By on April 16, 2018

1976 Plymouth Volare in California wrecking yard, RH front view - ©2018 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars
The A-Body Plymouth Valiant (and its Dodge sibling, the Dart), stayed in American production from the 1960 model year all the way through 1976. Legendary for its sturdiness, the Valiant was sure to be a tough act to follow. The Plymouth Volarés and Dodge Aspens appeared in 1976, never gained the affection given to their predecessors, and were facelifted and renamed the Gran Fury and Diplomat in 1981. Here’s a luxed-up first-year Volaré I spotted in a Northern California self-service yard.

1976 Plymouth Volare in California wrecking yard, engine compartment - ©2018 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars
There’s an emissions sticker indicating that this car had the 225-cubic-inch Slant-6 engine, rated at an even 100 horses in 1976, but some junkyard shopper purchased it by the time I got there. You could get a 180-horsepower 360 V8 in the 1976 Volaré, but not in California, where the 150 horsepower 318 was the most powerful Volaré engine.

1976 Plymouth Volare in California wrecking yard, door panel - ©2018 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars
This one is full of mid-1970s-style affordable luxury, including reasonably deep-pile shag carpeting on the door panels.

1976 Plymouth Volare in California wrecking yard, vinyl roof detail - ©2018 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars
The layering of padded vinyl and gold stripes looks classy here.

1976 Plymouth Volare in California wrecking yard, front seats - ©2018 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars
Volaré buyers could get “cashmere-like cloth-and-vinyl” seat upholstery in 1976, but this one has the all-vinyl buckets.

1976 Plymouth Volare in California wrecking yard, glovebox lid - ©2018 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars
With the abundance of faux-wood decor inside, I think this car may be a high-end Volaré Premier Coupe. The Premier with Slant-6 started at $4,402, versus $3,324 for the regular Volaré coupe. Meanwhile, the final-year Valiant Duster coupe listed at $3,216.

1976 Plymouth Volare in California wrecking yard, crash damage - ©2018 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars
It appears to have been a nice car until this happened.


Sergio Franchi was no Ricardo Montalban, but then the Volaré was no Cordoba.

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53 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1976 Plymouth Volaré Coupe...”


  • avatar
    dantes_inferno

    I was hoping you would find a Cordoba with the “Rich Corinthian Leather”…

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    Those “buckets” are about as deep as a vinyl record….

  • avatar
    JohnTaurus

    Terrible.

  • avatar
    dividebytube

    At the tender age of 16, I wanted to get my first car. My dad drove me around to some of the skeezy small car dealerships. One of the cars he was interested in buying me was a Volare with the slant-6. I didn’t like it at all since I wanted something sportier.

    Luckily I sorta-kinda inherited my mom’s 1984 Nissan truck while she began to drive a ’77 Cadillac (light yellow – blech!).

    And then I managed to save enough to buy a rust bucket ’68 Firebird, red with vinyl black top. It was a disaster of a car but hey, it was all mine.

  • avatar
    dantes_inferno

    Someone already acquired the only redeeming value of the automobile – the slant-six engine. Those suckers are hard to kill.

  • avatar
    RedRocket

    I am old enough to remember these when introduced. They made a good first impression being much more modern and finished-looking than the Dart/Valiant they would replace. They sold very well at first too. But they had terrible build quality, lots of problems due to lack of development/testing, poor drivability and reliability, and serious body rust in the salt belt. I remember test-driving a wagon version with the 318 and it understeered so bad I wondered if the front tires had any air in them. Too bad as I thought they were a good-looking design.

    BTW those are not bucket seats in this car, that is a split bench. The optional buckets were high-back.

    • 0 avatar
      Arthur Dailey

      @RedRocket is correct, that is the split bench. The buckets were indeed high back and could be ordered with a ‘centre console’.

      I nearly pulled the trigger on one of these. A high end black with tan ‘leather’ bucket interior and t-roof and V-8. Dodged a bullet and went for a Pontiac Grand Prix SJ instead due to the much larger engine available.

      The Dart/Valiant legacy/reputation helped to sell scads of these when they first came out. However as noted the build quality was awful. And even the slant six was compromised.

      Shame to see that this ‘survivor’is going to be shredded. Probably very few left, despite the large numbers sold. A sad end for a vehicle that more than earned its keep.

