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Hooniverse Obscure Muscle Car Garage – The Dodge Aspen R/T and Plymouth Volare Road Runner

Jim Brennan December 20, 2013 Hooniverse Obscure Muscle Car Garage 58 Comments

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Welcome to another edition of the Hooniverse Obscure Muscle Car Garage, in which I highlight a car that I think is a Muscle Car, and then try and convince you that it belongs in the Garage. Performance cars were waning in the late 70′s due to emission regulations and two fuel embargoes, but Chrysler still tried to create a performance image for the “F” body cars, known as the Plymouth Volare and Dodge Aspen. These cars had an ever-growing reputation for poor quality, and numerous recalls, so Chrysler was eager to spruce up their image any way they could. So, are these (somewhat) high performance coupes worthy of the Garage? Let’s explore the Plymouth Volare Road Runner, and the Dodge Aspen R/T.

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The Volare Road Runner and Dodge Aspen R/T first appeared in 1976. The top engine spec was the 4 barrel 360 CID V-8, rated at (are you kidding) 170 HP, but with over 280 lb.ft of torque. These cars were never meant to be giants at the drag strip, but they were supreme highway cruisers that could knock out the miles better than most of their contemporaries. You could opt for the 2 barrel 318 CID V-8, with only 150 HP, and you would get a superbly reliable power plant with the option of a 4 speed stick. The 360 was only available with the ever-reliable TorqueFlite automatic.

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An addition to the Aspen R/T and the Volare Road Runner were the addition of the Super Coupe for each brand, and these arrived for the 1978 model year. These cars had the 360 V-8 (with 175 HP), heavy-duty suspension, black dual racing mirrors, 15 X 8-inch GT wheels on GR60 X 15 raised white letter tires, black urethane painted front and rear bumpers, rear anti-sway bar, special black and dark brown paint treatment, wheel opening flares, front and rear spoilers, quarter window louvers, and special striping and insignia. They are also extremely rare, as only 531 Aspen Super Coupes and 494 Volare Road Runner Super Coupes were produced. This was the one and only year these cars were produced.

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Also available only in 1978, was the A43 “Street Kit Car” package. The Street Kit Car package was Chrysler’s attempt at capitalizing on Richard Petty’s racing efforts. The package included wheel flares, front and rear spoilers, side window louvers, #43 door and roof decals (which were delivered in the trunk to be added by the dealer), special two-tone blue paint (for Plymouth) or red paint (for Dodge), and various stripes to try and make the car look like a race car. Power brakes, steering, and automatic transmission were required additional options with the Street Kit Car package. Unfortunately for Chrysler, Richard Petty jumped ship and began racing GM cars by the time the Street Kit Car package became available, resulting in very few being sold. Highly prized by MOPAR collectors, only around 247 Volare Street Kit Cars and 145 Aspen Street Kit Cars were built.

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According to Allpar, the Aspen and Volare performed pretty well with the 360 CID V-8. In 0-60 times, the car magazines of the day revealed that the 1977 2bbl 360-engined Aspen was competitive with the 350-four bbl Camaro Z28 and Corvette L82, as well as the Pontiac Trans Am with a 400-four bbl. In the quarter mile, the Aspen was a bit slower by the clock, but faster through the traps than the GM trio.

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The 1980 Plymouth Volare Road Runner and Dodge Aspen R/T returned, only with the 318 CID V-8 tuned to produce only 120 HP, and didn’t sell well. With only 496 Road Runners and 285 Aspen R/Ts produced, it was the end of the road for these models. So are these cars worthy of the Parking Lot? They ran better than the Camaro Z/28, Corvette, and Trans Am of the same period, and they could be further enhanced today. They have the look of Muscle Cars of the past, and they both have storied name plates. I think with a little tweaking, they could be formidable Muscle, but what do you think? Comment away, and while you’re at it, why not suggest an obscure muscle car for a future posting?

Do you think that the Dodge Aspen R/T or the Plymouth Volare Road Runner are worthy inclusions into the Obscure Muscle Par Garage?

