By on March 5, 2014

15 - 1986 Dodge Aries Down on the Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee MartinThe quantities of true Chrysler K-Cars in high-turnover self-service wrecking yards have been declining a bit in recent years, though I still see enough of them that I choose only the most interesting to photograph for this series. So far we’ve seen this “Hemi 2.6″ ’81 Dodge Aries wagon, this ’83 Dodge Aries sedan, this ’85 Dodge 600 Turbo, and this ’88 Dodge Aries wagon, and today I’m adding a gold Aries sedan that has special significance for me.
18 - 1986 Dodge Aries Down on the Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee MartinYou see, this is the car that provided the hood for the “Lee Iacocca, Comintern Agent” mural that went on the Plymouth Reliant wagon judged to be the Worst Car In 24 Hours of LeMons History.
20131122_121205This hood now lives somewhere in California, having been removed from the Reliant by Iacocca zealots.
12 - 1986 Dodge Aries Down on the Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee MartinThis car was in pretty good shape for a 28-year-old sedan that depreciated to scrap value by about age 10: no rust, interior not bad.
05 - 1986 Dodge Aries Down on the Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee MartinLots of options, including air conditioning and AM/FM radio.
04 - 1986 Dodge Aries Down on the Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee MartinQuality engineered.
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71 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1986 Dodge Aries K...”


  • avatar
    Felis Concolor

    Wow, that one looks very good, especially accounting for how poorly most metallic golds will fade.

    Chrysler used much better clear coat than the rest of its competitors; Ford’s finishes would last maybe a decade and GM’s clear coat cars redefined automotive depreciation by fading and peeling while still on dealer lots.

    • 0 avatar

      The peeling GM paint was a factory option, but just about every GM car made from 1988 to 1994 seemed to have it.

      • 0 avatar
        ponchoman49

        All three manufacturers suffered clear coat peel and paint peel badly in the 80’s and early 90’s, especially the colors black, white and light blue. GM mainly had an issue with light blue and white and Ford had a hard time with darker colors. The smaller cars seemed to suffer the worse.

        • 0 avatar
          APaGttH

          Ford did some sort of action in the early 90’s on the F-Series addressing peeling paint. I had several co-workers and friends who were quite pleased with a free paint job for their troubles.

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        My 1982 Celebrity had clear coat over the tan and chocolate two tone paint. Paint held up well in Ohio weather until the massive clear coat failure at 7 or 8. The the paint became cracked and dull very quickly.

    • 0 avatar
      salhany

      Not all the time: a co-worker’s brand new Neon peeled right down to the primer after she owned it less than 1 year. White in color. She had it repainted under warranty, IIRC, but it was quite the battle to get Chrysler to actually sign off on the respray.

    • 0 avatar
      April

      I saw plenty of first generation Neons with all upper surfaces (hood, roof, trunk lid) completely devoid of paint.

    • 0 avatar
      thunderjet

      My parents had an 87 Plymouth Voyager in “ice blue metallic” for 17 years. The clear coat on it never faded or came off the car. They never waxed it but they did keep it in a garage.

    • 0 avatar
      84Cressida

      The paint job on this car looks like a single stage Maaco job that’s more than 3 years old. The gloss is pretty much gone, and you can easily tell in the close up shot of the Aries emblem.

  • avatar
    Mr Imperial

    That K-car is in amazingly good shape-I’m really curious as to what permantely retired it. Engine? Tranny?

    • 0 avatar
      chicagoland

      It looks like a minor accident on the front bumper, and then was ‘totaled’. Once average, plain jane, cars are over 20 y/o, the BHPH dealers don’t want them.

      If traded in, a new car dealer would wholesale it out, then only buyers would be scrappers.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    This seems an appropriate place to ask my ChryCo questions:

    1) At what points in time did Plymouth NOT have it’s own emblem, just using the Chrysler logo with Plymouth lettering, or no logo at all?
    2) Why was this? Seems unusual.

    • 0 avatar
      jhefner

      Good question. I think it occurred with the more rounded nose on the refreshed K-Cars; the original designs had a hood ornament that was the Plymouth emblem; but when they moved the emblem to the center of the grill in the rounded design, they made it the Chrysler logo across the board.

      The Volare kept the Plymouth logo to end of production, I believe. Ditto for the Grand Fury.

    • 0 avatar
      chicagoland

      The 1996 Breeze ushered in a last gasp attempt at brand identity with the ‘Mayflower ship’ logo. Lasted to 2001 Neons.

  • avatar
    raresleeper

    The Junkyard Find’s Cup runneth over with K-Cars.

  • avatar
    Midway1095

    Plymouth, along with Dodge and Chrysler, went all pentastar for MY 1982. It stayed that way until the mid-1990s when Plymouth got a modernized Mayflower symbol, Dodge got the Ram’s head (why not revive the Fratzog?) and Chrysler got the retro seal. As for why, I have no clue. Perhaps they adopted the pentastar to make the brands more cohesive, downplaying the separate identities, which were very much diluted. Maybe Lee got a volume discount on a trainload of pentastars.

  • avatar
    mechimike

    Sadly, an elderly woman probably owned this. I bet it has less than 100kmiles on it. One day she nudged a telephone pole with the front bumper, and being the good, upstanding citizen she is she reported it to her insurance company. They promptly looked up the blue book value for a 1986 Dodge Aries and sent along a check for $400 with the wrecker they also sent to pick up the car.

    Happened to a lady I used to know- I maintained her property as a teenager back in the late 1990’s, and she has this brown over black 1980 El Camino, with about 30,000 miles on it, nestled into her little one car garage. One day I arrived and noticed the car was gone. She’d backed into a telephone pole and the insurance company totaled it out- I think for about $900 she told me. Made me sick.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    Too bad they scrapped this car , at the very least it would make a nice ” period ” movie rental…..

    I surely hope that hood gets indoor storage ! the artwork is great and priceless .

    -Nate

  • avatar
    Matt Foley

    Why didn’t K-cars rust?

    Considering how badly earlier Chrysler sedans rusted (Aspen/Volare) and later Chrysler sedans rusted (Cirrus/Stratus), this is puzzling.

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      Never seen a rusty cloud car even in Northwestern Ohio and I had at least one relative with a Breeze that developed a transmission leak so massive it ran off the driveway and killed huge patches of grass in the yard.

      Iaccoca could recall the embarrassments of the Aspen/Volare (even though he worked for Ford at the time) and first model year K-cars had rust issues. But Lee knew if he was going to sell cars they had to be better than at least his Detroit competition. As you can see their galvanizing processes improved pretty quickly.

      • 0 avatar
        danio3834

        Hoods and rocker panels are common places for them to rot. I haven’t seen a 90’s example with clean rockers in a long time.

        • 0 avatar
          golden2husky

          Mine lasted about 15 years before rust perforation hit the rocker panels….otherwise completely solid….seems typical for this car. They really did not rust too badly…in fact they did better than most in this regard.

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        It wasn’t just that the Aspen and Volare rust issue was embarrassing – as I recall from Iacocca’s book, this cost them hundreds of millions of dollars to fix, and the bill came due right as the company went broke.

  • avatar
    robc123

    They don’t rust because they are protected by the magical K.

    Had one, put 600,000 on it, sold it to a pizza delivery guy.
    Never stranded me once.

    It ate CV’s,alternators & valve cover gaskets frequently.
    Best heater in a car I have ever had.

  • avatar
    50merc

    I haven’t been able to find an ’82 to cannibalize for electrical parts for an ’82 LeBaron convertible. If I were really ambitious I’d look for a later K-car with fuel injection and liberate all the parts needed to update the ’82. But really, is an ’82 K-car worth that much effort?

  • avatar
    kinsha

    I think this has to be 1988 or newer because of the fuel injection. I worked for a small company that used these for delivery cars. 1st was 1984 aries wagon then a 1986 Omni America, and last but not least a 1988 aries K all with the 2.2. The 1988 was the only one fuel injected. The other two were carbed with Chryslers famous run on problem after you turned them off. After a while they all slammed in gear and just about throw you through the windshield. The dash would vibrate violently at stop lights. They all had problem with wheel lugs sheering off. Definitly the bic lighter of cars in the day. They did get Chrysler out of debt.

    • 0 avatar
      golden2husky

      My 87 was injected. I thought that EFI started in 1986. Regarding the run on with the horrible carbs, to alliviate that the air conditioned cars had a “anti diesel relay” that engaged the A/C clutch when the car was shut down, which worked as long as the air worked. Our 81 had such a system which produced a nasty surprise when the clutch bearing failed. The clutch overheated and melted out the resin poured around the clutch magnet. The belt also burnt up and snapped. When the car was shut off, the relay closed and tried to energize the clutch. The end result of that dead short was the burning up of the fusible link in the wiring harness. I wired around it and replaced the clutch. Early K cars had a lot of this kind of stuff….not nearly as robust as the later units….

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      From Wikipedia…

      “Significant powertrain changes were made for 1986. The 2.2 L engine’s carburetor was replaced by a new throttle-body electronic fuel injection system, while a new 2.5 L four-cylinder engine, also fuel-injected, was added to the option list, replacing the Mitsubishi 2.6 L. The four-speed manual transmission — previously offered as standard equipment — was dropped.”

