(first posted 1/22/2015) Today’s find is another example of how well vehicles stay preserved here on Vancouver Island, even if there’s no real effort on the part of the owner to preserve them. This classic 1980 Plymouth Caravelle two-door coupe, adorned with a pair of ‘hot-for-the-era’ glass T-tops, should technically be extinct, but still it holds on, 35 years later, looking for one more chance.
I have come across a few of these examples in my life, certainly not with any regularity, but I do remember them. These restyled-for-1980 models hide their Aspen/Volare lineage pretty well compared with the ’78-’79 offerings that retained the F-body styling and looked the part of the upscale cousin. They actually remind me a lot of the new-for-1980 Ford Thunderbird riding its Fox body platform, which arrived two years earlier with the Fairmont/Zephyr. Very similar roof lines, both fashioned with glorious padded vinyl, paired up with bold, straight edges. It must be said that crisp lines were what so many cars were about in the early ’80s.
The Plymouth Caravelle was a Canadian-only model that appeared in 1978, riding the new-for-1977 Chrysler M-body platform, which the same model year Dodge Diplomat and Chrysler LeBaron made their debuts on. These upscale Aspen/Volare cousins appeared in four door sedan and station wagon form in addition to the two door models, powered by the standard 225 slant six or 318 V8 engines. The quad headlight and grille design distinguished these from the Aspen/Volare offerings though they were strikingly similar otherwise.
In 1980, the M-bodies received a facelift with much straighter lines and a new body style that would carry through to 1989, with a minor update in 1984 and a couple nameplate changes. It would become a popular line of cars during the decade, with the Chrysler Fifth Avenue selling in good numbers and significant unit sales of the Dodge Diplomat to fleet duty, including taxis and police cruisers.
In Canada, the Caravelle would be an option available at Plymouth dealerships only, and would go through changes with the rest of the M-body line, including two-door models like today’s special, disappearing after 1981 along with the wagons. The Caravelle nameplate would become a front-wheel driver with its shift to the stretched K-platform alongside the Dodge 600 & Chrysler E-Class for 1983, still as a Canadian-only model, until 1985, when it would be sold in the US along with the 600. After the 1988 model year, it was discontinued.
I spotted this particular example off the side of the Trans Canada in Chemainus, British Columbia while on a routine Sunday morning grocery shopping trip. It is the first example I have ever seen with T-tops, and given the short production life of the 1980-81 two-door models and the fact that it’s also a Caravelle, it was already a pretty rare bird when it was new, and carried a price tag significantly higher than the current $1,000 asking price. I am not certain if I have ever seen production numbers on the Caravelles of this era, but I don’t expect there were that many built.
It’s in original condition, though I expect it has changed hands a few times in its life. The significant amount of moisture dripping from the glass is obviously a side effect of the advertised leaking T-tops over the front bucket seats. I would expect that the interior would need a significant overhaul, as the kind of leakage into this car to cause that kind of condensation would easily exceed the capabilities of the towel, obviously a drip cloth, that is folded neatly on the driver’s seat.
Aside from the leak, which is a significant issue on its own, the interior looks to be pretty good for 35 years of age. It’s no surprise I recall that floor shifter out of the closely related 1980-83 Mirada/Cordoba twins, though the Caravelle did not share the same dash or gauges. The moisture made it hard to get a look inside through most of the windows; even the advertisement was blurred, though I made out enough of the details to share.
Given the options package of this beige two-door, I would expect to find the venerable 318 (5.2L) V8 under the hood instead of the standard slant six, but strangely, this piece of information was left off the advertisement. With either engine option, however, it is powered by horsepower figures of just a buck-twenty or less. This period of time isn’t called the ‘Malaise-era’ for fun; it was a time of emission reduction components, fuel efficiency and ‘low-po’ American V8s, and the 318 in 1980 was no exception. It’s certainly not going to be a turn-key hot rod for the next owner, to say the least.
Its overall condition would dictate that its advertised 102,000 original km is probably legitimate, though it has likely sat unappreciated in the corner of someone’s property for long periods of its later life. It’s likely the leftover of someone who purchased it new and held on to it for the majority of its 35 years on the road, though exactly how long I can’t guess. I wouldn’t doubt that it ‘starts and runs fine’ given the known reliability and durability of those Chrysler powerplants from that time, especially once you give it the noted spark plug replacement it seems to need.
