Introduced in 1976, the Dodge Aspen was a compact car from the Chrysler Corporation's Dodge division. The Aspen's Plymouth-branded counterpart was the Volaré and it was launched as a two-door coupe, a four-door sedan, and a unique station wagon. The Aspen was replaced with the Dodge Dart in 1980, and by the end of their production run, the Aspen and Volaré would be considered intermediate cars. The Aspen was replaced by the smaller front wheel drive K-cars; the Dodge Aries and Plymouth Reliant, and the M-body Dodge Diplomat and Plymouth Gran Fury, which was pretty similar in size, structure and engineering to the F-body Aspen and Volaré.
Both the Aspen and the Plymouth Volaré were introduced in the fall of 1975 as 1976 models and were named Motor Trend's 'Car of the Year' for 1976. The Ddoge Aspen's name was derived from Aspen, Colorado. These models were the successors to the A-body Plymouth Valiant, Dodge Dart and the Duster. For part of the 1976 model year, these models were sold alongside the Aspen and Volaré before being discontinued. Unfortunately due to the rush in production and quality control issues, the first two model years were filled with problems, most notable front fender rust as well as several manufacturer recalls for other issues. Despite all of these issues, the Aspen/Volare twins did sell very well for their entire run and proved to be quite reliable vehicles.
The Aspen was designed to be more luxurious than the A-body models, at least in the most expensive models. The new cars continued the A-body pattern of various wheelbases for coupes versus the sedans and wagons, and the Aspen 2-door had a 108.7 inch wheelbase while sedans and wagons received a 112.7 inch wheelbase. The Aspen would share the same engines and three-box body style with its predecessor the Dart, but not much else.
Some dubbed the Aspen 'the family car of the future' and it came in three trim levels; base, custom and SE. Only on the coupe was the performance R/T package that featured a 318 cu in V8 standard or an optional 360 cu in V8 with either a 2- or 4- barrel carburetor. Standard across the line was the 225 cu in Slant Six, and it was available in most states with a choice of 1- or 2- barrel carburetion.
For 1977 not too many changes were made on the Aspen with the exception of a new T-top being added to the coupe's option list this year. A 'Super Pak' option was the R/T package that came with front and rear spoilers, louvered rear windows and wheel opening flares. This option also included a new stripe kit which was called a 'Super R/T'. For this year, the Volaré was Canada's top selling car. For 1977 the total production of the Aspen was 266,012 units.
For 1978 the Aspen underwent numerous changes as the three trim lines were consolidated into one. Both the Special Edition and the Custom lines were still available, but were reduced to just option packages. This year the Aspen also received a new front fascia which was similar to the Volaré. In the meantime the Volare's grille was restyled with an eggcrate pattern. This year Dodge introduced new performance packages; the Super Coup and Kit Car which both used the same performance exterior add-ons as the 'Super Pak' which was now renamed the 'Sport Pak', but it came in different colors and features different options. The Aspen Super Coupe came with GR60x15 Goodyear GT radial tires that were mounted on 15x8 wheels. The Super Cope also featured a matte black finish on the hood and came in only one color; Sable Tan Sunfire Metallic and had a heavy-duty suspension with rear sway bar. Only 531 models were ever produced, and a few special colors stripes; in orange, yellow and red, separated the body color from the matte black colors.
In honor of Richard Petty; NASCAR legend, the Kit Car was created to look as much like a race car as possible. The Kit Car didn't have any hubcaps and the wheel opening flares had a bolted on look and even the windshield had metal tie downs just like the race cars. The Car did come standard with an automatic transmission, unlike typical race cars. A decal kit with large door mountable '43' decals was a special addition and 360 decals for the hood which were shipped in the trunk and were to be installed by the owner or the dealer, (though most people left them in the trunk). The Kit Car came in only one color; a special two-tone red, and would end up being one of the rarest Aspens ever built with only 145 units ever produced.
During its second year of production, not many changes were made to the Dodge Aspen for 1979 except for the replacement of the amber rear turn signals with the red ones once again. The '78 option packages continued this year except for the Super Coupe and Kit Car. Also added this year was an all new 85 mph speedometer, a diagnostic connector for the engine and new colors. Also new this year was a station wagon available as a 'Sport Wagon' with special stripes, wheel arch flares and a front airdam. For 1979 a total of 121,354 Dodge Aspens were sold.
The final year of production for the Aspen was 1980 and during this year the Aspen received a new front end with rectangular headlamps which shared the hood, front bumper and fenders with the Dodge Diplomat. This year did feature Special Edition and Premier Packages, but the Special Edition package was only available on the sedan and coupe. Only 285 Aspens received the R/T package before the Aspen name as well as the R/T badge would be discontinued. For this year a total of 67,318 Aspens were produced this year. The Aspen was replaced with the Dodge Aries for the 1981 model year. By the end of their production run, both the Aspen and the Volare were considered intermediate cars. In 2007 the Aspen name was revived for the Chrysler Aspen sport utility vehicle.By Jessica Donaldson