1988 Dodge Aries K: The Legend

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You might be shocked to learn we have not featured a Chrysler K-Car in quite some time! Well, not to worry – one of our readers has found perhaps the best example on the market today, here on eBay with very active bidding and six days left to bid. This Dodge Aires K Wagon has only 55,000 original miles and looks like new. Thanks to reader Jim S. for the find!

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Chrysler Corp. sold almost a million Aires models in its lifetime, and over a million of its corporate twin, the Plymouth Reliant. I had no idea these vehicles were so popular, as most of the time they seem to be portrayed as a heap, or the trashiest vehicle on the corner used car lot. One of my favorite YouTube videos ever is the tongue-in-cheek classified ad an Aires owner created when selling his car. Check it out here for a laugh. This example, however, is rust-free and has clearly been well-loved by its previous owner. You can thank them for choosing to include the Ziebart protection package when placing their order at the dealer.

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What I didn’t know about the little K-Car was its significance to helping Chrysler get back on its feet after begging Congress for a bail-out. Obviously, the government wanted to see evidence that the company would use the loan to build vehicles the public wanted, and thus entered the economical and affordable Aires and Reliant lines. Powered by four-cylinder engines with front-wheel drive, these cars were the epitome of everything you needed and nothing you didn’t. Plus, they could fit six adults comfortably on two bench seats, a key selling point for a vehicle that was economical and relatively compact compared to its mid-sized competitors.

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I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: this vehicle may strike you as repulsive or going against everything car guys (and girls) stand for. But at the end of the day, nostalgia is one heck of an elixir when it comes to selling cars, and it doesn’t surprise me at all to see several bidders vying for the chance to own an Aires. Like that guy Tim says in the YouTube video, if you have a fixed address and like cool stuff, you just might be ready for K-Car ownership.

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Comments

  1. redwagon

    this and the ford fairmont wagon. stylewise and for functionality i liked them then and i still like them now. however i have no desire to drive and maintain 1980s technology.

    sounds like its time for a sbc or mopar transplant. 4 wheel discs and a floor shift manual and we are good to go.

    • Jason Houston

      What’s this “If it ain’t broke, let’s break it” mentality? Can’t you just appreciate something for the pure joy of its unblemished originality? A car is only truly MINT once!

      • redwagon

        i can appreciate this vehicle and do. it is an amazing piece of automotive history (see below) despite its plane jane looks. i would not want it – not because of the design – but because of the technology. sure it is simple to fix but by todays standards it is fairly unreliable, plus it is almost 30 years old. old stuff breaks down more often, just ask my 50+ year old body. would a drivetrain swap plus disc brakes be somewhat sacrilegious for a car in this shape? likely. but it would improve both reliability and the fun quotient immensely.

  2. juwald knightlly

    if you maintained them and didn’t beat on them and avoided salt join winter, this beasts were very functional !
    almost stylish, nah, that black Matador wagon you had awhile back that a dragon wagon!

  3. juwald knightlly

    and they had FM !

  4. TLouisJ

    The K car was Lee J Iaccoca’s “trademark” at Chrysler. He had played a large role in the Mustang and Pinto at Ford and after being fired there, was hired by Chrysler to save it from oblivion. He went to Congress and got the loan guarantees. He cleaned house at Chrysler, firing many layers of inept management. His face was on the TV commercials; I remember them. He said straight up to the American people “I know that Chrysler has lost your confidence by building poor quality cars. I would like you to look at our new K car and see the difference, and I’ll back each one with a 100,000 mile warranty”. Iaccoca and the K car saved the company. They were good modern cars for the time. TLouisJ

    Like 1
  5. Rando

    K cars and the minivan. Lee Iaccoca was the man for Chrysler. Without him, Mopar would have probably never seen the Viper, and Hellcat. Chrysler was basically done til the K car. Gotta respect that much abou them.

    Like 1
  6. PaulG

    Kudos to Iacocca and how he handled the firing from Ford, and the rebirth of Chrysler. Anyone who has an interest in cars, or for that matter MANY different topics including business, and attitude should read his book:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iacocca:_An_Autobiography
    That said, nice wagon. I’ve never seen one with bucket seats.

    Like 1
  7. Dave Wright

    I owned and operated a fleet of these in the 80’s and 90’s we put hundreds of thousands of miles on them. As lond as you stayed away from the Mitsibishi engine, they were great. We ran them all over the southwest at 90MPH with the A/C screaming. Most everything was very inexpensive to maintain and could be repaired with simple tools. We would buy them from the government with maby 50k miles on them and run them for another 75k miles with few problems. Then sell them for twice what we paid for them originally. The engines are non interference meaning, if you blow a timing belt it does no damage. I changed one on the side of the road on the 605 freeway near LA in an hour one time and was back on the road. We never bought carbureted versions and preferred the 5 lug wheeled cars. The expensive items were wheel bearings that lasted between 125k and 150k miles. I even wrecked one on the I5 in Orange County when a a guy pulled into the carpool lane in front of me………I hit the guy at a closing speed of at least 30 MPH. It damaged the radiator but I drove it off the next off ramp. Bought a used radiator for 50.00 and drove it home to Santa Barbera.

  8. wynkin

    Looks like they stole the design from Volvo.

  9. Mike D

    although this looks very clean and nice, I would never own on

  10. Blindmarc

    Owned one of the Chargers with this engine. Never had a problem with it. And I agree that Iacocca saved Chrysler.

