I found these Chrysler press photos of the new-for-1976 Plymouth Volaré Premier coupe at the Detroit Antique Mall, just a couple of weeks ago. This vintage shop, located just off the Fisher Freeway downtown, contains an incredible amount of furnishings, books, light fixtures, and architectural elements, the latter presumably from many of this city’s since-demolished buildings. It’s easy to spend at least a half hour winding through the two floors of this brick building looking for that one, cool treasure to take home. I had found a 1960’s black-and-white photography book of works from late, Lithuanian-born photographer Algimantas Kezys and went to the cash register to pay for it, when my attention was directed to two, nearby bins of glossy photographs.
These containers were chock-full of vintage, mostly-Chrysler press photos ranging from the 1950’s through the early 80’s. I flipped. Since my family had owned a burgundy-colored, ’77 Volaré coupe when I was growing up, these two pictures were my immediate choices. It was a genuine “Eureka!” moment when I realized the picture above was a pre-production image of a car that was genuinely attractive but quickly challenged the loyalty of its company’s customers, from a time when Chrysler’s hopes still ran high for the F-Body replacements for the venerable, A-Body Plymouth Valiant and Dodge Dart compacts. For me, it was not unlike discovering a photo of the Hindenburg from right before it ignited, or of the Titanic just before it made friends with that iceberg.
The interesting thing to me about the second image is the “Valiant” badge on the right side of the trunk lid. Perhaps this late in the game, Chrysler had still planned to market their new small Plymouth as a Valiant, but backed out as they felt their new compact was really that special as to merit a new, clean-sheet name and image. Maybe one of the head guys in Marketing was still really into lounge music, and was a fan of the Rat Pack, especially Dean Martin. “Let’s call it…Volaré!“, he exclaimed, as he threw back the rest of his second lunchtime martini at the old, original location of Joe Muer’s seafood restaurant on Gratiot Avenue. The other guys were in agreement. “I like it!” “Great idea!” “It has a ring to it!” The decision was nearly unanimous. If anyone knows the real story behind the “Volaré” model name, share it here and you will be my hero.
- From Paul Niedermeyer: Curbside Classics: 1976 Plymouth Volare and Dodge Aspen: From an A to an F – Chrysler’s Deadly Sin #1; and
- From Robert Kim: Vintage Review: Plymouth Volare, a “Solid Set of Wheels”.