joints.

  • avatar
    troyohchatter

    I have had a many cars and currently own Hondas. That being said, the most reliable and best cars I ever owned was my 1993 Dodge Spirit, the last mainstream K made. 2.5L/3spd auto. That thing flat rocked for everyday transportation. I drove it to 196K miles and didn’t throw much more at it than gas and oil. We hit a point where I had to get rid of it or rid ourselves of the 97 Taurus wagon. I NEED MY ARSE KICKED!!!!…the Taurus gave up at 125K, a victim of head gasket and transmission failure. I wish I had that decision back..the Taurus would have been GONE!

  • avatar
    Moparman426W

    @Geozinger, the problem with the iron duke was that it was not designed for fwd cars, and GM shoved it in without regard to serviceability. Even what should have been simple maintenance like oil changes and tuneups was a real pain. The distributor was now on the back side of the engine next to the firewall and under the intake manifold. Even after removing the top engine mount and moving the engine forward it was nearly impossible to get at. It was actually easier to put the car on ramps and climb underneath to get at the distributor, but it was still a pain.
    The oil filter was way up on the backside of the engine where it wasn’t even visible, and you had to snake your arm up there to get at it. I replaced the water pump on my sister’s celebrity and it was a real pain, I had to bend the lip on the inner fender to get it to even come out, and it still barely had enough room to come through. As far as the alternator goes I never changed one on one of those cars, but I saw where it was located and I know that it would have been a real nightmare. Those engines were also very rough and noisy. Being a car guy I don’t mind some engine noise, but it was the john deere tractor like noise these engines made that made them so unpleasant sounding.

    • 0 avatar
      geozinger

      I wasn’t the Iron Duke alone that was not suited for east-west duty. The old L61(?) 2.2 OHV 4 cylinder used in the later J cars came from the S-10 pickups. As a north-south, it wasn’t that bad, but as an east-west motor, what a pain. My arms are too thick to fit between the firewall and the engine to get the oil filter off of my Cavalier. I trained my kid to do it when she was younger, now she doesn’t want to get dirty. Even when I take the car into the service lane at the Chevy dealer, they always find the skinniest kid in the pit to reach up and change out the filter…

      On the other hand, the motor has gone in excess of 250,000 miles, so I really can’t complain if I have to spend the extra bux to have the fast lane do the oil change.

      Oh, and I was going to mention, it seems to me all cars after about 1980 or so are much easier to access all of their parts from underneath than on top. I sometimes think about getting one of those Harbor Freight car lifts, but my bedroom is above my garage…

      • 0 avatar
        Moparman426W

        On the K car the oil filter was right up front and you could reach down and take it off from in front of the car. And the distributor was right on the top left hand side. The water pump wasn’t that hard to change either. the alternator was harder to get at but nothing like the GM front drivers, at least the iron duke.

      • 0 avatar
        pdieten

        If it’s OHV then you’re thinking of the “122″ 2200 engine descended from the old first-gen Cavalier 2-liter; that was the engine they also threw into S10s. I drove a ’97 Sunfire for years with the 2200 and a 3-speed automatic. That powertrain was coarse but absolutely indestructible for me – I drove the car to 165K and it still ran like new with practically no maintenance. I only sold the car because at age 37 I was getting tired of driving a kiddie-mobile.

      • 0 avatar
        geozinger

        @moparman: Yes, the 2.2 Trentons were very easy to work on. I think I noted further up the string how easy they were for routine maintenance. I know the turbo motors had their water pumps offset to one side, they were very easy to replace. Well, the one time I did it in 160K miles. I don’t think anything is that easy to work on anymore.

        @pdieten: I dont recall right now, but I know there’s an L-code for that motor. +1 on it being shaky, but durable. My 97 Cavalier is still going strong at 253,000+ miles. Pretty soon though, the body will rust off the rest of the car and I will have to retire it.

      • 0 avatar
        pdieten

        I gave up trying to guess and looked it up. It’s LN2

  • avatar
    robc123

    My first car was an 82 aries, mitsu engine.
    As a teenager I loved the bench seats and manual car door locks- girl reaches over to unlock your door, she likes you. Bench seat for…. well you know.

    Put 600k (KM) on it and sold it to a pizza delivery driver- mind you it went through a case of oil every 1000 km but hey- bench seats.

  • avatar
    acuraandy

    I was a stain on my parent’s mattress when this car was built.

    I like the fact you got one with the first-gen grille. Holy 80′s!

    A suggestion for your next one (if you can find one in a ‘Yard), 1986 Acura Integra and/or Legend…:)

  • avatar
    bill mcgee

    The comments about the inadequate K-car air conditioning (as well as in other Mopar products)goes a long way in explaining why G.M. so dominated domestic car sales here in Houston for so many years- the cars may have been lousy but the A.C. worked comparatively well. Most Chrysler owners I knew in this era were transplanted Yankees.Personally I think it was the minivans that saved Chrysler-at least here. But I knew of noone whose Dodge Caravan or whatever didn’t suffer premature automatic transmission failure- sometimes with only 60k miles (though possibly only with the 2.6 engine ). Don’t know if the K-cars had this problem or not.Of course Houston had a much earlier large scale invasion of foreign car sales than say, the midwest, possibly because it was a port city and a major shipping point for foreign makes .