Rust has chewed its way through a lower corner with a little bit emerging elsewhere, which probably will lessen the car’s appeal to someone taking this ride home for renovation inside of dry garage–which is where this car should have spent more of its old age instead of being subject to the full offerings of the long, rainy West Coast winters. That interior will never be the same without some real invasive help at the very least.
That said, I’ll bet that with a real good scrubbing the exterior could look better than it currently does, and I doubt it would be too hard to find a matching hubcap somewhere out there if keeping it original is the name of the game. In all honesty, that V8 under the hood might be appealing to a younger driver looking for his first ‘unique’ ride. After all, many Malaise-era vehicles can easily have a cheap dual exhaust system tacked on in order to at least make the vehicle sound aggressive, since in stock form they cannot really move very aggressively.
A set of compatible rims, perhaps a little less “un-cool” than those wire hub caps, would likely complete such a make over, though I am convinced that it could end up as the project that one starts and never finishes before it goes to the crusher for good. Seeing regular service on the streets might be a stretch, given what it would take to make this one right again.
However, the uniqueness of this particular machine, available for what I expect would be a small fan of hundreds, made it fully worthy of a story. After all, just how many T-topped 1980-81 Canadian-only Plymouth Caravelle coupes are still out there? Certainly one of a few in its day, I expect this is now one of the last.
Will it get one more chance?
That is indeed a rare bird. I can’t imagine more than a couple of dozen Caravelles were built with T-tops. It’s not clear from the article, but the Caravelle name continued on the M body in Canada right to 1989. After the FWD version was introduced I believe the M bodies were called “Caravelle Salon”. The Gran Fury name wasn’t used at all.
Stumack, you’re correct. From 1982-1989 the Plymouth M-body sold in Canada was call the Caravelle Salon It was essentially identical to the US Gran Fury. These cars were popular for police use during the 1980’s. I remember our local police using the Caravelle Salon’s painted in bright yellow for many years. They looked like a bunch of NYC taxi cabs with light bars.
Here’s a link to a Toronto police car with a paint job similar to what our local cars had.
I remember those times. One American visitor we had couldn’t believe Toronto’s police cars were yellow and the taxi cabs were black and white.
here’s another one
“GREAT” description and picture as always, Rich! LOL.
Rich’s Plymouth was bout new by my Dad Nov 22, 1980 for my sister ( I was there ) for $10.500, list price was $14.500 witch was a lot of $ back in 1980, was a car wars year end clearance sale VS a Ford and GM dealership. I took over the car in 1984 from Sis and drove it daily till it just wore out and sold it to Rich in 94-95, Interior was still mint but it needed EVERYTHING ELSE! Rich restored it, beefed it up and man it was a nice car again!
Just recently I was contacted by it’s new owner in Alberta Canada, Car still in prime mechanical and body condition, but now the inside needs everything. New owner asked if I had any pictures of it from back in the day.
In Canada, including mine this tan one is the 3rd t-top Caravelle I have ever seen (80-81), 81 being the last year of the 2 door model. The other was a white with red top seen in Alberta 1989-90. I can’t prove but have been told 1980 was the only year t-top wise for the face lifted body, have seen several 78-79 t-top Plymouth’s. Was also told the Labaron, cars cousin never recieved t-top treatment, this again I can’t prove nor deny. But I’ve never seen even online a 80-81 la-baron with t-tops.
Pics are pics of pics, This would be me in the summer of 86 when i put mags on it, and one pic from the currant owner
Kinda nice, I mean how many people today can say there old car, a disposable although highly optioned for the time is still around today!
Wow, that is a hadsome car. At first look hard to believe that and the subject car are related.
Agreed. I’d love a 2-door Diplomat but they’re rare/non-existent in the US. Seems either Canada and Mexico got all of them.
Another prime example of the necessity of saving cars that weren’t “teenage dream” cars. This is definitely rarer than a (say) ’72 Hemi Cuda. And, in my eyes, more important.
At least now I know where the Caravelle name came from. Thank you.
Oh, I don’t know about that. Officially the 426 hemi was not offered in ’72.
It’s that rare!
Not as rare as a 72 Hemi Cuda convertible in hi impact colours.I heard some guy telling his mate about the one he saw at a show!
