1978 Dodge Aspen: 4-Speed V8

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Here’s a quasi-beater project car for you Mopar fans: a 1978 Dodge Aspen with a V8 and 4-speed manual transmission, here on eBay with an opening bid of $100 and a reserve price set. It may look a little rough around the edges, but almost any car is better with the presence of a third pedal. The car is a lifelong Arizona vehicle with no major rot to report. 

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The interior is far from pretty but it is all there. You’ll want to find a shift knob and see if those seating surfaces can’t be cleaned up, but I would just throw seat covers over them and live with it for now. Although states that are dry and sunny are great for protecting metal, they’re a bad combination for preserving interior surfaces. The inside of this Aspen is not a pleasant place to be at the moment due to baking in the Arizona sun.

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The 318 V8 is believed to be original to the car, but the seller cannot get it to catch and run for any length of time. He says it will turn over and almost fire up but never does. Said to have been running when it was parked (after an elderly owner passed away), the next caretaker will have some work to do to make this Aspen into a runner. I agree with the seller that those Appliance Dia-Mag wheels are pretty sweet.

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At the end of the day, this isn’t a particularly valuable project, nor is it the most engaging car to drive. But if you’re itching to get into an American classic that at least lets you shift it yourself with a V8 soundtrack up front, could this be a worthwhile project candidate? I’d drop the ride height slightly on those wheels and do all the necessary mechanical upgrades while leaving the outside as-is for an authentic rat-rod look. What would you do with it?

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Comments

  1. Jason Houston

    What kind of a reserve could you possibly put on this?

    • Skloon

      Oops hit report sorry stupid tablet

  2. St. Ramone de V8

    I had no idea these were so “Desirable”. The stick makes it interesting, but only so much to me….Malaise era car in rough shape.

    • Joe

      Agree, 4 speed of some interest, (didn’t even know they came with 4 speeds). In 1978 I thought of them as slightly sporty family cars and didn’t give them a second look. The road runner, RT etc trim with stickers and wheels were to me fake muscle cars, trying to capitalize on a the remnants of the muscle car era–unfortunately the party was way over by 1978.

      • Rocco

        The 4-speed is probably a 3-speed with overdrive. Not much fun to drive if it is an OD.

      • Chebby

        Some of them had T-tops too, that would be icing on the cake.

      • C Carl

        Had a 76 Volare slant 6/ 4sp station wagon. Yup, it was a 3 speed plus OD.
        ….Good times

  3. Charles

    I never knew that these models were offered with a manual transmission.

    This could be built into one heck of a sleeper. Small block Mopar crate engine, 6 speed trans…

    • Jason Houston

      I’m no a Mopar expert, but I seriously doubt any passenger car (except maybe Corvette) in this era ever came with a 6-speed manual transmission. But please correct me if I’m wrong.

      • Charles

        No 6 Speed offered, but several choices in aftermarket.

  4. Leon

    Is that a mural of a Vehicross Isuzu on the wall ??

  5. Luke Fitzgerald

    If you squint (hard) the 3/4 view is all Duster – two words – legalise, thrash

  6. Charles H.

    Yes….yes, I do believe that is an Isuzu Vehicross!

  7. A.J.

    This would be an awesome high school car for someone. V8 plus 4 speed. Granted the interest wanes for this the older you are as it is not a real musclecar.

  8. Blindmarc

    Wish I could buy this one. There is a good chance it is a 318 hp, and that is a 4 speed. Remember that in 1978, the fastest u.s. Built vehicle was the little red truck. Just like all “A” body mopars these are easy to build on a cheap budget. And the bumpers and plastic look to be in good shape.

    • Blyndgesser

      Where do you get 318 hp? It’s 318 cubic inches and about 140 hp. Not the same powertrain as the Littlw Red Truck, which ran a four barrel 360 and dual exhausts.

      • Blindmarc

        I didn’t say it was, I said it could be. This is when the police cars were gran furys and if you look at a block from one, it will have the stamp 318 hp? As will a police option 360 of the same year. I couldn’t see well enough to tell if this was a 2 or 4 brl.

  9. MountainMan

    I like it …Not many interesting American cars from 78 so this is kinda cool. A buddy had those same wheels on a dodge van from about the same year…they are sweet

  10. John H from CT

    I owned one of these and so did my best friend. We both made the mistake of buying these based on good Mopar experiences in the late 60’s and early 70’s. The Aspen. It was irreverently referred to as the ass-pain because that’s what it was. Terrible handling, poor quality, rust, you name it. By this time the bean counters had taken over Chrysler and a majority of the engineers let go. Every part got cheapened up. Even the venerable slant 6’s built in this time frame had problems where they had been famously bullet proof in the past. I had to rebuild everything on this car before I finally gave up and sold it at a low price just to get rid of it with as I recall about 70K miles on it. The buy it now for me on this wouldn’t even the price of the scrap metal. No redeeming qualities whatsoever. (How do I really feel?)

  11. Randy
    • Jason Houston

      As Mrs. Doubtfire said, “One who drives a big flashy car is making up for smaller genitals.”

      • Randy

        Jason, if your comment is directed at my post, you are evidently ignorant of Pro Rally history, including the fact that the builder/owner/driver of the 4WD Aspen was the first Pro Rally Series national driver champion.

    • CattooButt Member

      Now that car will kick some Aspen. 😬

  12. RoughDiamond

    Interesting that seller states some ass stole the shifter knob and yet in the third interior pic it is present on the shifter. If all pics taken the same day makes me wonder if seller took the factory knob off to sell it.

  13. Jason Houston

    Good thought…

  14. Dave Sutton

    Drop a 340 6 barrel in it. Upgrade brakes and suspension. Drive as is.

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