    • 0 avatar
      dukeisduke

      I remember them, too, with Sergio Franchi singing Volare’ in the TV ads (and Rex Harrison singing “Unbelievable” in the Aspen ads).

    • 0 avatar
      Felix Hoenikker

      My BIL bought one of these in 1978. Within two years, it was such a terrible experience for him that he never bought another Chrysler product.

    • 0 avatar
      Felix Hoenikker

      My BIL bought one of these in 1978. Within two years, it was such a terrible experience for him that he never bought another Chrysler product.

  • avatar
    bufguy

    When I was a junior in high school in 1976 my best friend’s mom bought a new 1976 Volare station wagon. It was spitfire red…a sort of orange with an off white interior. An absolute stripped car. The only options were an automatic transmission and an AM radio. It had bench seats, blackwall tires with dog dish hub caps, the slant six and a peg board headliner. We were members of the cross country team and traveled all over New York State loaded with 6 runners and their belongings. It was slow as molasses but reliable

  • avatar
    JimC2

    I looked hard for the floor-mounted high beam switch to the left of the brake pedal. I guess this was the model when they got rid of those. The Dart/Valiant had them.

    Hard to believe they brought these porkers to market (they were heavier than the Darts and Valiants) after the fuel crisis.

    • 0 avatar
      13kRPM

      No, they still had the floor switch in these. My family’s prime-mover in the 80’s and 90’s (we kept cars a long time) was a 79 wagon and it definitely had the floor switch.

      • 0 avatar
        JimC2

        Hmm, I couldn’t find it in the picture. Maybe it’s behind a wrinkle in the shag carpet. The switch disappeared in an automotive malaise tesseract, if you will…

        (Heh heh, I crack myself up.)

        But seriously- thanks for the reply. I guess they went away with the K-car five years later.

  • avatar
    13kRPM

    I had almost the same car at 17. Mine was the same color scheme inside and out, the only difference was that I had the 318. In that youthful phase of putting good time and money into a sucky car I swapped the rear end to a lower ratio, added a 4 barrel, conjured up some super loud homemade side exhaust that dumped right under the doors and shackled up the rear leaf springs super high so it could clear 10″ crager SS wheels in the back. It sucked in so many ways, it was so far pitched forward that it felt like you where going down hill all the time making you slide off the vinyl seat, the 318 in those years was so chocked in power by low compression and emission controls that it was the textbook definition of a gutless wonder and water leaked around the rear window when it rained (which it did all the time in Washington State) making a small lake on the carpet of the rear seat. The only real redeeming qualities was that it look mean, sounded angry and could do a decent burn out when power braked, which was just what a young man prioritized in a car at that point. I took it to high school drags at Seattle International raceway in about 1997 and it was super slow, I think it’s best ET was in the mid 17s. Lets just be frank, all 70’s cars no matter how great their pretensions in some way shape or forum sucked by virtue of the engineering limitations and the style considerations of that decade.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    I thought these all rusted to hell long ago.

  • avatar
    bkrell

    I was brought home from the hospital in a Volare wagon. Sort of a dark red. My mom had that car until I was 6, trading it for a new 1983 Buick LeSabre. Back in those days where safety was still lax, I remember riding in the cargo area of the wagon on long road trips, complete with a giant glass jug of apple juice. My uncle was the local Chrysler dealer until the Iacocca bailout.

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    What transmission backed the 225 in these? Was it the 904?

    Also, Murilee, did you leave your bag there?

  • avatar

    The dash HVAC controls offer “A/C” and “MAX A/C”, wonder why?

    • 0 avatar
      Middle-Aged Miata Man

      “MAX A/C” was a common setting in American vehicles well into the mid-1990s. It meant recirculating mode; regular A/C still allowed fresh air inside.

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        Max A/C even in my POS Celebrity would turn that sucker into a meat locker. My glasses would fog up after being in that car at Max A/C and then stepping out into the world. Try that with the wimpy systems we get now a days.

      • 0 avatar
        christophervalle

        I prefer when the setting is, “Max Cool”. Yeah, man…that’s me! Max Cool.

    • 0 avatar
      spookiness

      My ’10 Focus has a Max A/C button. It has been my experience that the American cars I have owned (from all big 3) have excelled at A/C. The Hondas, Mazdas, and Subaru, not so much.