I assumed Syke was being sarcastic, based on the number of later Cudas that have had owner-installed Hemis transplanted into them.
It is amusing to see Syke arguing for the preservation of this car though, given his vocal distaste for brougham-ified cars.
Caravelle was also the name of a Peter Paul candy bar. It was Caramel covered in chocolate covered crisped rice,
Are you sure that the strategically placed towel was for a leaking roof? Back in my younger days I often carried a towel for other things leaking, if you catch my drift? Better safe than sorry – some stains are not so easily removed even if you did get lucky earlier in the evening!
Incredible find Carey! I’ve never seen one of these Caravelles in person due to my age, location, and their rarity, but it’s safe to say that there weren’t many of these. I’ve always had a soft spot for higher optioned Plymouths, mainly due to their relative obscurity. This one checks all the boxes for me: T-tops, bucket seats, wire wheels, cream color, 2-door, and the Plymouth “Forward Look” hood ornament. These were decent-looking cars for the early-’80s, especially with the 1980 facelift.
That is unfortunate about the leaky T-tops. I’d be willing to be there is more extensive water damage beyond the stained interior trim. Hopefully someone buys this car and puts a lot of love into it. It would be heartbreaking to see this Plymouth rust away.
Thanks! It definitely caught my attention right away and from a distance, I thought it was a Futura/Z7 until I got closer and saw the roofline was a lot different and I was seeing something even more rare!
It’s one of those things I love about living here on Vancouver Island, classic rides are everywhere, pristine condition or not, there’s always something to see!
Yeah, the Pacific Northwest climate is perfect for preservation of classics! I hope to make it out there someday soon, compiling a substantial amount of car pictures while I’m there. Where I live in Massachusetts, cars just don’t last as long.
I photograph cars all the time in my native NW! It is an old car paradise.(Partially because Oregonians tend to be cheap) Here’s an example
Wow that is a rare car. Can’t say I have ever seen one with both T-tops and bucket seats and floor shifter before. This scar is begging for a restore with some nicer rims, performance rear end swap, suspension upgrade and a 4BBL transplant assuming of course it’s a 318.
Love it, love it, love it. What a great find. The asking price is totally worth it for the T tops and floor shift alone.
Has the right amount of age lines. Sunburnt armrests which are so typical of Mopar vinyl for the day.
Needs to find a good home, and kept preserved in exactly it’s current state of fineness.
I drove these cars when new and they have an “etched in stone” soft spot in my heart for these ole gals.
Wow, all this uniqueness in 1 package…..and all for a grand. I’m not all that crazy about the color, though, but with the T-tops, buckets, and floor shift AND a possible V8 this would be more attractive than it’s Ford competition.
Now this is a unicorn…incredible find. Compelling candidate for a restoration by its rarity, alone.
What a terrific find! Seeing any two-door M-body is a treat, but this one is even more special.
I agree with Syke. This is the type of car that needs to be saved. I tells the automotive story much better than any Mustang, Camaro, or Challenger.
Truly a special and unique car.
I would step up, but only have a two car garage and two cars. She shouldn’t be left outside- I know, what a lame excuse….realistically I’m fighting with my inner hoarder!
That is one rare bird! I’ve never knew they had T-tops. Somehow I can remember a two door Diplomat rental my parents had for week in SCal for a vacation. It had only an AM radio, and slant six of course. It was the last AM factory radio car I can recall, and last slant six I rode in. I can still hear that whirring. Never had the pleasure of driving one; on the list, though. Don’t ask me what I had for lunch yesterday.
Wow! There was not a bigger Mopar fanboi in 1980 than yours truly. I spent lots of time at Chry-Ply and Dodge dealers that year, and never, ever saw anything like this. We did not get the Caravelle here, but we did get the LeBaron and Diplomat (which should have been even more likely to get the T-top and console treatment). If asked as late as yesterday, I would have likely said that even buckets and a console was not offered on these cars. Even forgetting the T-tops, I don’t ever recall seeing a buckets/console/floor shift M body. How wrong I was.
But why in the name of heaven and earth did this car get built in this awful color? ChryCo had some very attractive color combos that year, but this is not one of them. “Hi, I want to order the only sporty version of this car that will ever be built, but I want it in a color that my Uncle Herbert would have liked on his 1953 DeSoto.”
