The Dodge Aspen, produced from 1976 to 1980, was a compact car from Chrysler Corporation's Dodge division; its Plymouth-branded counterpart was the Volaré. It was launched as a two-door coupe, a four-door sedan, and a unique-for-the-segment station wagon. It replaced the Dodge Dart. By the end of their production run, the Aspen and Volare would be considered intermediate cars. The Dodge Aspen and Plymouth Volaré were introduced in the fall of 1975 as 1976 models, and were collectively named Motor Trend's "Car of the Year" for 1976. They were the successors to the A-body Plymouth Valiant and Duster and Dodge Dart. The Dart, Valiant, and Duster were sold alongside the Aspen and Volaré for part of the 1976 model year, then discontinued. The Aspen and Volaré were produced for 5 model years, 1976 through 1980. For 1981, they were 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 were very similar in structure, size, and engineering to the F-body Aspen and Volaré. The Aspen and Volaré were designed to be somewhat more luxurious than the A-body models, at least in the most expensive models. The new cars also continued the A-body pattern of different wheelbases for coupés versus the sedans and wagons. Aspen and Volaré 2-doors had a 108.7-inch (2,760 mm) wheelbase. Sedans and wagons got a 112.7-inch (2,860 mm) wheelbase. Production history The vehicle was wind-tunnel tested to be aerodynamically sound in its fuel conservation potential as the complete aerodynamics development program included a wide range studies from drag reduction to crosswind stability, wind noise and ventilation performance. The effects of this testing resulted in softened front end contours, removal of drip troughs and helped shaped internal air flow ducting. Body engineering in the Aspen was executed using computer technology; unit body engineering was conducted by use of clear plastic stress models that showed up stress points before any sheet metal was formed. Weight reduction to provide maximum fuel economy was achieved through use of thinner glass, lighter weight side door beams and high-strength, low-alloy brackets and reinforcements that were four times as strong as conventional milled steel. A reduced number of stampings resulted in better panel fits and fewer welds. The Aspen had improved visibility and compared with other Dodge compacts, the Aspen provided a total glass area increase of 25% on two door models and 33% on sedans. Marketing R.M. "Ham" Schirmer, manager of Dodge car and corporate advertising for Chrysler, said that the Aspen name originated from the codename Aspen-Vail when the project for it and the Plymouth "sister car" began in 1971. "Aspen is a very pleasant name," Schirmer said, "people think of the outdoors, but not necessarily skiing when they hear it. . . It won't inhibit where we want to position the car because it's basically neutral." Nonetheless, Chrysler sponsored the 1976 Dodge Aspen Team K2 Freestyle and opened up World Pro Skiing's seventh season in Aspen, Colorado as the Dodge Aspen Cup running coarses on Aspen Highlands and Aspen Mountain. In print and media, actor Rex Harrison was spokesman for the Aspen who's advertising campaign was inspired by the "Ascot Gavotte" scene in Harrison's My Fair Lady; singer Sergio Franchi was the spokesman for the Volaré and sang the song of the same name in TV and radio commercials with altered lyrics. Aspen R/T The Aspen R/T coupe model offered features including wider E70x14 tires, Rallye wheels, grille blackout treatment, body stripping, and 'R/T' decals and medallion. A 360 V8 option, with a net 170 hp (130 kW) and 280 lb-ft (380 N-m) of net torque, was along with the Overdrive-4 transmission unavailable in California as the engine delivered an average fuel economy of 15.2 mpg-US (15.5 L/100 km; 18.3 mpg-imp) Station wagons Station wagons were available in both model lines, all featuring liftgates with fixed rear windows. These models had a cargo volume of 71.9 cubic feet (2.04 m3) and load capacity of 1,100 lb (500 kg), which was 100 lb (45 kg) less than the intermediate and standard size Chrysler wagons. The liftgate opening was nearly 4 ft (1.2 m) wide and 27.6 in (70 cm) high. With the rear seat folded down, the cargo area was 74 in (190 cm) long at the belt line and 43.2 in (110 cm) wide between the wheel houses. Premium station wagons in either the Aspen SE or Volaré Premier series featured simulated woodgrain trim along its exterior sides. On Aspen SEs, the woodgrain was framed in simulated blond (painted metal) wood-look trim. On the Premiers, the side panels were trimmed in stainless steel frames accented in matte black. Aside from the brand badging and grilles unique on each brand, this station wagon trim element remains one of the few visual clues that differentiated the Aspen from the Volaré. Side covers of the cargo area were made of one-piece injection molded polypropylene. Covered, lockable stowage compartments of 1.5 cu ft (0.042 m3) capacity were provided in these panels; these compartments were standard on the Aspen SEs and optional on the low-line wagons. 1976 The Aspen was dubbed "the family car of the future". Available as a 2-door coupé, 4-door sedan or 4-door station wagon, it came in three trim levels - base, Custom and SE (Special Edition). The performance R/T package came only on the coupe and featured a 318 cu in (5.2 L) V8 standard or an optional 360 cu in (5.9 L) V8 with either a 2- or 4-barrel carburetor. The 225 cu in (3.7 L) Slant Six was standard across the line, and was available in most states with a choice of 1- or 2-barrel carburetion. Total production was 189,900 (Aspen) and 255,008 (Volaré). Nothing much changed for the Aspen's second year. A new T-top was added to the coupe's option list this year. The R/T package added a "Super Pak" option. This consisted of front and rear spoilers, wheel opening flares and louvered rear windows. A new stripe kit was also added as well. An R/T equipped with this package became a "Super R/T". The Volare was Canada's top selling car this year. Total production was 266,012 (Aspen) and 327,739 (Volaré). 1978 The Aspen went through numerous changes for 1978. The three trim lines were consolidated into one. The Custom and Special Edition lines were still available but were now reduced to option packages. The Aspen also received a new front fascia, similar to the Volaré, while the Volaré's grille was restyled with an eggcrate pattern. There were new performance packages, the Super Coupe and Kit Car. Both packages used the same performance exterior add-ons as the "Super Pak", now renamed the "Sport Pak", but came in different colors as well as different options. 1979 Not much would change for the Aspen in its second to last year of production. The only readily visible change was the replacement of the amber rear turn signals with red ones again. The 1978 option packages continued into 1979, with the exception of the Super Coupe and Kit Car. A new 85 mph (137 km/h) speedometer, new colors and a diagnostic connector for the engine were added. The station wagon was available as a "Sport Wagon" with special stripes, a front airdam, and wheel arch flares. Total production came to 121,354 (Aspen) and 178,819 (Volaré). 1980 For its last year of production, the Aspen and Volaré gained a new front end with rectangular headlamps, and shared the hood, fenders and front bumper with the Diplomat. Special and Premier packages were available. The Special came only on the sedan and coupe. The R/T package was installed only on 285 Aspens for this year before the Aspen name as well as the R/T badge would be discontinued. Total production came to 67,318 (Aspen) and 90,063 (Voalre)
Around the world Between 1977 and 1979, the small Swiss specialty automaker Monteverdi built a modified version of this car, called the Sierra, intended to compete in Europe's luxury car market. The Dart name (rather than Aspen) was applied to Dodge-branded F-body cars in Mexico and Colombia, corresponding to the local Chrysler-branded F-body cars badged as Valiant Volaré.