By on February 20, 2013

With all of the attention yours truly “Bodacious Beaters” have been receiving in this column—and rightly so due to the proliferation of such vehicles here in the vast car-biased expanse known as Southern California—the “road-going derelicts” have mostly been relegated to the back burner.

Well, this entry fits the latter half of this column’s title like garbage in the proverbial dumpster!

Having been well familiar with the Dodge Dart / Plymouth Valiant models (in addition to all of the units I serviced, I totally enjoyed a ’67 Dart during my tenure of ownership), it wasn’t until its successor—the Dodge Aspen / Plymouth Volare—made the scene in the late 70’s that I came to understand how Chrysler could possibly ruin the concept!

What had been a simple, reliable, comfortable and serviceable product—fun to drive and full of utility—was reduced to a sorry excuse of a car, with little redeeming value (save for the scrap metal dealer). A “road-going derelict” in short order!

Back then, I worked as a used-car tech for a Toyota dealership; and I was initially surprised at seeing some of these units pass through our department as trade-ins. In some cases, they were still under the 12/12 factory warranty!

My questions were answered quickly when inspection got underway. The worst offense was in the area of emission control—and I don’t know which was worse: what they did to the venerable Slant-Six, or what they committed against the good ol’ 318 c.i. V-8.

The problems centered on the fact that the manufacturer was trying to reduce tailpipe emissions with technologies incompatible with the old-school engines being used. Lowering compression ratios, retarding cam and ignition timing, leaning out overall fuel mixture, installing pre-catalytic converters right at the exhaust manifold, and increasing coolant operating temperatures created an environment no exhaust system existent at the time could survive—even when functioning as designed!

Add a misfire caused by greatly increased underhood engine temperature from the aforementioned “technology”, which rendered many of the electronic ignition components unreliable, and the whole process was sent into hyper-drive!

Apparently, just to seal the fate of the Slant-Six, they cast the exhaust manifold as part of the cylinder head!! Even TODAY, it’s rare to see any manufacturer attempting such a thing!

Which is why this find is so incredible!

More than likely, this example is V-8 powered, which allowed it to circumvent the fate of any Slant-Six propelled units; but still, in the land of the biennial Smog Check, one has to wonder how this one managed to continue wearing current registration tags.

It either sat for many years, while some concessions were actually made for dealing with the short fused pre-cat exhaust system, much money was spent keeping it functional in O.E. configuration, or “bootleg” smog certificates were issued. (Actual paper certificates went the way of the Dodo Bird back in the mid-90’s; but there were still relatively easy ways to “bootleg” a smog check for some years after that.)

Not being familiar with the exhaust emissions configuration of non-California units, there may be an outside chance that this one was originally sold outside of the “Golden State”, and brought across the border before any rust issues developed. I do remember that for some time, pre-cat exhaust systems were pretty much unique to California emissions-equipped automobiles.

I consider it rather supreme irony that the “Model Emissions Sticker”, which was required to be posted conspicuously on the lower portion of a left side rear window, is STILL INTACT!

I also find it humorous that the “Volare” badging on the front quarter panels was conspicuous by its absence; as just about all of the other original badging is still in place.

So, for the record, with all things considered, never will I consider one of these out-of-the-box “road-going derelicts” as a “BODACIOUS BEATER”. Still, a rare find, no matter how it’s categorized!

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36 Comments on “BODACIOUS BEATERS and road-going derelicts: VOLARE – OH-OH...”


  • avatar
    IHateCars

    I enjoy ironic ’70s era iron as much as the next guy, but this car has miserable written all over it. Reminds me of the ’77 Ford Granada coupe that my Dad had bought for my Mom when I was a kid…almost the same shade of sh*t brown as this with a landau top. It completed rusted out in 18 months.

  • avatar

    Maybe I’m missing something., but isn’t that a Valiant?

    • 0 avatar
      OldandSlow

      It appears to be a 1975 Plymouth Valiant. The Volare came out in 76.

      http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2009/10/curbside-classics-chryslers-deadly-sin-1-1976-plymouth-volare-and-dodge-aspen/

      • 0 avatar
        Roberto Esponja

        Yep. Sorry Phil, gonna have to do a rewrite! That ain’t no Volare!

      • 0 avatar
        Phil Coconis

        Well guys, the outline left by the missing front quarter panel emblems left an outline that clearly read “Volare”. Unfortunately, the photos I took of that outline was not fit to print.
        I’ll see if I can find the vehicle next time I’m back in LA.

        Until then, this is my story, and I’m sticking to it!

        Hope it turns out better for me than for L. Armstrong…

      • 0 avatar
        Paul Niedermeyer

        Good analogy about Lance Armstrong. Phil, you ARE wrong. Anyone with a clue knows this is a Valiant. The Volare was an all-new car, and looked distinctly different. But keep denying it…it’s a good strategy, as lance will tell you.

