Row Your Own: 1977 Dodge Aspen R/T

This 1977 Dodge Aspen R/T is equipped with the rarely seen 4-speed manual transmission, which helps to provide some compensation for the fact that this thoroughly gussied-up commuter car fell well short of expectations when new. Despite its reputation, the R/T seen here is still a survivor of sorts considering how few of these “performance” trims show up for sale, especially with the original graphics and stripes kit still intact. That’s a huge part of the eyeball appeal, along with the rear spoiler and window louvers. Find he Aspen here on craigslist in Topeka for $2,500.

The Aspen R/T featured special wheels, blacked-out grill, and the aforementioned stripe and decal kit. The engine choices weren’t very inspiring, with the top-shelf option being a 170 b.h.p. 360 V8. This one doesn’t even have that going for it, as it features the wheezy 318 with a two-barrel. The manual gearbox becomes even more significant in that regard, as it’s essential for extracting anything resembling performance out of this tired commuter car. Note the presence of rust in the lower sills behind and in front of the rear wheel, and check out that awesome decklid spoiler.

The interior features bucket seats and manual controls. The cabin has survived well despite the body showing plenty of evidence of corrosion eating away at various body panels. No word on any issues from inside the car, but the seller notes the Aspen does run well enough with new plugs and a fresh battery. What’s shocking to me is how minimally Dodge tried to make this into a car deserving of the R/T badge, as the interior doesn’t look remotely sporting aside from the bucket seats. The seller notes he is selling this rare edition due to wanting to put money into a different project.

By the way, thanks to Barn Finds reader Pat L. for the find. The Aspen R/T looks about the same on the passenger side, except the door is showing the ill-effects of untreated rust. The seller notes he is including a spare driver’s door and fender, but I’m not sure why; those panels appear to be sound on that side of the car. Three of the original Rally wheels are included, along with a spare steering column and instrument cluster. This has all the hallmarks of a project that began to pick up steam and then stalled out; is it worth trying to jump-start this sharp-but-slow R/T model?

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Comments

  1. JACKinNWPA JACKinNWPA Member

    My best man bought one new but after not too long he started calling it the Real/Turd and always follow that up with “Aspen you shall receive” anyhow this one should be saved and the manual is a big plus!

    11
  2. Tom c

    I bought my first car in 1983 , a 76 Aspen
    RT cost me 50 bucks , fast forward to today my daughter spends a hundred on a pair of ripped up jeans. I let her know how much that car cost me compared to her clothes all the time , as a joke . She has heard the story so many times over the years she told me she’s going to put how I paid for my first car on my tombstone.

    19
  3. Howard A Member

    Nah, too rough. Again, I think a nice one of these would sell pretty quick, but you’d have to be nuts to try and restore this.

    12
    • Jack M.

      I feel that most of us in this hobby are at least a little bit nuts. The R/T parts and transmission off this car will probably be used to clone one that is in much better condition.

      11
  4. Steve R

    The 4 speed is a plus, but at this point it’s a parts car, though it’s still overpriced for that. There isn’t a strong enough following to justify its restoration. Someone would be better off holding out for a nicer version to show up, then converting that one to a manual transmission if they so desire.

    Steve R

    5
    • Jeremy

      Steve R you’re quite the glass half empty type of guy.I could count on one hand the number of positive comments you’ve given on Barn Finds.Its better to look beyond the car as it sits,to consider work that can be performed by one’s self and/or friends,connections in body shops,buying a cheap similar parts car, extracting easy horsepower with minimal cost or effort,etc

      4
      • Steve R

        I wouldn’t touch this car with a 10 foot pole. There are many reasons, first and foremost is the rust. It would be nice if you and your friends could save this car, but I’m guessing that’s not in the cards for whatever reason. If you like projects like this, go ahead knock yourself out. I’ll pass. I’m not interested in resurrecting something this far gone. There are too many other cars I’d be interested in that can eventually be found at reasonable prices and in better condition. When I’m in the market for something I search until I find a car that fits that bill.

        Steve R

        2
  5. Mark P

    In the late 80’s early 90’s my father in law had a mid 70’s Aspen or Volare wagon. It had a bench seat with a 4 speed on the floor from the factory. It wasn’t in bad shape. I’d never seen one before or ever again. Must have been rare. He had a bunch or cars and stuff. While he was away for a couple weeks we renovated the bathroom in the house, mother in law had to do stuff when he was away, not that he’d do it, anyway long story short the electrician that came in to do some work asked if he could have the wagon as payment. She found the title and away it went. Father in law wasn’t a bad guy, pretty interesting and he liked what most would call junk, I’m the same way…….

    6
  6. Little_Cars Little_Cars Member

    Somewhere in my dusty stash of automotive literature, there is an Aspen dealership brochure. In the years before I got my driver’s license I remember creating a list of all the things I would opt for if I was able to have one built for me and marked up that brochure big time! One was the 4 on the floor, the others were T tops and Magnum 500 wheels. AM-FM stereo. My optimum color would be dark red, and bucket seats would have been essential. I remember at the time thinking the final suggested price wasn’t exactly unachievable for my pimped up Aspen! Adjusting for today’s dollar, it was chump change compared to what we spend now for an average subcompact Korean econobox.