You are so right about that color, what was the first owner thinking? Did Grandpa have a latter mid-life crisis? Or did his wife insist on that color? Who knows.
This is why these survivors are so cool…I wouldn’t change a thing aside from addressing the rust.
This thing even has stereo and AM-FM radio, such a privilege many LeBaron/Diplomat or even St Regis never gets with!
As a result, the price for AM-FM ’70s Mopar radio is outrageous….
Thanks, I didn’t even notice the Stereo- and you are so right: certain vintage head units can go for crazy prices. And years before I’m sure many were just thrown away- yours truly is guilty of such a sin, as a teen I threw away a two knobbed Delco away when I got an Alpine Deck for a 72 GMC. Not too proud of that…
Maybe this was a dealer demo- to show off all the goodies, in an inoffensive color?
I don’t believe you were ever a hoarder on the basis of that admission!
Excuse gone. Buy the car.
Ok, you easily talked me into it! But the dang, the check won’t clear-that’s life. If I was wealthy, I would be a Fred Sanford/Jay Leno hybrid. Heck, most of my furniture came from thrift stores.
And while that cofession was dreadful, the truck was traded for an Integra when I got my reenlistment bonus- that’s even more tragic. I really miss the old GMC and her Delco; it could pull in AM stations from Cuba. My Lexus’ AM band is useless. I loved listening to Art Bell on marathon drives. G-D, I think I just admitted to looniness
I found one around 2007 for 5 bucks at a thrift store. I had recently sold my truck so I didn’t buy it. That was a mistake.
After taking an even closer look, i just realized it even has 8 Track. Bidding price on a same unit from eBay is around $120 the last time I saw. Sigh*
I just need an AM-FM upgrade on my volare but I even lose bid around $60.
A Caravelle with T-Tops? Wow. Now *that* is a rarity. We didn’t get the Caravelle version “South of the Border”, and I don’t think there was ever a 2-door version of the Gran Fury, so I presume the US-market equivalent must have been a Diplomat coupe. Still never knew T-Tops were an option, on any of these cars! This one will present some challenges for the potential restorer, depending on the extent of the interior water damage; I’m guessing at least new carpet and new floors, possibly new front seats. But overall it looks solid and with such a rare option is definitely worth taking the trouble. Hope it goes to a good home! (I’d love to help but as it stands I have four cars, no garage, and I’m on the wrong coast…)
It’s kind of cool, not $1000 cool.
I would dish out no more than $500 if it has the 318.
Open the hood, scrap the smog crap, change the plugs, wires and air cleaner. Dual exhaust, flip the tires so the white walls are not visible, leave the hub caps off. Rip off that vinyl roof and rattle can the whole thing flat black. Drive it like it was stolen, keep an eye open for a real V8 to drop in and all the while saving my pennies for a tranny rebuild.
Hey, you are ok, and I understand your point of view; but some of us really like vinyl roofs, white walls and other silliness.
I collect mid century furniture, and don’t refinish- for example. Originality can be sacred. Please don’t be offended, as you have my respect.
I can see the brougham gingerbread on a 4-door version. But a coupe like this….Id say whip it into pseudo-musclecar shape. Ive seen a few of these cars done so and they wear that look very nicely. Think alternate universe Regal T-type or GNX
I would leave the vinyl, but the spray paint might not stay on it so I opted to get rid of it.
Yep, I love vinyl tops and wire wheels, it would be much much cooler to leave it stock..
Fantastic find. There are a few rwd Caravelles here but I can’t recall ever seeing a coupe with t-tops. Here is an earlier one in the same colour but without the t-tops and padded roof.
Always liked the 1977-79 LeBaron/Caravelle/Diplomat in this downsized coupe trim. This was the Chrysler version of GM’s downsized A/G body cars a year before they did it. Would be umber cool to find a 360 V8 example with bucket seats if such a thing was ever built of course.
Mom got one of the first 77 1/2 (as she liked to point out) Chrysler LeBarons in all of Houston/Galveston. It was a 2-door with burgondy paint 1/4 roof with a white leather interior. FIrst car to fall in love with. Quite a beauty. I remember that the tail lights had clear covers over them. They were a warranty nightmare and leaked like crazy. I think Chrsyler replaced them 2-3 times. Would love to snag a vacuum flourescent Chronometer from one for my desk. The glove box had a cutout just for it.
