Curbside Classic: 1976 Plymouth Volaré Coupe- A Counterpoint to an Earlier Junkyard Classic

Last Saturday I scored a nice set of Jaguar XJ-S buckets at the junkyard, and then scored some photos of this well worn Plymouth Volaré on the way home. Based on state emissions records, it’s a first year car (1976), and consistent with Chrysler’s vision for their “upscale compact” it’s a top trim level car with some nice options.

Reflecting the popularity of two door coupes in the mid seventies, it’s also the best selling body style (by a margin of 258 cars- the ’76 coupe, 4-door sedan and station wagon sold in almost equal numbers).

For contrast, you can find a junked sister car to this coupe in Jim Klein’s article from September:

Junkyard Classic: 1977 Plymouth Volaré Coupe

Jim’s title asked, “The question is, how did this last 42 years in the wild?” Let’s take a closer at this still active Curbside example, and see if we can divine the magic that keeps Volarés plugging along.

As proudly declared by the rear quarter glass, this is the top trim level available. Even though the Volaré Premier represented the most expensive model, it still came standard with a six. Buyers who wanted the 318 or 360 V-8 needed to pony up some cash, since traditional Chrysler buyers were perfectly happy with the /6.

Looking at the feature list in the brochure, some of the parts we see on this Volaré are either missing from the list, or were extra cost options added to the car.

For example, I assume this bright finish passenger mirror added a couple sheckles to the MSRP. In fact, this is a double upgrade, since it’s not only a passenger side mirror (not required in 1976), but it’s a “sport” mirror with a fancy streamlined housing instead of a basic square mirror on a stalk.

Sport mirrors also allowed room for a remote control mechanism, which helped justify the extra expense for these fancy mirrors.

Upfront, we see the Volaré Premier hood ornament (shown on the list), but we also see the fender mounted blinker repeaters, as well as bumper guards flanking the license plate and black rub strips on the bumper. I’ve never owned a car with fender mounted turn signal indicators, but they were a very popular Chrysler item back in the day.

Based on an online sales brochure, the bucket seats and console were both extra cost options, but the features list says a three spoke steering wheel came standard with the Premier trim level, so you might think this was the Premier version.

However, this is the optional “Tuff” 3 spoke steering wheel as identified by the slotted wheel spokes, making it an upgrade one step above the Premier wheel.

Making one more close look, I can spot a manual window crank on the driver’s inner door panel telling us that despite the upgrades we’ve identified, this coupe lacks the “full boat” treatment.

Out back we see more bright trim, and even though it isn’t shown on the feature list above, I’m pretty sure this panel came standard on the Premier.

These Magnum 500 wheels are associated with muscle car era Mopars, but five years later they were still available on the Volaré.  In fact, the “Rallye” wheel used on the Duster 360 were also optional on lower trim Volarés. However, if you wanted a styled wheel on your Volaré Premier, this “Chrome-styled Road Wheel” was the only choice.

These wheels bug the heck out of me- I really like the style, but the owner has allowed time and weather to oxidize both the wheel and trim ring. A couple of hours with some steel wool and black paint, and I could easily return these wheels back to factory condition. Here, they appear almost brown from age and road grime.

Speaking of things that bother me, the side trim behind the doors on the Volaré Coupes also qualifies. From a straight run across the door, the molding cut down to the wheel opening at an awkward angle. Although this was a conscious design choice, I’m left with the impression the trim is falling off the fender.

Speaking of falling off, the bottom edge of the passenger’s quarter glass on this car came unglued, leaving a 2 or 3 inch opening to allow in moisture. There are lots of exterior maintenance issues you can forego, but once the glass seals start to go, bad things follow.

This is the equivalent of ignoring a leaking roof at home- Put off this repair at your own peril.

Well, I’m not sure we’ve determined why this F-body remains on the road, but I certainly hope the owner patches up that window seal, cleans up the wheels, and keeps it rolling for a few more years.