Here’s a bit of ’70s history we found parked outside Denny’s.
There’s a major soft spot here for these unloved Mopars; in college, the car that got me to work as my autocrossing Datsun 510 blew one head gasket after another was a 1978 Volare Premier Wagon. It had the Slant Six, which under the hood was throwing oil every which way.
You’d expect that of a ’70s American car that had traveled almost 180K miles, and you’d also expect the body to rattle like a wooden roller coaster ride, and it did.
The rear is a favorite aspects of the Volare/Aspen wagons – the wavy-curvy tailgate with matching tail lights, all joined by straight and shiny framing.
This car is another California blue plate special, with period license plates that seem to indicate that this Volare is riding on its original tags, perhaps still with its original owner.
Also remarkable is that this Volare has an intact grille; if you’ve owned one of these, you know how rare and expensive these grilles have become. They can be worth more than the Volares to which they are fastened.
None of us in the 1970s would have imagined Plymouth would be dead in a few decades – it was the value leader for Chrysler Corporation, and it was a staple of suburban driveways.
Of course we know that Plymouth fell into irrelevance partly because of indifferent quality throughout the years, and while we’re not going to judge a classic survivor for its fit and finish, the “Premier” badge was slightly crooked on my wagon, too.
The pockmarked rear-panel wood shows that this is a wagon for driving, not showing.
The Volare Premier Sedan had cushier seats than its cheaper brethren, while the wagon held to the canard that wagons are more utilitarian and thus had the same interior plainness as the Custom.
Here, those plain seats are in great shape.
Other Premier touches included the carpeted sides of the cargo bay, which are remarkable in being shorter than the windows above them, in stark contrast to the bunkered-in effect of some of today’s crossovers, which are so bulky with side panel that they might as well not have a window at all. Visibility was wide-open back in the day, but today that’s covered by cameras.
Also added by the Premier package was a hood ornament, accompanied by a windsplit molding that stretched down the flat hood.
My Volare Premier was not fun to drive – besides the car’s overall level of fatigue, the Slant Six’s sluggishness when coupled with the full complement of 1970s emissions controls was a constant annoyance. One can imagine that this California-specific Volare is even more choked.
But this Volare is still delivering its owners to Denny’s, and we thank them for giving us a window back to a time when these Volares and Aspens were everywhere.