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      I believe the minivans with the early transmission failures were primarily the 3.0 V6 models with Ultradrive. The 3-speed TorqueFlites were pretty bullet proof in my experience, although it is possible that the extra mass of a 7-seater van over-burdened them. The A/C in our Lancer Turbo was pretty decent, working much better than the one in our Porsche but not as frosty as the one in the Festiva. I don’t know about long-term durability though, as we gave up on keeping the car running after less than 30,000 miles and three years. The A/C in our ’79 Horizon was still going strong when we sold it with 70,000 miles in 1988.

      • 0 avatar
        Moparman426W

        The 3speed used in the minivans was a version of the old 904 torqueflite, and was bulletproof in the low powered minivans. Most of the problems with the ultradrive were the result of dipsticks that were improperly marked for the use of dexron fluid, which was not compatible with the clutches and burned them up. Even if a small amount was added that was all it took.
        Another problem with the ultradive at first was that the solenoid pack would glog. They cost 160.00 at the time, but in many cases the existing one could be cleaned. A minor problem that caused the ultradrive to act up was a loose ground strap.
        Many transmission shops automatically rebuilt the trans or charged for a rebuild. I’m sure that many were also misdiagnosed by incompetent rebuilders.

  • avatar
    MusicMachine

    “It even has hood springs instead of the usual small-car prop rod.”

    At least one thing was designed to last, for all the opening and shutting from the repairs.

  • avatar
    89ARIES

    I am the KCARMAN guru and founder of the Chrysler K-Car Club at http://www.chryslerkcar.com and http://forum.chryslerkcar.com. For a massive produced car with some issues, they were the most classy, comfortable economy car of the 80s, the first convertibles since the 70s, etc etc, and they are collectibles because I say they are and so do many in our club. Our cars saved Chrysler and they are the last cars one can work on before they got to complicated. Support the CKCC and automotive hobby. 1,400 members and counting. Do not, I REPEAT, do not junk any K, especially if its an 81-85 model.

  • avatar
    ponchoman49

    My neighbor had a 1982 sedan 2.2 automatic. We got a ride to school certain days of the week for years in that car. I always hated the fixed rear windows in the back on hot sunny days. The feedback carb always gave them fits and the car never seemed to run quite right with a lumpy idle one day and a pretty smooth one the next. 0-60 times were in the 15 second range and litterally everything save old VW punch buggies passed us on the way with a full load. The valve cover always leaked, the A/C quit after two years, the check engine light was on more than off and the fixed bench seat with no recliners meant tall people that drove were forced to sit reclined half way into the back seat which grew tiresome in a hurry. The Mitsubishi 2.6 was a ticking time bomb on cars so equipped. The best features of this car were ease of service/simplicity and better than expected interior room packaging.

  • avatar
    Moparman426W

    Poncho, the K car may have had a few minor faultsBut unlike the X cars at least the basic design was good, you had something solid to work with. You don’t want to get me started on GM products. The large fixed windows in the 2 door citation would let in lots of heat. You want to bring up leaky valve covers? The small block chevy was king in that department for 32 years, as well as a cam eater. And then there was that lousy 2bbl used on the 2.8 and other Gm V6 engines, can’t remember what it was called but it was very troublesome and in most cases couldn’t even be rebuilt, and a replacement was 500.00 in the 80′s! Then there was the rack and pinion problem on GM products that went bad, and quickly gave GM the “morning sickness” reputation. They never did cure the rear wheel lockup problem on the X cars. The only thing the x car did was exceed the F body in recalls. I could go on, but I won’t bother.
    I would bet a week’s paycheck that many more K bodies have survived than X cars, because I do see a K from time to time, it’s been years since I have seen an X car.

  • avatar
    jhefner

    Our family survived the bad days of Chrysler. My first car was a 1974 Plymouth Fury II; ex-company car with 90,000 miles on it. Drove it out to 120,000 before a mechanic fixing the A/C caught it on fire and totaled it.

    Dad then bought a Volare wagon for the family, and one of my brothers bought a Volare sedan. My older sister bought one of these early Reliant K wagons; when my Fury was totaled, Dad bought my younger sister and I near-matching 84 Reliant wagons (hers was chocolate brown on the outside, mine was gold.)

    That car was such a blast after the Fury. There was a particular twisty road outside of town that I loved to drive on as fast as I could. The body was indeed a bit flexy; I remember going around repeatedly and tighting up those exposed trim screws, trying to keep them from squeaking.

    But I loved that car, and kept in immaculate condition. I even armoured-alled the hoses and CV joints, try even reaching those on most of today’s car. It was reliable, peepy, and good looking; though the first Audi 5000s I saw (in a Taco Bell drive thru – still remember that moment today) made it look obsolete overnight.

