Chrysler’s K-car was its saving grace in the early 1980s, and this streetside Aries K LE wagon reminds us how straightforward its design was.
I was walking home from a San Francisco street fair and spotted this bit of Mopar history across the street, a Plymouth Acclaim. The Acclaim and its sibling, the Dodge Spirit, were updated versions of the K-cars that helped save Chrysler’s bacon in its battle against bankruptcy.
But then whoa! Right around the corner was the original formula. The K-car was produced from between model years 1981 through 1989, and this Aries wagon is a 1987, so it’s from the latter portion of K-car output.
This Aries made its way from Wisconsin to SF; this dealer is now known as the Eau Claire Automotive Group. It still sells Chryslers.
This Aries K is the top-line LE, with its nicer interior and exterior trim. You could also have gotten a less-expensive base model; the mid-level SE had ended for 1986.
Hubcap designs were regularly switched out as an easy way to keep this boxy shape looking fresh. One side has this layered pattern…
…and this flatter one adorns the wheels on the driver’s side.
It’s not a vintage US wagon without at least a dash of fake wood, and here we find it as an inset in the luggage rack.
There’s so much construction currently in the city that Honey Buckets are just about unavoidable, as in this case.
As the roof’s paint degraded, surface rust rushed in.
Interesting that the hood’s finish is similarly degraded, but there’s not much rust there yet.
Whip antennas rarely last long on cars parked on SF streets, and this Aries is no exception.
So much rode on the K-car that the company could not afford to take styling risks, so it’s regulation early-’80s American, with pin-straight lines and a hood as flat as California’s Carrizo Plain.
The interior is in remarkably good shape, with very little wear on the driver’s seat or door panel.
Chrysler retired its Pentastar logo in 2014, sending it into history along with the K-cars that kept the company afloat.