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Please Note: All Images are screen grabs from around the web. If you want credit for any image, please let me know in the comments section. Thank You!

  • I've always liked these. Very garish and overstated considering the power they put down, but I love the idea.

    I noticed a current TV ad for Ruffles chips features one of these as well: http://dodgeforum.com/articles/hilarious-new-ruff

  • I could never call them muscle cars but they are sexy in a way that only the 70's could be. It would be fun to have one, even if none of my family would ride in it.

  • The Super Coupe is the automotive equivalent of Linda Carter as Wonder Woman. Both are overwhelmingly cheesy, gaudy '70s schlock — But . . . day-um.

    <img src="http://tanshanomi.com/temp/lynda-carter-wonder-woman_360x480.jpg"&gt;

    • dukeisduke

      A friend of mine once observed how her legs didn't touch in the middle, and usually pointed out that feature in other women, like when walking in the mall. Yes, Lynda Carter was a wonder.

      • She remains a wonder to this day.

        • R Henry

          I was always more of a Lindsey Wagner/Bionic Woman fan. Oh Baby!

      • Guest

        I work for a school system, a H/S in which Lynda Carter had family who attended. I would see her every now & then, speak briefly w/ her. This within the past 10 years? or so. Trust this: She still carried herself well, & looked GREAT! Took good care of herself! & BTW: those legs did meet @ some point!

    • Prince Halibrand

      Oh HELLS yes!

      I mean Linda.
      The Aspen not so much.

  • GTXcellent

    Nope nope nope nope nope nope. Stickers and Rallye wheels alone do not make a muscle car. Next you'll be trying to tell us this

    <img src="https://encrypted-tbn1.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcQs5_FmHWDbBUrzFnL0PHrF4Cy6dJ-fOSaoeP5aeTbZ-QgVEYltYw"&gt;

    or this

    <img src="https://encrypted-tbn1.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcSaQ1ebukALkdJKzid9yW0ccQ90moIZMyFJU62xklZ1nazyRSZY"&gt;

    is a muscle car.

    (full disclosure, I kind of want a Roadhawk)

    • Yes, clearly those are pony cars. Heh heh.

    • Arthur

      With the technology available today, it's highly plausible that the King Cobra and Roadhawk could become actual muscle cars. In fact, a company called A-Team Racing LLC recently built a Mustang II with a custom tube chassis and a Triton V-10.

      You can learn more about it here: http://www.stangtv.com/news/mustang-evolution-the

  • mallthus

    The Aspen and Volare, or as I like to call them, the Dodge and Plymouth Novas.
    <img src="https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/4b/1975_Chevrolet_Nova_LN.jpg&quot; width=600>

  • dukeisduke

    Great, now I've got that Volare' song stuck in my head:

    [youtube AnWHQCgByWg http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AnWHQCgByWg youtube]

    Sergio Franchi FTMFW!

    • When I was in Italy, our tour guide had us all sing "Volaré" on the bus. When we came to the verse, it was really difficult for me not to sing —
      Come drive Volaré today!
      Drive small, the comf'rtable way!
      Volaré!

  • Mike C

    I used to repair new UW fleet Volare's as my summer work study job in the late 70's. They were a revelation–compared to the Hornets they replaced! But still–keep plenty of trim glue handy. Remember seeing a few of these runners new. As I blew them off with my '65 Fury post coupe with built 383.

  • Rich

    There IS a finite number of cars that can be rightfully called "muscle", and I think you've reached that limit a long time ago. Maybe it's time for a new category: 'Not a sucky as the typical car available in it's day.'

    • mallthus

      I'd argue then that, contextually, they are muscle cars then. The whole idea of a muscle car is that it's a lightweight car (versus others for sale at the same time) with an engine typically used in larger, heavier cars.

      And using that logic then, this is a muscle car because it uses the engine normally found in a larger car (the XC-90).
      <img src="http://srv2.betterparts.org/images/volvo-s80-v8-awd-14.jpg&quot; width=600>

      • Rich

        C'mon man….it's a nice car, but nothing about this says Muscle.

        • Sjalabais

          Moar stickers?

