BODACIOUS BEATERS and Road-going Derelicts: VOLARE - OH-OH

Phil Coconis
by Phil Coconis
bodacious beaters em and road going derelicts em volare oh oh

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Which is why this find is so incredible!

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

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

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

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

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  • West-coaster West-coaster on Feb 20, 2013

    Well, aside from the whole "Um...that's not a Volare" thing which has already been discussed, I think the reason this Valiant doesn't fall under the smog check program is because it's probably a '75. BTW, vehicles older than 1976 aren't "smog exempt" as some have been led to believe. They're just exempt from the testing every other year. If you're caught blowing tons of hydrocarbons or actual smoke out the back, you can still get nailed for being a gross polluter.

  • Msquare Msquare on Feb 21, 2013

    This is such a blemish on TTAC's credibility it's scary. You blew it, boys. Publish your correction and move on.

  • Tassos Chinese owned Vollvo-Geely must have the best PR department of all automakers. A TINY maker with only 0.5-0.8% market share in the US, it is in the news every day.I have lost count how many different models Volvo has, and it is shocking how FEW of each miserable one it sells in the US market.Approximately, it sells as many units (TOTAL) as is the total number of loser models it offers.
  • ToolGuy Seems pretty reasonable to me. (Sorry)
  • Luke42 When I moved from Virginia to Illinois, the lack of vehicle safety inspections was a big deal to me. I thought it would be a big change.However, nobody drives around in an unsafe car when they have the money to get their car fixed and driving safely.Also, Virginia's inspection regimine only meant that a car was safe to drive one day a year.Having lived with and without automotive safety inspections, my confusion is that they don't really matter that much.What does matter is preventing poverty in your state, and Illinois' generally pro-union political climate does more for automotive safety (by ensuring fair wages for tradespeople) than ticketing poor people for not having enough money to maintain their cars.
  • ToolGuy When you are pulled over for speeding, whether you are given a ticket or not should depend on how attractive you are.Source: My sister 😉
  • Kcflyer What Toyota needs is a true full size body on frame suv to compete with the Expedition and Suburban and their badge engineered brethren. The new sequoia and LX are too compromised in capacity by their off road capabilities that most buyers will never use.