By on November 1, 2012

Given that just about everything Chrysler built for much of the 1980s and 1990s had some connection to the original K Platform, I don’t pay much attention to Ks when I see them in the junkyard. In fact, this ’83 Aries was the last “pure” K Car we’ve seen in this series. When I see an Aries K wagon with perfect Whorehouse Red interior, however, that’s when I reach for my revolver camera.
The interior of this car looks showroom-spotless, right down to the I Can’t Believe It’s Not Velour™ upholstery and You’d Have To Suspend The Crap Out Of Your Disbelief To Think This Is Real Wood™ interior trim.
The Chrysler 2.2 engine had an overhead cam and electronic fuel injection by 1988, which made it comparable to the powerplant of an intergalactic starship when placed side-by-side with the Stone Age GM Iron Duke engine.
You’d hope that this space-saver spare was just used to get the car onto the flatbed for its final ride to the junkyard, but I’m betting that the last owner of this car put 5,000 high-speed highway miles on it. It’s a K-Car tradition.
Chrysler figured that reminding customers about front-wheel-drive would somehow sell more cars, because… the Accord had front-wheel-drive?

We really can’t talk about the K-Cars without discussing the United States government’s bailout of Chrysler in 1979. Oh, sure, the Chrysler Jihad will tell you that it wasn’t a real bailout, because loan guarantees aren’t the same as cash handouts… but what would have happened to those loans if Chrysler had gone under? Pay up, Uncle Sam! Anyway, happy ending, because the K bought Chrysler another quarter-century of life.

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74 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1988 Dodge Aries LE Station Wagon...”


  • avatar
    70Cougar

    I like how the junk yard staff emulated the K’s natural nose-skyward stance when they put it on blocks.

  • avatar
    bg

    When the webpage loaded and that rear three-quarters view appeared it tore open a wormhole to 1989 and the two year old loaner I was given to drive while my brand new 2.5 liter-4 mustang was in the shop for minor body work. Now I had once driven a 1979 Ford Fairmont with a four-speed manual and unassisted steering (I didn’t know they came that way, either), but this putrid stinkbox felt heavy, ponderous and flaccid. There may have been some idiosyncratic underlying problem with this particular set of wheel. I had driven a 1988 Chevy spectrum with an automatic and single digit horse-power, but this Krap-mobile had less! I felt as if I was being punished for wrinkling the fender of my new Mustang in a new, unlighted parking garage. I tried to imagine in my head what this sandbox on lawn furniture wheels might have been like in it’s original “glory” before it succumbed to whatever affliction could have rendered it so foul and inert in just two years. Oddly enough I thought of this turd a couple of years ago when I drove a rented Chrysler Sebring SXT. Thanks, TTAC for the memory!

    • 0 avatar
      jhefner

      Funny, my ’84 Reliant wagon felt like a sports car compared to the 1974 Plymouth Fury that was my first car before it. It was not fast off the mark, but it wasn’t slow either, and the wagon was actually fun to throw around curves; there was a curving country highway that was my favorite to go for a spin on (when the lumbering cane tractors were not out during the sugar cane harvest season.)

      Kept it spotless till it was damaged on both sides and totaled. My cousin remarked that like this one, it was the cleanest looking car in the salvage yard.

    • 0 avatar
      jz78817

      somebody is admitting to having bought a 4-cylinder Mustang?

  • avatar
    Joe McKinney

    That’s a fancy one. I would not have expected to see bucket seats and console in a K-Car wagon. Most had bench seats and a column shifter.

    I owned a 1985 Aries coupe with the same color interior. At the time it seemed quite stylish.

    • 0 avatar
      crtfour

      Same thing I thought. That’s pretty cool. I figured just about every american car from the ’80′s had a bench seat and column shifter.

    • 0 avatar
      geozinger

      I’ve seen a few K’s and EEK’s over the years that were well appointed, but it seems to me this is kind of rare for a WAGON to have this level of interior!

