The Plymouth Volare and Dodge Aspen get little or no love here (except here – ED), receiving Chrysler Deadly Sin #1 status from the brain trust and much of the commentariat. Nevertheless, in keeping with the spirit of the site, in which humble cars found in the street get their story told, I present here a series of images of a Volare found silhouetted against the Manhattan skyline with the Empire State Building behind it. It may be the Volare’s most glamorous moment since Sergio Franchi sang about it in this 1976 Volare commercial.
From another angle, Freedom Tower, proper name One World Trade Center — a symbol of American resilience — rises in the background. It rose from the ruins of the World Trade Center to make it again the site of America’s tallest building, a place for memorials, and again a living part of the city. In a much smaller way, this Volare is a symbol of resilience. Of a model despised since new, rusty, missing its hubcaps, and generally neglected, it is still standing and on the road.
With the Empire State Building, the World Trade Center, and the World War II aircraft carrier USS Intrepid all visible from its parking spot atop the Palisades in Weehawken, New Jersey, you would think that this Volare could not be surrounded by more symbols of America. You would be wrong, because of the site visible in the background of this photograph. Near the American flag at the left, where the two separate lines of shrubbery meet, there is a bust of Alexander Hamilton, the Founding Father from New York who served as George Washington’s aide-de-camp in the Revolutionary War, led the drafting, ratification and interpretation of the Constitution, served as the first Secretary of the Treasury, and founded the first American political party. The bust marks the spot where Hamilton died in his famous duel with Aaron Burr in 1804.
On one hand, this car is a reminder of the worst era for American automobiles. The rear fenders that are riddled with rust holes, the misaligned chrome trim, and especially the trail of leaked gas from the exposed gas cap (a common sight in the 1970s, now never seen) are images that remind me of the bad cars that roamed the streets during the darkest years of the Malaise Era. On the other hand, I find it impossible to dislike this car. It has survived for at least 35 years in an environment with stop and go driving and considerable road salt, overcoming the conditions, time, and its limitations as a Volare/Aspen. A 1989 Plymouth Acclaim or Camcord surviving to park in the same spot in 2024 will be somewhat impressive, but not nearly as much.
After my ’70 Charger was totalled in an accident, I was all set to buy a ’77 Dodge Aspen. I had a salesman who tried to convince me that it would be impossible to get a car matching the one on the front of the brochure. I ended up buying a one owner ’74 Challenger. I STILL have both the brochure and the Challenger! 🙂
BTW: I’d still love to have that Aspen, too!
This looks to be like Hoboken or Weehawkin, NJ. A huge quantity of Italian-Americans live there, and I know based on my family (Italians) that they LOVED these Volares & Darts from this era.
Why? Not sure. I guarantee you this is a local born & bred car, though.
You are right about the location — it is Hamilton Park in Weehawken. I was looking for the Alexander Hamilton statue and found this Volare first.
The Dart/Valiant and Volare/Aspen completely make sense for New York/northern New Jersey. Their combination of being compact and easy to park, having decent interior room, and their durability (once the bugs were worked out) make them a rational choice for a densely populated urban area. Irrationally, in the case of the Volare, the Sergio Franchi commercials may have helped — his voice makes anything sound good.
The launch commercial is the ’75 Cordoba commercial with a different car and spokesperson. Very familiar look and feel.
A rough launch with quality issues was exacerbated by the fact that they initially sold well. Nothing like having lots of witnesses to your train wreck.
Sorted out, they were probably about as good as some of the A-body predecessors, (Heck, the coupe was a warmed over Duster) or at least competitive with cars like Nova and Granada.
The ’77 B-Body launch at GM probably affected even these cars. They were biggish compacts, but cramped compared to the B’s. Suddenly, real compacts were starting to look like Japanese cars.
Add up the Chrysler can’t catch a break anywhere: By ’77 these were dated cars with a bad rap that tended to sell on price and the biggest competitor had some runaway hits in their showroom. Not a good place to be in the second year of a new model launch.
Chrysler had only two decently successful model launches in the ’70s. The Cordoba in ’75 and the Omnirizon in ’78.
I think they did pretty well with the 76 New Yorker – the car that had been an Imperial at a much higher price the year before. I remember seeing quite a lot of them when new. My barber and his wife bought one the very same color as this Volare, after owning a long string of Buicks.
I’m with you that the ’76 – ’78 New Yorker was quite a car, and one of the brighter spots for Chrysler in the ’70s. I very nearly bought one around ’91 – but it sold out from under me while I dithered.
But, I lump these with the ’74 full-size model launch, which left all full-size Mopars struggling.
Sales for the NYB:
Okay to excellent for New Yorker in almost any historical sense. The ’77 model year was riding a very good year for sales overall, and this segment enjoyed the little backlash there was to the new GM C bodies, which were probably selling at over 6 figures for each model.
With high transaction prices and paid for tooling, these were one of the few cash cows in Chrysler’s barn.
IMHO, I think the “all new” 1976 New Yorker stole sales from Newport, Gran Fury and Royal Monaco.
GM big car sales were stong both in final year of ‘tanks’  and the first ‘that’s more like it’ cars, through 1979.
For a time, according to a 1980 price guide I once saw, they were charging more for a base Omnirizon than a base Aspen/Volare.
New tech vs. value pricing. The reason companies launch new product.
Well, could count the 1970 Duster as a hit, it is a ’70s’ car after all. 😉
“Glamour shot” and “Volare” – two words that may never before have been used in the same sentence. “Makeup – quick, get some wheelcovers on that car. And can you paint some white stripes on the tires?”
Beautiful backdrop – this should be in the 2015 CC calendar, for sure. Now, your assignment is to take a picture of a New Yorker in this spot.
I had forgotten all about the epidemic gasoline stains down the fender from the filler in almost every old A body Mopar ever made.