I had to look at this twice to convince myself it isn’t aftermarket. Maybe it is, an incredible Mopar loyalist if so, kind of a plain hyper conservative design to bother with a T-top.
While having an updated body for 1980, the M-Body sold incredibly poorly that year. All 1980 sales were in the tank due to OPEC II, the M bordered on full-size externally, was a bit cramped inside and for luggage space, was thirsty in any form compared to the competition, fleet buyers still had the Mopar R body to choose, if they were even shopping that year.
T-tops were never exactly huge sellers, GM had some volume and presence. The only Mopars I’ve actually seen are the ’75 – ’79 Cordoba / Charger / Magum. Maybe the ’80 up Cordoba / Magnum.
The production numbers of this car with a T-top have to be incredibly miniscule. In Canadian Caravelle trim – maybe 1 of 10? M Coupe sales had to be next to nothing that year.
Should I mention Volare with T-Top? even though the collection value is near to none for nearly all volare/aspen, but they still came with T-Top as a rare option. ( which I showed to a guy having a Camaro T-Top insisting it’s something reserved to only the real cool sports cars ) and I think Chrysler just carried over everything since the tooling price is well paid for volare, it doesn’t hurt to squeeze any variety out of it.
The AM-FM stereo radio alone is worth $120, sigh*.
I’ve an unhealthy interest in a T Top Volare Roadrunner my brother snapped at a car show on his holidays a couple of years ago
Im right there with you on that. Mopar F bodies are very much unappreciated, and can be nice little rides if properly executed.
I saw one of those at a traffic light a few weeks ago. It was in nice shape.
That’s a very unhealthy interest indeed!
Due to the quality of materials used in volare, I stick with the base model without side trims because it keeps falling off. The trim on the vinyl roof still got lost some time and the badge on the fender dropped in car wash ( but I picked it back in time ) and plastic grill keeps cracking ( previous owner used glue only ) and I added much iron wire and extra glue to it. It’s not an easy job to keep everything in place ( hubcap falls off occasionally ) so I keep some spare badge and hubcaps just in case.
I wonder if the tooling did carry over though? This roofline is two generations removed from the Aspen/Volare coupes. I guess it all depends on whether the A-pillar is at the same angle and if the portion of the roof over the doors maintains the same curvature.
I’ve always understood that the cowl, windshield and doors (both 2-door and 4-door) are carryover Aspen/Volare pieces on all 1977-89 M-bodies. The 1980 Aspen and Volare used the new front fenders and front and rear bumpers from the updated M’s. I would imagine with the common doors and side glass that the T-top is a common part as well.
Good point, Jeff. I’ve at least seen brochure photos of an Aspen / Volare’ coupe with T-tops. A much better looking car than this contradiction on wheels.
It’s possible that the roof stamping is the same as the Volare’ from the B pillar forward, and the little kick up on the trailing edge of door looks familiar, maybe even a bit out of place on this squaremobile.
Thanks for another car I’d never heard of this is what I love about this site.In 1980 I’d long ago totally lost interest in Mopar products after the Dart and Duster were killed off.
Probably this is as good an example of this particular car with these options that one is likely to find. But why does there appear to be a color mismatch, with everything behind the B-pillar a slightly darker shade? If that is for real and not an artifact of the photographs, I’d wonder what it had hit. But on both sides??? And if it was a dealer repaint to fix paint flaws, why not respray the whole car?
I’ll also note that the pin stripping is absent on both the left and right rear sides… whereas the trunk lid still has it… so something has been done at some point in it’s life.
This car is such a contradiction. The 2-door body, T-tops, and buckets with console shifter say “sporty”. However, the chunky front clip, formal roofline with landau vinyl, fake wires and awful beige colour are decidedly un-sporty.
It would look much improved with the earlier 2-door roofline sans vinyl, a better colour, and either the cop-spec steel wheels and hubcaps from the maple-coloured ’78 or the aluminum wheels from the ’80 brochure picture.
The door armrests and center console don’t look water damaged to me but sun-baked, still a result of the T-tops no doubt. It might clean-up well and be a good fair-weather car for the price. A lot depends how musty the interior is.
Glass t-tops, cool! I wish cars today had glass that went to the edge of the roof, even if it didn’t open or lift off. That would be much nicer than a moon roof, where you have to crane your neck upward to see… the sky.