      • 0 avatar
        Joe McKinney

        When my sisters were in college they had a 1982 Dodge 400 which was Dodge’s top-line K-Car for that year. This car had bucket seats, console and floor shifter, and the 2.6 liter Mitsubishi engine. I recall this car also having a leather interior, though Allpar says leather was only available in the Chrysler LeBaron and not the Dodge 400.

      • 0 avatar
        golden2husky

        Most were column shifters. Those that had the floos shifter had the PRNDL location filled in with that awful “Front Wheel Drive” filler piece. Another little tidbit is on the engine itself. If you look at the photo that shows the works electronic fuel injection, you will see what looks, and is, a rubber end cap on the end of the head. That cap fills the opening where the cam used to extend out of the engine to drive an air pump, with it’s own little belt. It was odd to see an engine with bolts on both sides of the engine…

      • 0 avatar
        dolorean

        Check out that cupholder!! Nearly unheard of in 1988. Normally coffee drinkers or Biggulpers just shoved that bad boy between the parking brake and the passenger seat.

  • avatar
    mannerlymoron

    I park beside one of these from time to time at the college i go to, except the colour is what i could only come to describe as some kind of coffee-stain beige/brown. I’ve never seen the owner, and honestly i’m perplexed as hell as to what motivated the purchase.

    Nowadays, for people on super-tight budgets that still need wheels have better options, so maybe it was bought as some kind of hipster-chic-mobile (backing that theory is the fact that it looks like it has been reasonably maintained, but not overly-so, assuming its a student driver)…but then that begs the question of why someone would would voluntarily self-inflict that much pain on themselves just to make an anti-style statement?

    • 0 avatar
      el scotto

      Maybe it’s a family hand me down that just won’t die. I swear I saw bubbas hauling small trailers and john boats with these things.

    • 0 avatar
      pdieten

      Well, I can tell you why a very well kept ’88 Aries coupe was bought by my wife’s sister and her family a few months ago – this being a very rare find in Wisconsin, where indifference and the tinworm has already removed almost all of them from the roads…

      When they got married they had a 1987 LeBaron sedan, a little tiny red-on-red refugee from the brougham era complete with the landau roof, probably purchased new. After several years it retired to the garage, but about three or four years ago when one of their vans got too worn out to use anymore my brother-in-law and my teenage nephew hauled it back out and started working on making it roadworthy again. Trouble was they could never get it to be reliable, and with five teenagers in the house with places to go that wasn’t going to work. But doing all that work got my nephew pretty familiar with the ins and outs of K-cars, so when this Aries showed up advertised on Craigslist they went to grab it because they already knew how to fix it.

      I don’t know. I thought it was kind of silly to buy such an outdated little car for that reason, but in terms of reliability it’s certainly been a good value.

  • avatar
    bunkie

    Love the Mission of Burma reference.

  • avatar
    danio3834

    New fangled FWD was a big selling point in the 80′s. Especially in the snow belt.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    “When I see an Aries K wagon with perfect Whorehouse Red interior, however, that’s when I reach for my revolver…”

    Really? You know, Murilee, when I rant about fixed windows, at least I comment on the lessened functionality of a coupe and the reasons I refuse to ever buy one again, but dissing the K-Cars, I think you were just too young at the time to at least appreciate them for what they were, shortcomings and all. Flip comments based on what? What did GM have that was any better by comparison? Cavaliers? Celebrities? As for Ford, Escort? the Fairmont was probably better, but in a different class as well. The Japanese cars had their issues, too, so that excuse won’t stand.

    I agree that Chrysler overused the K platform and did little to improve it, especially the handling and the overloaded-look, sagging rear end stance, but our ownership experience with these were good. We owned a 1981 Reliant which we kept for 7 years and a used 1984 E-Class, bought in 1986 and owned for 8 years,

    Perhaps I’m the fool if they were bad cars, but they served us very well. Flip comments I take with a full shaker of salt, no matter the make or model, but I admit I took this one kinda personally.

    • 0 avatar
      Joe McKinney

      I thought Murilee was dissing the maroon interior color, not the K-Car platform.

