Junkyard Find: 1981 Dodge Aries Station Wagon

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin

The Chrysler K platform spun off many K-based descendents, but genuine, pure Ks have been fairly rare in this series. We’ve seen this ’83 Dodge Aries sedan, this ’85 Dodge 600 Turbo, and this ’88 Dodge Aries wagon so far, though I’ve passed over many dozens more. Still, when I see a first-year Aries wagon in this weird chalky gray-green color and it has a “Hemi 2.6” engine, I break out the camera!

These cars depreciated just as fast as all the other Detroit front-drivers of the 1980s, which means that only relatively trouble-free ones managed to survive 33 years on the street. One expensive problem after about 1989, good-bye!

The Hemi 2.6 was really the good old Mitsubishi Astron 4G54 engine, which made 114 not-so-bad-for-1981 horses. Sadly, Chrysler never used any Simca-derived engines in the K family.

This wagon has plenty of options, including air conditioning and futuristic digital chronometer.

As the street price of a battered Aries-K approached scrap-value levels, the socioeconomic status of the average K-car owner also dropped.

Still, you can see hints of former luxury in the much-used faded-mint-green vinyl interior.

As you can see here, the ’81 K-cars were sold on price, period.

Murilee Martin
Murilee Martin

Murilee Martin is the pen name of Phil Greden, a writer who has lived in Minnesota, California, Georgia and (now) Colorado. He has toiled at copywriting, technical writing, junkmail writing, fiction writing and now automotive writing. He has owned many terrible vehicles and some good ones. He spends a great deal of time in self-service junkyards. These days, he writes for publications including Autoweek, Autoblog, Hagerty, The Truth About Cars and Capital One.

More by Murilee Martin

Join the conversation
2 of 137 comments
  • Ponchoman49 Ponchoman49 on Feb 14, 2014

    114 Hp would be a pipe dream for that dog POS of a motor. Chrysler rated it at 92 horses for 1981. It's fitting that a bottle of motor oil is sitting in the engine bay and three other bottles in the trunk or cargo bay would probably be the norm in a 2.6 equipped car. I always used to chuckle at the car auctions when a 2.6 "oil smoker" Caravan or Lebaron etc would pull up in line. The first thing any potential buyer would look for is the 2.6 engine and then run for there lives. The funny thing is that I don't remember these engine being all that bad in the Mitsubishi products. Perhaps they sold Chrylser all there rejects.

  • Armadamaster Armadamaster on Mar 05, 2014

    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.

  • Ted Lulis Head gaskets and Toyota putting my kids through college👍️
  • Leonard Ostrander Plants don't unionize. People do, and yes, of course the workers should organize.
  • Jalop1991 Here's something EVangelists don't want to talk about, and why range is important: battery warranties, by industry standard, specify that nothing's wrong with the battery, and they won't replace it, as long as it is able to carry 70% or more of its specified capacity.So you need a lot of day 1 capacity so that down the road, when you're at 70% capacity with a "fully functioning, no problem" car, you're not stuck in used Nissan Leaf territory."Nothing to see here, move along."There's also the question of whether any factory battery warranty survives past the original new car owner. So it's prudent of any second owner to ask that question specifically, and absent any direct written warranty, assume that the second and subsequent owners own any battery problems that may arise.And given that the batteries are a HUGE expense, much more so than an ICE, such exposure is equally huge."Nothing to see here, move along."
  • Roger hopkins The car is in Poland??? It does look good tho...
  • Kwik_Shift_Pro4X The push for EV's is part of the increase in our premiums. Any damage near the battery pack and the car is a total loss.