Seeing cars in traffic or parked, I sometimes idly wonder who the people are that drive them and what they do or why they chose that car. Then there are cars that have indelible associations ingrained, mostly TV and movie cars – such as Rockford’s Firebird, the Duke Boys’ Charger, Mr. Bond’s Aston Martin DB5. And with some characters you have no idea what they drive/drove as it wasn’t part of the storyline. But when I saw this Dodge Aspen R/T, I for whatever reason thought this might be the car that Dwayne Schneider, the building superintendent from the sitcom “One Day At A Time”, played by Pat Harrington Jr. (RIP), might have driven.
I haven’t watched the show in decades but that’s the association I somehow instantly made. The show was set in Indianapolis and ran from late 1975-1984, and perhaps it’s uncouth of me, but the Aspen (and Volare) strike me as typical midwestern cars; and Schneider seemed quite happy-go-lucky and friendly but with just a little bit of an edge – which sort of describes the Dodge Aspen and its R/T variant.
Of course the Aspen was available in sedan and wagon form as well, but the coupe may be the most attractive of the set. Launched for 1976, in 1977 a mainly cosmetic package (with the exception of a 3-speed floor-mounted manual and a heavy duty suspension that Chrysler thought of as extremely sporty) was available for the coupe and labeled R/T. Also available on top of that was a “SuperPak” option package consisting mainly of front and rear spoilers, window louvers, wheel flares and a quite loud tape stripe job.
This car seems to have the louvers of that package but not the other stuff beyond the blacked out grille as far as I can tell. It also has a subtle pinstripe with an “R/T’ graphic at the rear edge so I’m assuming it’s real, but personalized over the decades. As far as engines go, the 318 was standard but you could also option up the 360 in either 2 or 4-barrel carb form but were then forced into an automatic.
I didn’t hear this car go or even see the owner, but sitting there it looked quite good and refreshingly different from the hordes of restored ponycars and also much more common fare such as Novas and the sort. The Aspen (and Volare) get little love in general and lots of scorn due to some early failings which I shan’t dwell on today. By 1977 performance everywhere was generally nothing to get too excited about so looks did much of the talking. This one talks quite clearly and has interesting things to say, even when just sitting around waiting for someone to go for a ride.