I imagine a glass T-top gives an experience like the old alpine Mercedes buses for which Paul is nostalgic, giving you a real view of whatever mountain/forest/skyscraper is looming over you.
Count me as a big fan of the R/J/M body cars, the last vestige of the Old Chrysler in the New Chrysler era. I remember the M body cars new, and they weren’t many of them around. And no Caravelle for us in the US. The Dodge Diplomat was seen the most, with an occasional LeBaron. Fifth Avenues were everywhere a few years later.
Just as well, it probably would have been as popular as the other unicorn, the 80-81 Gran Fury. It’s incredible how different the post-Energy Crisis II market was compared to the mid-70s. Then, Chryco ruled this segment with the A and B bodies. That nobody wanted this very decent, value-priced successor a few years later speaks volumes of Mopar’s troubles. The combination of the near bankruptcy, the GM juggernaut, the residual stink of the Volare/Aspen, and the upcoming K-car doomed any chance of this car appearing here. In 1980, a slant-six, leaf-sprung Caravelle would have bombed spectacularly.
I desperately hope someone rescues this beast and treats it to the factory correct restoration it deserves. It’s a piece of Chrysler history that doesn’t deserve to die on the side of the road, at the demo derby, or at the hands of a hooner with an engine lift and a rattle can.
BTW, was the M-body Caravelle the only Plymouth outside the ’69 Fury offered with cornering lamps?
Interesting. I am not a fan of T-top or vinyl roofs. I REALLY like that ’78 Caravelle. Gorgeous car. I think down here in the lower 48 that was called a Plymouth Gran Fury.
It never ceases to amaze me what you people are finding out there!
A T-top Caravelle? I’ve certainly never seen one out here which certainly had an abundant number of Caravelles on the road. I would think Chrysler Canada historical might have production figures. But would they be able to break down the numbers into T-top equipped cars?
This Caravelle should be preserved just for the T-top option. It would make for great conversation at a Mopar meet.
I don’t remember when it was, but a lot of Chrysler Canada’s historical records were destroyed in a fire.
Oh? Hmm, Walt McColl the former head of PR at Chrysler Canada would be a good guy to contact. Walt is a great guy and was a great source of info for automotive writers. He’s also authored some books. He was in Windsor for Chrysler many years and gave my son and I an unforgettable tour of the mini-van plant.
I wouldn’t be surprised if he knew how to get production stats.
Wow nice find! 2 door M bodies are rare as it is, but a T-top car with buckets and floor shift…AND a funky Canuck-only oddity? This needs to be saved. But I can only hope that the next owner strips the vinyl roof and scraps those dopey wheels/tires. These cars are pretty much like the Mopar version of GM’s G-body coupes from the same time period. Black out all the chrome, paint it in Inferno Red, all black leather interior, Cragar mags and a hot 360 under the hood would make this a winner.
An interesting car.
It seems that almost all car makers in the 1970’s and 1980’s offered a car or two with t-tops.
Was this rise of the t-topped car the result of the lack of convertible offerings in the 1970’s?
It seemed this feature died down by the late 1980’s. I think the 2002 Firebird/Camero was the last to offer the t top? and that final 2002 line up offered a non t top F body, t top Fbody and a convertible F body.
Holy crap, it’s a Canadian unicorn!!! I had no idea one could get a 2nd gen M body with T-tops. That car’s got to be far more rare than the T-top ’77 T-Bird a friend had back in the late Eighties. If I had one: more garage space (currently filled with a Harley and a Fairmont) and two: it wasn’t so damn far away I’d give a grand for that car in a heartbeat!
Nice find and just a short drive down the road from my place, good thing I am not a mopar fan or I would be tempted to clear up some garage space. Since moving to the island from Alberta almost a decade ago I am always impressed with the quality of older vehicles out here. Those cleansing rains and very minimal use of road salt sure do help. My one buddy who has grown up here says Victoria and the island is where old people with their cars go to die. For Americans due to the drop in oil prices and corresponding drop in the Cdn dollar this would cost about $800 US and I am sure you could talk the owner down. I am not sure how hard it would be to import stateside but there is a ferry or 2 that go direct to Washington state from here.
It’s one of the only places that I know of where K-cars are still in active service… and in numbers at that. They are late models, of course, but still, 25+ years of service and still going… and in pretty good shape too!
