Stored 30 Years: 1978 Plymouth Volare

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When the Volare was introduced by Plymouth for 1976 to replace the aging Valiant, Plymouth had high hopes. Those proved short-lived as the Volare and its Dodge clone, the Aspen, would become known for being some of the most recalled cars in history. This 1978 Volare Coupe has been sitting for nearly 30 years, initially due to catalytic converter issues. It will be sold just like it sits, dust and all, for $2,500. If it gets no takers on those terms, the seller will drag it, clean it up, fix it and then relist it (probably at a higher price). Located in Hawthorne, Nevada, it’s available here on Facebook Marketplace.

For 1976, Plymouth had two compact cars selling simultaneously, the Volare and the Valiant. I’m guessing Plymouth was trying to wring every last dollar they could out of the old platform as compacts were king after the mid-1970s OPEC oil embargo. More than 50,000 Valiant sedans plus another 35,000 Duster fastbacks went out the door in 1976, while the new Volare pumped out 255,000 cars.

Despite their rudimentary unibody construction, quality control issues surfaced quickly. The Volare/Aspen combo was recalled eight times during 1976-77 by the NHTSA, for everything from emissions controls to fuel systems and seatbelt retractors. As the run of the cars got longer, most of these issues were history, but the damage to the cars’ reputation was done and sales fell off dramatically from 1978-on. Thanks to All-Par for production data and Popular Mechanics for recall history.

This 1978 Volare Coupe apparently developed issues with its catalytic converter at 69,000 miles and found itself sitting in a garage for 30 years instead of being repaired. The seller (who is also a dealer) doesn’t give us a lot to go on besides telling us about this issue. We’re told the body has no dents or scratches under the 1990s-era dust, but the vinyl top has dried out over the years, so we’re guessing that will need to be replaced. The car is said to be black on the outside and green on the inside, but we just can’t tell. This is the first car I’ve reviewed where the photos were taken with a flashlight (which distracts more than it helps, BTW).

We’re also told the car has an automatic transmission, but since there on no pics from under the hood, it’s 50/50 that’s there either a 225 Slant-Six sitting there or a 318 V-8. If a car like this suits your fancy, you’d better act quick since if it doesn’t sell as-is, the seller may decide to clean it up, fix its woes and try again. However, the seller is already asking more than what NADA says is top dollar for these cars and this one isn’t even running. So, the tab could go up quickly if there is more trouble here than meets the eye.

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  1. Winfield S Wilson

    What a sad-looking old car. In the mid-late 70’s, San Diego Sheriff’s Office used Volare, and also Chevy Nova, patrol cars. I’m not proud to admit that I got chased down and transported in a couple of those. I’ve since cleaned up my act, and I haven’t seen one of those old cars in many years.

    Like 8
    • stillrunners

      It was cleaned up and offered for sale a while back with outside pictures of it.

      Like 0
  2. Tom c

    Drag it out , clean it up , fix it . The dealer can do whatever he wants , this heap wasn’t worth 2,500 when it was new . I know there’s a butt for every seat.

    Like 6
  3. David Zornig

    Exact quote from “Iacocca: An Autobiography by Lee A. Iacocca, William Novak.”
    Page 169 under the heading Aboard A Sinking Ship.

    “It wasn’t only the style of Chrysler products that had a bad reputation.
    Among the worst examples were the Aspen and Volare`, the successors to the highly acclaimed Dart and Valiant.
    The Dart and Valiant ran forever, and they never should have been dropped.
    Instead they had been replaced by cars that started to come apart after a year or two.”

    Like 9
  4. Raoul-F Raoul-F

    The H in the VIN indicates a 318 “LA” engine. B.. assembled in Hamtranck .

    Like 3
    • Little_Cars

      Hamtramck, m not n. General Motors plant there too, at least there was. I’d rather have the Studebaker pickup sitting next to this car. Wonder if it’s available. Great thing about Facebook marketplace is you can message the seller instantaneously to their phone if you have a question.

      Like 0
      • Raoul-F Raoul-F

        Sorry, mistyped… N and M keys are close :-(

        Like 0
  5. Neal Eriksen

    One of the recalls was front fender rot. I worked in a Dodge dealer and we had piles of new ones waiting to be installed and painted!