      My family owned a fleet of K-Cars. I had a 1985 Aries coupe. My parents had a 1984 Aries sedan and a 1989 Aries sedan. My sisters had a 1982 Dodge 400 coupe. One of my Grandmothers had a 1985 Aries sedan.

      By the standards of the time the K-Car was not that bad. Yes, you could do better than a K-Car, but you could also do a lot worse. I bought my Aries used in 1988. Before making this purchase I also looked at a used 1985 Chevrolet Citation II and a new Yugo and Volkswagen Fox. I have never regretted choosing the K-Car over these other alternatives.

    • 0 avatar

      I like the K cars, just wanted to entice people into listening to more Mission of Burma. Underappreciated band.

    • 0 avatar
      ranwhenparked

      The Japanese and West Germans at the time offered a lot better than the K-car, but you’re right, they were still much better than the dreck being turned out by GM, and to call AMC’s models antiquated would be generous.

      The Escort was badly watered down for America, and if it was still a bit better than the Ks, it wasn’t by enough to matter if there was cash on the hood involved.

  • avatar
    Freddy M

    Ah the car of my very early boyhood. This was our first family car, in dark blue with the louvered grille and Chrysler Star hood ornament, and Naugahyde blue seats, bench up front with the column shifter. Never had the chance to drive it as we got rid of it long before I was able to reach the pedals.

    Nowadays I realize that it was a crappy example of domestic build quality of the time, but I will never ever have anything but fond thoughts for this glorious POS. It began my interest in motoring and made me pay attention to its details and the details of other cars on the road at the time and forever afterward.

    I owe my whole enthusiast existence to this car. … that’s really sad isn’t it :P

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      Not really that sad. Growing up at the drag strip, Turbo Dodge K-cars put down some decent numbers and often beat V8 Mustangs and Camaros.

      I even remember seeing some sleeper woody K wagons with turbos laying down 12 second passes.

    • 0 avatar

      Freddy M, I appreciate your walk down POS memory lane.

      While my parents were still driving a FUBAR ’74 Valiant (note: early 90′s) their friends were buying up K cars and caravans–sometimes three or four in a row. I thought, at the time, the domestic build quality had improved! FWD? Fragg’n awesome in 100 inches of snow. Then, being from ‘foreign-is-crap’ NW PA, I also recall five…no, six times when I rode in a Japanese car before adulthood. Complete astonishment…

      I’ve come full circle tho. The K’s bench seat, column shifter, tractor-like drive train…are icons of sustainability, simplicity, and economy. I suppose (given the vast improvement in manufacturing)that the K-era cars (if made today) would not cost much less than the Versa or Spark. But I just have a real strong hunch that if a simple, honest, crude but easy-to-fix, new car could be had for 8k instead of 12k or 20k (ore more!)…that people would buy them…just like they did in the 80′s…by the millions.

  • avatar
    jacob_coulter

    “We really can’t talk about the K-Cars without discussing the United States government’s bailout of Chrysler in 1979. Oh, sure, the “Chrysler Jihad will tell you that it wasn’t a real bailout, because loan guarantees aren’t the same as cash handouts… but what would have happened to those loans if Chrysler had gone under? Pay up, Uncle Sam!”

    I agree, but if the 2008 GM bailout (and Chryslers #2) had been structured in a similar way, (which is how it was being sold) and it was a low interest loan that was paid back in a timely manner, I would have easily turned a blind eye to it, and so would 99% of voters.

    What’s funny is, people still complain about the “bank bailouts” but all the major banks actually paid back their “bailout” with interest. But the biggest “bank” that stiffed the American taxpayer was actually GM and Chrysler.

    For the record, I’m against the idea of too big to fail, no matter the industry.

    • 0 avatar
      silverkris

      The US federal government actually made a bit of money on the warrants as part of the loan guarantee deal a few years later. Iacocca tried to get the Feds to return them to Chrysler, but to no avail – the Feds made $350 million on them.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    These were a great value for a wagon – lots of utility, relatively lightweight, durable, and attractive.

