By on February 5, 2013

The Volaré and its Dodge sibling, the Aspen, were perfectly competent cars for their time, (anectodally) more reliable than the Chevy Nova and Ford Maverick (and, later, the Fairmont) competition and, if you looked at them from the right angle, better looking. Still, they were never quite as beloved as the Dart/Valiant A-bodies that they replaced, and they have not aged well. In fact, most of them got crushed during the 1990s, so it’s not often that I see examples like this one in self-service wrecking yards.
Of course, the Volaré and its Detroit rivals were taking a beating during the gloom of the Malaise Era, with ever-rising fuel prices and the swelling market share of the Japanese automakers. Not long after this car was built, Chrysler had to seek out loan guarantees from the federal government.


We all know about Ricardo Montalban’s ads for the Cordoba, but we mustn’t forget that Sergio Franchi‘s ads for the Volaré were nearly as suave. This car had a “special” suspension!
This sporty coupe came with bucket seats, tape stripes, and two-tone paint.
And, for practicality’s sake, the extraordinarily reliable Slant Six.

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91 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1977 Plymouth Volaré...”


  • avatar
    IHateCars

    Those don’t look like the original seats….no?

  • avatar
    Felix Hoenikker

    My BIL had a 78 Volare that was probably a lemon. It was so bad that he vowed never to buy another Chrysler product. Since that time, he has not broken that pledge.

    • 0 avatar
      econobiker

      It was said that the Volare / Aspen was the most recalled vehicle model in the US market until the GM front wheel drive X car model (Citation, Omega, Phoenix, Skylark) wrested the title from Chrysler a few short years later.

      • 0 avatar
        noxioux

        +1

        This is the first time I’ve ever read anyone state that the Aspen/Volare had anything but dismal reliablitiy. Even inside Chrysler these things were maligned. I’d take a Nova 10 times out of 10 over one of these pigs.

    • 0 avatar
      ranwhenparked

      I think that’s a more typical experience with one of these. The Volare/Aspen were supposed to update and modernize the Valiant/Dart by properly bringing them into the 1970s, unfortunately, the update also meant introducing proper 1970s levels of build quality and reliability.

  • avatar
    stars9texashockey

    Never understood why the accent over the “e.” It wasn’t pronounced that way.

  • avatar
    mkirk

    What was the rationale for the slant of the slant 6 vs a normal inline 6? Was it for packaging in a car body (lower hood lines) only?

    • 0 avatar
      thornmark

      “By slanting the engine in the compartment, four distinct advantages were achieved, according to a 1960 press release:

      The center of gravity is kept much lower than in upright engines.

      A low, stylish hood is made possible (in other words, the engine fit into the Valiant).

      Engine accessories are more accessible.

      The water pump can be moved to the side of the engine to reduce the engine’s overall length.

      While the press release did not mention it, the most important advantage might have been making room for an unusually efficient intake and exhaust manifold. This gave room for wide bends and nearly equal-length tubes going to each individual cylinder, preventing airflow restriction and uneven airflow. But the lower center of gravity would also help the Valiants — the early, more nimble Valiants and Barracudas in particular — to be in the top of their class for handling.”

      http://www.allpar.com/slant6.html#ixzz2K2LNp7Xq

  • avatar
    Crabspirits

    Guess on Final owner:

    Jeremy was given this car by his father. He needed reliable and cheap transport to his job at the local skate shop. His father worked diligently, replacing all the leaky gaskets on the Slant 6 and giving it a fresh coat of paint. A trusty and noble steed for a no-good kid. “Damn kid can’t even mow the lawn! What the hell’s wrong with that boy?” The Valerie should stand up, even to his abuse. “Just make sure you keep the oil topped off son.” as he handed him the keys. His friends laughed and mocked his new wheels. There were plans to turn it into a Demon clone. They would never come to fruition. The Vole needed a battery, constantly getting jump-starts from friends after sitting more than 3 hours. At a used car lot, a Merkur spoke volumes. A deal was struck, and the brown disco machine was traded in for $100 bounty. Off to the auction it went to fulfill it’s destiny. Jeremy relaxed in the black, squeaky leather as he drove off in search for more THC cakes.
    Try to forget this…
    Try to erase this…
    From the blackboard.

  • avatar

    http://www.twirlinghippy.com/

    Hmmm, looks interesting. I wonder if I can get mail order to PA?

  • avatar
    Conslaw

    What I remember about these cars is that they were Chrysler’s equivalent to GM’s X-cars. They were the cars that almost sank the company. They had the reputation as being cheap in more ways than one, ridiculously unreliable. The commercials promised good gas mileage. The owners reported lousy gas mileage. I remember that by the early 1980s they were disappearing from the roads to the point where In college in 1981, I wrote a short story where the protagonist’s Dodge Aspen was the focus of jokes and derision.

    • 0 avatar
      Volt 230

      Sorry, I think you got your dates and facts wrong, K-carts competed with X-cars, although the latter were more substantial than the Chrysler ones,plus they came out in 1979 this was not as good as the GM counterparts and better than the Fords.

      • 0 avatar

        No, Conslaw’s accurate.

        Even though the FWD X’s didn’t hit the street ’til Spring ’79, and the Volare/Aspen twins bowed fall ’75, there was still a year or two of overlap.

        His recollections of Volare/Aspen are similar to mine. A friend’s parents bought one in ’76 and had an axle snap in half within months.

