Incredible Survivor: 1979 Dodge Aspen

I literally dream about living in a climate like Phoenix, Arizona where this rust-free 1979 Dodge Aspen is located. I know that there is no perfect place on the planet to live, but compared to the upper-Midwest where winter is coming soon and there will be tons of road salt covering everything, including our vehicles, Arizona sounds great to me right now. This solid survivor can be found here on eBay with a $4,500 buy-it-now price and a current bid of $255. Let’s check it out.

I’ve gotten vehicles from all corners of the US in different states (no pun intended) of repair, or condition. Vehicles in the southwest can have rodent damage and burnt rubber gaskets and more than a few have a cracked dash from the hot sun. We have rust in the midwest as does the northeast, and the southeast and pacific northwest with their humid climates have their own issues related to vehicles. But for me, rust-free is king and this car looks great in that regard. While there is some surface rust underneath, it looks like that’s about it.

The seller doesn’t say where they got it from but it was a one-owner car until the last few months when the owner passed away and they bought it from the widow. This car looks great due to the fact that it was never driven in the rain or snow and was kept in a garage under a cover its whole life. The Dodge Aspen and related Plymouth Volare were made for another year until the famous K-Cars took over for the 1981 model year.

I always like seeing cars like this, base or mid-level models without power windows and locks and power seats and other things that people today can’t seem to live without. Although, it’s not their fault, it’s hard to even get a car these days without at least power windows, power locks, and AC as standard equipment. This Aspen does have AC but it isn’t blowing as cold as it should be. Other than that, the interior looks fantastic and the back seat looks like new. There are no squeaks or rattles and all doors shut like a new car. It was babied by the original owner and that’s what most of us dream about finding, no matter what kind of vehicle it is.

The engine is Chrysler’s 318 cubic-inch V8 which with a 2-barrel carb would have had 135 hp and 250 ft-lb of torque – not a heck of a lot of power but enough to get by in modern traffic. It runs great and idles like velvet (smooth), but there is a slight hesitation off the line. The current owner hasn’t done any tune-up work on it yet and I’m guessing that it’ll take care of at least some of that nonsense once the next owner changes plugs, wires, cap, rotor, etc. Have any of you owned a Dodge Aspen? An even more important question: what’s your favorite area of the US to buy a vehicle from?


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  1. Moparman Member

    In 1979, I wanted to buy the 2 door version that graced the front of the brochure in this same color combo, but was told by a salesman that there were none available!!! I said “so, you’re telling me that ChryCo would print thousands of these brochures, and then WOULDN’T have any matching cars available?!?” Considereing the problems that surfaced, I just may have dodged a bullet! I STILL would like to have one, though! :-)

    Like 4
  2. canadainmarkseh Member

    I like these cars too. But I’d want a red two door. I’d even take it with a 225 leaning tower of power. You just don’t see them up here in Canada they’ve pretty much have all rusted out. Yesterday I went by a city salt truck and he covered me in a spray of salt crystals bad enough that I felt like I was in a sand storm. Today my truck is chalk white. No wonder I’m chasing rust year after year. In Quebec they have been mandated that if you don’t have winter tires on by a set date the police will pull you over and give you a ticket. I wish the same were true in western Canada too. I digress back to this car. Lot of people have commented on what a POS these were I think that they were no worse than anything else on the road at the time and there drivelines were just as tough as previous years. Nicely preserved car.

    Like 7
    • That AMC Guy

      These cars had terrible quality problems initially that really gave Chrysler a black eye in the marketplace, but by 1979 were pretty well sorted out.

      Like 5
      • Brent in Winnipeg

        We had a 1980 Volare sedan in our family for 23 years. It was as reliable as any car could be. I still regret selling it.

        Like 8
    • local_sheriff

      A now deceased colleague owned a 4door ’79 Volare /-6 and auto, bought new and drove it to ’93. Had nothing but good to say about it, was a good winter car with decent quality for its time but it should be noted he was a caring owner. Being intended as a basic transportation vehicle these cars usually fell victim to owners that neglected them…

      His son bought a very similar pampered ’80 Volare Premier a few years back also /-6 auto for nostalgic reasons, as he had only found memories of his childhood with the Volare as their family car. He still owns it and still pampers it

      Like 4
  3. Stevieg

    Nice old car! I would prefer the slant 6, but this would be fine with ne as an alternative.
    I would drive it daily as is. I think the buy ut now leaves no meat on the bone, but I believe that the seller would negotiate.
    The area in the ebay ad marked for vinyl number appears to have a Phoenix area (east valley) phone number. If I were a serious buyer, I would attempt to dial the vinyl number & see if the seller answers. If so, I would talk to the seller & feel them out.
    Absolute bargain if it were to sell for the current bid lol.

