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Survivor Wagon: 1979 Plymouth Volare


If you didn’t already know, I’m on the hunt for a new daily driver to replace the Miata. As much as I love that little car, it isn’t good at hauling much more than myself around. Occasional kid duty and frequent hardware store stops necessitate something bigger and since I’m never one to go halfway, a full-sized wagon is in my sights. The fake wood grain of a Country Squire would really add to the mood when we go to cut down a Christmas tree this year, but the fuel bill might put a damper on the experience. So, when BF reader Kirt M. sent in the link to a 1979 Plymouth Volare, found here on craigslist, I took notice.


The same tough 225 inline-six that was in my Duster sits under the hood of this wagon, so I know it has many years of service left in it. This one even appears to have the “Super Six” package which added a dual-barrel Carter carb to help make up for the loss in power caused by all the emissions equipment. It is not a high-performance engine, but the power should be decent and the fuel efficiency is still better than a big V8. I also spotted an A/C compressor so with a little work, this hauler might actually be comfortable during those hot summer months.


There is plenty of room in the back for a car seat and quite a few 2x4s should fit back there too with the seats folded flat. The Volare was considered a compact when it was released, but there is actually a bit more cargo room back there than a mid-sized Dodge Magnum can handle today! Sizing standards in America were obviously a little different back then than they are now. The best aspect of this particular wagon is not its carrying capacity though…


Just look at the amazing condition this thing is in! The interior looks great so it is not hard to believe the claimed mileage of 73k. In fact, I had a hard time spotting any flaws in the photos of this one. The seller claims that the spare and jack have never been used and from what I can see, that just might be the case. The asking price of $3,950 does seem reasonable for all the utility provided here. The only things that could make it better would be a third pedal and if it were a little closer to me. So, someone near Darlington, Wisconsin had better go get it before I start asking around for shipping quotes! Thanks for the tip Kirt.


  1. 2vt

    Not sure the theory that the 6 cylinder engine will give better fuel mileage is valid. I remember back in ’79 I drove a Chevy pick-up with a 6 and it only got 12 mpg at best. Personally I’d stay away from anything between ’74 and ’88 IMHO. All that said, there was a version of that wagon called a “Load Runner” with a 340 V8 you could sneak in a 6-pack into.

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    • 2vt

      Did see this the other day. Took a closer photo of the 4-sale sign if anybody needs it.

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  2. MDchanic

    Ha. That’s the car I took driver’s ed in.

    A miserable piece of junk then, and not much better now, in spite of how clean this one is.
    There’s a reason why you never see any of these anymore: they all got crushed.

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    • Ed P

      MDchanic, you are correct calling this a piece of junk. I had a 1978 Dodge Aspen wagon. I bought it new and it was the worst pile of junk I have ever owned. The repair bills were outrageous.

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  3. William Henshaw

    I have a sore spot when it comes to Chrysler products, I just don’t like them. That said, this is a really clean wagon. Body looks great and the interior looks new, a used to be compact that is damned near full size now! Great powertrain combination, practically bulletproof. I see tons of value at $4k as long as you have use for it, as Jesse appears to have.

    @2vt I had a ’78 Chev half ton, 250 inline six with a TH350 and it got horrible gas mileage untill I swapped in an older intake, carb and a used aftermarket header. Gas mileage while not greatly improved did get better, along with starting and idling. I think the original carb was the culprit, bad vario venturi design.

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  4. Dave Wright

    I agree with 2VT……..I bought a brand new 1978 Lebarron with a 318. It was a great car and consistently came in at better than 20MPG. The post smog 6’s did no better and sometimes worse if they were working hard.

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  5. Karo

    Looks nice for a plain jane!

    No A/C, though. That is an air pump, not an A/C compressor you see. No vents in the dash and the control panel is sliders instead of push buttons.

    It does appear to have power steering, along with power brakes.