    7
  7. Frank Shearer

    Had the Plymouth Road Runner version, same year with 318/4 speed but mine was even rarer as it had the factory crank operated steel sunroof. The 4 speed was really a 3 speed with 4th being a very tall overdrive. I remember it only turning over 1100 RPM @50 MPH in 4th.

    9
    • Winfield Wilson

      San Diego county sheriff’s department used Aspen sedans for a while back in the “Oil Embargo” 70’s. I can tell you, the back seat was not comfortable.

      3
      • Troy s

        Compared to some of the squads they’d used in the past the deputies weren’t exactly thrilled with the Aspen either. Dog…..

  8. Superdessucke

    Finally a vintage Mopar I could afford, LOL! You can actually juice up a 318 to be reasonably quick, and if that’s not enough, there are all kinds of Mopar crate motors you could swap in, such as…

    https://www.moparproshop.com/inc/sdetail/16460/16733

    6
  9. FordGuy1972

    I see no point in restoring this rusty heap. You’ll be under water on value as soon as you buy a new radiator cap. It’s probably worth a few hundred bucks in parts, that’s it.

    6
  10. John Oliveri

    My buddy had a black 77, red/orange stripes, black gut, tuff wheel, rally’s, and a 360, A/C good looking car, he pulled the motor later, put a balanced blue printed 440 in it, full out race car

    5
  11. hubbahubba

    A heap, part of the cars that nearly killed Chrylser.

    1
  12. David Ulrey

    If I were in the market I’d try to buy it for $1600.00 and if accepted take it home and start restoring and modifying. It sure as heck wouldn’t with an eye towards profit because there wouldn’t be any. Having owned an Aspen and Volare similar to this I just happen to like them.

    6
  13. JoeNYWF64

    Out on the road, can you get a ticket for your car not having a front grill?
    I’ll be darn – is that a factory tachometer?
    https://images.craigslist.org/00k0k_4Ml3HC4BqP1_1200x900.jpg
    Maybe not lol.
    1st time i seen 1 on a mopar that had the big boxy speedometer.

    1
    • PRA4SNW PRA4SNW Member

      Good eye! It has 2 needles, so it’s a dual gauge of some sort.

      Maybe something only on the R/T manual model.

      • Ed P

        Maybe one needle for rpm’s and the other to set the redline?

  14. bone

    76 and 77s Aspen / Volares were really prone to rust , they even had a recall for the front fenders to be replaced because they rotted out . the 78 – 80 s were a lot better . I bought a 5 year old 78 Volare coupe and I drove for 16 years in all weather in Connecticut I finally retired it at 150,000 + ; it was just worn out . I retired it to an old time junkyard in the woods.

    • Ed P

      I bought a 78 Aspen wagon new. That was the worst car I have ever owned. If you got yours 5 years old, somebody had already spent a fortune correcting the problems. The only thing mine didn’t do was rust.

      1
  15. Howard Kerr

    Considering how rusty it looks from the pictures, I would imagine the parts we don’t see REALLY look crusty.

    This car is rare, and if it was in better condition it would almost be worth saving, but as other have said: it’s basically just a (possible) parts car.

    1
  16. Del

    Parts car. Stripe not factory ?

  17. John Oliveri

    That is the correct stripe for the R/T, is that a real R/T, I’m not sure, I thought the Tuff wheel and the 360 was standard with that pkg, it’s a long time ago for a not so important car, like I said, my buddy had one brand new

  18. Del

    Base R/T had 318. only the Super pack had a 360. Tuff wheel probably option on 318 car

    1
    • John Oliveri

      Thanks for filling in the blanks

      2
  19. stillrunners stillrunners Member

    Ruff….been trying to sell it at that price a loooong time.

    2
  20. Michael Leyshon

    If it runs and drives well, I could be that guy cruising around with the quarter panels flapping just for fun. If the frame is okay and it’s safe it could be a blast ! The 318 has plenty of power to tap for little investment. Forget restoration, for the price, drive it to death and have some fun in the process. Looks no crustier than my HS days in the mid ’80s…

  21. Troy s

    Bad time for American automakers in general. Chrysler was slow to grasp the changing market, nearly went bye-bye.
    Never noticed these as a kid until one graced the pages of Street Freaks, all dolled up like….well a freakish night cruiser. Actually thought it was pretty cool.
    That’s what I see here, not interested in a factory stock restored ’77 Aspen complete with everybody’s favorite: the lean burn system.

  22. irocrobb

    Had a base 1978 Aspen for a winter car in the late 1980s. Actually a pretty damn good car. Had a friend that called it a Asspain not Aspen. This one looks way beyond hope in my eyes.

    1
  23. Jesse Colson

    I bought a 1977 Dodge Aspen station wagon in 1984 when I returned from duty in Puerto Rico. I paid $450.00 for it, it was basic transportation for a work car. Automatic trans., power steering, power brakes and an A/M radio that didn’t work. It had 100,000 miles on it when I bought it. It had the leaning tower of power with a 2bbl carb making it a super six. I drove that rascal from August 1984 until January 2004. With the exception of I set of brakes front and rear, a water pump and a fan belt. When it finally gave up the ghost it had 280,000 miles on it. The engine still ran great but the transmission was rebuilt twice in one year and decided that I had gotten my money’s worth out of it and decided to let it RIP.

    1

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