That’s funny, two days ago, I was commenting a picture of a 1984 Chrysler Fifth Avenue and Newport (!) owner’s manual on Flickr and I searched for pictures of Caravelles and Diplomats for sale on Kijiji. I was looking to find pictures of Diplomat SE models as I don’t recall seeing these in Canada. Were they available here? I also posted a link to a 1985 Caravelle 4 door for sale in Quebec, but that’s certainly not as interesting as the 1980 T-top coupe featured here! Still it seemed to be in nice shape for a northeastern car…
I quickly looked over a nice Dilpomat parked at a SaveOn Food store a few weeks ago. No vinyl roof, minimal options but didn’t notice what type of Diplomat. I was impressed how well preserved it was and should add that it appeared to have been repainted.
I don’t recall a Diplomat SE as the bulk of those cars were for police or fleet use and those then public bought had a minimum of options.
I’ll certainly keep a close lookout now. It seems Handicapped stalls at the grocery stores I frequent always have older vehicles usually with a senior as the owner.
Ah, the elusive M-body Newport! My understanding is that it was a last minute decision to cancel it (hence its appearance in some literature), and it effectively became the Diplomat SE, with the Fifth Avenue style “upside down” headlamp assembly.
This is a wonderful find, easily one of the most interesting in CC’s history, imho.
There is a Dodge Diplomat-probably the same year as this in Gulfport Mississippi of all places. It’s parked indoors and is part of a collection that’s open to the public. It too, has t-tops, and is in very good condition. There is a restoration shop in the back; and they’re working on a ’73 Stag and a ’57 Vette.
Would have been interesting if Plymouth had a CDN only version of the ’75 Cordoba. Would it have been called Caravelle?
The T-tops pique my interest, I had no Idea these ever could get those. The car however ehh. I really don’t like M bodies, they remind me of a slightly scaled down Box Panther with their squareness and dorky tall upright rooflines. The 1980 Mirada and Cordoba look much much more attractive to me and much more distinct from the F bodies they too are based on. I prefer the 78/79 versions of these to be honest.
Tall roofline? I dunno about that…look at this car in profile. Its in really nice proportion, actually. On a 2 door coupe, this color is horrible, the vinyl roof is laughable, and the wheel/tire combo is damn near criminal yet all of these are ‘fixable’ flaws if you want to make the effort. Its the boxy face and the park bench front bumper that fall apart for me.
It makes me wonder though…since all these have Aspen/Volare roots…what if a Mirada or a Cordoba LS nosecone were worked onto the front of this very car, then the whole thing was painted in a color (like the Inferno red I mentioned before) that would really pull the look of this car together? And then all the brightwork blacked out and some nice beefy alloys bolted to it? It’d come off looking a lot like a G body Regal T type, Monte SS, or Olds 442 but with its own unique personality. Kind of a slightly refined muscle car.
In Mexico this body style was the Dodge Magnum…this pic shows how the car SHOULD have been executed here….
I’d just prefer a whole Mirada/Cordoba. The proportions are much better than these, the whole body looks so much thinner and lithe, especially with the more rakish roofline
Honestly, Id take either one just about as quick. Both have their individual charms even though theyre pretty much redundant offerings. I do like the overall cleaner profile of the M coupe though. With the Mirada or LS nosecone, and decked like the Mexi Magnum itd be about perfect.
Quite the find. I had forgotten the two door continued after 1980.
Wow, until today, I only thought that the Caravelle–as rare as those have became–existed as only a “lowly” FWD K-car, alongside the Dodge 600. Nice-looking K-cars.
As for the M-body Caravelle, there’s probably something like four or five left out there, as we speak.
This example may soon become Chinese disposable razors.
I’m getting a little off topic, but I was perusing Craigslist a while ago out of boredom and came across an ad for an old 1983 LeBaron sedan. The seller mentioned that an estimated 150 1983 K-car LeBaron sedans remain alive today (i.e. are currently registered) in the US out of an original MY 1983 production number of 30,000.
I don’t know if the seller was using scare tactics to get the car sold to a bleeding heart Chrysler fan or if this is an ugly truth, but I can only imagine that if such a common car as a 1983 LeBaron sedan is nearing extinction, the M-body Caravelle is definitely right on the threshold of extinction.
