As emissions regulations, high-insurance premiums, and rising gas prices continued to pummel North American automakers in the mid-1970s, automakers fought back by downsizing much of their lineups. This included both the Dodge and Plymouth brands. In 1976, the Chrysler Corporation introduced the Dodge Aspen and Plymouth Volare as its new compact offerings. Now, while the Aspen and Volare were compact by 1970s standards, they were close in dimensions to today’s full-size Dodge Challenger and Dodge Charger.
Despite the ongoing chaos hitting the automobile industry, it didn’t stop the Dodge brand from trying to inject some fun into the Aspen lineup. In 1978, Dodge introduced the Aspen Super Coupe – a limited production buzz model that was only available for one year and that would try to bring back that loud muscle car flavor that Detroit was pumping out only a few years earlier.
Available in just one color, the Sable Sunfire Metallic (RT9) painted Super Coupe package featured Matte Black accents, multi-color side stripes, front air dam, rear spoiler, side-window louvers, widebody fender flares, GT wheels, and Heavy-Duty suspension. The car is equipped with transverse torsion bars and a sway bar at the front, plus leaf springs and a sway bar at the rear. Braking is handled by front discs and rear drums. It is unknown exactly how many Super Coupes were built. According to various sources, there were anywhere from 494 to 531 of these cars to roll off of the Dodge Main Assembly Line in Hamtramck, Michigan.
All Aspen Super Coupes came with a 5.9-liter (360 cubic-inch) four-barrel V8 engine, producing 175 horsepower and 260 lb.-ft. of torque. This particular model is currently up for auction on the online automotive bidding website “Bring A Trailer“, and features a 3-speed TorqueFlite automatic transmission.
The seller states that the car was repainted in 2019 under previous ownership to address peeling and fading. It also has had its seats reupholstered, a new set of BFGoodrich Radial T/A white-lettered tires put on, a new horn, steering-column lock, and truck-lock cylinder.
The car was acquired by the seller in 2019 after having reportedly undergone a repaint and reupholstering the seats, and subsequent work is said to have included replacement of the tires, horn, steering-column lock, and trunk-lock cylinder. The seller says the door-lock cylinders are in need of replacement as well.
Inside, the interior of the Aspen Super Coupe is quite good-looking for a car of the mid-1970s. Of course, there is woodgrain trim highlighting an all-black interior. But there are performance-styled elements to its interior too, like a driver-centered instrument panel, a Mopar “Tuff” steering wheel, metal pedals, and a floor-mounted center console with lockable storage.
The five-digit odometer shows 80k miles, approximately 500 of which have been added under current ownership.
Now while many know the Dodge Aspen for its bad reputation of issues during its lifespan, the car started life as one of the best-selling vehicles of the mid-1970s alongside its Plymouth Volare stablemate. The Aspen was a finalist for the 1976 MotorTrend “Car of the Year”, and managed to achieve many other accolades that year. Chrysler was thrilled by its initial sales, however, it didn’t take long for sales to drop off steeply.
Former Chrysler COO and President, Lee Iaccoca arrived at the company on November 2nd, 1978. At the time, the company was hemorrhaging cash and careening toward bankruptcy in part to the numerous recalls on the Aspen and Volare. Iaccoca stated several times that the previous Chrysler management was in need of a “home run”. So it rushed the development of the F-Bodied Aspen and Volare by 6 months and launched the car knowing problems were unavoidable in the foreseeable future.
Problems like hoods that would not latch properly, seat belt tensioners not working correctly, fatigue suspension and brake components, misrouted fuel vapor lines that could rub against the alternator possibility resulting in a fire, and front fenders that corroded prematurely because of an ill-advised cost-saving decision not to install front inner fender shields. In 1977, 1,300,000 Chrysler Corporation models were recalled for these driveability problems.
Needless to say, Chrysler found itself on bad terms with its customers. This reputation for poor-build quality led to a decline in sales as the Aspen and Volare became the most-recalled automobiles to date at that time. As production continued on throughout the mid-1970s to the early-1980s the quality did improve, however, it was too late for F-Body.
Today, Aspen models are now becoming collectible. Especially the limited edition Super Coupes and R/T models. As the 1960s and 1970s Mopars have become top-dollar ticket items when they go to auction, some collectors have been able to snag the limited edition Aspens for reasonable money. One gorgeous example of a 1978 Dodge Aspen Super Coupe went for $23,220 at the GAA Classic Cars February 2021 event.
With today’s aftermarket world and with help from the Dodge Direct Connection catalog, a person can take one of these awesome Malaise Era kitsch and build the perfect HEMI-powered weekend cruiser.
As of the writing of this article, the Aspen Super Coupe has a current bid of $8,000 with 6 days remaining on Bring A Trailer. For someone who is willing to take the time, the Aspen could prove to be a great project car. To see more photos or to bid, you can visit the car’s page on the Bring A Trailer site.
1978 Dodge Aspen Super Coupe Image Gallery: