The Truth About Cars » K-car http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Wed, 23 Apr 2014 16:58:35 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » K-car http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Junkyard Find: 1986 Dodge Aries K http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/junkyard-find-1986-dodge-aries-k/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/junkyard-find-1986-dodge-aries-k/#comments Wed, 05 Mar 2014 14:00:40 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=764217 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.
Don’t forget to visit the Home of the Murilee Martin Lifestyle Brand™!

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Junkyard Find: 1992 Chrysler Imperial http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/06/junkyard-find-1992-chrysler-imperial/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/06/junkyard-find-1992-chrysler-imperial/#comments Sat, 22 Jun 2013 13:00:02 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=492945 05 - 1992 Chrysler Imperial Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe most luxurious member of all the extended Chrysler K-Car family had to have been the K-based (actually Y-based, the Y being yet another variety of stretched K chassis) 1990-1993 Imperial. We’ve seen some serious Whorehouse Red interiors in this series— this ’80 Skylark, for example, or this ’83 Pulsar, or this 1993 Dynasty— but no vehicle interior this side of a Acapulco Gold-scented custom van ever came with as much screamin’ red velour as this Imperial.
35 - 1992 Chrysler Imperial Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinIt’s hard to believe that this octogenarian-targeted dreadnaught is the descendent of the tiny, sensible Aries and Reliant K-Cars of a decade earlier.
18 - 1992 Chrysler Imperial Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinChrysler went through periods during which the Imperial was a separate marque, but this generation was badged as a Chrysler.
04 - 1992 Chrysler Imperial Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinEagle medallions are all over this car.
11 - 1992 Chrysler Imperial Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinIt’s in very nice condition, as befits a 120,457-mile California car. No rust, interior in great shape, body straight. The only blemishes are some spots with peeling paint.
01 - 1992 Chrysler Imperial Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinNo Mitsubishi engine for this car— you’re looking at a Chrysler-designed, 3.8 liter 60-degree V6 here. 150 horsepower wasn’t anything special, but the car was pure Detroit.
22 - 1992 Chrysler Imperial Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinPadded landau roof, of course!
25 - 1992 Chrysler Imperial Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinABS was still something special in the early 1990s.
33 - 1992 Chrysler Imperial Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinList price on this car was $29,381, which was about $49,000 in inflation-adjusted 2013 dollars. That’s about the same price as a base 1993 Acura Legend, or a ’93 BMW 325i. Not that Imperial shoppers would have considered those cars.

There is no luxury… without engineering.

01 - 1992 Chrysler Imperial Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 02 - 1992 Chrysler Imperial Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 - 1992 Chrysler Imperial Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 - 1992 Chrysler Imperial Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 - 1992 Chrysler Imperial Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 - 1992 Chrysler Imperial Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 07 - 1992 Chrysler Imperial Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 08 - 1992 Chrysler Imperial Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 09 - 1992 Chrysler Imperial Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 10 - 1992 Chrysler Imperial Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 11 - 1992 Chrysler Imperial Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 12 - 1992 Chrysler Imperial Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 13 - 1992 Chrysler Imperial Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 14 - 1992 Chrysler Imperial Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 15 - 1992 Chrysler Imperial Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 16 - 1992 Chrysler Imperial Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 17 - 1992 Chrysler Imperial Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 18 - 1992 Chrysler Imperial Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 19 - 1992 Chrysler Imperial Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 20 - 1992 Chrysler Imperial Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 21 - 1992 Chrysler Imperial Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 22 - 1992 Chrysler Imperial Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 23 - 1992 Chrysler Imperial Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 24 - 1992 Chrysler Imperial Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 25 - 1992 Chrysler Imperial Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 26 - 1992 Chrysler Imperial Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 27 - 1992 Chrysler Imperial Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 28 - 1992 Chrysler Imperial Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 29 - 1992 Chrysler Imperial Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 30 - 1992 Chrysler Imperial Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 31 - 1992 Chrysler Imperial Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 32 - 1992 Chrysler Imperial Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 33 - 1992 Chrysler Imperial Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 34 - 1992 Chrysler Imperial Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 35 - 1992 Chrysler Imperial Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 36 - 1992 Chrysler Imperial Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 37 - 1992 Chrysler Imperial Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 38 - 1992 Chrysler Imperial Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin ]]>
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Junkyard Find: 1993 Dodge Shadow ES http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/12/junkyard-find-1993-dodge-shadow-es/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/12/junkyard-find-1993-dodge-shadow-es/#comments Sat, 15 Dec 2012 18:35:14 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=470226 We often forget about the P-body version of Chrysler’s mainstay-for-15-years K platform, though Shadows and Sundances once roamed North American highways in huge numbers. I still see plenty of completely trashed Ps in self-service wrecking yards— for example, this ’91 Shadow, this ’92 Sundance, and this super-rare Sundance America— but it takes something special to make me willing to do a Junkyard Find on a P. Early-90s factory tape graphics on a crypto-sporty Shadow sold just before the advent of the Neon? Yes, there’s some historical significance here.
The El Cheapo Plymouth Sundance America was Chrysler’s attempt to follow up the even more El Cheapo Horizon America (Jack Baruth explores the fate of the Horizon America and similar attempts at the creation of super-affordable compacts in this piece), but meanwhile the slightly more upscale Dodge Division was aiming for a few more bucks with cars like this optioned-up Shadow ES.
I believe ES is supposed to stand for “Executive Sedan.”
222,592 miles on the clock, which is quite respectable.
That mileage figure is even more impressive when you consider that this car has a Mitsubishi heart: the 3-liter 6G72 V6 engine, the naturally-aspirated version of the engine that powered the 3000GT/Stealth and countless minivans.
With 142 horsepower hauling just 2,690 pounds, this ’93 Shadow ES was quick enough to deserve its decklid wing.

18 - 1993 Dodge Shadow Down On the Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 01 - 1993 Dodge Shadow Down On the Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 02 - 1993 Dodge Shadow Down On the Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 - 1993 Dodge Shadow Down On the Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 - 1993 Dodge Shadow Down On the Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 - 1993 Dodge Shadow Down On the Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 - 1993 Dodge Shadow Down On the Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 07 - 1993 Dodge Shadow Down On the Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 08 - 1993 Dodge Shadow Down On the Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 09 - 1993 Dodge Shadow Down On the Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 10 - 1993 Dodge Shadow Down On the Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 11 - 1993 Dodge Shadow Down On the Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 12 - 1993 Dodge Shadow Down On the Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 13 - 1993 Dodge Shadow Down On the Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 14 - 1993 Dodge Shadow Down On the Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 15 - 1993 Dodge Shadow Down On the Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 16 - 1993 Dodge Shadow Down On the Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 17 - 1993 Dodge Shadow Down On the Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail ]]>
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Junkyard Find: 1983 Dodge Aries http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/02/junkyard-find-1983-dodge-aries/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/02/junkyard-find-1983-dodge-aries/#comments Thu, 23 Feb 2012 14:00:15 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=431937 So, after Chrysler got those government-backed loans that saved the company in 1979— take note, members of the Iacocca Jihad, that I am not calling those loans a bailout (even though Uncle Sam would have been forced to cover them if Chrysler had failed), and thus you may rest easy that this writer is not lumping your favorite Italian-owned corporation in with the People’s Democratic Cadres’ Bailed-Out Motors Corporation— everything hinged on the K-platform cars being a success. And they were!
The really impressive thing about the Aries (and its Plymouth Reliant sibling) was that Chrysler managed to make a reasonably modern, fuel-efficient front-wheel-drive sedan that still felt like a real American car inside. Bench seats! Lots of room! Comfy ride! Look at this interior— except for the flat floor, you could be looking at the inside of a ’73 Satellite.
It even has hood springs instead of the usual small-car prop rod.
The Chrysler 2.2 engine was still carbureted in 1983, but it had an “Electronic Control System” (which I’m assuming was a primitive mixture-adjusting feedback carburetor setup).
These weren’t great cars by modern standards, but keep in mind that you could still buy the staggeringly obsolete and fuel-swilling Cordoba in 1983. The Aries got the job done, it was cheap, and it felt like a proper Detroit car. GM fell flat on its face trying to accomplish the same feat with the Citation and related X-bodies, and the company never really recovered from that debacle.
Many of us don’t take the early Ks very seriously these days, since Chrysler stuck with the platform and its seemingly hundreds of derivatives about five years too long, plus we’ve spent the last 20 years looking at completely hooptied-out beater Ks limping along on space-saver spares in a trail of oil smoke. However, this was a very important car, and it’s sad that the last survivors are straggling into the jaws of the Crusher.

