(first posted on CC’s first day, 2/13/2011. And dedicated to Educator Dan, a long-time reader and fan of these cars) Starting all over again is like going to confession; all your sins are magically left behind. And one of my sins undoubtedly was in calling this car’s Chrysler twin, the Fifth Avenue, a CC Deadly Sin. But absolution requires penance, so here it is, my song of praise for this very lovely Dodge Diplomat. But don’t get me wrong; I’m not doing this out of obligation; I really am fond of this car. I just want to make it up to those of you I might have offended. Now if my penance had been to praise the Aspen, which this car essentially is, that would be a different story. And by the time I’ve finished this piece, I may well have committed another sin.
Yes, the Aspen and Volare deserved their punishment in CC hell. But like so many bad cars, the problem was in their being birthed prematurely. Within a couple of years and dozens of recalls, the M-Bodies went on to have very productive if somewhat dull lives, like so many Chrysler products.
So why did I condemn the Fifth Avenue? Because I have an deep-rooted aversion to padded half vinyl roofs and pretentious stand-up grilles. Hardly the stuff of mortal sins; a mere matter of taste. And taste is an acquired…taste; or something like that…de gustibus non est disputandum.
Well, this extremely well preserved Diplomat is blessedly unencumbered with those issues, so that makes it easy for me to do my penance; sure beats 20 Hail Marys and Our Fathers. It’s a classic American car, and rather easy on the eyes at that. It wasn’t as roomy as a traditional V8 RWD car might be, but then its Aspen/Volare progenitors were intended to be replacements for the “compact” Valiant and Dart.
The Diplomat came along in 1977, just two years after the Aspen/Volare twins, and managed to arrive guilt free from any association with those sinners. It was the upscale version, essentially, with more sound deadening and some other refinements. Sales got off to a reasonable start, and there was a coupe too, which fell by the wayside after a few years. They were treated to a minor restyle in 1980, giving them an edgier/boxier look.
Energy Crisis II put a real damper on these cars, like so many of their kind, as everyone scurried to snap up the K-Cars. But when gas prices receded, the Ms had their renaissance years. And 1985 was the high point, with about 39k Diplomats sold. But let’s not forget that a very healthy percentage of these were sold to the police and taxi fleets, along with its Gran Fury sibling. With the slant six (with all of 90 hp), they were a taxi operator’s delight. But if my memory serves me right, they didn’t use them in NYC, probably because the city had very strict rules about how roomy the cars had to be. The Chevy Caprice ruled Park Avenue then.
And the cops liked them too, but then they were treated to some decent power. While the standard 318 CID (5.2 L) V8 two barrel was rated for 130/140 hp, depending on the year, and a four barrel version was available (to civilians) through 1982, with a 165 hp rating. The 360 CID (5.9 L) was technically available through 1979 only, with a 195 hp rating.
But the police were given preferential treatment. According to an allpar article on Diplomat cop cars, the 360 was still available to police through 1984, and the four barrel 318 probably right to the end in 1989. In tests against the police Caprice, the Diplomats acquitted themselves very well, with one exception.
Chrysler made a huge mistake when they abandoned their longitudinal torsion bar suspension, which had been proven itself since 1957. The M-Body’s new front suspension was problematic from day one, especially in heavy duty fleet use. Shock towers actually sagged, and and front end braces were weak. Chrysler eventually fixed these, but it never need have happened.
It may not sound like much today, but the power of the four barrel V8s was enough to put fear in the speeders of the day. I certainly got very good at spotting the distinct outline of these cars from a distance when I used to abuse the double nickle in CA back then. But it was a sporting event itself, since the CHP was not allowed to use radar back then, by state law! The good old days; when it was a real cat and mouse game. And if you were good, you won the game, fair and square.
Now here comes the heart breaker, Dan. I prefer to shoot cars sitting at the curb, as you know, but Stephanie and I were taking our maiden urban hike over the brand new Delta bike/pedestrian bridge in the background. One end is right up against this car dealership, and as we came back over the bridge, this Diplomat caught my eye, naturally. I always ask, if it’s on private property, and the sales manager said it was a trade-in that had just come in. That made me sad; such a cream puff.