          • Rich

            Scoops/bulges/stripes

  • joshwebster84

    I do like that orange Road Runner though.

  • UDman

    I want to bring to your attention something peculiar about Chrysler during this time period. Take a look at the Super Coupe ad image (3rd image from the top), and notice that those damned chrome turn signal repeaters are on this particular car. There isn't a lick of chrome anywhere else on the car except for the door handles. Chrysler made sure that each and every publicity image car was equipped with this particular option. They were even available on the new Dodge Omni and Plymouth Horizon for a brief period of time.
    <img src="http://www.forabodiesonly.com/mopar/attachment.php?attachmentid=10442&stc=1&d=1174241241&quot; width=500 >

    • Perhaps Chrysler was just trying to maximize return on a huge parts bin of legacy items.

  • Number_Six

    1970s car performance records should be buried with DB Cooper and Jimmy Hoffa.

    • A riding buddy of mine (who is about 10 years older than me) once pointed out that the 1970s occupied the time AFTER development of the pill and BEFORE to the emergence of AIDS*. And therefore, he can't come up with a single negative recollection of that decade. He also told me that's also why he never had the time or attention to devote to motorcycles until he turned 40.

      [*not to mention the heyday of custom vans and halter tops.]

  • R Henry

    The chrome window frames and post on the LN just kill me.

  • R Henry

    I never noticed before, but the LN roof and its' blend to the body have a very strong similarity to the Impala "The New Chevrolet" of the same vintage.

  • R Henry

    Geez….those cars are all hard on the eyes. Visual rape has been committed.

    • You call it rape, I prefer to think of it as a visual orgy of color. All consensual, of course. Nobody was forced to buy these and, given the low production figures, nobody was forced in droves. The seventies were delightfully tacky – it's too bad the mechanicals of the era didn't deliver on the visual promise.

  • OA5599

    In 2002, I saw a 318 Volare Roadrunner in the car corral at a big show. It was in decent commission, but had a price tag of $10K. I commented to my buddy that I never thought I'd see the day when an F-body was worth five figures (and for the record, I still don't). I had not noticed, but the seller was on the other side of the car, heard my comment, and got extremely defensive.

    Fast forward to a few months ago, and there was a very well-preserved Super Coupe in the next lane of rush hour traffic. It was attracting significant interest from the other cars around.

  • POLAЯ

    Never sold in Canada(??), rare center console model for sale in Oshawa… Link below for those inclined…

    <img src="http://azr.cdnmedia.autotrader.ca/1/Adsonline/0/6000000/6896000/6896778/6896778-20130423170059603-orig.jpg?w=420&quot; width="600">

    http://wwwa.autotrader.ca/a/Plymouth/VOLARE/OSHAW

    • I love this thing. Then I saw the custom interior. Boo.

  • Senor Dog

    I know the market and demographics were chnaging, and there were the new regulations, not to mention the OPEC embrago. But, how did Chrysler go from making some of the most beautiful cars ever (Challenger, Charger, even the fuselage Fury) to making these ugly things so quickly?

  • Welsh Rarebit

    Quick Martha ! Where's the barf bags ? URRPPP !!!

  • Slow_Joe_Crow

    I'm going to have to vote no due to the overwhelming crappiness of the base Aspen/Volare.

  • rovingardener

    A few people were running the kit cars in ASA and other series in the upper Midwest contemporaneously. I believe a fellow named Jim Cushman had some success with a car in the blue scheme Polar posted.

  • smokyburnout

    There's somehow two of these around here, a privately-owned Super Coupe, and a Petty Edition in the local Dodge dealer's collection.

  • Stickers, spoilers and flares, oh my!

    (I love these things.)

  • Don

    I've had my 1978 Plymouth Super Coupe since 1981 . It's a fun car to drive !!

  • sleepercars

    I had a 1976 Plymouth Volare it was a great car but for the area we lived in the dealer said there were no options available , guess he was a liar, anyways it only had a 225 slant six but it ran great, put over 200,000 on it to bad the unibody frame rotted out. But I would love to get my hands on one of the r/t I know where there is a fresh hemi and some modifications to frame and rearend , it would make a good sleeper car in town.