    This example appears to be fairly clean, so it must be there for a drivetrain issue.

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      At 107k either the transmission broke or having a space saver up front broke something.

      I see space savers up front on FWDs all the time, why?

      • 0 avatar
        danio3834

        Ignorance and or laziness.

        I rememeber my cousin showed up to my place one time with a space saver on the front of his 2000 Grand Prix. We went out and swapped it to the rear right away as I wasn’t too interested in replacing the trans for a broken differential.

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    I liked these K-Cars when they were first released, you could have a steel interior with a flat floor, column sfifter, wood trim, distinct American styling, and room for 6 “Americans”. You actually had a few reasons for buying one over a Camcord.

    But soon all that was thrown out and replaced with a center console, a floor shifter, an ugly convertible, a useless sporty car, a pointless diet K-Car, a turbo that ate headgaskets (The 2.2 dev team wanted to use a supercharger), and a pretty cool but underpowered mini-van.

    Come the 90′s and they lost their rear space and a few MPGs, with each year from ’87 they became cheaper-built as well with lower grade junk everywhere.

    Really, I do like the K-Car, its 2.2/2.5 powerplants, and the idea behind them, but Chryslers stupidity and penny pinching at the time ruined it.

    I DO NOT care for the Torqueflight transmissions, I had one in a Horizon coupled to a 2.2, expect failure at 90k when your warranties up!

    • 0 avatar
      golden2husky

      No offense, but th 3 speed transmissions used in these cars were legends of reliability…

      • 0 avatar
        Ryoku75

        Well my trannsmission broke at 90k under regular use, myth = busted.

        It isn’t just me though, I’ve seen a fresh Aries with just 25k on it, it was always well pampered and taken care of too.

        Its torqueflite was broken as well.

      • 0 avatar
        JuniperBug

        As a kid, my parents had an ’86 Caravan with the 2.6 whose 3 speed also gave up the ghost before 70k miles. Of course, that van was also regularly used to pull a 2,000 lb camping trailer, including a trip from Montreal to Gaspe with six people + luggage. I’ll always have a special place in my heart for that box, with its “whorehouse red” interior, rear vent windows that opened by turning cranks in the roof above the driver’s seat, and stacked quad sealed beam headlights with “aggressive” grille.

        I remember that its replacement, a ’97 Voyager, sat brand new in the garage for two full weeks before my mother would drive it.

      • 0 avatar
        golden2husky

        Allpar begs to differ, even if my still shifting at 253K transmission was the exception….we are talking three speed autos here….not Ultradrive. Moparman, where are you….

      • 0 avatar
        Ryoku75

        Of course Allpar considers the torqueflite to be reliable, its a website dedicated and heavily biased towards Chrysler vehicles that makes minimum efforts to hide such.

        Perhaps I’ll mention my local scrapyard, 91% of the scrapped Chrysler vehicles are three speed torqueflites from various years, this is just the car sector might I add.

        Alternatively, the torqueflite was reliable for the standards of the 1950′s-1960′s, not so much when other companies surpassed it.

      • 0 avatar
        Moparman426W

        Golden, you are correct, the transmission used in these cars was the 904 torqueflite stuffed into a FWD case, indestructible in the K car. If someone had a problem with one it was usually because they didn’t know how to check the fluid, or drove it with a misadjusted kickdown cable.

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      At Moparman: Pretty much anything will work if you maintain it right, that doesn’t make the torqueflite “indestructible”.

      I will come clean and say that my Horizon was pretty battered when I brought it, I put far more money into that junker than it deserved.

      I really to beg to differ on the torqueflite though, compared to stuff like Fords AOD its fine but its really just an okay transmission, nothing spectacular like what mopar fans hype it up to be.

