NEW! Award 58: 1977 Dodge Aspen Wagon – $9,800
Desperately trying to stay relevant in a rapidly changing market, Dodge launched what was then considered a compact car in 1975 for the 1976 model year: the Aspen. Sold from 1976 through 1980 alongside the Plymouth Volare, the model line-up included a four-door station wagon such as the 1977 example currently listed here on Craigslist in West Hampton Beach, New York (Long Island) where the current caretaker has it listed for a very optimistic $9,800. Researching the NADA Guides Classic Car Online Valuation Tool confirms this private seller has his Aspen optimistically priced above the current “Low”, “Average”, and “High” retail value range of $2,600, $4,675, and $8,450, respectively. As a second data point, the Collector Car Market Review online valuation tool confirms the ask is well above this guide’s current #1 “Excellent” appraisal of $7,500. Consequently, we’re awarding this seller our latest “NEW!” (short for “No Effin Way!”) Award for starting with a very optimistic asking price. If you are serious about buying this Aspen and believe you have great negotiation skills, you can start the conversation by emailing the seller.
As an example of how much the U.S. auto market changed in the late 1970s, consider this: While the Dodge Aspen and its brother Plymouth Volare launched as compact-sized cars in 1975, by the end of their production run in 1980 the government considered the pair intermediate cars. As successors to the successful Chrysler A-body line (think Dodge Dart, Plymouth Valiant, and Plymouth Duster) its was big deal when Motor Trend named the pair their “Car of the Year” for 1976.
Chrysler engineers leveraged early computer technology to engineer the Apsen’s body by using clear plastic models showing stress points before any forming any real sheet metal. Engineers achieved weight reduction to provide maximum fuel economy through the use of thinner glass, lighter weight side door beams, and high strength, low alloy steel (“HSLA”) brackets and reinforcements that were four times as strong as conventional mild steel. A reduced number of stampings resulted in better panel fits and fewer welds. Aspens had improved visibility and compared with the Chrysler compacts they replaced by providing a total glass area increase of 25% on two-door models and 33% on sedans.
While powertrains remained either Chrysler’s tried-and-true 225 cubic inch slant six and 318 cubic inch V8, the most innovative feature was a completely new front suspension replacing the longitudinal torsion bar system most Chrysler cars dating back to the late 1950’s. The new isolated transverse torsion bar set-up, while not as geometrically favorable, saved space and weight.
Most importantly, the new front suspension system provided a “big car ride” as the suspension had a low or softer, fore and aft compliance which allowed the wheel to move rearward instead of straight up and down when the tire encountered an object, dampening the blow and rolling with the condition of the road.
The Osborn Tramain YouTube Channel features this dealer promotional film from 1976 comparing the Dodge Aspen to the Chevrolet Nova:
While the body appears very straight and the overall car is very clean, we struggle with the premium asking price for this Malaise-Era wagon in need of new carpet. Good luck with the purchase!
Here’s the seller’s description:
“Great condition, very rare wagon. Very clean, no rust at all. All original, including miles. All doors and hardware work perfectly, back seat folds down to make extra-large trunk. Lots of recent work done – new carb, new gas tank, starts right up, runs beautifully and drives like a dream. Heat works well. Automatic, Straight 6 cylinder. Must see.”
Show or go: what would you do with this low-mileage Dodge Aspen? Comment below and let us know!