        By the time the K-cars were out, the X’s were gaining the same kind of bad rap that the ChryCo twins had had. However this must be understood in the context of a corporation that enjoyed over 50% market share and decades of trust. So it still took a few years before the X’s turned to kryptonite in the marketplace. Once it did however, it’s accurate to say GM’s market share never recovered.

        As for ChryCo’s near-death experiences…if I ever feel the need to add another cat to my household, I think I’ll name it “Chrysler”.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        He didn’t say that they were to compete against the X cars, he said that like the (later) X cars they almost took the company down with them.

        However they were meant as a competitor to the original X car the Nova and its cousins.

  • avatar
    Moparman426W

    These cars were rushed into production to compete with the new Ford luxury compacts which came out a year earlier. While the basic design was better than the granada/monarch twins, and they had the bulletproof chrysler engines and transmissions, the cars had all types of problems as a result of being rushed to market so quickly. There were all sorts of problems with body and interior hardware, premature rust. Electrical problems, carburetor problems, the cars had so many recalls that it was the final nail in Chrysler’s coffin and was the reason they had to go for the gov’t loans. They had the cars pretty much straightened out after a couple of years, but the damage had already been done. Had they not had such a rough start things would have turned out much differently. The cars later morphed into the M body, which was just about as bullet proof as the A body. I happen to own two M bodies, one which happens to be a former detective car that I bought from a city auction, an 82 diplomat, the other is a 5th ave.

    • 0 avatar
      geeber

      During the severe 1974-75 recession, Chrysler head Lynn Townsend laid off virtually the entire Chrysler engineering department for several weeks. That move seriously affected the quality of these cars, as they were being prepared for production.

      People used to their bullet-proof Darts, Valiants and Dusters bought one of these – the wagon was particularly popular – and received a rather rude shock.

      These cars were very popular for about two years. The Plymouth Volare wagon was the country’s top-selling wagon for 1976, if I recall correctly.

      • 0 avatar
        CobraJet

        My brother in law had a bought a new 76 Volare wagon, trading in a VW camper van. His had the slant six and a 3 speed floor shift (three-by-the-knee). He didn’t have it long enough to give trouble, it was rear ended and totalled.

    • 0 avatar
      geozinger

      I can attest to the later models’ durability. A buddy in college had a 79 or 80 Volare Coupe, Slant Six autobox, fairly plain little car. His commute was longer than mine and at the end of our college careers, his Volare had easily twice the miles my various Fords did at that time.

      No major rust, the drive train was bulletproof and economical. A complete 180 degree turn around from the earlier cars. Unfortunately, the damage had been done to ChryCo. The last cars were great.

  • avatar
    ponchoman49

    I don’t really see how any of these three cars mentioned was more reliable than the other. If anything I found the Volare/Aspen worse than the Fairmont/Maverick/Nova as far as rust issues, drive-ability and ride/handling with the base suspensions. Plus there were the early recalls that damaged these cars reputation for years to come. All three had long lasting robust straight sixes tied to equally reliable transmissions. The Fairmont’s were known for there precise rack and pinion steering and nimbleness. The Nova had the largest and best running of the sixes and had the same basic under pinnings as an F-body so could handle with the best of them with the proper suspension option. The A-body Chysler’s were know to have several issues such as the crazy finicky 1BBL carbs, the lean burn crap on the V8′s, flaccid darty suspensions, bad rust issues and sloppy assembly. I have personally seen versions of all three sixes with well over 300K miles that still ran perfect! The best years of the Volare/Aspen would appear to be the 79-80 models. The 1980 on wards M-bodies were another story. Those were a real tough car with bullet proof drivetrains, much improved assembly and much longer lasting body panels. If I was asked to take a trip around the world several times, the M-body Chrysler would rank very high on my list for a bullet proof car.

  • avatar
    greaseyknight

    I’m surprised that this car still has its front suspension, IIRC the volare torsion bar suspension has been very popular for “clipping” older vehicles to get a better front suspension. Not as popular now due to a lack of donors, and that replacement parts are scarce.

  • avatar
    pb35

    My dad sold Chrysler’s in the 70s (no wonder we were broke) and he had a 77 “Premier” 4 door in the same exact color tan as a demo. It ran great but then we only had it for the first 6k or so. There was nothing premier about it. It did have an AM/FM radio and a vinyl roof.

  • avatar
    Moparman426W

    First off, anyone that knows anything about cars knows that the A body;s torsion bar suspension was far superior to both the ford and gm compacts. The 62-67 nova front suspension and bolt on front subframe with ford style shock towers was especially crude. The 68-up gm compacts had a better suspension setup than the earlier models, but that’s not saying much. All GM products in the 60′s had horrendous suspension geometry. That was one thing that was corrected on the colonnades.
    Slant 6 carbs were fine before 77, and there was no comparison when it came to the intake manifold design of the slant 6 compared to the crappy log design used on other inline sixes of the day. The slant 6 used long, individual runners for superior air/fuel distribution, the crappy log design used by ford and GM had practically no distribution. The manifold on the small ford six was integral with the head and couldn’t be replaced, as well as the chevy 6 starting in 75. The slant 6 also had a better flowing exhaust manifold. As a result the smaller slant 6 performed as well, sometimes better than larger sixes.
    The slant 6 had about 3X the amount of beef in the block, and a much thicker head deck than the other sixes. As a matter of fact the chevy head was known to crack easily when overheated, just like their small block V8′s.