      • 0 avatar
        Moparman426W

        Ryoku, which torqueflite are you referring to, the 904 or the 727? The 904 was the light duty version used behind slant 6 and 318 engines. It can be beefed up for drag racing behind small block engines, it’s successfully used in applications down around the 11-10 second zone.
        The 727 torqueflite came behind all 340 and larger engines, amd was used in heavy duty trucks, motorhomes, musclecars, etc. In stock form it can handle 700 lbs. of torque. Clear back in the 60′s it was handling 1000hp in dragsters when modified, and was used by people racing other brands. It’s still widely used for racing today, and it lived on in the trucks until recently in modified form.
        The ford AOD is not even a heavy duty transmission, although it can be beefed up for some types of racing. The 904 torqueflite was bulletproof behind the 4 cylinder K car engines, as long as common sense was utilized, like by not driving it low on fluid or with the kickdown cable out of adjustment. By the way I’m very knowledgeable on transmissions, I rebuilt my first one at age 16, it was a turbo 350 from a buick. I rebuild transmissions on the side on occasion, mainly during winter when roofing is slow.

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      I’m talking about the 904, I’m honestly not interested in random trivia on Chrysler transmissions.

      My opinion still stands, I don’t want people being suckered into this indestructible 904 myth.

      • 0 avatar
        Moparman426W

        Well since it’s obvious that you have no knowledge whatsoever about transmissions I thought that I would fill you in on a few details. Someone’s opinion on something that they know absolutely nothing about means nothing to me. I’m done now.

      • 0 avatar
        Ryoku75

        I say one thing with evidence behind it and then you assume full force that I am completely illiterate about transmissions.

        I question your judgement, but seeing how I’ve tested your short patience I bid you ado.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    My Aunt had an early K-car wagon with bench seat and 4spd stick. In a fetching shade of metallic baby-poop brown on tan. Reliable and lasted a long time, and she lived way down a rough dirt road that ate cars. One of the few good American cars in the family in my youth, I drove it a number of times while I had my learner’s permit. Only problem was the non-split bench seat – I was 6′ 2″ at 15, and my Aunt was about 5’2″. So I pretty much had to drive, or sit in the back seat.

  • avatar
    ajla

    “… comparable to the powerplant of an intergalactic starship when placed side-by-side with the Stone Age GM Iron Duke engine.”

    That’s true.

    BUT, the Quad4 came out in the ’88 MY.

    • 0 avatar
      geozinger

      While the Iron Duke was known as a rock tumbler, the engine’s demeanor improved considerably after the introduction of fuel injection in the late 80′s; or GM was using MUCH better engine mounts by the time we got the last of the Celebrities at my old job…

      As much as I respect the Quad4 (I still drive one daily) the early versions of it were almost as rough as the Iron Duke! The Trenton 2.2 and 2.5 Mopars weren’t exactly sewing machine smooth, they were smoother than the Iron Duke and the Q4s. And with turbo boost, they were pretty darn quick for stock motors.

      • 0 avatar
        danio3834

        The Quad 4 is probably one of my most hated engines. Stupid amounts of bracketry, head gasket eaters, and rod throwers.

        The 2.2/2.5 might need the occasional head gasket, but were much less complicated to work on and threw rods less often (but still did).

        The ones that continued to run into the 90s and 2000s did always seem to have the diesely wrist pin noise that never seemed particularly detrimental to the longevity of the motor.

        I’ll never forget the sound of an idling, well broken in 2.2/2.5 Chrysler.

      • 0 avatar
        golden2husky

        My 2.2 at a quarter million miles had a decidedly diesel sound at idle, but still ran…

    • 0 avatar
      Lt.BrunoStachel

      The Q4 came out for the 87 model year. Exclusive to the 87 Olds Calais. And don’t forget the 1.8/2.0 OHC Pontiac/Opel what-do-you-call-it motor. But at least in all of the GM bottom feeder fleet you had the option of a V-6 which you couldn’t in this year of K-Car.

      But the real arguement here, as far as who built the better 4-banger, is why argue? IMO it’s like stating whose shit doesn’t smell. I don’t care if it does have PFI. They all stink about the same.