    Someone hit me in the side making a right turn from the left turn lane, pushing me into another car parked in front of a car wash and totaling it. The same cousin who said they couldn’t imagine how I would take care of a Mercedes when he saw the care I gave it told me it was the nicest looking car in the scrap yard.

    I was then given the Volare wagon, and Dad bought himself a Celebrity wagon (we were given that too, later on; traded it in in running condition. The slant six Volare wagon was passed on to another sibling.) I then purchased the first car I picked and paid for on my own, a 1990 Dodge Spirit (wanted a Taurus, but the Spirit was $1,000 cheaper.) Held on to that car for six years and put roughly 250,000 miles on it (odometer broke at 178,000); sold it in running order to someone who probably took it to Mexico.

    Chrysler did a good job building pocket rockets; which made us K car owners feel proud of ours. I wanted a Daytona turbo, a Lancer, an Omni GLH, and a Shelby Charger at one time or another, had models of the Daytona and Shelby Charger on my shelf. But the one I really thought would be neat to have was the Chrysler TC by Maserati. It was just such a sweet looking car; even if it was an overpriced K-car in the end.

    There was a dead K-car wagon that sat in the parking lot here at work for years; disappeared just recently. And there is a nice Shelby Charger still in town. The Reliant wagon was a great small wagon; but my favorite wagon is still the Taurus; a noticable different in solidness and build quality between the two (no surprise, the Taurus was meant to be more upscale.)

    Dad eventually replaced the Celebrity wagon with a Taurus wagon, then gave it to us when he thought it had too many miles on it. (So I finally got my Taurus. :) ) He passed away last year, and used some of the inheritance money to restore it back to running order after sitting in the driveway as a project car for four years. A great monument to the man who instilled a love of wagons in me, and still a great car; I think killing off the station wagon was a mistake still. But I am not really sure just how many people would buy a cheap, no-frills wagon these days; it would mostly be the anti-social types who would want anything that was counter-cultural; and those of us who remember what a good deal a cheap family wagon was.

    • 0 avatar
      potatobreath

      I wonder if the current Caliber could be considered a modern K-car wagon of sorts, even if it couldn’t fit the polygamist man, his two wives and his buddy, with two wives. The platform modified underpins the Sebring/Avenger, Patriot and Compass too, kinda like the extended K-cars.

    • 0 avatar
      alwayssmilin

      JHEFNER Good story!! Anti socials thats funny!! I believe a great deal more people than you know would love to buy a new K car if offered again!! I say this after many conversations with people who were in that era!! I believe people over 40 would jump on the chance since they have the best memories of them and remember the land yachts of the 70s!!

  • avatar
    jhefner

    “I believe people over 40 would jump on the chance since they have the best memories of them and remember the land yachts of the 70s”

    Reminds me of the appliance manufacturer who did a survey of woman regarding what they wanted in a stove. The survey results said that they wanted a basic stove with a minimum of features. So they built them; and watched them collect dust in the warehouse when no one bought them.

    With prices for good used cars hoving at $5,000 and up; this would seem like a good time to put another K-Car on the market for say $15,000. That would be cheaper than many used cars; but I think when it came time to part with their money; the vast majority would purchas a nicer used car; or a better new car.

    The Taurus is a far cry from the K-Car; yet today’s econobox has more safety features and infotainment than it does. I upgraded the radio; and that is the lowest route I would go; the closest thing to K-Car I drove recently is a 2001 Suzuki Esteem; and while it was reliable, bulletproof, and got good mileage; it was miserible to drive 100+ miles round trip every day with no cruise control. The Taurus is a much more relaxing ride.

  • avatar
    alwayssmilin

    jhefner I understand your point and its well taken!! In a post above WAGEN stated why not bring the same quality back with upgrades. I can only go on what I understand living in t5he northeast. I personally know many people who say if the Kcars came back upgraded for safety and a few tweaks but staying away from the fancy computer upgrades they would jump on it. Making this short I asked many questions and they want sheetmetal because they are aware it can be painted and undercoated better. They also know a four banger is way better today!! Also many of these people have fond memories and it tugs at their formative years!! But we can debate back and forth!! I’m just going on a feeling more or less also on talking to people in a certain age group 37-55 I maybe wrong!! Would’nt be the first time!! I just have a gut that if these vehicles were brought back it would have a strong cult following!! I would if I could personally build a 100,000 of them and see how it goes!!

  • avatar
    armadamaster

    My used car dealer friend used to rent these off his lot well into the 1990′s, loved them for rental beaters, & the later model Acclaims, Sundances, Dynastys too.


Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Subscribe without commenting

Recent Comments

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Staff

  • Contributing Writers

  • Jack Baruth, United States
  • Brendan McAleer, Canada
  • Marcelo De Vasconcellos, Brazil
  • Vojta Dobes, Czech Republic
  • Matthias Gasnier, Australia
  • W. Christian 'Mental' Ward, Abu Dhabi
  • Mark Stevenson, Canada
  • Cameron Aubernon, United States
  • J Emerson, United States