  • 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.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    We had two in my extended family. My favorite Aunt had a light brown wagon with the delightful combination of bench seat but 4spd stick (brown manual wagon yo!). My Aunt is about 4’11”. Made it great fun to try to sit in front with her when I was 6’2″ in the 8th grade. There was more room in the back of my Mom’s 911… I will say that once I got my license and was able to put the seat back, that it was kind of a fun beast to flog. It lasted a surprisingly long time too.

    My Great Aunt and Uncle had a dark brown automatic wagon for a while. They were, shall we say, *LARGE* people. That car shortly took on a permanent list to the driver’s side… It also blew its engine up shortly after the warranty was up. Their last Chrysler product ever.

  • avatar
    talkstoanimals

    This post brought back found memories of the time a family friend borrowed my father’s pickup truck and left us with his K-Car for a few days. This particular friend was very tall and had a rather impressive afro. I pointed out that the headliner above the driver’s seat was worn completely through where his hair rubbed the ceiling. My dad, his friend, and I all got a good chuckle out of that.

    I remember thinking back then that the exterior styling of the K-Car was a pretty blatant and ham-handed ripoff of Mercedes. The pictures in this post have done little to change my view on that point.

    • 0 avatar
      jhefner

      …and made the 190E look like an overpriced K car.

      • 0 avatar
        raresleeper

        You’re joking… right?

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          The 190E was very stately IMO, especially among similar sized cars. In the later years, maybe 91-93, they sold it in a very nice bronze/brown color, which still looks brilliant today.

        • 0 avatar
          jhefner

          No, I’m not. An accident totaled my Reliant out early; but the only repair it needed was a CV joint. It was a lease return; when the mechanic put it up on the lift, he found dirt wedged between the oil pan and the subframe; someone had apparently buried it up to it’s hubs in mud and didn’t tell the dealer.

          My Dad bought the first Reliant for my older sister, and was so impressed, he bought one for me and my younger sister. Mine was harvest gold, her was chocolate brown; with matching interiors. Dad was so proud of them; and both sisters kept theirs long after mine was totaled. My younger sister replaced hers with a Dodge Shadow.

          The Dodge Spirit/Plymouth Acclaim were K-Car version 2.0 but much better built; as I mentioned before; I kept mine till 2004. The odometer broke several years before @175K, so it had well over 200K when I sold it in running condition. One of the driver’s window clips were broken, the radiator was leaking, the A/C was out, and gas gauge was reading a quarter tank too optimistic. But the only repair it ever needed besides tires and oil changes was to replace the timing belt at 120,000 miles. I could have thrown a thousand or so at it to fix those things; but it was a redundant car in our fleet, so I sold it.

          There is a reason why the Malaise is defined as being from 1973-1983. My father, who passed away three years ago; would always sell off his cars at 75K because he didn’t expect them to last any longer than that without needing extensive repairs. My Fury was an exception because it was a company car that spent two years and 90,000 miles driving back and forth between Lafayette, LA and New Orleans, LA; it still felt and looked like a new car when he bought it.

          The cars of the post-Malaise 1980s-1990s were the first you could hope to keep past 100K without heroic levels of service. No, they are nothing like today’s cars; but they were a breathe of fresh air compared to the cars they replaced.

          • 0 avatar
            jhefner

            And I think that is why the 190E sold poorly in the U.S. — if you wanted a Mercedes, you wanted a big Mercedes, not a car the size of a K-Car that looked like a K-Car; but cost much more. I am sure the Mercedes quality was there; but the resemblance was too close for most people’s taste.

          • 0 avatar
            NoGoYo

            My sister’s 92 Acclaim sure doesn’t want to die, despite needing a head gasket a while ago. Maybe the combination of beige paint, beige interior, rather gutless 4 cylinder, and 3 speed automatic transmission makes it simply too bland to die. =P

  • avatar
    countymountie

    There’s a guy on CL selling an 83 Reliant north of Denver that looks to be in similar shape to this one with a claimed 71k on the odo. Asking $2000. If I only had an 8th parking spot I’d bring it home.

  • avatar

    Hahahaha! My school had these for driver’s ed. I remember three things:

    They were light

    The power steering pump would constantly whine

    The heater worked

  • avatar

    In an attempt to give off a “green” image before it was popular 94 and 95 build year neons were sprayed with a water-based paint it didnt work. White, Lapis Blue, and, Light Iris Metallic were the worst affected with the tell tale being large sheets of paint just falling off. There was never an official TSB or Recall most affected cars we’re offered repaints at dealers if the owners brought them in unfortunately most people did not.