      • 0 avatar
        Grumpy

        I had a 84 Caravan 2.2 with a 5 speed,which was really just a K car in thick heeled pumps. In the Pacific Northwest there are mountains in every direction and we had lots of long patient climbs with all 100hp called into duty–especially with a full load of folks and stuff. It spent lots of time in 2nd and sometimes 1st gear but that little bugger never quit and never left us stranded. It was dead reliable and other than brake pads never really had any repairs during the 10 years we had it. To this day my 2 daughters who were toddlers when we bought it, get dewey eyed when they spot one–not often any more. Sold it to a family friend with small fry of his own, who happily drove it for another 10 years with minimal problems.

        I replaced it with a long wheelbase 94 Voyageur with the old 3.3 V6. We liked that one too but it liked us less and had a unique one year only Bendix single channel ABS system which completely flummoxed the dealer and although both kids learned to drive on it, I traded it when the brakes became a frustration and safely concern. Haven’t owned a Chrysler product since and unlikely I ever will.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    The screwed up thing is I would buy this if it was offered to me in running condition. I’m not K-car fan but if there is one thing they were, it was honest… being a wagon is icing on the cake. A basic FWD car derived wagon with a durable power-train would be ideal (read no Subbie head gasket blowing prone engines and no Tauri transmissions).

    Now I am not advocating for the mythical TTAC turbo diesel 6spd sport wagon, just take a Cruze/Focus/Dart and put a wagon rear end on it. Voila!

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      You mean like you can buy in the rest of the world?? (*^$*&^%#&^*$!!!!! Well, OK, there is no such thing as a Dart wagon, but it is based on a nice hatchback Alfa.

  • avatar
    ponchoman49

    If only we could still get interiors with color like this. Sighs…
    The Iron Duke got smoother in 1987 with balance shafts on the stick cars and a year later they all got them. The K cars weren’t bad for there time and the 2.2/2.5 were indeed smoother running engines overall compared to the Iron duke. They chewed up the occasional head gasket and many suffered from piston pin knocking which we half solved by pouring in Slick 50 or equivalent when selling on out used lot back in the day. It was unusual to find a wagon with the bucket seat/floor shifter setup but we did run across several just like this one.

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    Jesus, looks like it’s ready to drive away, no damage and a clean, albeit, bordello-like interior, amazingly well preserved car.

  • avatar
    markholli

    K-Cars will always remind me of Principal Rooney on Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

    • 0 avatar
      Joe McKinney

      And in “The Breakfast Club” Brian’s mother drives a red 1984 Dodge Aries with the vanity license plate EMC 2.

      Also in the film – Claire’s father drives a silver BMW. Andrew’s father drives a two-tone, beige over brown Ford Bronco II. And Allison’s father drives a bustle-back Cadillac Seville.

  • avatar
    LTGCGIC

    Being in as good of shape as this thing’s in, makes me wonder if the story of its final days is as follows: It was owned by some old guy who in his final years hardly ever drove it and had since passed on… and the kids, not wanting to deal with selling off Dad’s old car ended up donating it. The car has some kind of problem preventing it from starting due to sitting awhile (maybe a bad fuel pump or something) and when it goes to auction it sells for junk value to a yard. I’ve come across some older ’80s cars in very well preserved condition like this in the local pick n pull – many with less than 100k on them. Last time I was at the yard I came across an ’88 Celebrity Eurosport sedan with 77k on it, body was straight as can be, paint still shined throughout. The only thing wrong with the interior was it’d been a smoker’s car. It had a sticker on the windshield that it was from a vehicle donation charity, with ‘will not stay running’ on the ‘notes’ section. I harvested lots of parts off that car for my ’90 wagon since I knew I probably won’t come across another one in as good of shape for a good long while.

  • avatar
    aeberhar

    You’ll never catch me saying the K car was a good car. It wasn’t really. That doesn’t stop me from having an inexplicable heart for them. I admire the bet the company approach Chrysler took with them, particularly because it worked.