    Like 3
  4. Kevin

    Nice car. I noticed the dealer sticker from Berwyn (Berwyn!!?? Svengoolie fans know what I mean), IL which is a suburb of Chicago. Might explain some of the surface rust underneath. AZ is full of many former Midwest rust belt residents who opt for warmer climes in their golden years. My parents did the same thing in the 1980s. Most from their era are gone now and I’m surprised to see this Aspen still around. The Aspen/Volare twins did no favors for Chrysler in their dark days of the late 70s/early 80s, but funny how as the years move on these cars have a certain appeal.

    Like 6
  5. Todd Zuercher

    Come on out, Scotty! The weather’s great right now – we’re supposed to get down to the mid 40s tonight though…brrrr….for Phoenix. Still lots of great old cars here too. My 50 year old rust-free Bronco’s resting comfortably in the garage as I type this.

    Like 4
  6. OhU8one2

    Being born and raised in Phoenix, I can’t tell you how many times I bought very clean low mileage vehicles through friend of a friend. Bought a 63 Coupe DeVille with 69K miles for $1500.00 in 1995. White with black/white interior. I changed all the fluids, buffed out the paint,polished the chrome trim, including the hubcaps. Installed new tires with 1 1/2 whitewalls. It was the gem of a lifetime. Unfortu I sold it way too soon. But like I said another faded creampuff show up. 73′ 914 with 2.0 litre engine and factory aluminum wheels. Moving back by end of the week. Just before all the car auctions. Life is good.

    Like 2
    • David Ulrey

      You and Todd can have Phoenix with my blessings. While it’s not bad as cities go, after being there for 12 years I was more glad to move back to Northern Arizona. Not sure if you guys lived there when it hit 120 (can’t remember anymore if it was late 80s or early 90s) but I sure remember having to work outside that whole day! I could deal with it in my late 20s and early 30s but as time passed I’d get heat sick very easily. Thanks but I’ll take Prescott or Flagstaff!!!!

      • Todd Zuercher

        David – truth be told, I’d rather be north too. I’m a Prescott kid – raised there in the 70s/80s/early 90s. My parents still live there and I visit as often as I can. Unfortunately, work in my field (engineering) is extremely limited there so I, like many, moved to the big city out of necessity. The hottest day was in June 1990 (122 deg.) and I went downtown that day in my ’74 Courier (of course no a/c) in a shirt and tie to get some parts for a project I was working on at Honeywell. It makes for a good story if nothing else :).

        My master plan is to someday move back and retire there but I’m pretty sure my wife has other ideas!

    • Kevin

      Proud ’87 NAU grad here. Loved living in Flag in the 80s. The year I graduated a Walmart was coming in and then over the years it became a shadow of its former self. After many years, went back for a visit three years ago and hardly recognized the place. Change happens, but it was tough to see how much had changed. The old saying still holds true that you can’t go home again because home is not there anymore.

  7. robj Member

    I had the Plymouth version of the same vehicle but with the Slant 6. It was a personal work vehicle for which I was paid ‘mileage”. It finally died at about 350,000 miles, [after the second transmission] but the Slant 6 kept on ticking. [literally as well as figuratively]. I think it was the only “work car” where I actually made money on the mileage payments. I loved that thing. And it was actually pretty comfortable, as by that time the seat really fit my butt.
    One of the best cars I ever owned, pretty much bullet -proof. [and that Slant 6 probably had another 25,000 miles idling time].

    Like 2
    • Mark

      My dad had a 76 Aspen wagon. I went to that Dodge dealer and got him. 77 Aspen brochure so he could order a car. No wood grain.

      On the way home I saw the 76 Aspen wagon he bought. 7,600 miles. Lady had to hsve it. 8 months later lady had to have an Olds Cutlass.