    • 0 avatar
      geeber

      The Aspen/Volare front suspension featured “transverse-mounted torsion bars” and was initially promoted very heavily in the advertisements. I remember reading road tests in a variety of publications, and reviewers were unanimous in viewing it as a step backwards from the old Valiant and Dart in the handling department. It did provide a smoother ride than the Valiant and Dart (which was the whole point).

      The GM compacts featured improved handling for 1975, and the 1978 Fox-platform Fairmont and Zephyr were also a big step forward in that department, as they featured MacPherson struts up front and rack-and-pinion steering. Chrysler compacts were better in the 1960s, but with these cars, Chrysler was moving backwards while GM and Ford were moving foward.

    • 0 avatar
      MRF 95 T-Bird

      My Dart/Valiant (63,68,70 and 72 owning and fixing dad rarely had trouble with these cars. An occasional valve lash adjustment, carb rebuild and brake job kept all of these cars running for well over 100k. In fact the 63 Valiant white 4dr 3 on the tree 170-6 made it to 175k till the floors rotted. In the mid-70′s this was very high mileage.Today it’s mid-range. He never had a problem with the suspension, the usual wheel alignment (torsion bars they charged extra) and a set of Michelin X steel belted radials, a high end tire for it’s time insured a firm ride with good handling. Though speaking of torsion bars the 68 Valiant 3 on the tree 225-6 had to be junked due a front left torsion bar that ripped out of the frame. I often wondered how common a problem it was on these or was it just the Northeast road salt.

  • avatar
    TWHansen

    I have a ’78 Volare Premier woody wagon – $500 on Craigslist. Torsion bars FTW. Nothing takes a speed bump at speed like a Volare. Incidentally, if you ever find an intact grille in your junkyarding, grab it. They’re made of one huge piece of brittle plastic, and thanks to the handful of guys who restore the Road Runner variants, they’re worth like a couple hundred bucks on the open market.

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      Hopefully the grilles don’t break easily like the Dodge Omnis grilles, about every OmniHorizon I’ve seen has a broken clip for the grille. Heck, I broke a clip for my own Horizon by accident!

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    Its interesting to compare this “Sporty Coupe” to a modern equivalent, an Infiniti G35 or an Audi TT. The differences show a stark contrast with tastes of the time and what constituted as “sporty”, it also shows how far “sports” coupes” have progressed with time.

    I doubt that we’ll see anymore two-toned brown sports coupes, and for a good reason.

  • avatar
    west-coaster

    The Volare was more realible than the Nova? Really?

    Not sure about that. Lee Iacocca as much as admitted in his autobiography that the Aspen/Volare were “crap.” And it might just be a matter of original production numbers, but I still see a few big-bumpered (later) Novas on the road here in SoCal. I can’t remember the last time I saw a Volare.

    • 0 avatar
      ranwhenparked

      With the right option package, the Nova could also take corners pretty well too. I believe it may well have been the about the best handling mainstream car from an American manufacturer from that decade. Doesn’t say much, but they were a lot better than most people realize.

      The Volare/Aspen did do a reasonable job of delivering a “big car” smooth, floaty ride in a small package though, which is what people wanted then anyway. However, the Granada/Monarch and the AMC Concord also offered smooth ride quality with less reliability issues. Thinking back, the Concord was probably the best of the luxury compacts from purely a durability standpoint.

      • 0 avatar
        Moparman426W

        A coil spring suspension setup doesn’t have the handling potential of a torsion bar setup, study up on it’ Also, the A body was more rigid than the X body because it was a full unibody design. The X body was only a partial unibody design with a bolt on subframe, which allowed flex. It was stiffer than a full BOF design, but not as stiff as a full unibody.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        Moparman, handling is all about the geometry not whether the spring is a coil or a coil that hasn’t been finished, ie a torsion bar. If a torsion bar is so superior then why did they go away?

      • 0 avatar

        Moparman, springs are springs but if you note, the vast majority of race cars and high performance sports car use coil springs (the Vette’s composite transverse leaf springs are a notable exception). Can you point me to a contemporary high performance car that uses torsion bars?

      • 0 avatar
        Dynasty

        Sometimes things go away because a newer less expensive alternative is found.

        The new alternative is not necessarily better, but it is less expensive.

        So in a way it is better financially, but not a better product than the more expensive better product it replaced.

        I don’t know anything about a torsion bar setup…

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        “Can you point me to a contemporary high performance car that uses torsion bars?”

        Formula 1 racing cars use torsion bars, and they do have the option of using coil springs were they considered preferable from a performance standpoint. It really comes down to packaging though. Geometry is more important than springing medium. Maybe variable rate coil springs are being used today because they’re cheaper to make, or because they can’t transfer energy as far in a frontal collision, or because they concentrate pickup points in an easy to isolate area, or… There are all sorts of possibilities, but the transverse torsion bars of the Volare weren’t superior to much of anything.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        Good point CJ, coil springs can be made in variable rate versions unlike torsion bars and variable rate springs can help with handling yet preserve ride quality. They can also be used to allow the car to “lean” into the turn to increase camber but then get stiffer to keep their “composure”.

        However torsion bars as used on the Aspen/Volare are superior to a transverse leaf spring as used on the Model T.

  • avatar
    dolorean

    Only thing I remember about this heap is an episode of Cheer’s. Sam Malone was forced to sell his Corvette and was bemoaning having to tool around Boston in a 1977 Plymouth Volare.