21 -1983 Dodge Aries Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Phillip 'It Wasn't a Bailout' Greden 01 -1983 Dodge Aries Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Phillip 'It Wasn't a Bailout' Greden 03 -1983 Dodge Aries Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Phillip 'It Wasn't a Bailout' Greden 04 -1983 Dodge Aries Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Phillip 'It Wasn't a Bailout' Greden 06 -1983 Dodge Aries Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Phillip 'It Wasn't a Bailout' Greden 07 -1983 Dodge Aries Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Phillip 'It Wasn't a Bailout' Greden 08 -1983 Dodge Aries Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Phillip 'It Wasn't a Bailout' Greden 09 -1983 Dodge Aries Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Phillip 'It Wasn't a Bailout' Greden 10 -1983 Dodge Aries Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Phillip 'It Wasn't a Bailout' Greden 11 -1983 Dodge Aries Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Phillip 'It Wasn't a Bailout' Greden 12 -1983 Dodge Aries Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Phillip 'It Wasn't a Bailout' Greden 13 -1983 Dodge Aries Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Phillip 'It Wasn't a Bailout' Greden 14 -1983 Dodge Aries Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Phillip 'It Wasn't a Bailout' Greden 15 -1983 Dodge Aries Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Phillip 'It Wasn't a Bailout' Greden 16 -1983 Dodge Aries Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Phillip 'It Wasn't a Bailout' Greden 17 -1983 Dodge Aries Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Phillip 'It Wasn't a Bailout' Greden 18 -1983 Dodge Aries Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Phillip 'It Wasn't a Bailout' Greden 19 -1983 Dodge Aries Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Phillip 'It Wasn't a Bailout' Greden 20 -1983 Dodge Aries Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Phillip 'It Wasn't a Bailout' Greden kcar Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail ]]>
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Junkyard Find: 1993 Dodge Dynasty http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/01/junkyard-find-1993-dodge-dynasty/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/01/junkyard-find-1993-dodge-dynasty/#comments Tue, 17 Jan 2012 14:00:51 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=426787 The TV show Dynasty was long gone by 1993, but Chrysler kept the glamorous Dynasty name on their C-Body cars (the 114th variation of the K platform) until 1993. The Dynasty is one of those cars Chrysler wishes we’d all forget (right down there with the Diplomat-based LeBaron), and thus it seems historically significant when I find an example in the junkyard.
Say what you will about the misery of a very-long-in-tooth platform being used as the basis for a luxury car that caused the Europeans— or even GM— exactly zero lost sleep, but you must admit that this is one seriously pimp-grade red velour interior. I’m tempted to go get these seats for my A100!
You’d have to be a pretty low-budget pimp to feel at all fly in a Dynasty, once you looked at the exterior. Perhaps a pimp working the Oildale, California, Greyhound station in 1996 might have felt a tiny glimmer of car pride while stepping out of his Dynasty… no, he’d have traded it in on the Dodge C-Body’s much better-looking replacement: the Intrepid.
The Chrysler-made 3.3 V6 made a pretty-good-for-a-K 149 horses, and it also benefited from not being a Mitsubishi product.

1993 Dodge Dynasty Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Phillip "Warlord of the Alameda East Side Locos" Greden 1993 Dodge Dynasty Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Phillip "Warlord of the Alameda East Side Locos" Greden 1993 Dodge Dynasty Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Phillip "Warlord of the Alameda East Side Locos" Greden 1993 Dodge Dynasty Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Phillip "Warlord of the Alameda East Side Locos" Greden 1993 Dodge Dynasty Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Phillip "Warlord of the Alameda East Side Locos" Greden 1993 Dodge Dynasty Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Phillip "Warlord of the Alameda East Side Locos" Greden 1993 Dodge Dynasty Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Phillip "Warlord of the Alameda East Side Locos" Greden 1993 Dodge Dynasty Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Phillip "Warlord of the Alameda East Side Locos" Greden 1993 Dodge Dynasty Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Phillip "Warlord of the Alameda East Side Locos" Greden 1993 Dodge Dynasty Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Phillip "Warlord of the Alameda East Side Locos" Greden 1993 Dodge Dynasty Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Phillip "Warlord of the Alameda East Side Locos" Greden 1993 Dodge Dynasty Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Phillip "Warlord of the Alameda East Side Locos" Greden 1993 Dodge Dynasty Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Phillip "Warlord of the Alameda East Side Locos" Greden 1993 Dodge Dynasty Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Phillip "Warlord of the Alameda East Side Locos" Greden 1993 Dodge Dynasty Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Phillip "Warlord of the Alameda East Side Locos" Greden 1993 Dodge Dynasty Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Phillip "Warlord of the Alameda East Side Locos" Greden 1993 Dodge Dynasty Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Phillip "Warlord of the Alameda East Side Locos" Greden 1993 Dodge Dynasty Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Phillip "Warlord of the Alameda East Side Locos" Greden 1993 Dodge Dynasty Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Phillip "Warlord of the Alameda East Side Locos" Greden 1993 Dodge Dynasty Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Phillip "Warlord of the Alameda East Side Locos" Greden 1993 Dodge Dynasty Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Phillip "Warlord of the Alameda East Side Locos" Greden 1993 Dodge Dynasty Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Phillip "Warlord of the Alameda East Side Locos" Greden 1993 Dodge Dynasty Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Phillip "Warlord of the Alameda East Side Locos" Greden 1993 Dodge Dynasty Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Phillip "Warlord of the Alameda East Side Locos" Greden 1993 Dodge Dynasty Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Phillip "Warlord of the Alameda East Side Locos" Greden Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail ]]>
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Mystery Car: Quick, What the Hell Is It? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/09/mystery-car-quick-what-the-hell-is-it/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/09/mystery-car-quick-what-the-hell-is-it/#comments Tue, 13 Sep 2011 13:00:25 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=411049 I usually limit my cars-in-the-wild photography to street-parked machinery, but I had to make an exception for this fine motor vehicle that I spotted in a Denver parking lot. I’m pretty sure I’m seeing Chrysler K-platform ancestry here, but… words fail me.
Quite a bit of labor-intensive customization has gone into this machine, and I can’t tell whether it’s a K-based kit car with further modifications or a 200-proof, one-of-a-kind dream project.
If I had to guess, I’d say there’s a late-80s/early-90s LeBaron in there somewhere, with custom grill, custom hatch, custom taillights, and custom everything. Your thoughts?

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Adventures In Used Car Sales, Recession Edition: Get In Here! http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/08/adventures-in-used-car-sales-recession-edition-get-in-here/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/08/adventures-in-used-car-sales-recession-edition-get-in-here/#comments Wed, 24 Aug 2011 18:30:11 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=408530 Way back in 2008, I created the Nice Price or Crack Pipe? series for Jalopnik, kicking things off with— of course— a $12,500 Chrysler TC By Maserati. NCOCP was a way for me to do something with car ads that didn’t quite work for my Project Car Hell series, and it has remained a Jalopnik readership favorite since I passed the NPOCP torch to the very capable hands of Graverobber aka Robert Emslie. These days, however, I sometimes see cars for sale that make me wonder… hubba rocks required or real-world price? While in Wisconsin last week, I saw this fairly solid ’91 Lebaron convertible in a laundromat parking lot with this very compelling self-service invitation. How much?
Hmmm… $3,250? The Kelley Blue Book website says a private-party-seller 108,000-mile LeBaron convertible with six-cylinder engine in good condition should be worth $1,650 in Wisconsin.
It hasn’t been driven in winter since 2001, but it appears to suffer from multiple electrical problems, oil leaks, and other stuff I can’t quite make out. I’m sure these things are quite rare in the rusty Upper Midwest, so perhaps that buyer who’s been jonesing for a clean LeBaron convertible will come along and get in there.
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Junkyard Find: 1987 Dodge Daytona Shelby Z http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/04/junkyard-find-1987-dodge-daytona-shelby-z/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/04/junkyard-find-1987-dodge-daytona-shelby-z/#comments Fri, 29 Apr 2011 13:00:09 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=393192
174 horsepower in a 2,812-pound car was pretty good for 1987, and Carroll Shelby’s name on the decklid and doors ought to mean something… yet nobody seems to love the Daytona Shelby Z today. Witness this ’87, now moldering in a Denver self-service wrecking yard.

At $12,749 (about 25 grand in 2011 dollars), the Shelby Z wasn’t cheap; you could get the regular Daytona for $9,799… or head across the street to the Chevy dealer and get a new Z28 for $12,819.

I’m tempted to buy that hyper-80s boost gauge, just to frame on my wall.

Someday, the Shelby Chryslers might be the Next Big Thing in collectible classic automobiles. Not yet, though. If only that Lamborghini Jalpa-engined AWD Daytona had gone into production, Things Would Be Different Now.

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How To Be An Automotive Journalist, Part III: Pathetic “Platform” Prose http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/09/how-to-be-an-automotive-journalist-part-iii-pathetic-platform-prose/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/09/how-to-be-an-automotive-journalist-part-iii-pathetic-platform-prose/#comments Mon, 27 Sep 2010 14:40:09 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=366883

There are times I really wish I had half the brains, knowledge, and skill of the average print-rag journo. Today is one of those times. You see, in my not-so-spare time, my race team and I have designed a lower control-arm brace for the first-generation Neon. It’s a neat thing, looks very industrial. I’m making it right here in Ohio, using 5000-series aluminum for corrosion resistance. The parts are laser-cut, and we have some semi-sophisticated CAD modeling tools involved to ensure it’s as strong as possible for the given weight. I’ll have the first batch of fifty in my hands this upcoming Friday.

Now here’s the big question. Will this brace fit the second-generation Neon? For the last decade, I’ve been reading various assertions by “automotive journalists” that the “PL2000″ Neon is really the same “platform” as the first-gen car. If that’s really true — if all Neons are the same under the skin — this brace should bolt right up and we won’t have to go back to the CATIA screen to design a different one. We could sell a lot of them to owners of the newer Neons and SRT-4s. What do you think? Would you double your planned production run based on what you’ve read in Car and Driver? Of course not. Instead, we’re heading to the junkyard with a prototype to measure and check.

What the hell is a “platform” anyway? Once upon a time, a “platform” was called a “chassis”. Many early motorists ordered a chassis and engine from one manufacturer and had it “bodied” elsewhere. Nearly all of the automobiles built before the Second World War could be driven around without their bodies. The use of a Model T sans body as a kind of hillbilly proto-ATV was particularly popular. As late as 1966, Rolls-Royce had two different “coachbuilders” create unibody Silver Shadow coupes. James Young created a Shadow Coupe with a straight beltline; Mulliner Park Ward built a dipped-waist variant that became the Corniche.

Don’t rush down to your local Ford dealer and ask to buy a “D3 chassis”, because there’s no such thing. We are deep in the unibody era now and you couldn’t put a Flex body on a Taurus sedan floorpan without the assistance of a dozen expert fabricators and hundreds, possibly thousands, of labor hours. Same goes for making a Highlander out of a Camry, or a Flying Spur out of a Phaeton.

A platform is really a concept. It’s a set of shared measurements and designs. It’s a way to avoid doing some obscenely expensive first-principle engineering. Example: Honda designed a solid, well-proven suspension, engine mounting system, and set of “hard point” locations for HVAC/electronics/seat mounting for the Accord. By beefing-up those designs but keeping the same basic principles, they could make them work under a minivan, thus the Odyssey. And once you have those pieces in your inventory, why not build an SUV with them? It’s entirely possible that someday, somewhere, somebody will assemble four-wheel-drive, jacked-up Accords using Pilot components. If they bolt together, that is. The only way to know for sure is to measure it out and then do it.

Thirty years ago, the American automakers were under pressure. From Wall Street, to churn quarterly profit. From the government, to be “responsible”. From the public, to turn out a halfway decent product. Chrysler and General Motors decided to very publicly discuss the “X-body”, “K-car”, and “J-platform” when introducing their new vehicles. Doing so satisfied Wall Street: it was obviously cheaper to have a common underlying platform. It satisfied the governmental authorities, who not-so-secretly yearned for the day they would be able to mandate a single kind of car for everyone. And it satisfied the public that all the new cars, whether they were Citations, Skylarks, Omegas, or Phoenixes, had the latest engineering. But did anybody stop to ask if it was true?

I’m serious. For all anybody really knew, the Cimarron and the Cavalier could have been totally different under the skin. Sometimes the “platform twins” really were different, even if they had the same nameplate on them. Try swapping doors among the “G-body” Regal, Cutlass, and Malibu. They don’t always fit. Some critical dimensions were changed for the different assembly plants. What I’m getting at here, though, is that in automotive “journalism” we assume the manufacturer is telling the truth, unless it conflicts with our preconceptions.

Every automotive journalist in America implicitly accepted that the 1981 Aries and Reliant were the same car. Nobody measured them out. Nobody swapped parts just to check. They just took Chrysler’s word on the subject. Nothing’s changed in the past thirty years. All the babbling in the press about, say, the new Explorer, is just that — babbling. Nobody’s done the work to see just how different the Explorer is from the Flex under the skin. We all took Ford’s word that the two are related. What else can we do in the space of a hour-long test drive along a pre-planned route?

This leaves journalists with a problem, namely: If I get all my “platform” information from the manufacturers, how can I sound more insightful than my peers without actually doing any work? The answer is to make stuff up. I won’t link to examples of these assertions, particularly since a few of the links would have the same basic URL as found in this article, but how often have you read statements like:

  • The Cavalier was “fundamentally the same” throughout its 23-year run, and the Cobalt uses the same basic platform as its predecessor?
  • The Ford Panthers are “the same car underneath” from 1980 to 2010?
  • The (insert name of full-sized truck or van here) hasn’t “really” changed since (1970-something)?
  • The Chrysler 300 is just an old W210 E-Class “in drag”?

All of the above assertions are exposed for the garbage they are the minute you look underneath the vehicles in question with any kind of tape measure or caliper, but they sound very knowledgeable when you read them on a website or in a magazine. It’s lazy journalism at its finest, spouting ridiculous, uninformed assumptions as loud as humanly possible.

Note that I used American and/or German manufacturers for the examples above. The reason I did that? The Japanese aren’t stupid. For a long time now, they have carefully controlled the information they dole out regarding platform-sharing. That’s why the Civic and Corolla are always called “all-new” by the sycophantic press and the domestic subcompacts are always “carryover” this and “reused” that.

As someone who has raced a few Hondas and worked in a race garage with a few more, I can tell you from firsthand, turn-the-wrench experience that there are tremendous similarities between any two consecutive generations of Civics. Why is the press silent on this? It’s simple. Honda doesn’t think they have a need to know about commonalities, so Honda doesn’t tell them, and there’s obviously no way these fat-ass buffet hounds will find out on their own. It’s a brilliant strategy.

For more than thirty years, the Motor Trends of the world have swallowed and unthinkingly repeated the ridiculous idea that Japanese automakers effortlessly clean-sheet their entire lineup every four years while the domestics and Germans drag “platforms” out for decade-plus life spans. Two hours in a garage with a few tape measures would have exposed the falsehood — but who’s gonna do that when there are free drinks available at the hotel bar?

The irony of this is that Honda’s relentless determination to reuse critical dimensions, designs, and even bolts is a key factor in ensuring their famous reliability. It also allows NASA Honda Challenge race teams to “LEGO-set” some pretty neat cars. Want to put a Cobalt SS turbo engine in an ’02 Cavalier? No freakin’ way, not without a plasma torch. Want to put a Prelude engine in a CRX? Check out HondaSwap for the instructions. Those people know how similar most Hondas are, but they aren’t writing the “Wheels” section in your local newspaper.

The manufacturers are all wising-up to the fact that autojournos are too stupid to do their research on platforms. During the recent Cruze introduction, Chevrolet PR people repeatedly made semi-misleading “platform chat” assertions to link the Cruze with the Opel Astra, forgetting to mention that, while the Cruze is a “platform mate” with the Astra, it’s also a near-complete twin of a Daewoo. The recent Scion tC launch barely mentioned the Toyota Avensis, and furthermore, the Toyota PR people absolutely refused to speculate on whether the tC was a refreshed first-gen Avensis platform or a second-gen Avensis platform, or even if said two Avensis generations were different in any substantial way.

This isn’t stopping my fellow journalists from boldly forging ahead with new platform-based diatribes. One fellow recently wrote that the 370Z was a “converted truck”, citing the commonality with the Infiniti FX. That’s in-your-face writing, and it sounds quite knowledgeable. I wonder if the author of that piece could list any common pieces between a 370Z and an FX50? If he can, do you suppose he also knows if the lower strut brace I tested on my 1995 Plymouth Neon will fit a 2004 Dodge SRT-4?