Who could part with such a pristine Diplomat, undoubtedly a one owner, with such a nice interior. I should have gone back and told them that I knew someone who might want this car, but I didn’t, and this was last fall, and…well, I’m sure it’s found an appreciative owner, even if it wasn’t you, Dan.
So while the Fifth Avenue has been absolved, have I committed another sin? Will you ever forgive me? Shall I keep an eye out for another one? Some other penance? I hate to start out fresh feeling guilty already.
Confession. I actually know a classic car dealer who puts his wares on the web who has a 1988 Plymouth Gran Fury for sale. $2500 He’s had it since at least last summer when I stumbled across it. Very low miles, crank windows (one less thing to break) but otherwise the uplevel interior.
What’s keeping you then, Dan? A combination of two things.
One – no funds. Upcoming nuptiuals and needing to invest a hefty chunk of change in renewing my teaching licence and driving out to Ohio (from NM) to visit relatives I haven’t seen in over 5 years.
Two – gas guzzler tax. You heard me right. These suckers were so inefficent they were actually hit with a gas guzzler tax when new.
Although honestly, if it wasn’t for the funds issue I’d have one just for the sheer rarity of it. What can I say, although I’ve never owned one, Chrysler corp has always held my imagination, maybe because not every Tom, Dick, and Harry owns one.
You never needed forgiveness Paul. I never learned anything from a man who always agreed with me, so you have taught me much. 🙂
I give you kudos for being so honored by Paul! I’ll be the first to admit you know far more about cars than I do. I just have lots of stories and experiences. By the way, I get a kick out of your British spelling of “licence” instead of “license”! Now if I can ever figure out how to upload an avatar like ajla, I’ll be happy! Still working on a suitable avatar of my current Impala with the “Chevrolet” and “Impala” scripts on the trunk lid, “Impala” on the right side.
I actually own a 88 dodge diplomat SE if anyone is interested body needs very little work and it runs great. let me know if anyone is interested its the same color as the one shown above.
Thanks! You instantly popped in my head when I saw it.
And gosh, I like the Fifth Avenue for the same reason you don’t. I’m fascinated by what happened to the big three after the “world changed” and things were not as they knew them. How could they cope? There were flashes of brilliance, like GMs B-body cars and then what the Panther platforms became but the amount of flailing around in the dark was disturbing. I feel like what remains of the big three have almost completely given up on the “traditional American car” save for producing BOF SUVs that are very much in the mold of the traditional American car. The last stalwart? Oddly enough, Chrysler but even the LX platform was birthed from German roots. Sigh…
Edan, as expected, makes good points about where we are and what brought us here re: American cruisers. I would quite happily drive a ’79 Caprice today if such an animal were available. Not so much the Panther which always felt numb to me. Don’t have much experience with Chrysler products, but one time had a memorable overnight LA-Vegas run in an ’85 Fifth Ave. Memories.
I think much of the ’80’s flailing can be directed to R. Smith’s management, unfortunately.
Paul, still waiting on the CC re: ’73-’77 Monte Carlo/Cutlass/Regal
Allow me to second the request on the Monte’s. I had two Oshawa built ’75’s in the shed at present. One replaced a departed ’75 Plymouth Valiant Brougham (2dr, 318cu in) that allowed me to schedule regular meeting with my local welder to keep it running. Amongst the items welded were two torsion bars, two leaf springs, one upper ball joint, various floorboards, and the upper rear shock mounting in the trunk. I also found out, long before Paul, of the necessity to keep spare ballast resistor’s handy. Every time the car was put on the hoist for an oil change, the rosary came out. The ’75 Monte was everything the Valiant wasn’t, sold and dependable. Bought in ’88 with 113k on the clock, it now has 270k on the original driveline, and still goes like a bird. Strange thing though, is that my original was spec’d out like most US cars at the time, with a 350 and a catalytic converter. The twin is a 350 also, but has no cat, including no labels on the rear sill/gas gauge indicating that it was tampered with. As far as I knew, only the Chryco folks were offering a Canadian emission option in that period, which deleted the cat, and allowed the use of leaded gas.
I worked at the Windsor plant as a summer student, making M-bodies in ’82 and ’83. They were brisk sellers at that time, with Saturday production scheduled, and there were many dubious folks wondering why we were giving up that production for the new minivan for ’84. Nobody realized how fortunate they were at the time!