  • avatar
    Turkina

    My First Car was a 1977 Dodge Aspen coupe with a California emissions Slant-six (Nooooooo! I got the Ultra-Malasie choked version!). It did what it needed to do, and behaved pretty well for the time I had it. We called it the Shark, because half the surface was covered in gray primer. The vinyl Landau cover was peeling, so we ripped it off and did some bondo and primer for the rust spots underneath. My dad welded a piece of a Pontiac sheet metal onto it to get rid of a large rust hole. And it made an increasingly loud whistling noise at 50+ mph, due to loose trim pieces.

    Hey, but I got it for free and it didn’t try to kill me!

  • avatar
    tomLU86

    I’m LMAO! The Volare/Aspen had good reviews early on (Consumer Reports picked it as “best” compact) until word spread about their quality–or lack thereof.

    The Fairmont/Zephyr may have been cheap and light, but they were not plagued with problems like the Volare, and Novas were solid cars. Many readers here have it right.

    Volare better than Fox and Nova! Frankly, I am amazed how TTAC could make such a ridiculous assertion.

    Perhaps Sergio Marchionne invited Murilee Martin to a nice dinner in Bloomfield Hills, or Chrylser is poised to buy a lot of ads here….

    Martin may have succeeded in doing to TTAC’s reputation what the Volare/Aspen did to the Valiant/Duster/Dart’s….

    • 0 avatar
      Moparman426W

      Tom, I think he was just a small lad when these came out, I think pretty much everyone my age and older knew about these, though, unless they were living in a cave at the time. As far as Chrysler goes they admitted the F bodies were junk.

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      I stand with the FairmountZeyphrs being the best, I see more of them slugging around than Novas or Volares.

      Thing is, Fairmounts are a bit newer so naturally theres going to be more of them, they also have a more modern suspension set-up.

  • avatar
    redmondjp

    It’s simply ridiculous to have these silly arguments about whether the Volare, Nova, or Fairmonts had better reliability than one another. I cut my teeth working on these cars back in the 1980s, and they all had their strong points and weak points. A college roommate had a Volare. A good family friend had a Fairmont that I worked on for them. And my now-wife had a Nova that was still being driven up to a few years ago.

    All American cars built during that era were not screwed together as well, and needed a lot more maintenance than today’s cars. Interiors were cheap. Headliner fabric (particularly on GM and Ford products) unglued and fell down. Plastic trim became faded and brittle. Screws came loose. Things rattled. A lot. The inline 6 motors on all of them were pretty much bulletproof, but every bolt-on item needed rebuilding and refreshing fairly often by today’s standards.

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      Considering that all three of those cars are long out of production and none of them are exactly collectors items, I too find an arguement over which is better to be fruitless.

      Plus, Japanese offerings at that point were a few steps ahead in build quality.

  • avatar
    Superdessucke

    Vooooooo lare! Oh no!
    Junked car yeh, oh oh oh oh!

  • avatar
    corntrollio

    Didn’t Volares come from the factory with rusted out floorboards?

  • avatar
    7th Frog

    My mom had one of these in the 80s for about 6 or 7 years when I was a kid. White sedan with a baby blue interior and a slant six. Maybe a 78 or so. The thing was reliable as a stone from what I recall and had, the first for my family, air conditioning. My friends called it the taxi cab.
    My parents traded it in for a brand new 89 Grand Prix and that thing was a lemon of epic proportions.

  • avatar
    ZekeToronto

    I went through literally dozens of cars during four years of undergrad in the 1980s. I was fortunate in that I could trade frequently and tax free, courtesy of the old man’s dealer license. One of them was a mint ’78 Duster–the same body as the car above, with go-fast louvres in the rear side windows. And fast it was. Its 360cid V8 was pretty intoxicating for a kid accustomed to 4-bangers … but I was forced to swap it after only two weeks because the 12mpg was bankrupting me. During the same period I also had a late-70s Cordoba with an anemic 318 and an early-70s, bare-bones Dodge Dart 2-door hardtop (slant six, bench seat, AM radio and rubber floors). Of my three 70s Mopars, the Dart was the one I hated to be seen in, but was by far the best built and most reliable.

  • avatar
    turbobrick

    I understand that the ’76s were pretty bad but once they got the initial new production issues sorted out, I don’t see how there’s much left to go wrong on these cars. Slant six or 318 with solid state ignition, heck yeah. Just buy a spare ballast resistor for $2 at NAPA and keep it in the glove box just in case.

  • avatar
    luvmyv8

    What’s funny is even though the Volare/Aspen were dismal, these cars were actually quite good police cars and if optioned correctly, could scoot pretty good. These came out near the demise of the police 440 engine equipped Monaco and Fury, these were replaced by the St. Regis and the Gran Fury (I think that’s what they called the ‘R’ body Plymouth version as far as I know,I do know the ‘M’ body Plymouth was called the Gran Fury also) but if you got the ‘A38′ police package and the HD 360 4bbl V8, you had a nice sleeper. Even in police duty, these were pretty rare as most fleet departments went with the “bigger is better” mantra back then.

    On the flip side of the coin, Ford also had a police version of the Fairmount, and it was HATED. Back then, it was regarded as being too cramped, terrible ride and too underpowered. These could come with the 2.3 4 cyl, the 300 cu. in. 6 and the 2bbl 302, which whelped out an amazing 129 hp. I think even that motor was ditched for the ultra malaise 4.2 V8, which was even worse!