Pull up the carpets. If the T-Tops have been leaking, it’s a safe bet that moisture has ended up trapped in the carpets and the floorpans are likely to be Swiss cheese.
That aside, it’s an interesting variant. Has something of an air of the contemporary Thunderbird to it.
http://cnj.craigslist.org/cto/4810155492.html while scanning CL– Ttops AND a four speed! somehow that man tran doesn’t look stock though
Wow interesting find. This feature on the Caravelle has been a fascinating read.
A floor mounted shifter in a LeBaron? I don’t think so. The body tag or tags would confirm what transmission came with this car. A four-speed manual I doubt very much.
A floor mounted 4-speed was standard in the LeBaron with either the slant six or 318.
Huh, not the type of model I would expect to see a floor mounted manual transmission.
These must be super rare. I Appreciate you seeking out the brochure page as now I and many others have learned something new.
well guess what I order one of these in 1980 a Caravelle Salon, in NIghtwatch Blue ( thedark blue off the brochure with T-Bar roof, slant super 6, had more pep than a stock 305 in Cutless or monte carlo. 30 mpg on the hwy. rode really nice. Dark blue velour interior.
I am looking for a Plymouth Caravelle from the 80’s. Ideally a front wheel drive US version. does anyone know of one for sale?
Hey everyone I used to have 1978 aspen rt t top I have 2 sets of glass tops for the car wondering what there worth all four pieces of glass are in great condition thanks in advance
$500 tops, if it runs well and has the 318 just so I know I can bolt a EFI 360 in it later with little trouble.
In 1981 The RWD F-Body changed to a larger RWD M-Body. This would technically for all of its intents and purposed would be the Canadian 1981 Plymouth Caravelle 2 Door Coupe. In Mexico however, its a 1981 Plymouth Valiant Volare 2 Door Coupe. The U.S. however does not have this version. When we had the RWD M-Bodied Plymouth Gran Fury, it was only available in 4 Door Sedan version and not the 2 Door Coupe.
What an interesting and well written article! I have always been fascinated by the unique car models (and brands) that we Canadians received. I prefer tthe earlier years of this RWD Caravelle with its “almost-boat-tail” trunk design. As well, we Canadians had an Acura 1.6 EL “entry-level” sport sedan, which was basically a Honda Civic with many improvements and added features. As well, GM Canada created the “Asuna” brand, a line of import cars which lasted almost 2 years. Think of Chevrolet’s Geo brand, but Asuna was sold at Pontiac-Buick dealerships. (I believe there are CC articles on both of these topics).
These were everywhere circa 1980-2000. Here in Canada, after about 1984, Chrysler offered big discounts and plenty of rebates on them. For some reason, most of them were two doors and the majority of the ones I saw were Slant Sixes.
In fact, military-base Victoria BC had loads of Mopar products at the time. Cars like the Omni and later K-car permutations were dirt cheap and the favourite of military moms for a couple of decades. They were good cars for the money at a time a Honda or Toyota was overpriced.
I drove one for a couple of weeks in my shady used car days. It was a four door with the Slant Six. In city driving, it didn’t feel slow at all.
2 years before this came out, I used to work for Hertz, and although my location mostly had Fords back then, we did carry a few Chrysler cars, mostly Dodge Volares and Diplomats (both 2 door and 4 door). I really liked the 2 door Diplomats, with their “boat” tail, though it is hardly the type of car I’ve driven the last 40 years, one of these would make a good “Sr Citizen mobile”. I’m not a fan of T Tops, and would prefer a column mounted quadrant and bench seats to the setup on this car.
In 1980 my Father had bought his “mid life crisis” car in a Dodge Omni (pretty mild for a mid life crisis) which he had only a few years due to it not having air conditioning and his moving to Texas from Vermont. Around this time my Uncle was ditching his ’76 Volare wagon for the first of several Cadillacs he started buying (not a good time to start buying Cadillac). My Dad was only to buy one more MOPAR (an ’86 Dodge 600) though his first new car was a ’56 Plymouth Plaza flathead with standard transmission.
Still, though I still go for the practical nature of a hatchback, but with no wagons offered probably since my Uncle’s Volare in this form factor, I’d go for a Diplomat, with cloth seats and the 318…and air conditioning, as I’ve since moved to Texas also.