If memory serves correctly, a surprising number of the Cordoba/Mirada’s went out the door with the 225 six, but most 5th Ave’s had the 318. We have one guy running around town with a very early Fifth, when it was a Lebaron option, and carried Lebaron tail lights (1980 or 1981?). We used to scramble when an Imperial came down the line, as it always required extra attention/time to get the part on
Daily driver is a Canadian spec ’85 Crown Vic, with the 351 Windsor. It too, leaves the Chryco’s behind, and is very similar to the equivalent B body in reliabiltiy and dynamics.
Which one first? Monte or Cutlass? Can’t do them together; they each deserve their own CC.
I’m biased, so I’d plump for the Monte. Odd thing is that the “other” site has just included a short review of a ’75 MC that looks like a twin to my two, so I’d understand if you wanted a touch more variety. I receive more favourable comments about the Monte that any of my other cars, mainly because everyone had a GM intermediate at some point in the seventies and eighties, and seem to have mostly good memories of them. I realize that any commentary on space utilization or quality of plastics is going to sting, but they should be viewed in the context of the era that they originated. Most of the complaints about “malaise” era cars ignore the fact that the growth pains associated with emissions and safety were foisted almost soley on the North Amercian market at that time, with predictable results.
First choice would still be a CC on the 1960-1976 Fleetwoods. Magnificent beasts.
I remember when the ’73 Monte was launched, Our neighbor traded his ’70 Impala (best full sized American car of it’s era!) for one and it seemed like a Hollywood glamour girl in their driveway by comparison.
On the other hand, the Cutlass exploded on the scene in ’73 becoming, I believe, the best seller in the country for years after that.
I am thinking give a little cred to Olds and do Cutlass first.
My personal fave is the ’77 Regal however. Just sayin…
This CC is almost exactly the same as my ’86 Diplomat SE. Only difference is that mine is a darker shade of blue. My Bonneville is out with suspension problems right now, so the Diplomat is actually my current daily driver.
It doesn’t quite have the cruise-ability of GM’s finest or Box Panthers but it’s still a unique way to get around these days. And 265ft-lbs@1600 is nice to have.
I bought it off an older lady during the CARS program. I couldn’t stand the idea of such a clean, low mileage M-body getting killed off. So I swallowed hard and wrote a whopping $4500 check to keep the car alive.
Now about the 1st-gen Seville…
ajla; that’s not quite such an easy one to walk away from, but it was a close call, because I liked certain aspects of the Seville. Let me mull that one over some more…I guess in relation to the gen2 Seville it looks like a saint.
Gosh, doesn’t that velour interior look inviting!
The 2-door 1977.5-79 versions had the same 112.7 inch wheelbase as the 4 doors-It was shortened in ’80.
My experience with these was not quite so rosy-My father leased a loaded Lebaron 2dr in the spring of ’78,and the assembly quality was atrocious. One emblem was missing, I had to tighten several loose bolts that the dealer missed, it died constantly
from problems with the Lean Burn, the paint flaked off after 2 years, the wiring in the column shorted out, the 7&1/4 rear end and the ball joints were both shot by 50,000 miles, and, …. a wheel bearing even failed, causing the right front wheel to part company with the rest of this heap.That was his last American car.
You’re right about the wheelbase change on the coupes. Now why did they do that, since the Aspen coupe sat on that shorter wheelbase?
That, and bizarrely the ’77-79 coupes had almost completely different rear body panels than the sedan, I mean things like the trunk lid and panel between the taillights that are usually shared between 2- and 4-door body styles in cars like this. On the shortened ’80- onward coupes, the rear appearance was the same as the sedans. The coupes didn’t sell well by that point and were dropped after not too long.
The first Diplomat sedans were even more Aspen-like than this one, which used the stiffer roofline (I think incorporating the doors from the Aspen wagon) and more non-Aspen interior bits like full-length armrests.
Actually, I’m glad they did that. Sure it was just a K-Mart Riviera, those bends set it off from the 4 door just nicely IMHO.