    I could really use the doors and fenders off this car for my 89 Reliant (for sale near LeMons money if anybody wants)

    • 0 avatar
      jhefner

      It wasn’t just the Neon; most builders switched to water based paint that time, the clear coat seperation issue came about because certain colors absorbed heat faster than others, and cured before the clearcoat was applied. So dark blue, dark red, dark green, black, white, and silver were often affected; silver cars were not painted as heavily because they were silver, and they often suffered paint failure.

      My 1990 Dodge Spirit also suffered from paint failure on the roof and hood; after trying to get Chrysler to paint it for free with no success a local dealer wanting my business on a new car finally did. I unfortunately kept the Spirit longer than he stayed in business.

  • avatar
    davew833

    My mom had an ’86 Dodge Aries five years ago– it was a decent little car but did have quite a bit of rust in rear lower quarters and some “old lady” body damage much like the one in the article. It was fuel injected, if I recall correctly. One day the timing belt snapped in the driveway as she was backing out, so she gave it to me. I replaced the timing belt and drove it to the junkyard to get $200 for it.

    interestingly, She replaced the Aries with a ’93 Mercedes 190E 2.3 which ran well for about nine months until the engine seized for reasons still unknown. (It did have the common head gasket oil leak, but we always watched the oil level.) THAT one got towed to the same junkyard the Aries went to. This time she got the $200. In retrospect, she should have kept the Aries.

    • 0 avatar
      jhefner

      My home town was centered around the oil industry, a university, and a medical center. So, it was mostly a white collar affulent town west of the RR tracks; and there were several 190Es in town.

      I had an opportunity to park my 84 Reliant wagon next to one on occassion. The detail differences and the fact that the Reliant was FWD and the 190E was RWD would be obvious to us; but what most people saw was:

      * A three point star instead of pentastar
      * 2.5 on the trunk lid instead of a 2.2L (if they knew what was in the Reliant)
      * Windshield wipers on the headlights.

      Looking inside, they saw rich but drab looking black MB-leather, a hump in the floor, and a first aid kit in the package deck. The Reliant had it’s plastic wood, vinyl and clothe, and flat floor with seating for six.

      They then compared the sticker prices and thought “what the heck!” The Reliant was fun to throw around; the 190E’s handling advantage was only obvious at 9/10s spirited driving. Then there was the cost of repairs.

      So they either moved up to a 300 — or bought a K-Car. Mercedes targeted the 190E as an affordable alternative to buyers who could not afford the larger Mercedes; when most buyers found a Chrysler to be close enough without paying the 190E price. That may shock the bourgeoisie Mercedes fans to the core; but that was the way it was, and why the 190E did not sell well. When my father saw them on the road, that was always his comment — “Looks like a K Car to me.”

      And as time wore on, the 190Es held up no better than the K Cars did, if not worst, since repairs were more expensive and they were often thrown away first for that reason; while the cheap-to-maintain K Cars soldiered on.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    No close up picture of the odo. Sob! I would love to know how many miles (see the gauges are still there).

    This was in remarkable condition.

  • avatar
    CompWizrd

    Learned to drive on an ’87 variant of this, with the 2.5, and about 340,000 km’s on it when it was about 10 years old and I was allowed to drive it.

    Things to remember while driving it:

    1. Warm it up. Warm it up even in the summer. If you didn’t warm it up for about 10 minutes, you would stall on your first left turn.

    2. Put gas in it. Put more gas in it. Maybe some oil too. Averaged under 20mpg.

    3. Leave lots of room when merging after your successful left turn. 0-60mph was 29 seconds, at best. Leave room for the semi truck beside you, as he will beat you off the line.

    4. It is your mothers car. There is absolutely nothing wrong with it. Saying otherwise will result in loss of driving privileges. It has survived your mother driving it for 10 years.

    My dad used to keep a box of thermostats in the garage.. I can’t remember for sure if this was the ’80 Diplomat or the ’87 Aries, everytime my mother would complain the car had no heat he’d pull a thermostat out, put it in the car, and put the old one back in the box for use next year.

    My dad’s ’84 Dodge ram drove normally, learned to check blind spots because of the cap on the back. Found myself not beating it up quite as much either.

    • 0 avatar
      CompWizrd

      And yes, the paint came off the Aries in a hurry.

      My mother replaced it with a ’97 Neon, which also lost its paint. (and more than a few other things) She now drives a ’11 Focus, and it’s been trouble free(along with my wife’s of the same year.)