        And you also are wrong about the integral exhaust manifold. No such thing, including in CA. BTW, you’re famous today at Curbside Classic:http://www.curbsideclassic.com/blog/media-outtake-how-not-to-write-a-curbside-classic/

      • 0 avatar
        RogueInLA

        Give it up Phil, just because someone stuck a Volare emblem on a Valiant doesn’t make it a Volare. If I glued Ferrari on a Vega, and it peeled off and left the outline, would that make the Vega a Ferrari? I don’t know what 6 cylinder you saw with an integral manifold, but it wasn’t a slant six, do you know what a manifold looks like? Just admit you blew it and move on, even Lance did that, maybe you can get on Oprah?

    • 0 avatar
      Tomifobia

      Brown metallic? Black vinyl top? It’s clearly a 1963 Chrysler Turbine.

    • 0 avatar
      PenguinBoy

      Definitely a Valiant.

      I learned to drive in an almost identical 1974 that was even the same colour. A very durable car – the one I learned to drive in was still being used as a daily driver up until about 10 years ago, and I’m reasonably sure it still survives.

      I’m pretty sure this was our old ’74 posted in the comments at Curbside Classic: http://www.flickr.com/photos/daveseven/6088019014/

      The picture above was posted in the comments to this article: http://www.curbsideclassic.com/curbside-classics-american/cohort-classic-1976-plymouth-valiant-brougham-least-likely-brougham/

      • 0 avatar
        Lorenzo

        A 1974 would be a smog-exempt “antique” in California. Dispense with the inspections, and the car can be made driveable and durable again. That may be why it’s lasted so long.

    • 0 avatar
      Hoser

      “I also find it humorous that the “Volare” badging on the front quarter panels was conspicuous by its absence; as just about all of the other original badging is still in place.”

      Maybe that’s because it’s a Valiant?

      *Facepalm*

    • 0 avatar

      You’re not missing anything. That IS a Valiant. Probably a ’73 or ’74.

  • avatar
    Tomifobia

    That first sentence gave me a headache bigger than any guzzled extra-large Slurpee ever could have.

    • 0 avatar
      Maxseven

      Tom, you hit the “proverbial” nail on the head.

      The entire first paragraph and the following sentence read like a I-think-I’m-a-sneaky-clever-writer attempting to use too many gimmicks, metaphors and cliches:

      “Well, this entry fits the latter half of this column’s title like garbage in the proverbial dumpster!”

      How is a dumpster proverbial? One could instead write “proverbial garbage in the dumpster,” but I think it is best to avoid the use of that (proverbial) adjective entirely. It is unnecessary and trite.

      Editors: I vote for banning the use of the word “proverbial” in any TTAC column.

      • 0 avatar
        west-coaster

        Hey, at least he avoided the misuse of “literally.”

        (My toes curl when I read something like, “The car is so beat up it’s literally ready for the trash dumpster.” Of course, the car would be FIGURATIVELY ready for the trash dumpster, as you couldn’t actually put a car in one.)

  • avatar
    -Nate

    Oops .

    -Nate

  • avatar
    toplessFC3Sman

    Exhaust manifolds cast into the head are making a come-back – from the data I’ve seen, they can improve volumetric efficiency, help to warm the engine up more quickly (which helps with emissions from a cold start, where it’s needed most), and reduces WOT turbine inlet temperatures in boosted engines, meaning less enrichment & spark retard is necessary so the engine can make more power. How well this works out after 150k miles for the cooling system & head gasket remains to be seen.

    • 0 avatar
      jz78817

      yep. The GM 3.6, Chrysler Pentastar, and Honda “Earth Dreams” 4-banger all have the exhaust manifold cast as part of the cylinder head. though I think 40 years of metallurgical and manufacturing refinements makes it a better idea today…

  • avatar
    Roberto Esponja

    What I’ll never understand is, why Chrysler never brought its Spanish Dart design to the US – basically an updated version of the car pictured above. I lived in Spain in the 1970′s and it was definitely a better-looking car than what was being sold in the US at the time (check out the wagon version!). Here’s an article that shows some pics:

    http://www.curbsideclassic.com/blog/fancy-a-gen-3-dart-wagon-with-four-wheel-dis-brakes-and-four-speed-stick-they-made-them-in-spain-along-with-some-other-unique-dart-variants/

    (You’ll have to copy-and-paste it to your browser, as for some odd reason TTAC still does not allow for links to work)

  • avatar
    froomg

    The amber turn signal / parking lamp lenses would indicate that it’s a 1976 Valiant. They sold them alongside the Volare (which was a rush job) for one model year.

    • 0 avatar
      west-coaster

      Unless the lenses were changed out after a collision?

      By the time cars get to a certain age, interchangable parts tend to blur their model years somewhat. (Witness all the ’65 Mustangs with ’66 trim pieces on them, and vice-versa.)

  • avatar
    skor

    I always thought a 60s or early 70s compact would make for a fantastic gas miser project. The original Ford Falcon weighed only 2,400 pounds. Of course those cars had none of the modern safety features of today’s cars, that’s why they are so light. In any case, if you fitted a modern four cylinder engine to such a car, the result would be an automobile that has room for 5, better performance than the original, and properly getter gas mileage than the engine donor since the old compacts weight less than most subcompacts of today.