Well, well, well, welcome back, Paul! So far, so good! There’s just no way I can keep up with my buddy E.Dan, so I won’t even try, but I also share a love for these Chryslers. My brief story: My wife’s great uncle (WW1 vet!) gave us his 1980 LeBaron coupe when he stopped driving in 1988. Pale yellow/beige of some sort, 225 auto w/A/C. Unfortuantely, he allowed a semi to side-swipe him and the passenger side was somewhat flattened. What to do? Well, he never reported it and the trucker evidently didn’t either, and his insurance was still in effect. I called them up and they made good on the claim! Best news of all: $50.00 deductable for $1600.00 worth of damage! I had fun driving that car for a few years. After I got it fixed, we sold out ’81 Reliant to a guy down the street who baically waited in line when we would put a car up for sale. He snapped up the K-Car immediately! Shortly after the first “Batman” movie came out, I put a “Batman” sticker on the left rear of the trunk lid and thereafter the LeBaron would be forever known as the “Batmobile” by our kids! Even after we sold it and moved to Ohio, for a while when we returned to visit, we saw that car and the “Batman” sticker was still on it!
Nice CC. I had an 87 that was bullet proof. Fit and finish were excellent, everything worked like new well beyond 150k miles. I miss the old Diplomat..
I am willing to concede, that based on anecdotal evidence and personal observation, the later M-bodies, circa 1980-up, were greatly improved over the early ones-
FWIW, this particular example is either a 1987 or 1988, as evidenced by the steering wheel and CHMSL.
I know, details…. 🙂
That explains why it’s in such good condition 🙂
I’ve been encouraged to read VIN numbers, but I just can’t bring myself to that for some reason. But I should have remembered about the CHMSL.
Cutlass first please!
I’ve always thought these were good cars. Over a 10 year period my family ( Mom, in-laws, sister, me) had 8 of these: LeBarons, Fifth Avenues, Diplomats. They represented a great value for the time. Most were kept to at least 150,000 miles. Repair history seemed routine, never anything really expensive. We always lived in fear of the frequently mentioned Chrysler Lean Burn system failures. Not one of the 8 cars ever presented this problem.
I’d love to find a nice pre-1980 two door LeBaron. Great style!
Quote ‘I’d love to find a nice pre-1980 two door LeBaron. Great style!”
Just try and find one! Good luck! They have all-destructed, most of them barely before the end of the first Reagan administration.
I always wanted one of these. I had rented a 78 Diplomat sedan when they were new. That one was put together pretty well (particularly for a Mopar of those years) and was a delight to drive. It was both fast (for the era) with a 318 and a tight handler. I recall hitting 100 with it pretty handily (I was 19). My only gripe was the cheapish interior. These later Diplomats/GranFurys had one of the most luxurious interiors I recall in those times. Those seats always looked sooooo comfy. These were quite rust resistant in salt country.
The only thing that stopped me from getting serious about finding one of these as a daily driver was that it used all the gas of a big car but without all the passenger and cargo room that you could get in the Panthers and big GM rear drivers. Well, that and the Lean Burn. But if a nice one came my way, I still might have to look at it.
In the early 80’s my parents replaced our 69 Nova with a late 70’sPlymouth Volare with a slant six. It was white with a baby blue interior. It had something amazing that we never had before in a car: air conditioning! My friends referred to it as the taxi cab. I remember it was reliable as the moon. Not so for the car that eventually replaced it, a 1989 Grand Prix. That car spent more time in the shop than it did on the road. I remember my father raising holy hell at the Pontiac dealership. Aside from having the tranny and steering column replaced with under 20,000 miles it had the fun quirk of the brakes intermittently failing. The mechanic didn’t believe it until he nearly drove through the garage wall.
Paul, great job on the new site, by the way.
Wow thats a nice SE! wrong year though its an ’88-interior color-keyed dash vents instead of black and sliver (look close) I’ve got a triple red ’87 SE myself with a factory sunroof and have also had an ’82 New Yorker and an ’87 Fifth Avenue all great cars. those velour seats are even more comfortable then they look, I wish cars today were put together like this with real upholstery and real bumpers.
I’ve always thought the side indicators above the headlight where a little odd.
Agreed. Looks better the way Chrysler Australia did it in 1969.
I hated those cars; my hatred had little to do with the worth of the cars themselves. In the 1980s, I found myself “up against it” – and was driving taxis; TWO different agencies in two far-apart cities at various times. Both used Diplomats; the second company, used to buy used NYC police cars at auction, hire a handful of his cabbies, and drive them 500 miles to his garage in Ohio.