    Then again, Chevrolet also fielded a police package Nova back then too, though unlike the Fairmount and Aspen/Volare was complete sucsess. This was in the mid seventies, and while I don’t remember complete specifics, it was because one of people working on one of the big car magazines was also a reserve Los Angeles Sheriffs Deputy and he was looking for the ideal urban police car. A 440 Mopar made a great CHP car, but a lousy city police car, too big and too thirsty to be practical patrol car. Chevrolet picked up on this and took the Nova, added a special 350 V8 that conformed to California emission standards but still was powerful enough, added police specific parts, Camaro parts where needed and the big brakes off a police spec Bel Air and fielded the 9C1 Nova (’74 model) the Nova performed very well at this role. The 350 had good power for the smaller car, it handled well, stopped well and it’s small size made it great in congested Los Angeles traffic. Plus it was reasonable economical and had a low buy in price. It was so well recieved that other police departments across the country used these car as well. The Malibu that came after the Nova, did well also as a cop car, but not quite up to the level of the Nova, but it still was a good urban police car.

  • avatar
    skloon

    My dad worked for the gov’t and had a Volare as his ‘company ‘ car- 77 or so if I remember correctly- it was unbrakeable and he loved it- it even started after being left outside at -40 or so for a week in Inuvik. I acquired a 78 ex police version in university- I traded some oregano or such for it- it was neither good nor bad- although the back seat was easy to clean out and you could leave people locked in it if you wanted.

  • avatar
    bill mcgee

    A coworker had a new , IIRC 1980 Volare coupe I rode in a few times . I recall at the time thinking it seemed more dated looking inside than any current vehicle . Remember thinking the lumpy uncomfortable benchseat had this crappy plasticky looking upholstery that looked like the replacement vinyl seat covers of the fifties . The woman was morbidly obese and within a few months there was a pronounced depression on the driver’s side of the seat . An aunt , who always bought Fords , bought a new , early Volare wagon , I remember I was impressed with the relatively compact size for a wagon . She didn’t keep it long after the hood blew open on the highway , causing her to drive it into a ditch .At the time these were notorious for ( even compared to other malaise era vehicles ) assembly line lapses like having mixtures of Dodge and Plymouth badges and being delivered with different colored carpeting in the front and back seats .

  • avatar
    NewsLynne

    A neighbor had one around 83/84 and I’ll never forget the effort it took to start the old thing on “cold” (this was TN) days. I can’t remember the color because the poor old thing was a rolling mosaic of rust with powder-blue vinyl seats.

    But what’s a lemon to some is a treasure to others. A friend drove an Aries K and swore by it. My father laughed at the K-car perhaps forgetting he called our 75 Mustang 2 his favorite car ever.

  • avatar
    and003

    It’s too bad I can’t buy this car. It would be a good basis for a Volare Road Runner clone. :)

  • avatar
    glwillia

    My mom bought a ’79 Aspen brand-new with the automatic and slant 6, and drove it until it was totalled in 1988. I don’t personally remember much about it (it was 1 year older than I am) but my mom says she never had many problems with it at all, and she liked the car much more than the Corolla that replaced it. Granted, she lived in Phoenix, so the infamous rust problems never surfaced.

  • avatar
    chicagoland

    The cars that realy hurt Chryslers bottom line were the all new C bodies for 1974. Yes, the ‘Blues-mobile’ ones. Were planned long before any gas shortages, and meant to take on GM’s profitable big tanks.

    But, timing was awful, and sales ‘tanked’. Loss of profitable big cars sales nearly killed them. Plymouth never recovered and Imperial was dropped. They sold a lot of A bodies in 1974-75, but no ‘bacon’ coming in from biggies, means near bankruptcy.

    These were dumped into fleets, hence poor resale, and why so many 3-6 year old C bodies got wrecked in the “BB” movie!

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      My sister’s father in law lent me his ’74 Chrysler Newport (440, 4bbl) for a week in 1980. It ran great, but I gave it back after two days because it cost so much to run (7 mpg @ $1.40 for premium). I imagine 7 mpg at 69 cents in ’74 was a sales killer, when you could get premium for 32 cents just three years earlier (and the same sized car got 12 mpg). By 1980, most of those good-running 6 year old C bodies were lining up for their last trip.

  • avatar
    nickoo

    I disagree about the aspen/volare being more reliable than the Nova. I had a ’76 disco nova 2 dr with a 350 and my dad had a ’79 4 dr with a 250 straight six, both had TH350s. Both went over 220k, which was a hell of a feat for late 70s GM rust buckets. The disco nova coupes were highly underated and had the best exterior styling of all the mainstream sedans. I would gladly take one over a similar malibu from that time period.

  • avatar
    Nick

    ‘were perfectly competent cars for their time’

    Murilee, surely you jest. They weren’t just bad, they were appalling. Recall after recall, rust, this, that. They were 1/100th as sturdy and reliable as the A bodies they replaced. (Besides a Duster or Dart Sport with big slicks looks cool whereas a Volpen just looks dumb.)

    • 0 avatar
      and003

      Not surprising, since the Aspen and Volare were released before all the bugs were worked out. Those bugs were worked out in later years, but the damage was already done.

      Still, I wonder … what would the Volare in this article be like if it was fitted with an Art Morrison or Roadster Shop chassis, a 6.1 Hemi and a custom interior?