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Curbside Classic: 1983 Dodge Aries (Original K-Car) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/08/curbside-classic-1983-dodge-aries-original-k-car/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/08/curbside-classic-1983-dodge-aries-original-k-car/#comments Thu, 19 Aug 2010 16:55:44 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=363237

Suddenly it’s 1960 (again)! Well no, not that 1960. How about this one, the (more) real 1960? Yes, history repeats itself, and every so often, Detroit was forced out of its  delusional slumber and denial to face the music that always seemed to grate on its ears: small cars. In response to a growing avalanche of European imports led by the VW in the fifties, in 1960 the Big Three launched their first-ever compacts: Ford Falcon, Chevrolet Corvair and Chrysler’s Valiant. By the mid/late seventies, those were all gone, but the Japanese were all here. So Detroit geared up for the second big import showdown of 1980-1981. Once again, Chrysler’s weapon was clearly aimed at the traditional American-car buyer: more technically advanced this time (FWD!), but conservatively styled, still smarting from the painful lesson of their bizarrely-styled 1960 Valiant.

The K-cars set out to recreate the 1960 Falcon’s success, all-too eager to recapture its spirit: small, boxy, roomy, pragmatic and all-American, right down to the front bench seat. Well, maybe a bit too 1960 America; just like the Falcon, the K-car appealed to traditional American-car buyers, but had no apparent impact on the the explosive growth of the Japanese imports, just like the Falcon failed to dent the Volkswagen’s success. So ironically, although the K-car saved Chrysler in the eighties, it did little or nothing to stem the tsunami that ultimately overtook the Pentastar a second time. History repeats itself…

The story of the little Chryslers is a large one, especially given all the endless variants that Lee Iaccoca’s Imaginarium spawned: everything from stretch limos, Italianesque two-seat “sports cars”,the most successful mini van ever, and a multitude of other niches in between. Yes, we’ve already covered the mini-van, the convertibles, the K-New Yorker, and the Daytona coupe. But I couldn’t resist this fairly pristine one-little-old lady owner ’83 Aries with 97k miles. I’ve shot plenty of the ’85 and later face-lifted K’s, but this is the only first-series I’ve caught so far; they’re getting mighty rare. And since it’s for sale, I thought I would give you true-blood K-car lovers the chance to grab it before it’s gone: $1600 or best offer. Hurry! And while you’re manning the phones and negotiating (the sign says it “needs nothing”, but where’s the A/C compressor belt?), I’ll take a stab at the history of this seminal K-car.

The basic boxy outline of the story is well etched into the memories of us that lived through the K-era. In the years leading up to it, the Valiant and Dart kept growing, and were eventually replaced by the now mid-sized Volare/Aspen twins. Arriving in 1976, those were already one or two sizes too big given the spiraling rise of oil prices and the downsizing already underway at GM. In fact the Volare and Aspen eventually morphed into Chrysler’s “big” cars, the last RWD sedans until the modern 300.

That doesn’t mean that “big” cars were actually all that roomy inside. In a graphic testament to just how space-inefficient traditional American cars of the time were, the drastically smaller K-Cars (176″ length) equaled most of the key interior dimensions of the 1972 mid-size Satellite and the Volare-based 1986 Grand Fury (both about 204″ long). Seating for six and bench seats were a major criterion for the clean-sheet K-car design, and who can blame them, if you’re a polygamist and you want to take your wives and your buddy and his two wives out for dinner like this happy set of trios above? Who else would find themselves in this scenario above?

Yes, the K-car was one of those rare times when American designers and engineers were given the chance to start from scratch, although Chrysler’s experience with the (mostly) European designed Horizon/Omni came in mighty handy. The suspension design was quite similar, and quickly becoming ubiquitous: front struts and rear twist-beam axle. Chrysler already had FWD transaxles, including the automatic TorqueFlite from the Omnirizon. That still left the body, a new four cylinder engine, and to make it all work together harmoniously.

The result must be considered a qualified success. Let’s leave the qualifications for later and focus on the good: given the times and Detroit’s state-of-the art, the K-Car structure was not only space efficient, but fairly stiff, sturdy and sound, especially given its light weight (2300-2400 lbs). This contributed to a decent ride quality, and adequate, if totally uninspiring handling.

And the new 2.2 liter OHC four, which does look a bit like a slightly scaled up VW 827 engine (as used in the Chrysler Omni/Horizon), turned out to be a rugged basis for future development, even if the early units had a bit of an appetite for head gaskets. And, of course, it suffered from the horrible state of smog-controls of the time: electronic-feedback carburetors that were balky, expensive to replace, messed with the ignition timing, and gave mediocre power: all of 84 hp was the result, in the first two years of production. The optional Mitsubishi 2.6 four had a hint more torque, and was a bit smoother with its pioneering balance shafts, but had its own set of issues. This Aries sports the 2.2 and a column shifted three-speed automatic.