New paint and a vacuum; install a meter…that was the prep. They were beat to excrement when they were “new” to us, and just went downhill from there.
Oh, but it got better! Before the owner started using Diplomats, he used Aspens and Volares! He never junked his cabs; he parted them out. Which meant that when a cab got smacked, you never knew WHAT kind of sheet-metal he’d kit-bash onto it.
My favorite was a Dip with a ’76 Volare front clip on it, along with the driver’s door. Lines mated up pretty well; but combining the retro-Valiant front to the “formal” roofline was outright culture-war. Inside was the same…police-brown interior with a Cathouse-Red velour driver’s door trim panel.
The cars themselves were…unexceptional. They handled big and drank big; but when you got in, you knew you were in a “small” car. A small car with a bench seat…worst of both worlds.
Those cars, along with the minivan, saved Chrysler for another crisis another time. Good for them…but if I never saw another, I’d be just as happy.
These were nice, solid cars. Too bad they only existed on a year to year renewal so never got any investment to keep them up. The armrest on the front seat reminds me of the one in the Polara the other day.
It was amazing around 89-90 that Iacocoa thought Chrysler could get by on just Ks and got rid of the L body(Omni) and these M bodies. Of course they shortened and stretched ks to replace. What they really did of course was abandon those markets. This was the real deadly sin. At least to Iacocoa’s career, he wasn’t ready to retire when he was forced to.
I never cared for the styling of the “standard” Diplomat and Gran Fury. Utlitarian yet a bit fussy, all at once. Most of my dislike is up front, so the SE variant which borrows the Fifth Avenue’s grille shell and “inverted” headlamp/indicator pods works quite well for me. I always liked how those high-mounted indicators wrapped over the crease into the top of the header panel too.
And that interior…nah, not that roomy (I wonder how it stacked up space-wise to a GM A/G body sedan) but those seats look seriously inviting.
Could you get these with alloys, I wonder? There were a couple of nice alloy options for the Fifth Avenue but I think every Diplomat I’ve ever seen, even the SEs, have had wheel covers. (Or have been missing said wheel covers.)
+1 that the Diplomat SE and Chrysler Fifth Avenue were way better looking than the standard Diplomat/Gran Fury.
According to the brochures at TOCMP, cast aluminum wheels were available on the Diplomat but Chrysler didn’t even bother to picture them. I guess they figured that their customers preferred the fake wire wheel hubcaps.
I’ve heard before that this car was originally intended to be a Chrysler Newport instead of a Dodge. Can anyone verify this?
Brendan, it is likely. Once the M body Fifth Avenue became a relative hit, the automotive press repeatedly reported that a lower priced Newport version was being considered.
My guess is that because they eventually put an upmarket Salon package into the Gran Fury, they figured the Newport and Gran Fury would cover too much of the same market space, and didn’t bother. On the other hand, there were still a lot of stand alone Dodge dealers in those days, and it probably made sense to offer a luxury M in those showrooms.
You’re correct that the Diplomat SE was (apparently) originally intended to be a Newport. The 1984 service manuals refer to a non-existent Newport.
Aaahhh, you tempt me once again with those seats. I look at those and think “Suddenly it’s 1950.” Dodge should have called this one a Meadowbrook, but I guess Diplomat was another model from that era, so the name fits perfectly. This may have been the closest Chrysler ever got to replicating the philosophy of the K.T. Keller era.
I’ve always liked these old-school front engine, rear-wheel drive Mopars. They may not be front-wheel drive, but that’s why I like them. I’m not interested in the latest things. In fact, the more I see some of the newest things, the more interested in the old-school cars I knew when I was a boy.
“…. But if my memory serves me right, they didn’t use them [M’s] in NYC…”
On a vacation in Mid-Town Manhatten in summer 1983, there were tons of M body cabs, mixed in with Crown Vics and Impalas. The Checkers were gone.
in new york city the taxi cabs were dodge diplomats and the police cars were plymouth gran furys
My best friend had a black 1980 Lebaron Medallion sedan with beige cloth interior. He loved that car, and basically he and his father drove it into the ground. It never gave him any trouble, and if I remember correctly it had over 200k miles when they junked it due to a lot of rust and emission issues.