You are reading my mind. One of my first thoughts after taking the last photo, which even has the Chrysler Building in it, was that the setting was so perfect that the only way to improve it was if the car had been a New Yorker. (A Fifth Avenue probably would not be right, since you can’t see Fifth Avenue from there.)
I had also forgotten about the Dart/Valiant/Volare/Aspen gas stains for at least two decades, until I saw these photos full size. Then the memories came flooding (no pun intended) back.
Gas stains? Not if you wiped the overspill off right away! Dart/Valiant/Scamp had the same setup (as did my avatar on the ’74 Ford Courier) . . .
To be precise, this is Boulevard East, in Weehawken, NJ. Probably one of the most picturesque vistas in the world…though it’s frequently ruined by the countless buses and traffic heading to and from the Lincoln Tunnel a mile away.
I can’t believe you were able to snap a picture with so few other cars in the frame.
My personal Volare story: My coach in Little League had one of these in white, with red vinyl roof, and plenty of rust spots, from about 1984-1985. Sometimes he would give some of us a ride home (just up the block in WNY, NJ), but before we could go, two or three of us would have to sit on the trunk and bounce up and down repeatedly to get the latch to stick.
He replaced it in 86 with a brand new Subaru Sedan (stick, no turbo) that looked and felt like a Rolls Royce compared to the Volare.
Volare, Cordoba and Corinthian leather will forever be remembered with love from those of us who grew up in the 70s. So Love Boat. Love the commercial.
Dodge also hired actors for commercials.
Rex Harrison [Dr. Dolittle] for Aspen spoke/sang a song, and a French actor [can’t think of name] for the “new small” 1977 Monaco singing “Merci, Merci Dodge Monaco”
I remember the Rex Harrison ads for the Dodge Aspen, “It’s unbelievable” – tweed hat, plaid wool sportcoat and all.
My dad had that car and color while I was growing up. He had crashed his 79 or 80 Volare coupe in 1984 and so settled on a used turquoise sedan which he drove until he “upgraded” to a brand new Ford Escort GL in 1987 . His fenders were already rusted out by ’85 or ’86 and so he covered them with duct tape. Women at his office used to call the car “The Duct-Mobile”. If the fenders on this one weren’t in such “good” shape, i would wonder if this was the car as its only about 50 miles from where I grew up on Hackettstown, NJ. Still fond memories of that car and its blue interior. My father may be the deadliest of sinners owning a Mid-70’s Vega, Ford LTD, and 2 Volares.
Got to see the Tower in Sept 2013, never get tired of going to the Big Apple.
Had a ’78 Volare, 225 Slant Six, Ivory (?) paint with tan pinstripes and a tan vinyl roof. Was my high school ride in the ’80s. IIRC, it became a more reliable car (better starting, better power, etc.) after my oldest bro and dad performed a head gasket replacement. They also installed an engine block heater, which worked great since the car sat out in the cold during winter.
The car was an “ok” car; not great, not bad. One of the best things about it was having room for giant 6×9″ speakers in the back deck. Had a Pioneer car stereo with the Supertuner III (or IV) tuner, which was awesome, and the sound quality for a car stereo was second best only to when I had a small sub setup in a…’92 Eagle Summit. 😉 Btw, the Summit (made here in the States at the DiamondStar plant in Bloomington, IL), was the most reliable car I have ever owned.
Funny thing; about five years after I owned it; I saw that very same car in the parking lot of an old movie theater as I was coming out of it. Someone had taken pretty good care of it.
Beautiful pics, Robert. And those houses on the other side of the street look like a nice untouched suburb. The well-to-do beachside road in Melbourne was transformed into a never ending parade of 8 foot brick fences and disgusting 80s panoramic first floors.
The shots with NYC in the background are fantastic.
I’d compare the area to Williamstown rather than the St Kilda-Sandringham stretch, it is even across the bay from the city.
Good call, John. Williamstown is a beautiful area.
Incredible photos!! Nice color on this Volare too. Shame about the rust, but it actually adds to the vibe, I think.
Owning a car and driving in New York presents many unique challenges and, on paper at least, there were few cars better equipped to handle them than Chrysler’s RWD intermediates back in the 70s. The suspension could handle monster potholes and keep you out of a wall on the FDR, the Slant6/TorqueFlite combo was at home dealing with stop and go driving all day, good visibility and tidy dimensions made them easy to park, they were cheap to buy and gave decent fuel economy, and had ample passenger/cargo room for their size. The Volare and Aspen should have been the ultimate realization of the traditional approach to a “standard American sedan” and it’s such a shame that they arrived half-baked.
Like most places, they really haven’t survived here. Too rusty and too disposable once word got around that they weren’t quite the indestructible mules that the Dart & Valiant were. I’m a huge fan of their A-body predecessors and Slant6s in general, so I’ve got something of a soft spot (a rust pun) for these as well. I’ve always most wanted a wagon, but there’s a lot of utilitarian goodness in the sedan body too.
Deadly Sin, no doubt… but if it’s any consolation, when the Volare was slightly re-imagined as the M-body, it became one of the most celebrated NYPD patrol cars of all time. They’ve always been my favorites, at least out of the police cars in service during my lifetime.
I wish the NYPD would go back to this paint scheme. It looked great on everything from the Chrysler fuselage cars to the whale Caprice. I imagine the Charger, Fusion and Volt would look sweet wearing these colors as well:
Bought a new ’77 Aspen. Arrived at dealership with 5 dents present before original painting, misaligned trim and had to be towed with 45 miles on the odometer. And that was the beginning. Wife’s car which she drove for 2 years, refused to drive it any longer, and I drove it for one year before trading it in on a used Pinto Squire wagon. Surprisingly, the Pinto was a much better car and I loved it.