  11. Howard A Member

    Say what you will, ( as others said) this is the car that saved Chrysler. I had a wagon exactly like this, and it was a good car. Nothing fancy ( except those seats were great and made their way into the mini-vans) This was almost the end of the K-car (1989) as most people went with the mini-van, and wagons became obsolete. Like Dave sez, easiest car I ever worked on, and changed a timing belt ( in a 4 cyl. mini-van) in a truckstop, and an entire engine and trans replacement on a Dodge 400 ( Aries) in less than a day. Nobody ever thought of saving one, so to see this is truly rare. Lee Iaccoca,,, there’s a guy who should have been president of the United States. I saw an interview with him, the 2nd time Chrysler was going down, and the interviewer asked him if he would ever consider coming back. His response was priceless. He said,( something to the effect) Those fat cat, spoiled cry-babies had to have big salaries and mansions, while the product he and his team created went down hill, again. He said, he didn’t pull a dime for himself until Chrysler’s K-car program had taken off. He was very bitter about it, and said, he had done his work, and would never consider coming back. I don’t think Chrysler ever recovered from that 2nd time, and he knew it.

    Like 1
    • Dave Wright

      This platform lived on for decades. The PT Cruser is simply a rebodied K Car and there are probably others I don’t know.

      • Blyndgesser

        Sorry but no. The PT Cruiser is based on the Neon and has essentially no parts in common with the K Cars.

        Like 1
    • Ross W. Lovell

      Greetings All,

      Before we were married my wife had one. It earned the second worst car owned between the two of us, the worst a Fiat 850/900 Spider.
      Can believe this saved Chrysler, as they sold enough of them. Saving Chrysler first by the initial sale and then again with the numerous non-warranted repairs the car needed on a regular basis.
      Iacocca, is a very talented man, but human and flawed. His forte was his ability to walk into a horrible situation and sort it out, triage style. Once the bleeding had stopped, that’s where his problems start. His long range plans and innovation skills seem to lack. Remember the Chrysler TC Maserati? How about the outsourcing of the Viper engine to Maser or Lambo, and then being surprised that the Italians were over budget on the engine? The Italians must of thought they died and went to Heaven when that deal dropped into their laps.
      Iaccoca also wasn’t having any of that smooth transition of his position to his successor. Though Iaccoca wanted and preferred Bob Lutz for his successor, he had succeeded in poisoning that relationship enough that Robert Eaton was picked. Chrysler lost again as did its stockholders, all for Lee’s ego.
      Iaccoca learned a lot from Henry Ford and not all of it good.
      All that being said, still like Iacocca, he’s a car guy…….and he’s human, both things I can relate to at this time.

      Like 2
  12. Jason Houston

    Like all cars, ‘nothing’ cars eventually grow into something. I like this thing, and yet I can’t say why. Maybe it’s just that it’s so stone-mint, and who could ever hate a stone-mint, unmolested, original car? And the color is cool, too. Sure beats the hell out of WHITE!

  13. Brett123123

    Would it cost much to put AC in the car

  14. ron tyrrell

    In the Portland metro area you will see a few of these still on the almost every day. On the other hand you could go weeks before you would see a Ford Fairmont, Chevy Citation , other Chevy products except pick ups. The statement to stay away from the 2.6 Mitsubishi rings true. When we would get a 2.6 in the shop most likely it would need a cylinder head or worst from over heating. I got to the point of just not taking the job on because you would never get it to go away.

  15. Koolpenguin

    I had the sister sedan to this one. 4 on the floor with a bench seat with the same red velour interior. I have no idea why but thought it was cool to drop the clutch and lay rubber with it.

    • hearsetrax

      some cars get under our skins in ways we never thought possible jejeje

      god blessed the few misfit platforms like the k – kars

      Like 1
  16. piper62j

    Great daily driver.. Even better if you have kids who like a view.. The current “mom wagons” are confining… Great find..

  17. Puhnto

    Don’t forget that under Iococca, Chrysler introduced the “minivan” (as opposed to a microbus) to the US and it changed the landscape of America with one of the most practical vehicles ever designed, until someone thought, “Hey, let’s all drive four wheel drive trucks that get lousy gas mileage and only seat five people, everywhere!) (You know, the ones you always see upside down in ditches every time it snows because, just because you can own one, don’t mean you should.)

    Like 2
  18. Keith

    If there were almost a million K-Cars made then where are they now (with the exception of this one)? I rest my case. Junk cars.

    • Howard A Member

      Well, Keith, you can rest your case, but the fact is, they were good cars. ( with some exceptions, like any car) Had several, and my mini-vans had almost 200K on them. They made millions of Model A’s, and millions of Mustang’s ( and so on) and where are THEY today? Truth is, they gave their owners ( that took care of them) tens of thousands of trouble free miles, and when they were used up, they did their job, and nobody thought of saving them. Go to any junkyard, and if they haven’t crushed these, I’d bet they all have over 100K miles on them. For what they were, they were good cars.

      Like 1
  19. jim s

    sold for $ 2651. i think the new owner got a great deal.

    Like 1
  20. Troy

    2.2 and 2.5 Chrysler engines were Very Reliable….(2.6 Mitsubishi were problematic).

    5 Digit odometer so every 99,999 it went to 0 (like all old Chryslers and others)

    People didn’t know if it had 20,000 or 320,000 ..So,people who bought these used had no idea how many miles were on them….then they were told it had 50,000 when it was 150,000,250,000 etc….Trust me I sold used cars in my early 20’s…Clean a car up slap newer tires on it..its low mileage….These were good cars..

    My parents had one ,bought it new 1986 with the 2.5 Chrysler 4 cyl,went 320,000 miles basically problem free (timing belt was changed twice..as per service manual) never broke down…Sure,cv joints around 140,000 but very reliable…Struts,cv joints,radiator(small leak so changed not an epic fail this was over 100,000 plus,way up there) and 2 timing belts but they had little wear on them.

    Smooth driving cars,comfortable,good gas mileage,decent performance .. It beat some import V-6 cars too..

    Like 1

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