      Saved a bunch of money. My dad, myself and my brother all drove the car. Great car until my brother totaled it in 1985. We kept a ballast resistor in the glove box and a wrench. It would blow one once a year usually in February. After the first time we just kept one to be ready.

      We had the slant six.

      My aunt bought a 78 Aspen Soecial Edition wagon. Loaded. It went through her and three kids driving it before the rear end blew up.

      An uncle bought a 1980 Plymouth Volare and drive it till 1997. Forgot what engine he had. Oil pump went off.

      Good cars. In my opinion

      Like 4
      • lc

        I had a ’78 Monaco 2dr as a demo. The rear end blew out of that too, delivered with no gear oil and of course our service dept had not checked it. Beautiful cars but you took your chances buying one back then.

  8. lc

    I was selling Dodges in ’78 and the Aspen was a huge hit…with the service department. Unfortunate build quality made the salesman look even worse than they did back in the day. The cars delivered from the factory were often sub par and our service prep was a big zero. I remember an older woman bought a green on green Aspen SE 4 dr. from me and as she was driving off the lot the headlight door, bulb and a tailpipe hanger fell off and the salesman were laughing their heads off. That day I left and went on to sell Chevrolet’s. No more issues….

    Like 2
    • Arthell64 Member

      Good story:)

      Like 1
  9. Pete Phillips

    The 318 in one of these is a fine engine until the “Lean Burn” starts acting up. Then, there’s no fix except to replace the carburetor and maybe the distributor, and get rid of the Lean Burn components. I had an immaculate 1985 Plymouth Fury (basically the same car as this) with that drive train. It was great until the Lean Burn gave trouble. Same way with a ’77 New Yorker that I had.

    Like 1
  10. Dave Phillipo

    Never miss a chance to dump on these. I had a 1976 Volare with the stumbling carb and the replacement fenders. All Japanese cars ever since.

    • JoeNYWF64

      Did they offer replacement fenders for the Japanese Datsun Z-car? Or more than fenders for the Mitz “Plymouth” Arrow?
      I bet you would have big trouble finding a non rusty import you owned from 70’s & 80’s today in the condition above. & big trouble too with the more complicated troublesome carbs THEY used.
      EZ to put a non stumbling ’60s carb on the above volare.
      My friend bought a rebuilt simple as pie rochester monojet carb for his ’68 nova 6 cyl in ’91 for $35 – was 1/2 price at Strauss Auto & it still runs perfect – always starts, never stalls out or hesitates – even when stone cold!!
      All u gotta do is change that $1.50 fuel filter every 6k miles. Takes < 3 minutes.

      Like 2
  11. sign guy

    Sorry, but someone has to address the style of this car. Horrible. Except for the color, it reminds me of a vintage Soviet limousine.

    • robh693

      It only had to compete domestically with the Ford Granada and Chevy Malibu in the looks category. They all shared the same function over form design.

      Like 1
  12. hatofpork

    Bet you saw a ton of these in Aspen back in the day….

    Like 1
  13. Charles Harnish

    Had a 1980 Aspen Special Edition in Hilo Hawaii with the 318 and loaded with options. White with burgundy top and interior. Nice looking and running car.

    Like 2
  14. Russell Ashley

    Every time there is an Aspen/Volare article someone will chime in about how horrible they were, but my experience with a 1976 Aspen station wagon and a 76 Aspen sedan was very good. The station wagon had a /6 engine with three speed/OD transmission. No rust and no problems in 201K miles. I only traded it to get an automatic transmission as it was my work car and I was tired of shifting. I gave the sedan to my son when it had about 175K and was still running great. Both Aspens never had an a/c problem or rust. I agree that the fit and finish wasn’t wonderful but it was about normal for the time and price of the car. It probably cost me less to buy and operate these two vehicles than any cars I will ever have in the future.

    Like 3
  15. Car Nut Tacoma

    Lovely looking car. Although not my favourite year for the Dodge Aspen, my favourite years are 1976 and 1977, 1980 and 1981, this is still a nice car.

  16. AndyM

    Dad bought a 76 Aspen wagon new. 318, trailer package. Not what he wanted, the dealer sold his preferred /6 example the night before out from under him. Dad’s spent the first year in the shop. Everything went bad. Some things twice.

