You know what one of my least favorite cars of my childhood was? This rolling sleeping pill: the Dodge Diplomat. The girl I went to 9th grade prom with (and still a good friend today) later drove one in high school, so this isn’t just my own assumptions and biases – I spent time in this car and I can comfortably say that yes, these things were mechanized anesthetics. Is there any car that represents the plague of phoning-it-in more than the Diplomat? It was all old tech (well, I guess it was unibody, at least) and cynical classy bullshit like overdone grilles and vinyl tops. Did anyone ever want a Diplomat?
Here’s a Dodge training film where they stack the Diplomat against two other paragons of Detroit Malaise-Era half-assery: the Ford Granada and the Oldsmobile Cutlass Brougham:
They do make some good points by pointing out that the Olds’ rear door windows don’t roll down, which we’ve pointed out on other GM G-bodies, and made a big deal that the Diplomat had vinyl on the roof instead of just paint, which is the kind of shit an animal would have on the roofs of their cars.
The one positive thing about being anti-Diplomat is that there were plenty of opportunities to see Diplomats getting smashed all to hell. That’s because they were extremely common cop cars in America, and movies with cop car chases would usually reduce the global supply of Diplomats by the dozens:
You never really see any Diplomats on the road anymore today. I think I’m fine with that.
I dunno, the M body was a pretty OK platform and definitely sleeper worthy
The fact that they were used for cop cars also opens up some better suspension parts.
Dodge Diplomat – the only sedan that could out-generic a Ford Granada, Ford LTD, and Chevy Caprice.
The model was advertised on TV with, if I recall correctly, a Sherlock Holmes character proclaiming it, in a wanton disregard for the actual meaning of words, the “Fiendishly seductive Dodge Diplomat.” My grandfather had a coupe, which his grandchildren christened the “FSDD”. It was a stunning bit of malaise-era engineering that, for example, toasted its own differential with fewer than 30,000 miles on the clock.
Back in the 90s I knew a guy who had a Diplomat. No idea what year, but it was metallic brown, had the 360 V8, and was in amazing shape. The guy was very proud of it, despite the rest of us making fun of it constantly. One day we walked out of a friend’s house to find his car actively self-immolating in the culdesac, to which he frantically ran to it and tried to put out the fire by tossing a 20oz water bottle on it and getting second degree burns in the process. Needless to say, the firemen who eventually put out the flames told him the car wasn’t worth risking his life over. They then made him feel even worse by telling him it wasn’t even worth the water they just used to put the flames out. We felt bad for the guy, but the firemen were right.
Okay, not a Diplomat, but Mopar did right by some M-bodies:
I hear you with the Granada, but I’d offer that the Fairmont was probably crappier and more mailed-in despite being ostensibly “newer” in the malaise era. At least the Granada had something above the straight up poverty grade interior found in every Fairmont.
Fairmont was a brand-new platform in 1978 and meant to be a class below the Diplomat-LeBaron and GM B-bodies. The original Granada was the last of the rehashes of the 1960 Falcon platform.
I learned to recognize those square headlights in my rearview mirror. It was always a cop car.
I know they’re not really any good, but I have a perverse love for the M-bodies, only amplified once I learned that basically any transmission ever hooked up to one of the LA V8’s is pretty compatible with the current-gen Hemis, as Chrysler never saw fit to change their bellhousing patter in 50+ years. A Fifth Avenue or Diplomat sleeper would be a waste of money, but also kind of a fun burnout couch.
My perverse desire for a sleeper build is an ’81 Imperial with a Viper engine. None of this Hellcat nonsense for me, gotta keep it really silly.
If the Imperial was good enough for stock car racing, it’s good enough for that kind of silly sleeper build.
This sounds fantastic. Excellent taste, my dude.
I had a ’78, white with blue leather (and landau roof). It was pretty much a cheaper Cordoba, and with the 318 wasn’t any different from all of the other post-R-body ChryCo barges. Really the same car all the way until the last ’89 Fifth Avenue.
Was it bad? Yes. But so were Ford and GM, and AMC was on French life support.
I have never seen a Pontiac Parisienne handle that well before. Amazing!
That car chase really needed some music. Like, some Judas Priest. Hell For Leather or Breaking The Law.
Big 3- It’s ok to halfass these cars because our customers have no other options.
Japan- *laughs in conquered market share*
Never see one anymore? I see one, exactly one, on the regular. A Diplomat or one of its M-body cousins. The guy has been driving it for years, and we’re in the salt belt, so my first thought is always, “That thing still isn’t dead?”
Then there was the one Stan drove on “The Americans.” It was practically a character in itself.
I wanted to comment on this, but I couldn’t come up with anything diplomatic to say.
That car chase was fantastic!
Fun fact: the Mopar option code for the Diplomat police package with the 360cid engine was E58.
My first car I had in the US after I got out of the Air Force was a $120 Dodge Diplomat with the slant 6 named “The Butterfat”. I loved that thing.
I worked in government. When I went on a trip, I’d often get a Diplomat, former cop car for transportation. It was white, had extra-wide Goodyear tires, and big, red, circular brake lights added on the package shelf.
First, for the fact that it was a former cop car, and the kind of gas mileage it got (sub-par), it should have been faster, a lot faster.
Second, fast didn’t really matter, because on the Interstate, it still looked enough like a cop car that nobody would pass me.
In another government job, I’d sometimes get a Plymouth Volare of the same vintage. I told the guy who usually drove it that while free has a lot to recommend it, if the Volare was assigned to me full-time, I’d never put oil in it.
The most I can associate any of it and its Mopar kin with a civilian placement is Mike from Breaking Bad/Better Call Saul with its Chrysler counterpart. But that didn’t seem to add a crumb of notoriety to it like it did other vehicles on the show.
Patrick George wrote an article on the old site on the cars of BB when that was on the air and it didn’t even get a mention, although it really was a good choice for the character. A later interview on the site with the “car casting director” talked about how great a vehicle pairing that was. (don’t want to link to the site if that’s a no-no for non-staff but also comes up quickly in a search)
Yeah, I imagine we can 100% infer Mike drove a Diplomat squad car in his police days, and ended up in the civilian old man variant in his civilian old man days.
The whole BB-universe is full of great car castings, but Mike’s Chrysler is probably finest of them and made me want to have one.
There’s no diplomatic way of putting it: Diplomat just wasn’t a good car name!
The Opel one we had over here was boring, anachronistic and thirsty. Hated those things. Luckily most people were poor back then, so it didn’t sell a lot.