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        1st Gen Equinox (3400 V6/AWD LS model) had terrible AC – speaking from fleet experience.

      • 0 avatar
        Middle-Aged Miata Man

        “My ’10 Focus has a Max A/C button.”

        Wow, I had to go to Google to see this for myself… which then made me remember I once owned a 2012 Escape that also had a Max A/C button, right below the “normal” A/C and a recirc button.

        I guess Ford didn’t trust its customers to suss out using two buttons for maximum cooling?

        • 0 avatar
          Scoutdude

          The “Max A/C” setting has been around for a long long time, well before you could select recirc as a separate function. The separate recirc setting that is so common on Japanese cars from the 80’s was not a good thing as many people put it in that position, left it there and then couldn’t figure out why they could never get the windows clear exacerbated by the fact that you had to manually engage A/C rather than the American way of automatically engaging the A/C in Def mode. On many of those cars with the Max A/C button it also automatically put the fan on high. That was intentional so that once the car was cooled down the driver would switch to norm A/C mode to maintain temp with fresh air.

          • 0 avatar
            JimC2

            The separate recirculation and a/c buttons weren’t as big a problem in European cars, since buyers of those cars are generally more intelligent.

  • avatar
    TMA1

    My neighbor while I was growing up had an Aspen. It was completely rust free (despite being parked outside in Ohio all year), bright white paint, blue interior, and had t-tops. So I never had a bad impression of these cars.

    I think he died about 10 years ago, and only then did the Aspen disappear.

  • avatar

    “…and were facelifted and renamed the Gran Fury and Diplomat in 1981.”

    That’s not really correct. The M-Body was entirely different, larger, and ended up more upscale than these. The replacement for these were more the K-Car things.

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      The F-body to M-body was “sow’s ear into a silk purse” in the same way that GM took the X-body and made it A-body. There’s strong DNA relation under the skin.

    • 0 avatar
      JimC2

      Uh, but sort of. The Diplomats were derived from these so I wouldn’t say they were entirely different. Different body, but the chassis was stretched (and kept the sideways torsion bars).

      Funny thing about Diplomats, they had a good reputation. I even saw one a few weeks ago!

      The contrast between Aspen/Volare and Diplomat/Gran Fury is a bit like the Citation and Celebrity (and their badge clones). It’s like they finally engineered out most of the crap.

      • 0 avatar
        OzCop

        I bought a 78 Diplomat wagon, with 318 V8…It was an awesome car, and my ex wife put well over a hundred thousand miles on it. I thought they were a bit classier looking than the Aspen/Volare. I think the restyled Diplomat/Grand Fury was the more along the platform of the early Diplomat/ChryslerLeBaron. We bought more than a hundred each of Aspens and Volare police units with 360 V8 power, and were pretty decent cars. Each officer being assigned his own car helped, as some of them lasted well over 5 years…

  • avatar
    TCragg

    My grandfather bought one of these new in 1977 (medium brown with a white half-landau top like the one pictured here) from Waykins-Krochak Chrysler-Plymouth in Chatham, Ontario. It was such a piece of junk that he traded it the following year on a 1978 Buick Regal (also brown with a white vinyl top). Grandpa had never before, and never since owned a Chrysler product after his Volare experience.

  • avatar
    fenwayy

    My first was a PEA GREEN 74 Duster with a slant 6. Matching green vinyl interior ….like sitting in a forest.
    Couldn’t kill it. Once a week I had to fill the oil & check the gas….

    • 0 avatar
      cardave5150

      My family had a gold ‘74 Valiant, Black Vinyl top and gold cloth/vinyl interior, 318/auto. That became my first ride once I got my license. Dad liked that car so much he also bought a ‘75 Valiant in green with green vinyl top and green cloth/vinyl interior. Slant six/auto. There was another family in the neighborhood that had 2 Valiants at the same time.

  • avatar
    indi500fan

    These have a fairly unique suspension on the front where the torsion bars are transverse rather than longitudinal. IIRC it was problematic and never to be seen again.