    After that the car settled in and provided a decade of pretty reliable service. The frame rusted through in ‘86, the car had extra cost insulation that ate through the rear fenders and allowed salt through to the rear frame.

    Stung by that experience, dad picked up a new 78 Corolla base model for his commuter and it went 10 years with zero, count ‘em zero issues. Partial to ChryCo as he was, he then swapped the Toyota on another Mopar…’88 Horizon. 2 weeks into that one a plug wire shorted on the valve cover. We managed to get a decade out of that one too, but dad never again bought a Pentastar product.

    • JoeNYWF64

      Aspen has no frame – it’s unibody.
      I would say u got a real good preproduction corolla or even a fixed up test mule If there was no rust after 10!! years as a bad weather driver – then it should have not rusted for the NEXT10 yrs either, & the next 10 & the next 10. & I would try to track it down today & buy it again! lol & after the 1st 10 yrs, any corolla mechanical issues on such a simple rear wheel drive car should have been fixable for peanuts!
      Yet, I don’t see any ’78 corollas on ebay motors but plenty of 1st gen camaros.
      I have seen plenty of 10 yr old MODERN asian imports starting to rust on the rear quarter panel where the steel meets the plastic bumper. & to be fair, i seen lots of rust on many 10 yr old modern full size domestic trucks on the rear qtr panels.

      Like 3
  17. Jesse

    I was in the Navy and Transferred from Roosevelt Roads, PR in June 1984. Got state side an picked up a 1977 Dodge Aspen station wagon. Gave the guy $480.00 for the car and drove it home. The aluminum trim was grey with age and the dark green paint was faded to a putrid light green. I polished the paint and it was a dark forest green, a beautiful green. Polished all if the aluminum trim around the windows. I blacked out the door handles, front and rear bumpers and grill and l slapped in a set of Keystone classic rims and a set of black wall tires and straight pipe. I drove that thing for 19 years put 190,000 miles on the 100,000 it already had on it. It was the leaning tower of power super six with the 2bbl carb. I finally parked it in 2002, It needed a transmission, the complete front suspension rebuilt, U joints, brakes for the third time, rear spring bushings. I still have the car parked out at the family farm. Great car that everyone else called crap. If I could find another wagon in good shape I would buy it today. Long live the super six leaning tower of power. PS, I also had red and yellow flames clear coated on the front fenders.

    Like 3
  18. Del Gray

    I had one and the lean burn computer crapped. In those days dealer just slapped a new one on.

    Mine was a great daily driver but it had an oil leak that I could not cure.

    If I bought this I would trash the lean burn for a new intake and TBI conversion or just a 4 bbl set up. That would wake this 318 right up

    Like 1
  19. David G

    Great cars. Had a ’76 Volare sedan (318 automatic, A/C cruise control,etc.) in Japan in the 1980s. Never any issues or breakdowns, 100% reliable. Now I own a 1980 Volare sedan, Police model with 318 4 barrel engine and factory A/C. Again, no reliability issues at all. Great cars. Hopefully the new owner of this featured car will take the same great care of it as the last owner did.

    Like 2
  20. Ken Neal-Rosario

    Yep, I had one. A 77 Volare Premier Sedan. Same color, except the top and moldings were white, and the true leather interior was saddle colored. I traded $60.00 worth of Subaru parts for it in my “broke ass poor” period of life. It was rusted beyond belief but incredibly reliable. The first day I had it I overheated it so bad it quit running as I pulled into work. Wouldn’t turn over so I thought it was done. But when I tried it after work it fired right up and ran perfectly. I drove it for a year and a half after, changing the oil every week due to the blown head gasket I caused. (Not the filter, just the oil, with used oil drained during oil changes at the BMW dealership where I worked. )Towards the end of my ownership, the oil light would start to flicker near the end of my long commute, and I would plead with it, “not today, please, just keep going “, and it always did. I parked it in front of my brother’s house when I finally got another car, and it just disappeared after a few weeks. I called the city expecting an impound bill, but they said they didn’t tow it. I like to think it went looking for some other broke kid that desperately needed to get to work. I’m ashamed to admit today that it was never registered, insured or titled while I had it.

  21. PRA4SNW PRA4SNW Member

    Sold for $2500.

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