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  6. Joe

    Same wagon sold by Mecum in May, 2010 for $1700. Volare’ Wagon price inflation by 130% in 4 years for a Fridge White, 6 cyl., automatic, non-AC, late 70s example with 70K miles??? That’s better % appreciation than Porsche 911s during the same time period. I don’t get it. Tell me why why why ?? Should we all rush out and buy Volare and Aspen Wagons now—before it is too late???

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  7. Joe

    BTW Plymouth stated gas mileage is 16/18 mpg

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  8. jim s

    find out the cost to ship ( or cost to travel to and drive home ) and then make the seller an offer. the motor makes this car interesting. i could not live with an automatic but i think most people could. this looks like a very nice find and daily driver. but no shoulder belts in the back so i do not know how you are going to transport a child, car seat or not!…. does this mean the miata is next up for auction and what is the status on the duster?

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    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

      Yeah, I’m sticking with manual cars too Jim. Good point about the lack of rear shoulder belts. I think I have found something that might fit all our criteria a little closer to home. It is going to be hard to let go of the Miata thought because I have really enjoyed it. I will probably just sell it locally because I doubt it would sell for more at auction. We will see when that time comes though. The buyer of the Duster has paid, so they were legit. They are just trying to arrange transport for it. I sort of wish we could have gotten it out of the garage this week because a snow storm hit and the Amazon had to sit outside. Oh well, after sitting outside for years, I doubt one more storm is going to hurt it.

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      • Bob Hadley

        Why get rid of the miata? Just keep it and use it to revisit your youth once in a while

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      • jim s

        keep the miata and put a trailer hitch on the back of it, then get a trailer or two for it to haul stuff. between no shoulder belts or child guard door locks setting lot of older vehicles have a problem when it comes to transporting children. is the new owner of the duster going to keep us update? as long as the antifreeze/h2o mix in the volvo is good sitting outside for a day or so might be ok.

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      • Tim H

        I don’t know how you can let go of the Miata. I have moved from my Miata to my Integra GSR for my winter DD, I feel like I am being punished!

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  9. Scot Carr

    ~ Decent wagon, 130% of its 2010 price, I say Nice Price.
    ‘course 911s aren’t really very utilitarian.

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  10. Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

    Well, I guess I struck out on this one guys! Bad fuel mileage, no A/C, automatic, overpriced, low quality, boring, the list goes on and on…

    Then again, this looks like it is in similar condition as my Duster and look what it just sold for. I remember when people hated the Dusters too, so I predict that it is just a matter of time before even the lowliest, but preserved vehicles like this will fetch top dollar.

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    • vince Habel

      Jesse There is a nice 74 Ford Courier in Idaho on Bring A trailer. I don’t know how to send the link to you

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      • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

        You can always email us Vince at mail@barnfinds.com. I actually spotted that one on craigslist a few weeks ago, but never got around to looking at it. Guess I should have!

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  11. Brian

    If I were you, I’d continue the search and skip this one. As I remember it, this car, and it’s sister Dodge Aspen, once held the distinctive title of being the most recalled car in America (that torch may have since been passed to a newer make). I’ve never heard great things about these cars and my childhood memories of them were marked by their short stays in their owner’s family stable. As a matter of fact, my mother-in-law had one of these back in the day and it left scars deep enough that she still hates all station wagons nearly forty years later! I have nothing against Chysler products in general (other than the horrible 2.7 V6 engine has me too scared to buy a lovely new 200 convertible) but these car take plain jane to the next level. If your feeling a MoPar wagon, why not look for a solid mid-sixties Dart or Valiant wagon? They’re rarer, prettier, better made, smog-free, and I’ll bet you’ll get alot more thumbs up as your going down the road … plus you’ll get as good as, if not better, gas mileage from them … even without the “Lean Burn” contraption!

    Remember, these cars were build during dark days at Chrysler (remember the Carter bail-out?) and, sadly, I have often wondered if it would have been better if nature had just been allowed to take its course and Chrysler could have died with dignity way back then?

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  12. Gerry

    That car will hold 600 boxes of Krispy Kreme boxes when leaving the store….and arrive back at an undisclosed high school 40 miles away with 592 boxes. Don’t ask me how I know. (Being 6’2″ and rail-skinny meant that I could eat anything/everything in site….. 40 years ago.)