Not a fan. When they were in major use as cop cars, I drove a white one, with official plates, Goodyear GT tires and big red taillights on the package shelf about 500 miles on New York State’s interstate highways. Yes, it was a municipally-owned, decommissioned cop car with the cop V-8. I had three reactions: the cop interior was terrible; a car that got that bad gas mileage ought to be faster and in 500 miles of driving, only one car passed me.
I thought the first Diplomat sedans (from 1977/78) looked the most elegant. Even in ‘SE’ form, this generation Diplomat looked like a fleet car.
I’d have to agree with you. The Chrysler version of the 1980 and up M body was the only one that conveyed much of a luxury image.
Hunh. Is that the Aspen roof 100% carried over? I think I like the later roof.
I thought the post 1979 roofline shouted taxi/police use. And even echoed the same upright C pillar of the upcoming K car. I prefered the roof treatment with the original Aspen/Volare roofline, as the overall look of the first Diplomat was clean and elegant. And generally a vast improvement upon the F bodies. Especially the front clip and taillight treatment. The 1980 roofline was trying too hard to mimic what GM was doing IMO.
I wouldn’t call this car or the Fifth Avenue Deadly Sins. Though they sprang from the trouble-prone Aspen/Volare, they soldiered on past 1980 and by became quite well built and reliable, if a bit dull. This particular car is in great shape, and has a very sumptuous interior, something you don’t see anymore. Look at those lovely seats! I do quite like it.
The aftermarket stereo appears to have added CD player sound to this very cushy cabin. It is possible, but I am thinking “Diplomat Demographics” may be against this digital late 1990’s unit being installed by the original owner. I can also see one right rear fender scrape in 1997 at the Safeway and Aunt Edna saying “OK, time to trade up to a new Dynasty. And make it brown”.
The 360 was not available on the 80’s M-body police cars, only the 318. Police versions could be equipped with the 2-bbl or 4-bbl 318. The 318 M-body generally was the best performing police car until about 1986, when the Caprice took over as the best preforming police car for the remainder of the decade.
Not only did the shock towers on these cars under police use, but the K-frames would also crack. The problem was usually noticeable from when the front wheels had insufficient positive camber adjustment.
What the cop versions should’ve had is the north-south variant of the 2.5L four from the Dakota, to get some weight off the front subframe. With EFI and the weight savings it probably would’ve almost equaled the two-barrel 318.
The 2 door version of these cars was used as the base for the very last prototype of the Chrysler turbine car. Reportedly. it was only a few weeks from final production O.K. when word came to stop all development as an edict form the feds when they stepped in to loan Chrysler money. So close…What might have been
I don’t know, the wiki in the turbine program says it was terminated in 1977, three years before the financial melt down and Federal loan guarantees. I’ve seen this picture before, the body appears to be based on the ’77-’79 M body coupe. The
Diplomat in the article is the 1980 and up body, which was offered as a coupe in 1980 and 1981.
I also like the M Body cars due to the classic lines and would not kick one out of my drive way.
However it always boggles my mind that Chrysler did not offer a fuel injected engine in them at all. That might have made the cars more gas friendly. I think the cars were selling well enough to justify at least adding a TBI fuel injection unit to their engines(after all the K cars had them by 1985)
Did the faulty FI unit in the Imperial scare Mopar into shying away from adding fuel injection to their big cars? The most expensive Car in the Mopar lineup from 83-89 was the Fifth Ave and yet Chrysler did not offer fuel injection to it. However the cheapest car in the line up; the Omni/Horizon got it.
Of course It was not just Mopar that seemed to balk at adding FI to their big cars, GM was guilty of it also. Want a new Caprice Classic with FI?? Sorry you have to wait until 1985 and take a 4.3l V6(which really is not a bad engine to be honest). Oh you want a FI V8??? Sorry you have to wait until 1989 to get it
It seems that Ford was the only game in town if you wanted a fuel injected V8 powered full size car in the 1980’s (in 1983 no less)
I have spent loads of time in M bodies, mostly ex cop cars that we bought for taxi use. The Canadian models ran much nicer, thanks, and the LA adapted very easily to LPG. The later cars had very good build quality, too, and the interiors really stood up. I had one as a personal driver for a while, a 360 4 barrel on LPG and it ran very well indeed.
