Junkyard Find: 1989 Plymouth Reliant America

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin
junkyard find 1989 plymouth reliant america

In last week’s Junkyard Find, I shared the first discarded BMW E30 I have photographed after nearly a decade of writing about junkyard vehicles. Yes, the E30 was a fine automobile (though right-thinking car experts recognize that its Alfa Romeo Milano competitor was faster, cheaper, and had a much better-sounding engine) and we should take a moment to appreciate this important piece of German automotive history.

Right, now that we’re done with that, let’s admire a piece of automotive history I find much more fascinating: an example of the final model year of Chrysler’s company-rescuing K-Car, photographed in a muggy, buggy, cocklebur-overgrown Minneapolis self-service yard.

Of course, we all know that various K-platform-derived and K-platform-related vehicles — influenced by the design of the Simca/Chrysler Europe Omnirizon platform, just to add some more branches to the K family tree — rolled off the showroom floors well into the 1990s, but the group of true K-Cars is limited to just the Dodge Aries, Dodge 400, Chrysler LeBaron, and Plymouth Reliant. Eventually, Renault DNA (via the Eagle Premier, after Chrysler’s absorption of American Motors) supplanted K-platform data in Chrysler’s genome. Still, the end of the line for the Plymouth Reliant was a bittersweet milestone for Chrysler.

Under the hood: a fuel-injected version of the versatile Chrysler 2.2-liter four-cylinder, in this case making 93 horsepower.

This one has “Reliant LE” emblems on the quarter windows, but there are no “LE” decklid badges and the build tag says it’s a base-model Reliant America. The ’89 Reliant America two-door listed at $6,995, which was way cheaper (and bigger) than the $9,057 Ford Tempo or the $8,849 Pontiac Sunbird. Car shoppers had lost their enthusiasm for the Reliant by that time, though.

My parents fled Minnesota in a new 1973 Chevy Beauville van when I was in the first grade, but I go back every so often to see relatives and experience rusty cars. This one is pretty solid for a 27-year-old Upper Midwest machine.

My personal experience with the Reliant has been pretty miserable, but I will refrain from any “worst car ever built” tirades here (anyway, the wretched X-body Pontiac Phoenix takes that prize in my book).

The pride is back!

[Images: © 2016 Murilee Martin/The Truth About Cars]

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  • JLGOLDEN JLGOLDEN on Aug 26, 2016

    Summer of 1989: My first job, at age 16, was at a brand-new Chrysler-Plymouth dealer in Houston. I fondly recall these spanking-new '89 Reliants coming off the convoy truck. I'd remove the plastic wrapping from seats, install wheel covers, do a quick road test, and do much of the PDI. However, for not much more dinero, the all-new Acclaim looked and felt tremendously better.

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    • NoGoYo NoGoYo on Aug 27, 2016

      The Reliant must have felt absolutely horrid, my sister's Acclaim had zero steering feel (and plenty of play) and the non-reclining bench seat was uncomfortable.

  • Tsoden Tsoden on Aug 30, 2016

    Gotta dig that 8.9% financing of $500 cash back offer.... I learned to drive in an 84 Plymouth Voyager with the 2.6 L 4. Oh the memories of spoiled milkshake in the carpet, leaky power steering fluid on the lane-way, AC that was as cold as an osculating fan in a sauna, The bright burgundy interior with the complimentary silver streak paint and the mandatory wood grain vinyl strip on the LE models... My father acquired my grandmothers 13 year old 1985 Dodge Aries... It only had 36000 KM on it as it was driven in a small town of 1500 people. the longest trek was about 40 KM every couple weeks. I really loved that car. It had the 2.6L it was a real hoot to drive - quite a bit peppier than the Voyager. This car was silver with the gunmetal blue interior, AC that was actually cold, and front bucket seats which were really comfortable (how Chrysler lost its way with seat comfort over the years is beyond me). The only thing about this car was it tend to float over potholes and bumps and then rebound like a bouncy castle....perfect for making passengers sea sick.

  • Lorenzo This series is epic, but I now fear you'll never get to the gigantic Falcon/Dart/Nova comparison.
  • Chris P Bacon Ford and GM have decided that if you can't beat 'em, join 'em. Odds are Chrysler/Cerberus/FCA/Stellantis is next to join in. If any of the companies like Electrify America had been even close to Tesla in reliability, we wouldn't be here.
  • Inside Looking Out China will decide which EV charging protocol will become world wide standard.
  • Chris P Bacon I see no reference to Sweden or South Carolina. I hate to assume, but is this thing built in China? I can't help but wonder if EVs would be more affordable to the masses if they weren't all stuffed full of horsepower most drivers will never use. How much could the price be reduced if it had, say, 200hp. Combined with the instant torque of an EV, that really is plenty of power for the daily commuter, which is what this vehicle really is.
  • Ajla It's weird how Polestar apparently has better BEVs than Volvo. And this is the same price as a Pilot and Plus optioned Polestar 2 AWD.