  • avatar
    SixDucks

    Memories….. These cars were bad news. I would believe the earlier post about Chrysler laying off their engineers when these ‘cars’ were under development based on my rather extensive experiences with them when they were around. But, where shall I start? How about the front suspension. Yes, it was torsion bars, but that was the only similarity with older (good) Mopars. The Aspen/Volare had them mounted transversly, and the whole suspension assembly was mounted to a very weak sub-frame insulated from the rest of the car with large rubber cushions. That setup gave the cars a very numb and imprecise road feel, and the subframes would actually sag in service making repeated alignments the norm, at least until it got so far out of whack that aligning it was no longer possible. (Ask an old California Highway Patrol mechanic what they went through on the similar Diplomat). Driveability. Sure, no car from this are did well here, but ‘Lean Burn’ and the warp and crack prone welded aluminum intake manifolds on the 225 put the Aspen and Volare at the bottom of a poor class. Exhaust manifolds would often crack as well, the cat. was mounted very close and cause excess heat and back pressure (and note this example is missing both manifolds). And don’t forget the craptastic plastic ThermoQuad carb. the ‘performance’ models used. The 7.25 rear axles on 6 cylinder models were failure prone, I think Chrysler tried nylon bearing retainers in some of them. Body integrity? Easy, the Aspen and Volare didn’t have any! Serious rusters, even in So. Cal.. I think Chrysler paid out a lot of warranty claims on fenders. The trunks were notorius for water leaks, and it was rare to see these cars with intact quarters. Better than a ’75-’79 Nova? Not even close! The Granada was also much a better car than one of these turds. I made a lot of money working on these cars back in the day, and for that I am truly grateful!

    • 0 avatar
      Dodge440391SG

      OK, first of all the transverse torsion bars were “isolated” by crummy rubber bushings, as you astutely pointed out (and it was a bad compromise). A very bad engineering decision.

      The “Slant6″ engine was a very good design. However, the rockers needed adjustment from time to time. How many owners would do this ? This engine was crippled by a $2 1 barrel carburetor. I had a 1980 Mirada and installed a “Super 6″ setup, which not only improved power, but also improved gas mileage. The Slant 6 engine was not “bulletproof” . My son ran the above engine with no oil (leaky relief valve) and threw a rod (at 173,000 miles). With the Super 6 performance improvement, I promptly blew out the spindly 7 1/4″ rear end.

      My mother lived in a large South Florida retirement community. During the Volare/Aspen era many of the folks had them. In a few years, there were no Chrysler products whatsoever. Nobody bought K cars. Chrysler was done in by very bad management (they did NOT care), and crummy build quality.

      Again, IMHO, Chrysler had a horrible quality reputation that began in 1970, and the 1957 debacle did not help perception (I think they changed CEOs in 1970), and killed off the reputation of the brand .

      • 0 avatar
        Dodge440391SG

        OK, first of all the transverse torsion bars were “isolated” by crummy rubber bushings, as you astutely pointed out (and it was a bad compromise). A very bad engineering decision.

        The “Slant6″ engine was a very good design. However, the rockers needed adjustment from time to time. How many owners would do this ? This engine was crippled by a $2 1 barrel carburetor. I had a 1980 Mirada and installed a “Super 6″ setup, which not only improved power, but also improved gas mileage. The Slant 6 engine was not “bulletproof” . My son ran the above engine with no oil (leaky relief valve) and threw a rod (at 173,000 miles). With the Super 6 performance improvement, I promptly blew out the spindly 7 1/4″ rear end.

        My mother lived in a large South Florida retirement community. During the Volare/Aspen era many of the folks had them. In a few years, there were no Chrysler products whatsoever. Nobody bought K cars. Chrysler was done in by very bad management (they did NOT care), and crummy build quality.

        Again, IMHO, Chrysler had a horrible quality reputation that began in 1970, and the 1957 debacle did not help perception (I think they changed CEOs in 1970), and killed off the reputation of the brand .

        Forgot to mention the serious propensity of the “Slant 6″ for burning the #5 exhaust valves. I was able to replace mine ; how many “civilians” were willing to do this ?

      • 0 avatar
        Moparman426W

        With the exception of ball joints any suspension part that moves requires bushings to avoid metal to metal contact. That is why they are used on control arms and sway bars, shocks, etc. The stock rubber bushings on the transversely mounted torsion bars were soft to reduce NVH, but cop spec bushings are pretty solid and still available through the aftermarket. I used them when I replaced all of the bushings in my 5th ave.
        All straight sixes from the 60′s-70′s used a 1 bbl carb, with the exception of AMC which had a 2bbl option that went away around 71-72 then returned a few years later, and the slant 6 which later offered the super six option. No engine, even a slant 6 will run very long without oil, it’s a law of physics, metal to metal contact results in parts seizing up. Normally the first parts to be damaged are the bearings and crank, and when a rod bearing spins it normally takes the rod out with it. A slant 6 would be the last of the inline sixes to have a valve burning problem within a certain cylinder, the excellent intake manifold design ensured that no cylinder ran lean.

      • 0 avatar
        -Nate

        I’ve been waiting for some one to mention the ’57 debacle ~ it really was bad .

        The only reason any Slant Six ever burned any valves was lack of basic maintenance , all of them through 1981 had solid lifters that required periodic adjustment , I used to buy poor idling , smog test failing WPC products , adjust the valves and tune ‘em up , hand polish the paint and re sell for serious profit .