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    My grandfather had one of these in charcoal grey with most options but for some reason radio delete. Family members would ask him “gramps, you want us to get a radio installed for you?” But he would just shrug it off. “Eh, what do I need it for” After many years of owning Corvairs (2) an Impala and a Torino he was quite ok, actually smitten with the Aries K. He resided in South Florida and was still driving it well into his early 90’s but slowly losing his facilities. Yes, the folks at N. Miami DMV still renewed his DL. His vision was still swell after all. One day when shopping he could not find the car in the parking lot. We all though that it was the memory fading but the car was actually stolen. It was early 90’s Miami after all. Probably ended up on a boat bound for S. America for use as a Brazilian cab.

    • 0 avatar

      If it when anywhere in Latin America, it probably went to somewhere in Central America or the Carribean. Rest assured that in most of South America, particularly the South Cone, this car would stand out like a sore thumb. Cars like these simply didn’t sell here.

  • avatar
    bertolini

    Great. Check TTAC on a break at work and see my DD as today’s find. Mine – 1986 Aries 2.5 FI 3 SPD auto 122K on it. My GF will love this Down on the Junkyard…

  • avatar

    Now, in 2014, one can start seeing the beauty in this design. Now that cars like this have gone away we can look back and appreciate them. 15-20 yrs ago, this kind of design was too familiar and that made us just not see them. Nowadays they’re cool and we can realize that they’re actually pretty.

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      We do?

      No, we don’t

      • 0 avatar

        We don’t?

        Using we as an impersonal pronoun, not as the majestc we, ;)

        Looking at the pics, they arouse in me the same response as the Volvo 71 Murilee showcased a while back. Just thought it was a simple, strong, clean design. That’s all.

      • 0 avatar
        Lorenzo

        Well, maybe we can’t see the beauty IN them, but we can see all the beauty OUT of them, because they have the greenhouse to do it. And look at that back window: not very racy, but it stays clean, and it doesn’t need a wiper to see out of it in the rain. You can also see the four (rounded) corners of the car! Plus, you can actually see that sports car tailgating you in time to get out of the way.

        That last point is important. I rented a Taurus last month, and while on the freeway, I stretched upward a bit, and suddenlty noticed a BMW a half-car length behind me, tailgating me at 60 mph (the limit). I didn’t know the jerk was there, but once I was aware, he/she suddenly shot past me in the shoulder of a single lane freeway-to-freeway ramp, and cut off a car while merging. I was able to brake in time for the braking car he cut off. I try to be aware of idjits on the road, but you have to SEE them first.

  • avatar
    Reicher

    My mom had one she bought used and the previous owner had it custom painted canary yellow with an black pin stripe down the side. She loved that box. She was so angry when my dad sold it on her and got a green Dodge Spirit. Even now my mom liked the k-car over the spirit haha.

    Theres also a guy back that uses a blue one to drive around town (has very little rust for being in the snowbelt of ontario) and last time I talked to him, he said the odometer has maxed out and restarted at least 5 times since him and his son have used it.

    I also know a mechanic who loves these cars for demolition derbys. I asked him why he like them and he told me “they are really hard to kill and only one specific way can knock it out easily….same with volvos”

  • avatar
    Allan850glt

    Had one of these briefly in 2000. ’86 Reliant K-SE. Black over red cloth. 2.5 TBFI, Auto, PS/PB, Air, tilt, cruise, p/locks, p/trunk release and AM/FM. I think it had about 150k miles on her at purchase and it cost a whole $400. Bought as a temporary car to replace my ’89 Pulsar NX/SE. Old lady car from new. Had the 14 inch wheel/tires option. Actually moved pretty quick with the 2.5. These were my raver days so she got used and somewhat abused and was covered in an array of DJ stickers outside and glow in the dark planets and constellations adorned the headliner as well as held it up. Got a few good months of hard service out of it. Damn good on gas. Body was decent for an old Buffalo car, only the rear quarters were getting cancerous. Eventually the tranny started slipping and I didn’t feel it was worth putting the work into a K car with a lot of miles and one that was starting to rust. Definitely had some good times in it. Sold it for $50 to a kid I worked with who wanted the front end for his sister’s who’s was black and now sporting a gray front end. It did what I needed while I banked dough for a Hyundai Elantra. You still see these from time to time around these parts. One Wegman’s Market Employee has a particularly nice ’81 Reliant Coupe in brown and tan with a front half vinyl roof, upmarket wheel covers and buckets. Cute and odd little driver that wasn’t so odd to see many years ago. There’s also a good few ‘8Os K Lebaron and 400/600 Convertibles driving around here in the nicer weather. Still kicking myself in the keister for not picking up an ’84 Dodge 600 ES Turbo Ragtop in the ever popular Dusty-Gold Metallic a few years back!


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