  • avatar
    roger628

    One thing I could never figure out about these was why they put the power lock switch way back on the rear edge of the door, not exactly ergonomic, since you would have to bend yourself unnaturally to operate it.

    • 0 avatar
      iNeon

      “you would have to bend yourself unnaturally to operate it.”

      Not whenever you got out of the car and were securing it while leaving it parked. This is something that made more sense before keyless entry.

  • avatar
    volksman

    My great grandmother drove an Aries sedan in that earwax gold color. She lived in the land of retirees, Florida, Orlando to be exact. When she stopped driving in 2003 I remember that car being pristine inside and out with the obligatory carpet dash cover and that wooden balls seat cover.

  • avatar
    gearhead77

    The FWD reminder could possibly still be useful. I’ve seen a number of FWD cars over the years with snow tires only on the rear axle as opposed to the front.

  • avatar

    My family had several of these cars….an 81 Aries wagon 2.2 carb 4spd bought brand new, replaced with an 86 K wagon (mentioned below), an 88 2.2 Sedan and I even drove a 91 Dynasty with the 2.5 for a couple years. Additionally I have spent a lot of time on forums dedicated these cars (especially the performance models) and done a lot of wrenching myself so I consider myself pretty well informed. And don’t think for a minute I have no basis for comparison…I have driven many modern cars both foreign and domestic.

    I love how you guys are so quick to gang up and bad mouth a K cars. It’s like back in school where you had to exploit someone to make yourselves feel better. Guess it’s some sort of “right of passage.” Yes, a K car is not as refined as what we are currently used to driving, but technology in general was not as far along in those days. Imports weren’t really any better and the Aries/Reliant offered bigger engines and better cabin space for about the same size and mpg. the 2.5 engine is the one to have and a 5 speed swap will make it pretty zippy. As for head gaskets blowing….my 86 Aries wagon 2.5 made it 150,000 miles before that happened, so it’s not really as big an issue as people let on. Everyone just shuts up about all the issues that other cars have. The trick with the 2.2/2.5 is to use a Mopar performance gasket and torque it properly.

    As for design complaints….never bothered me having the power lock switch at the back end of the door. Plenty of elbow room under the hood and everything is easily accessible (try doing an oil change on a Honda). You don’t lunch the valve train if the timing belt brakes. I also prefer the power being down lower in the rpm band and think it funny how the Civic finally got 5 lugs 20 years after the K car. As for everything being K based from the 1981-95….perhaps you haven’t realized that many auto makers have been using “parts bin engineering” for decades. Just like you can put a late model Jetta/Golf drivetrain and chassis in an 80′s VW pickup or do similar with a different Honda models, I am doing just that with my Aries wagon.

    Out goes the 2.5tbi and 3spd in favor of a 2.5 turbo engine with 89 Shelby Daytona turbo, inter-cooler, rear axle, front sway bar, etc. Also will be installing a 90′s Getrag 5spd and Spirit R/t 11″ 4 wheel vented disc brakes. Insurance and registration will still be dirt cheap (age and original sticker price is what they base it on in Maine) and it won’t look like every boring bubble car on the road. the long hood is something you only find on a sports car these days and the angular styling is so old school that I find it refreshing.

  • avatar

    forgot to mention that that the “FWD reminder” was used to fill the hole above the column when a floor shifter was used in leu of a column shift. the auto on the floor is kinda stupid, but it makes a 5spd swap much easier because the bracket for the shifter is already welded to the floor.

    not only did a lot of families roll in K cars in the 80′s, but they were also popular with many police departments. even a 2.5 couldn’t catch a 69 Roadrunner on the open road, but in cities idling economy is more important than top speed. and a smaller car can snake through traffic much easier than a big one. ever notice how motorcycle and bike cops are very prevalent during the summer months? oh…and the cop package “scout car” K’s had a couple trick pieces that i managed to find for my project…..an oil pressure gauge (replaces the idiot light) and a 125mpgh gauge instead of the 85mph unit that was federally mandated on civilian cars in the early 80′s.

  • 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.


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