Downsides? The turning circle of these cars was awful, much worse than the GM or Ford stuff of the time. This was a major handicap for a taxi driver. The rear seat wasn’t all that large, either.
The rest of the car was great. The driving position was the best of the sleds, and in true Chrysler fashion you sat up high, with a low cowl. These cars had great visibility, which is a huge plus in city driving. All the body hardware, hinges, locks, etc, were excellent on the cars. Of all the cars in our fleet at the time, the Dips were the cheapest to run. Good cars all in all.
That is a very beautiful car, especially in side profile, and the back is very nicely styled as well. Only the grille and front lights let it down a bit, the front of that 78 coupe is much better. As for the interior – that is sheer perfection, I wish anything these days came close.
I generally like these cars but do agree that the 1982 Fifth Ave is a Deadly sin. From the padded vinyl roof with the visibility reducing rear portion of the window covered up to the fabric coming off the pilars and doors to the overstuffed button tufted galore seats to the flaccid antiquated suspension and steering to the very low calorie engines with 90 and 130 HP and lack of an overdrive transmission these cars were a solid reminder of the 70’s brought over into the 80’s. Then there were the finicky 2 BBL carbs and lean burn system and the poor turning radius’s. Add to that a rather cramped interior that was little bigger inside compared to a K-car or X-body GM. Chrysler was basically asking a 1976 Optioned up Volare’ to compete with a 1980’s full size luxury car from the other big 2 that were considerably more modern. Cadillac’s had 4 wheel disk brakes, digital fuel injection, 4 speed overdrive transmisisons, independent rear suspensions, FWD and fiber optic technology for the turn indicators, none of which were offered on the New Yorker as an example. For 1985 the 318 was upgraded to 10 more hp but needed premium fuel to achieve that and for certain years carried a gas guzzler tax due to it’s 15/22 MPG rating. It’s rear end ratio was also reduced from 2.94 to 2.26 making these 3600 plus cars feel more sluggish despite the power increase.
The lighter, cheaper, simpler less gaudy Diplomat and GF make much more sense to me and for that are not Deadly Sins in my eyes.
During the period when these cars were new, I was employed at a bank and part of the job was driving out to various branches in the bank’s fleet cars. I enjoyed this, as it gave me a chance to drive new cars that I could never afford to buy, while working at a bank. One morning I was given the keys to the then-all new Volare. I walked around this car, admiring the medium blue color that looked oxidized right from the factory and I saw something odd. But I couldn’t figure out what I’d seen. I looked on one side, then the other….what was it? Oh, alright, the name tag on the driver’s side said “Volare”, but the passenger side said “Aspen”. I laughed at this and thought, well, it’s the cheapest car available, maybe it’s just a fluke. So, I settled into the front bench seat, put on the safety belt, and then slammed the front door. The rear view mirror flew off onto my lap. I knew then, this was not your grandfather’s Valiant. I’ve remembered this all these years and I’ve decided that, at birth, it was meant to be a Plymouth, since the key tag said Plymouth and the grille appeared to be a Plymouth. But when you think about it, there was some guy on the assembly line, and he had only one thing to do…..etc. Not a shot against Chrysler, alone, I’ll save the Fairmont story for another day. Followed by my Monza story….
I just noticed something re-reading this. If you look closely at the indicators in the “upside-down” headlamp arrangement, the indicator lenses wrap up over the corner into the horizontal part of the hood line. It’s a neat touch, but contrary to what I thought, that’s not the same treatment used on the Fifth Avenue. That car had the indicators in the same spot but the lens only existed on the fascia itself–there were heavy chrome accents above them on the hood where the lens wraps over on these. Interesting…
The mystery is solved if you look at a 1980 or 1981 LeBaron, before that nameplate went to the K line and the Fifth Avenue replaced it. The M-body LeBaron for ’80 and ’81 used the same wrap-over indicators as did these Diplomat SE’s. That was changed for ’82 on the Fifth Ave. but revived on the Diplomat SE a few years later. Interesting, but I like the wrap-over look much better than the chrome accent, so I’m glad they dusted off the old tooling.
Lovely looking car. I remember the Dodge Diplomat, the Plymouth Fury, and Gran Fury, and Chrysler New Yorker. As I look back on it, I prefer these cars any day over what’s being offered today.