    • 0 avatar
      OzCop

      …and you would be correct…it was mostly a bushing issue with our police package units. The transverse suspension continued on the Diplomats and Grand Fury police packages until their demise…

  • avatar
    bultaco

    When I was a kid, our next door neighbors were a family who all worked at the local Chrysler plant. They all owned Chrysler-built cars, and they even had a Chrysler ski boat with a Chrysler outboard engine. When the Aspen/Volare came out, the mom got a new, loaded bronze Volare or Aspen sedan (who knows which; they looked identical to me). It looked OK, but I can still remember her grinding away at the shriek-y Chrysler starter as the thing stalled multiple times every time she tried to back out of the driveway.

    There were a few automotive bright spots in the early Malaise Era, but none of them were American cars. The mid-’70s American sleds that my high school friends’ parents owned were astonishing in how sluggish and tacky they were.

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      Blame the sudden stress on emissions, then fuel economy. I was a college graduate and in the Navy when the 1970s started, and full size American cars were huge, but extremely comfortable and reliable.

      I remember one guy, an automotive analyst, who bought two 1971 models, because he said unleaded gas and the de-tuning of Detroit engines meant the ’71s were the last “good” cars. The ’73s and ’74s I drove were sluggish and sucked gas, but their ’69 and ’70 counterparts were quicker and more fuel efficient.

      It wasn’t that Detroit couldn’t build good cars in the ’70s, they were just forced to make cars by government order with no transition period, before the electronics and fuel injection had been developed enough. The government basically forced Detroit to make us all beta testers for not-yet perfected technology.

      • 0 avatar
        JimC2

        Welllllll, it’s not that they couldn’t build good cars, it’s that they chose to spend their R&D resources elsewhere. The early Euro fuel injection systems in the 1970s were derived from the system Chrysler developed in the 1950s and then sold to them. Then Volvo, Saab, and Bosch figured out feedback fuel injection (oxygen sensor) and three way catalytic converters and got that to work in 1977. Honda came up with CVCC out of thin air and met the requirements that way. The Big Four were a lot bigger and wealthier than little Saab, Volvo, and Honda put together, well, not so much AMC. Not mid-1970s Chrysler either, who famously laid off half their engineering staff at the critical time when they should have been ironing out the bugs in the new Aspen-Volare line… oops!

        But yeah, it’s a pet peeve of mine every time I hear how the big, mean government made Detroit build slow, dumb cars in the 1970s because of new emissions requirements. Hubris is what made Detroit build slow, dumb cars.

        Sorry about the rant.

        • 0 avatar
          golden2husky

          …Hubris is what made Detroit build slow, dumb cars…

          Exactly. Regulations did not cause ridiculous production targets that put production over quality, the blind eye toward shoddy fit and finish, the pushing out of designs before they were ready, etc. The early Japanese cars of the mid 70s were pretty much like the American designs – RWD, basic engines, etc. yet they managed to have better assembly, reliability, and mileage.

        • 0 avatar
          ernest

          +1. I remember a Corp meeting I attended in ’78, where a Chevy guy said “I don’t care if we’ll all be riding three-wheeled bicycles in 10 years. I can guarantee you 25% of them will have Chevrolet Bowties on them.”

          That was the attitude… and we know how it all played out.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    I wouldn’t say all the 70’s American cars were sleds and lacked power. My 73 Chevelle with a 350 would burn rubber and was a great car. The body style was not great being a 4 door but the body was fairly low and the engine had more than enough power. It did not have a catalytic converter and it was a company car–a Baroid drilling mud company car that was broken in on West Texas roads at 100 mph. I took it out West from Texas to California with my brother in 75 and we ran it at 100 most of time time when we were out in the desert. It ran better at 100 than at 55. My big mistake was getting a new 77 Monte Carlo although a much nicer car it did not run as good as that Chevelle. The Chevelle was also a more reliable and smoother running car than my 77 Monte. There were some good running cars in the 70’s all the way thru 74 before the engines got more smog-ed up and smaller. You could still get a 454 in most Chevrolets until 1975.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    My aunt and uncle had one of these Volares in a 4 door brougham which was the same color as this car with a similar padded roof. They had a Chrysler New Yorker which they used as a secondary car and they had a series of New Yorkers before this all being very good cars. I remember the Volare as being a big let down not nearly as nice as the previous Chrysler products with bubbles in the paint and just poorly finished. I always liked Valiants and Darts but the Volare and Aspen were just not as good a cars. Chrysler had some very poor quality cars in the late 70s.

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