        Chrysler’s management _DID_ care ~ they made sure the stock holders always got dividends while not taking the time and $ necessary to keep quality control in any order .

        Too dam bad as Chrysler Products were for the most part , well designed and engineered .

        As we had an open budget to throw parts at them with , the L.A.P.D. got very good service indeed out of the Diplomats & Aspens , the Lean Burn cars too , we just replaced the heat warped air cleaners & modules as soon as any damage was visible , no problems , ever .

        -Nate

    • 0 avatar
      Moparman426W

      Sixducks, you are correct regarding alignment problems on the early police cars, but it wasn’t due to the crossmember. The upper control arm mounting area was weak, allowing the control arms to move inward. That was corrected on later models. As far as front fenders go, literally every 76-77 model was recalled for fender replacement. The early super six manifolds cracked due to casting problems, but that was also later corrected. 7 1/4 rear ends were junk, to say the least.
      As far as the thermo quad carb goes, the story about the carb body warping was a wive’s tale. The phenolic resin body kept the fuel 20 degrees cooler for a denser charge. I still have a few sitting around, even though I use edelbrocks on my V8 powered cars. The thermoquad was one of the better carbs of it’s day, and is still used by many people today. You can still get parts for them from many sources.

  • avatar
    jim brewer

    Our regular car was unreliable. So dad would rent a car for Easter vacation. In those days, car dealers would rent new cars for cheap. I remember being impressed with the Aspen wagon. It seemed like a really practical and comfortable car. Mom later bought a Pontiac X-car. It too was of an impressive and efficient design.

    My point is that these cars had NOTHING wrong with them but their lack of durability and reliability. The difference between triumph and abject failure was pretty thin in Detroit. The desire to cut corners in those days can only be described as pathological; No rational person would have jeopardized the market in the way that they did.

  • avatar
    Geekcarlover

    Of the three mentioned, this had the best engine/trany, but the rest of the car is pure craptastic. They worked hard to earn their reputation as self destructing rust machines. Models from the first two years had a problem with bumpers falling off. I’ve been in one when the front end collapsed after the shock towers rusted through.
    I don’t know if Chrysler/Dodge/Plymouth started a new painting process, but they were infamous for bubbles in the paint that chipped off during the first carwash. Leaving exposed gaps of primer that turned to body rust almost instantly.
    It’s been mentioned that the final year or so were much better, but most of them personify everything that was wrong with Detroit during the Malaise Era.

  • avatar
    ZCD2.7T

    My dad gave me his off-lease (company car) ’76 Volare woody wagon when I was a senior in HS. It was equipped with the 318 V-8, which made it quicker than most cars of the day, including my buddy’s V-8 Firebird, which I proved (much to his chagrin) any time the mood struck.

    It had 100K miles on it when I took over, and 145K when I traded it in for a ’75 Cutlass (350 “rocket” V-8 and swiveling bucket seats!). The dealer called me a week after we made that deal to tell me that the Volare’s timing chain had snapped. Life’s tough in the big city…

    For me, the car’s 2 defining traits were the incurable, dangerous cough/backfire that generally occurred whenever I tried to pull out into traffic. Fun. The other was the fact that it was a wagon, which prompted much teasing and guffawing amongst my friends, but which came in handy on weekend date nights! ;-) Oh, and it would do 107mph flat-out, wallowing suspension and all!

  • avatar
    loulou

    I have see this Volare advertised for sale for a couple of weeks in the Columbus, OH area:

    http://www.jackmaxton.com/details.cfm?searchvkid=1277728&v=0.82607104406&cftoken=4d7cadc6fe469a3a-B0CC7DC6-AAF9-458D-C58E31F08D13D4C0&cfid=38050903

  • avatar
    v8corvairpickup

    I don’t know if it has been mentioned previously but… this platform was used long into the 80s under the Gran Fury and RWD LeBaron. I had an ’80 Volare Premier wagon with a 318. Bought it for $500 in 1994 from a towing company @ 119000 miles. It went for about 12000 miles before I upgraded to a newer car. It was a mostly reliable family car.

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      As has been mentioned, the bugs were worked out by the late ’70s, and the RWD models were made until around 1989, when Iacocca went all-FWD, over the objection of Bob Lutz, who thought “premium” meant RWD. The last of the RWD wagons was 1982, and the LeBaron wagons of those last couple years lasted quite a long time in the ’80s when gas prices were cheap. The Desert Storm gas spike killed them off.

  • avatar
    nrd515

    Saying the Volare/Aspen cars were more reliable than the Nova is probably one of the more ridiculous things I’ve seen in a car blog. They were better than the X-cars, but that’s about it.

