Buy/Drive/Burn: Economical American Compacts From 1982

Our recent Rare Rides coverage of the Chevrolet Citation made one thing very clear: We need more Citation content. Today’s 1982 Buy/Drive/Burn lineup was suggested by commenter eng_alvarado90, who would like to see all of you struggle. Citation, Aries, Escort, all in their most utilitarian formats. Let’s go.

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Buy/Drive/Burn: Economical, Basic American Sedans for 1985

It’s the mid-1980s, so having a gas-guzzling, rear-drive Malaise box from the late ’70s is unthinkable. No, you’re a modern consumer, and you demand something front-drive and economical, but still with Malaise build quality.

Today we pick a compact Ace of Base from 1985.

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Junkyard Find: 1984 Dodge 600 Landau Coupe With Five-speed Manual Transmission

Once Lee Iacocca’s front-wheel-drive K-cars brought Chrysler back from near-death and into profitability, the platform became the basis of a sprawling family of K-related relatives. One of the earliest spinoffs was the E Platform, a lengthened K that gave us the Chrysler E-Class/New Yorker, the Plymouth Caravelle, and the Dodge 600. Just to confuse matters, the Dodge 600 coupe remained a true K, sibling to the Dodge Aries.

That’s what we’ve got here, and this Denver 600 coupe has some stories to tell.

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Junkyard Find: 1982 Chrysler LeBaron Convertible
While Chrysler developed endless variations of the original K Platform, adding branches to the K-car Family Tree through 1995, only the Dodge Aries/400/600, Plymouth Reliant, and Chrysler LeBaron were true Ks. The K-cars saved Chrysler from near-certain bankruptcy, with the first Dodge and Plymouth versions rolling off showroom floors as 1981 models; the LeBaron came the following year, and the luxurious LeBaron convertible stood tall as the K-car King.Here’s a well-preserved 1982 Chrysler LeBaron convertible in a Denver-area self-service yard.
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QOTD: Thirty Years On, How Do Your K-car Memories Hold Up?

It was a little sad, really. Far removed from the rest of the rides at this small-town vintage car meet, a plucky, sensible sedan sat all alone, earnestly hoping some sharp-eyed soul would wander by and pay a visit, presumably while on the way to or from the washroom facilities. Families sat munching hot dogs and hamburgers nearby, ravenous from a morning spent perusing aspirational iron from the 1930s onward. The 1989 Dodge Aries in their peripheral vision went unnoticed.

“I’m over here!” the little sedan seemed to shout. “Still happy to serve. Ask me about my heritage!”

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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.

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Junkyard Find: 1982 Dodge Aries Station Wagon

Much as members of the Mopar Jihad don’t want to admit it, Chrysler took a bailout — in the form of government-backed loans — from Uncle Sam in 1979. This worked out pretty well for everyone involved, because the then-futuristic K-Cars that Chrysler developed out of desperation turned out to be both smash sales hits and the basis for most cars put out by Chrysler for the following decade.

The K Family Tree had many branches, but only the Dodge Aries, Plymouth Reliant, Chrysler LeBaron, and Dodge 400 were true K-Cars. You won’t see many of the original Ks these days, but the patient junkyard crawler will find a rare survivor now and then.

Here’s an early Aries wagon that I spotted in a Denver self-serve yard a couple of weeks ago.

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Brighten Your Wednesday With a Glimpse of Glorious K-Car America

Hump Day can be a drag, but nothing puts a smile on the faces of hard-working Americans like value-laden Chrysler Corporation compacts and telling OPEC to go screw themselves.

While diving deep into the YouTube wormhole the other day, a promotional music video for the 1981 Plymouth Reliant and Dodge Aries twins reared its patriotic head.

It needs to be shared.

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Junkyard Find: 1986 Dodge Aries K

The 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.

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Junkyard Find: 1981 Dodge Aries Station Wagon

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!

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Junkyard Find: 1988 Dodge Aries LE Station Wagon

Given that just about everything Chrysler built for much of the 1980s and 1990s had some connection to the original K Platform, I don’t pay much attention to Ks when I see them in the junkyard. In fact, this ’83 Aries was the last “pure” K Car we’ve seen in this series. When I see an Aries K wagon with perfect Whorehouse Red interior, however, that’s when I reach for my [s]revolver[/s] camera.

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Junkyard Find: 1983 Dodge Aries

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!

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  • Redapple2 Guys. 80 K? Who buys these? I mean professionals- Doctors Lawyers, Engineers, Coder beta boy whatever, have the money but dont buy the cave man, bro dozer. The red necks that want them make peanuts. So>? Redneck contractors buy them? Those that can write it off thru the business (and burn company gas)
  • EBFlex What a colossal waste of money. But this installed administration has yet to spend one cent on something that is actually useful and actually leads to some progress. But apparently this is just what we need….a bunch of extremely overpriced but short ranged busses. It’s amazing that all our problems are solved that they have time to waste money on these little pet projects.
  • Hector How much for steering column?
  • John S. Beautiful car, fun series installment, Corey.
  • FreedMike Any link to the grant applications that were denied?