    Like 1
  6. Bob C.

    Don’t forget, another recall issue was premature rusting on these.

    Like 0
  7. DON

    Seems odd that the car was parked for a cat issue ; by the ’90s you could pick up an aftermarket one cheap. The 78-80 Volare /Aspens were 100% better than the 76-77 models . This coupe is a high line car , it looks like it has the premier package interior. I had a 78 225 coupe like this ; it never let me down , but after 200k and 17 New England winters I had to drive it to the junkyard after years of dependable service .My wife always wanted me to get rid of it because she said it would leave me stranded one day, but I told her its outlived every 1980 – 1984 Escort/Lynx built and its still running !

    Like 0
  8. Michael B

    Read up on these the other week as Dad had a green 78 four door when I was a young guy. Always was interesting when he traded it in 88 for a scarlet red 5.0 Mustang GT. Mid life crisis and all.

    These cars (Volare and Aspen) started with such high hopes of continuing the Dart/Valiant tradition. In my view there never should have been completely new models. They reached a point where engineering didn’t have the models fully ready but management (bad management) couldn’t stomach another year wait and pushed them out.

    That sure ended up costing more in recalls and brand devaluation than waiting another year….by an order or magnitude.

    Like 1
  9. James Schwartz

    And it was the 1976 Motor Trend COTY.
    One of many mistakes by the fine people at Motor Trend.

    Like 5
  10. Lee

    Thats like going on a blind date,,not sure what she looks like or if she is dirty or clean or how she smells after living in a garage for 30 years !!!

    Like 1
  11. Junkman

    These were good cars, their issues could be laid at the door of the government building cars. The technology had not caught up with the rules. We had old motors being asked to be clean suddenly. Thus stalling, plugged catalytic converters,poor performance and gas mileage. One major American city paid a large EPA fine as they removed the converters from their Police Vehicles. Modernized with todays available aftermarket technology these are great cars. One cop car version had a 360 V/8 a quick fun car.

    Like 3
  12. Rick Brennan

    Loved these cars – I was in the automotive service business when these cars were coming out of warranty. We replaced an absolute boatload of their factory “composite caliper pistons” with aftermarket steel pistons.. Can’t remember if these pistons were ever actually recalled but we sure enjoyed the ride while it lasted.

    Like 0
  13. Russell Ashley

    Rust was not a problem for these cars, Aspen and Volare, in areas where there was minimal or no snow. I had a 76 wagon and a 76 sedan, and neither of them rusted. I put over 200k on the wagon and about 150k on the sedan with never a problem with the slant six engines and virtually no trouble with anything else about them.

    Like 1
  14. Mark P

    USAF Law Enforcement used them. The local cops would laugh at them when they pulled up and were making some weird noises. Clicking, clacking and clanging. They didn’t last long on the service line.

    Like 0
  15. Burns R

    I bought a ’78 Volare (4 door) in 1979 because my ’66 Belvedere had been such a great car. I was hoping to get the same longevity from it, boy talk about being had. What a POS. In addition to going through FOUR starters, the rust began to appear almost before I got it home.
    It was total junk within 4 years. A shame because the drivetrain was fairly decent, but the rest was a disgrace.

    Like 0
  16. FrankY

    Volare…O oh Volare o oh o oh…. NoNo…

    Like 1
  17. stillrunners

    Wait – what’s going on with that Studebaker truck in the back ground ?

    Like 1
  18. Twinstick

    Man, that one needs a ton of TLC.

    Like 0
  19. Douglas Gould

    I had a 76 Volare with the Road Runner package. 360 V8 ran like a scalded dog.

    Like 0
  20. CraigR

    One of the more worthless automobiles ever. And that was when it was new.

    Like 1
  21. AYoung

    I currently have a 1978 Plymouth Volare. 225 slant six, 34,000 original miles. No rust, no dents, no rips, tears or worn spots on the naugahyde, no cracks in the dash, the headliner is still up with no sags. Other than occasional Sunday drives, it’s been parked in my shop building since 2013 when I inherited it from my bachelor uncle who bought it in 1988 from a little old lady who only drove it to church on Sundays. I have the pics to prove it. It’s not restored – it’s a survivor.

    Like 0

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