  • Tim Fletcher

    I have a 78 Dodge Super Coupe and love it! It drives, handles, stops, and runs great. It is a fun, attention getting, rare car that I feel proud to own. Don't knock these cars until you drive one.

  • VolareDave

    My first car that I ever bought was a 1977 Plymouth Volare Road Runner with a 318 2 barrel.I had fun all the way till it blew up.I was young and I just thought it just ran cold.I guess I really should have gotten the gauge looked at.A while later I had a 79 Volare,and a 1976 Volare parts car.Now I am restoring a 1976 Volare Road Runner with a 318 2 barrel.Rust holes and bad brakes,but what else would you expect,most were recalled for rust within the first year.I fell in love with these cars,despite their flaws.I would love to have one with a blown big block,but maybe I should start looking for a nice used Charger.One set up like Vanishing Point would be nice,just not on my budget.A man can dream,can;t he?

  • Breezie

    I just bought a 1978 super coupe.. Need lots of work but when I finally got it runnning I took it to a show as is and it got so much attention…..Im not restoring it… I have other cars but i love the hell out of this one

  • Edwin R

    im selling supercoupe 360 t bar roof only 38 made. Like the car but it can't compare to my 72 duster 340.

  • Scottie

    My father has owned a Dodge Aspen Kit Car since 1990.Bought it from the original owner.Nobody knows what they're looking at when they see this car.Granted it's not like muscle cars from the 60's but it was as good as anything from GM and Ford if not better.Don't forget at the time that the 360 police motor was hand built,not a regular production line run mill.As Chrysler practically owned the police car market at that time.Too bad Chrysler got out of NASCAR again.

  • cosme

    If i good remember dart sport and duster were on sale at the same time with the 360ci but with 220hp instead of 170…
    Lighter with more power and less stickers!

  • scott

    new paint .but a 77 aspen r/t super-pac with fold down rear seat

  • Chuck

    Had a 76 roadrunner years ago. 318 with a 3-speed manual floor shift, it still did decent burnouts. I have had many cars that were faster but this one looked great and was fun to drive. Wish I had it back now that I could put something with about 300 horses under the hood.

    • Mike

      My first car was a 78 Volare which my parents bought new and I received in 1985 with 48k actual miles and like New condition. I’ve had several fbodies over the last 30 years, road runners, RT’s,even one of the 35 1978 Volare Super Coupe T-top cars, and I still fail to see the poor quality issues some people point out. I know people personally who had rust issues fixed UNDER WARRANTY on Chevrolet trucks of the same era, now that’s quality issues! Lol

  • Rick

    Here is my Volare

  • Gary Gardner

    I still have my 79 Aspen R/T E58 360 4 brl. which I purchased back in 1981. That year had the highest hp. rating of 195. This was do to the dual exhaust that year. With performance upgrades, it is around 260 HP now.

  • Mark Marky

    Remove the lean burn/electronic spark control system.If equipt..
    Add a Mopar orange box ecu, vacuum advanced distributor and get rid of the lean burn car.. It Adds 50 hp !! And these cars are very quick..Simple change over,and is all stock mopar parts..
    Some cars just had the power robbing carb on it…150 hp turns to 170 hp with a carb change,a stock 2 barrel some had..It was a confusing time,each State had different regulations,thats why some people say they were 14 second 1/4 mile cars (360 4bbl could run high 13’s with E 58 360 4bbl and no lean burn )and some say they were slow…
    I did see 360 2bbl Volare times back in the day with 7 flat 0-60 and 15 flat 1/4 mile..It was a factory non lean burn car..3.21 axle ratio..

    • Gary R. Gardner

      Yes, the Lean Burn was removed back in 1993 on my79 E58 360 4 brl. Aspen R/T. And upgraded to the Edelbrock Performer Series Carb.,cam and intake! Ceramic coated Hooker Headers, B&M shift kit and 3:91 gears! That stuff sure woke it up! Factory HP was 195. Not exactly sure where its at now?