I had the distinct displeasure of being an Aries (or was it a Reliant?) driver for a couple of months in 1985. It was my temporary company car (extended-term rental) right after a stint with the all-new Nissan Sentra, and just before I screwed up my courage sufficiently to sign (for the start-up company) a five-year lease for a brand new MB W124 300E. Sandwiched between the remarkably brisk and tossable Sentra and the superb 300E, the Aries was bound to disappoint. It did.

My commute then was a dream, for LA standards. Straight through Beverly Hills on Rodeo Drive, and up, over and down scenic and winding Coldwater Canyon into the Valley. Or Laurel Canyon, for a change of scenery and even tighter twisties. Running against the usual traffic flow, the canyons were a wonderful way to start the morning, but not in a Reliant. The Sentra was eager, willing and brisk, if a bit primitive. The Aries, with its bigger motor, had the typical tip-in and torque to “feel” powerful from a start, but was strangled as the revs (didn’t) build. Early versions of the K car tested at 13-16 seconds for the amble to sixty. The Sentra could do it in ten. And driving a K-car down Rodeo Drive every day didn’t exactly do much for my self esteem. Bring on the Mercedes!

The steering was (still) too light, and the car just wasn’t set up to deliver any fun. Yes, it did beat the wooden and lame bigger Chryslers of the time, but don’t even ask what it felt like compared to an Accord. And therein was the crux of the problem: The K-Car was a big step forward for Chrysler and Detroit, and a reasonably capable car. But by the time it arrived, Honda was readying the second generation of the killer Accord. Comparing the two is an exercise in futility. The Honda simply felt (and was) profoundly better in every possible metric. It took a long time for Detroit to finally narrow that gap.

Lee Iaccoca is usually referred to as the father of the K-car, but he arrived at Chrysler when the K-car program was already well on its way. But he successfully made it his own, using it as the primary (sole?) hook of his dog and pony show to convince Congress that Chrysler had the new FWD technology to be a safe bet for their $1.5 billion in loan guarantees (doesn’t that amount seem quaintly small now?) And the K-car was not originally developed with any thought to the endless permutations it spawned. But the K-car platform was quickly stretched, spindled and mutilated, a testament to the simplicity and adaptability of such a straight-forward design, as well as the talents of the Chrysler engineers.  The various offshoots lasted at least until 1995, even though the Aries and Reliant were gone by 1989, replaced by the Spirit/Acclaim, or Sundance/Shadow, depending on your point of view.

The Aries/Reliant sold well, exceeding 300k units the first year. The upscale LeBaron expanded the total first-gen K-car sales to over 350k per year, and maintained close to that through 1988, when their replacements appeared. The K-cars did exactly what Lido sold Congress on: they were profitable from the start, and generated enough profits with which Chrysler repaid all its government-backed loans by 1983. And that was just the start: the cash really started rolling in with the mini-vans and other off-shoots, allowing Chrysler to buy Jeep, and invest in a whole new line of cars in the 1990′s. The K-car truly created the New Chrysler.

And given the missteps that GM made with their hyper-recalled X-Bodies of the same vintage, the K-car’s launch was relatively trouble free; hardly a given in those times. In Chrysler’s case, that was literally essential; if the K-Cars had arrived with serious problems, Chrysler’s resurrection might have turned out quite different. Yes, the early versions had their issues, and build quality, performance and refinement steadily improved, especially with the ’85 refresh. A Toyota or Honda it wasn’t, but after the botched launch of the Aspen/Volare twins, and GM’s X-Body woes, the K-car escaped the wrath: Kraptastic; yes. But in a slightly endearing way.

I’ve compared the Aries/Reliant to the original Falcon, but what fills its shoes today? The first car that pops in my mind: the Nissan Versa. A quick scan of the specs confirms my intuition: They’re exactly the same length (176″), and within an inch in width and two inches in wheelbase. The Versa sedan is a bit taller, which gives it the edge in headroom and rear legroom. They both sold on the same premise: maximum American-scale interior space for the buck, even if the Versa doesn’t offer a front bench. And just how do they stack up in that value proposition? The Aries started at $6k for a stripper; that’s over $14k in today’s bucks. The base Versa starts at $9,950. Sometimes history doesn’t repeat itself.

More new Curbside Classics here

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