  • avatar
    Moparman426W

    Scoutdude, if you would do a little bit of checking you would find out why chrysler’s longitudonal torsion bars were superior to a coil spring setup. It’s not merely an opinion, it was always a known fact. I get tired of always having to repeat myself to different people over the same subjects on this site, so I will only cover the main reason they were better, if you want to find out more you can check into it yourself. With a torsion bar (excluding the transvers design) the load is handled at the car’s crossmember, which means that the car’s frontal weight is transferred rearward, further away from the front. It doesn’t take a genius to know what that does for handling. It is also the reason that big C bodies cruise down the highway without pitching and wallowing like the big Ford and GM cars from the era. It’s also the reason that Mopars from that time frame don’t nosedive under braking like the other cars. And unlike coil springs torsion bars last for decades and decades. My oldest Mopar is a 63 Imperial lebaron and it still has it’s original bars, I know it for a fact because my late uncle bought the car new. They started to sag a bit about 10 years ago, and I cranked them up a bit to restore the ride height, which you can’t do with a set of coils. My next 2 C bodies are a 72 and a 78, both still have the original bars, so far I have not had to adjust the bars on those two.
    The reason they did away with the longitudonal bars on the F body was because they wanted to compete with the granada and monarch, which were marketed as luxury compacts. Since the old torsion bar design connected to the crossmember it transmitted a bit more road noise into the passenger compartment, not so much on the bigger cars as on the compacts. It also gave a little bit firmer ride, which came along with the better handling. Chrysler was going after a smooth ride and lower NVH, hence the reason for the transverse setup. The only advantage the transvers bars have over a coil spring is that they last practically forever like the earlier setup.
    As far as the old design going away for good, it couldn’t be used today even if they wanted to use it. For one thing a longitudonal torsion bar won’t fit into a front wheel drive vehicle, the transaxle and oil pan are in the way. Lontgitudonal torsion bars take up alot of space, both underhood and under the floor pan. The packaging in today’s cars (both FWD and RWD is so tight that there simply wouldn’t be enough room for them.

  • avatar
    Hoser

    My parents bought a near new (demonstrator?)’76 Volare Premier Wagon (318) in ’76. I was 3 at the time. I remember having neighbors come stay with me while dad went out to pick up mom in the once again broken down Volare. Transmission, Alternator, burned exhaust valves, Bondo, Re-bondo, bondo some more on the rear quarters are just some of the repairs I remember.
    I think it got traded somewhere in the ’84-85 timeframe with less than 100k miles for an ’80 Marquis that was a superior car in most every way.

  • avatar
    Vasya Bricklyn

    The mother of all Shitstain cars. It was garbage like this that drove Chrysler broke- the first time around. I’m as equally amazed that this thing hadn’t been scrapped in 1978, just as I am equally amazed that someone actually bought this turd in 1977.

  • avatar
    Nick

    BTW for those of you who are, bafflingly, expressing a fondness for these cars there is a MINT 1980 Volare for sale in Princeton, Ontario. Have at it boys.

  • avatar
    raph

    My folks had a Volare wagon, IIRC the only major issue they had with it was a cracked exhaust manifold. After that they bought a 5th Avenue which seemed to suffer from a constant alignment problem.

  • avatar
    johnvolare77

    Hi. I made this profile after I came across this just to let you all know my Plymouth volare has been running great since 1977 straight outta Detroit. It has a slant six. It still sounds pretty mean. Maybe you nimrods just don’t know how to maintain a vehicle. And if you wanna say a nova is more reliable than a volare… Then how come you don’t see any of them on the road? Volares are TANKS FREAKING TANKS. And all of them on the road today, although few BC. People like you drove them like race cars. Have a lot of potential to be a reliable l, daily driver ride like mine. So piss on ya.

  • avatar
    johnvolare77

    Wanna see? Dbags I’m an angry puppy

  • avatar
    -Nate

    John ;

    No need for anger , some folks just don’t get it ~

    MoPar ‘B’Bodies are light and agile , the slant 6 engine , even the wretched 170 CI one , is an engineering marvel now as it was in 1963 .

    Yes , I’m a Bowtie Guy (Chevy fanboi) but that doesn’t take anything away from those wonderful old’B’ series drivers .

    -Nate
    (’64 Barracuda lover)

    • 0 avatar
      mikey

      Me too, dedicated GM man. That being said I got 6cyl Mustang as part of my “fleet”. It takes all kinds eh?

      BTW My buddy had a factory ordered Volare station wagon,equipped with the 225 “leaning tower of power” and a floor mounted stick. It ran for years, and years,and finally,around the mid ninties rust killed it. The old Plymouth had well over a 170k miles,and he drove it to the junk yard.
      With the anti rust technology,we have today,that old Mopar would still be running

      • 0 avatar
        -Nate

        *GASP* !! NO FAIR ! .

        I’m a die hard Chevrolet FanBoi and you go mentioning the dreaded ‘F’ bomb ~ who cares if those old Falcon platform derivitives were great vehicles ~ they’re the _WRONG_ brand dammit .

        I’ve always thought a first generation Mustang Coupe or GT with the big 6 and four speed would make a good road burner ~

        I’ll admit I’ve owned some Brand ‘F’s over the years , three ‘A’ Models , all 4 bangers , two ’62 full sizers , a V-8 RanchWagon and a 6 cylinder three speed OD equipped two door sedan , both excellent , plus two different 1959 F-100′s , both 6 bangers with three on the tree .

        Cut it out ~ you’re embarrasing me .

        -Nate

    • 0 avatar
      Moparman426W

      Nate, the 170 slant 6 will rev to 6400 RPM’s with stock valve springs, very impressive for a pushrod inline 6. With stiffer valve springs, heavy duty rocker arms and high volume oil pump those suckers will go to 8,000.

      • 0 avatar
        -Nate

        A. You’re preaching to The Choir here .

        B. I , personally , never , _EVER_ over rev. engines ~ not even borrowed ones , that’d be my Son , maybe some day the TTAC’ers who know him will share some stories , he’s a seriously fast racer .

        When he was a Track Instructor @ Willow Springs , the yuppie Porsche dickwads hsated seeing his old VW Beetle race car ’cause all they ever saw was the taillights receding rapidly .

        -Nate


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