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  13. Kenny

    I had a ’78 Volare 4dr. No frills transportation. 16 – 18 mpg. The only cool thing about them was you could change the starter without crawling under the car.

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  14. Barry

    I’m surprised that it appears to be rust free as I thought most of these turned to a pile of rust before your eyes.

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  15. Bob Hadley

    I think it was just the fuel shortage scam that set our country on this path that hasn’t quit yet, lets make ’em more fuel efficient, but still make something with out the consumers input, I had a professor in college marketing class, said, ” you can’t just make something and throw it over the wall, and except people to buy it, our consumer’s now a days, know what they want, and did then too, but the big three didn’t listen to the “guy on the street” just continued to “Harrumph” and said just make it, the rubes have to buy it,that’s how Detroit lost it, still really don’t have the American public back, takes a long time, if ever to win back the now somewhat savvy consumers

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  16. Dave

    I had a ’76 coupe. I learned to keep a spare starter in the trunk. They did not last long, but luckily could be swapped out in 5 minutes with an adjustable wrench. Mine looked good but the unibody rusted so bad I had to junk it.

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  17. Paul B

    Cool to see one of these in decent shape, as most of them rusted away and were discarded for other reasons including suspension problems. Dark days indeed for Chrysler, and these were a very sad followup to the Darts and Valiants that earned reputations as bulletproof family haulers, the best of all Detroit compacts by far. Find a ’63-’66 Dart or Valiant wagon in nice shape and you’ll have something.

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  18. fred

    I’ve always followed the Consumer Reports “frequency of repair” guides when buying and remember with clarity the Volare/Aspen chart. It was SOLID BLACK, meaning every conceivable aspect of the car required repair more often than other cars of the day.

    The upside of this car is, being a survivor, it is one of the “better” ones, meaning it didn’t fall apart immediately. Surely it was driven little the whole time and obviously garage kept, preventing the usual rust. But subject it to daily driving for a while…..

    In contrast, the “Country Squire” of the day (or any LTD) had a repair chart that was solid red. Meaning it had the build quality of today’s Toyota or Honda. If this were still true I would still be a Ford guy today.

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  19. Joe

    The owner says the car is in top shape mechanically (lots of preventative maintenance in last few years), interior and exterior very good and all original. No AC. Seems like it could sell for $3K (maybe less) to the right buyer with cash.

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  20. Joe

    The owner says the car is in great shape mechanically, inside and outside. Lots of preventative maintenance in the last 4 years. Seems like the car could be sold to the right buyer with cash for $3K or maybe less? If anybody is interested call him.

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  21. gunningbar

    I drove a 78 wagon handed down from my parents…I cant remember but something catostrophic took it down about 1983….car was very clean…but women were NOT impressed with it…I heard one woman say “I cant believe he drives that!” Too funny….I still prefer old wagons…driving a 93 Volvo wagon now.

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  22. PaulieB

    Run away from this one. Just as some others have commented I too had a late 70s MoPar ..it was a ’76 Aspen SE. At 28,000 miles the spider gear in the rear end called it quits. The carburetor wasn’t always working right, The backs of the front seats were carpeted and the carpeting fell off. I found some spare parts under the carpet in the back..and the body started rusting at the fender tops within 2 years.. I wound up trading it in for a ’79 Chevette.. The Chevy dealer had his lot guy check out my trade..at night.. in the rain.. best deal I made at the time. The Chevette may have had its own issues but I never saw any. I saw the Aspen about 6 months after I traded it in.. it got really ugly really quick..

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  23. skloon

    I saw one of these in a body shop they were converting it to two door, wonder what it looked like

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  24. Chris

    No rear shoulder belts? In 1979? Were they not required by law or have they been removed?

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    • MDchanic

      How old are you?

      Back-seat outboard shoulder belts were required in most cars as of 12/11/1989, and in SUVs and convertibles as of 9/1/1991. Center-position rear-seat shoulder belts were required as of 9/1/2007.