    • 0 avatar
      Featherston

      I’m curious to see how a Falcon, for example, would do with one of the aftermarket EFI systems now available.

    • 0 avatar
      econobiker

      The Feather Duster (as in Feather light) did just that – slant 6 plus lightened components aluminum hood/trunk brackets, bumpers, etc… (For many years these components were sought out by drag racers to use on Duster drag cars since the parts were lighter and stock issue.)

      This was an variant of the Plymouth Duster line which grew to include (per Wikipedia)- Feather Duster, Gold Duster, Silver Duster, Space Duster, Duster Twister, 340 Duster and 360 Duster.

      “The Feather Duster featured lightweight aluminum parts including the intake manifold, bumper brackets, hood and trunk bracing, and manual transmission housing, for a weight savings of about 187 lb (84.8 kg)—5% lighter than a standard Duster similarly equipped. It came with a 225 Slant Six with its distributor and single-barrel carburetor calibrated for economy, a low-restriction exhaust system, an extra-high rear axle ratio, and was offered with either the Torqueflite 3-speed automatic or A833 overdrive 4-speed manual transmission. It was the most fuel-efficient car in its size class, achieving up to 36 mpg highway and 24 in the city with the manual transmission option. (along with Dodge’s version, the Dart Lite).”[6]
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plymouth_Duster

      Impressive that it got a possible 36/24 back then even if the mileage claims were sloppy so figure a real world 28/18 for back then…

  • avatar
    lilpoindexter

    I APPROVE

    MURRILLEE

  • avatar
    Moparman426W

    The car pictured is either a 75 or 76 Valiant, assuming it has the original grille. The 74 ghrille was similar, but didn’t use the emblem in the center. The slant 6 engine NEVER used an integral exhaust manifold, NEVER! They used bolt on intake and exhaust manifolds throughout their entire production run, the last year being 1987 in trucks, and were still produced until 1991 for industrial use with bolt on manifolds. There were only a few very minor changes to slant 6 heads over the years, and all heads interchange with all blocks. In 67 the combustion chamber was slightly redesigned for more complete combustion and reduced emissions. Some 72 and later heads have a threaded flange at the rear of the manifold flange to mount an air injection pump. 60-74 heads have aluminum spark plug shrouds and use gasketed plugs, 75-up heads don’t use the aluminum shrouds and feature tapered plugs. 75-up heads also use induction hardened exhaust valve seats for use with unleaded fuel. In 1980 they switched to hydraulic lifters and used a redesigned rocker shaft with a grooved rear cam bearing to carry oil to the lifters. When using a later hydraulic head on an earlier solid lifter block you have to use the solid lifters and shaft, unless you install a grooved cam bearing to oil the hydraulic units.

    • 0 avatar
      jpolicke

      Sorry Phil, you totally screwed this one up. I kept reading through the story looking for the connection to the Volare – knowing that the car in the photo definitely wasn’t one. And then I wracked my brain trying to think of any straight six that I ever saw with an integral exhaust manifold. Closest I could get was Ford’s 170/200/250 that had an integral cast intake.

    • 0 avatar
      Phil Coconis

      Saw the integrated head/manifold with my own two eyes! Maybe it was a California-only thing. It was no doubt, short lived–on all fronts!

      P.S. Thanks for all the literary “Venom”. It’s kind of like publicity: as in “There is no such thing as BAD publicity” (although, the way people are pushing the envelope these days, there may be additional exceptions to that rule).

  • avatar
    Moparman426W

    The chevy straight 6 also used an integral intake manifold starting in 75. He also said some other things that don’t make sense, but I don’t feel like getting into it this morning. I forgot to mention that the slant 6 was produced in Mexico through the year 2000, it was exactly the same as the US version, including bolt on intake/exhaust manifolds.

  • avatar
    mfgreen40

    Moparman—- Thanks, you saved me a lot of time as I was about to go out searching for a slant six to prove to myself that it did not have an integral ex. man.

  • avatar
    Moparman426W

    No problem, MFgreen. I wasn’t in any way trying to be a smart@$$, I just don’t like to see people get misled.

  • avatar
    scrubnick

    Cars from 1976 and earlier are awesome in The People’s Republic of California. No smog check! You can drop in any engine you want with any kind of induction and nobody cares! Go ahead, strip off the extra cats and other smog equipment. Pop on some high compression heads. Drop in a 360. It’s all good before 1976.

    • 0 avatar
      west-coaster

      Correction: EARLIER THAN 1976, not “1976 and earlier.” ’76 models still need the bi-annual smog check.

  • avatar
    west-coaster

    Well, aside from the whole “Um…that’s not a Volare” thing which has already been discussed, I think the reason this Valiant doesn’t fall under the smog check program is because it’s probably a ’75.

    BTW, vehicles older than 1976 aren’t “smog exempt” as some have been led to believe. They’re just exempt from the testing every other year. If you’re caught blowing tons of hydrocarbons or actual smoke out the back, you can still get nailed for being a gross polluter.

  • avatar
    msquare

    This is such a blemish on TTAC’s credibility it’s scary.

    You blew it, boys. Publish your correction and move on.


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