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!