      True, Volvo had back seat shoulder belts as of about 1972, and Mercedes by the late ’70s, and GM offered them as a (very, very rare) option from about 1968, but your question makes me wonder how many older American cars you’ve actually seen.

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      • chris

        I’m 55. And for an Aussie, pretty well exposed to American cars. 5 trips to the USA thus far. There’s been ’63 & ’67 Chevs in the past & there’s a ’69 Skylark in the garage. Not common in Australia!
        We had shoulder & lap belts mandatory for all outboard seating positions in 1971.
        I’m surprised that the USA was so late in adopting them.

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      • MDchanic

        Ah. The Aussie accent didn’t come through in your post.

        Different countries, different laws. If you’d been from the US, the only way you could have asked that question would have been if you’d been younger than about 25 and just never been in older cars.

        Though the US tends to freak out about non-threats to our safety (Ebola, killer nail clippers on airplanes, poisoned Halloween candy), we’re slow to respond to the real ones.

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      • Chris

        I knew I should have started the my rant with ‘Giday’


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  25. Don

    The slant sixes were (and still are) great little engines. I’ve had a couple of them and loved them.

    However, you get into the late 70’s and the bodies on Chrysler products were just garbage. The pre-73 Valiants and Darts (before the 5mph bumpers) look really neat and the slants can be hopped up easily and make great little hobby cars.

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    • Ed P

      I had a ’68 Valiant with a slant six. It was probably one of the toughest cars built. On the strength of that car, I later bought a ’78 Dodge Aspen. As good as the ’68 was the ’78 was awful.

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  26. Joe

    I don’t know. Maybe this is one of the few Volare cars that came out of the factory just fine. Or maybe it’s two previous owner’s were able to take care of it’s needs with very, very light use over 35 years for the first 70K miles. The wagon wouldn’t have lasted this long if it was a bad, annoying, unreliable car. By it’s history, first owner kept for 31 years and sold when she turned 91 years old. Second owner, seemed sincere on the phone, and his wife put about 5K miles on the car over 4 years. He did lots of preventative and other maintenance (new timing chain, gears, tensioners, hoses, belts, brakes, exhaust, tires, etc. etc.). If somebody needs a wagon, and likes old ones, maybe it’s not a big investment decision at 3K!

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  27. Dave G

    The recall for rusty front fender tops on these cars was due to them not having wheel well splash shields behind the front wheels on the ’76 and early ’77 models. Slush/salt would get plastered inside the fender tops in the rust belt cars. All that showed up for the recall got splash shields installed. Had a ’76 Volare sedan, 318 with factory A/C for two years in Japan thirty years ago, and never had any issues with it whatsoever, 100% reliable. It had factory splash shields in front, so I knew it had been in for the recall. Recently bought a 1980 Volare Police car, and will have it running and on the road soon after it sitting unused for several years.

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  28. Pen Branning

    My 1979 Plymouth Volare Slant 6 Station Wagon..bo’t in 1983 for $1500. lasted until 1999..with 265,000 miles on it I drove it across U.S. twice..minor hiccups It was perfect and a dream to drive long hours on long trips..only reason I had to let it go was Ca Smog Repair…at 1200. it cost more than the car was worth..I still regret it. It was just the right size and comfort and very little repair..(sigh)

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  29. anonymous

    Can the memories of one extraordinary summer in 1978, awash in misadventures of both the carnal and geographical kind, transcend the actual reality of a horrid malaise-era automobile that one drove cross-country to pursue their dreams, and have the mind transform it into a holy relic of one’s lost youth?

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  30. Pen Branning

    (only for me it was the Summer of 1980..CA to NY…and my “youth” was 40 at the time)

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  31. Carl Stclair

    Had a 1976 Dodge Aspen 4 door sedan with the 225 Slant Six and the 904 Torqueflite trans the engine and trans outlasted the body due to serious rust issues as 1976 was a bad year for Chrysler concerning rust issues.

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  32. Pen

    I was lucky with my 1979 Volare..it was a Calif High desert baby…no rust…just bliss on the open road across the country

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