CC Capsule: 1980 Dodge Aspen – Say Goodbye, For Now

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Today’s neo-Aspen CC give me an excuse to dust off these old Aspen pictures I shot a couple of years ago. That is, if I could dust them off, as that blurry splotch was dust stuck in the lens of my camera, a problem I no longer have by using an iPhone. Of course, that means no more zooms, but after going through four zoom cameras with that same problem, I’m over it.

Anyway, this 1980 Aspen is a bit unusual, as it has a substantially revised grille from the previous Aspens, despite this being the final year for it. It’s about as bland a grille as any car ever wore, something that might have been done for an ad requiring a non-brand generic car. Which the Aspen pulls off just about perfectly; an unmemorable farewell.

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We’ve covered the Aspen and Volare here a few times, starting with their…bad start, which earned them a rare Chrysler Deadly Sin status. Admittedly, I have not made as a concerted effort to document Chrysler’s demise, as there were so many near-deaths and resurrections.

These twins soon worked out their birthing kinks, and Jason Shafer documented a very reliable 1978 Aspen here. These were fundamentally quite simple and sound cars; they just arrived with some key flaws that cost Chrysler a ton of money on recalls and improvements, including replacing the front fenders of any 1976 and 1977 Aspen and Volare that needed it due to very premature rusting. No wonder they were eager to ditch the name.

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In 1981 the all-new FWD K-Car Reliant replaced the Aspen, and if I remember correctly, its key interior dimensions were quite similar, thanks to the magic of FWD and careful attention to its design (not styling). The F-body never struck me as a particularly space efficient design, but it went on to have a long life as the Dodge Diplomat and the nigh-near immortal Chrysler Fifth Avenue. In a fit of sudden-onset Broughamitis, I gave that latter car a Deadly Sin back at the other site. I caught quite a bit of flack for that; dare I run it here again?

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Out damn spot! 1980 was of course the year Chrysler got its first bailout, in the form of $1.5 billion in loan guarantees; peanuts, compared to the second time around. Why did it need it? Well, only some 85 k Aspens were sold in 1980; of course dealers were still trying to get rid of 1979 Aspens; some would sit on lots for several years.

Chrysler had grossly overproduced in 1979 despite the second energy crisis setting in, and didn’t know where to store them anymore.  I remember reading in auto motor und sport about Chrysler sending boatloads of 1979 Diplomats and such to Switzerland, in hopes of dumping there. I presume they eventually found buyers. Chrysler was desperate. And in 1980, they had no choice to screw back production drastically, which is why these 1980 Aspens are rare ducks.