Home » Rain On The First Sport Wagon: Cold Start

Rain On The First Sport Wagon: Cold Start

Rain Sportwagon Ts 1600

You know how it goes, right? You spend months planning some outdoor shindig and it just has to rain. What can you do? You invited everyone, the food is ready for pickup, so you just have to make the best of it. This situation appears to be what happened to the poor crew doing a shot for Chrysler’s 1978 cars.

The main subject in the photo is a rare machine that actually, based on my rough research, could be the very first “sport station wagon.” We Autopians can’t seem to get enough of enthusiast-oriented long roofs. Sure, you could look at the Volvo 1800ES or the “GT” versions of Chevy Vega or Opel Kadet wagons and say that they were the pioneers, but I’m talking about sporting versions of full-on four-door, reasonably-sized estate cars, not “shooting brakes” like those (though I don’t know if a Vega wagon has ever been called a “shooting brake,” to be honest).

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

The vaunted AMG Mercedes E-Class wagons and M-trimmed 5-series arrived a good ten years after the Volaré Sport Wagon’s 1978 introduction. And obviously, as this was the heyday of “badge engineering,” there was a Dodge Aspen Sport Wagon twin as well. And Volvo? The GLT version of the 245 wagon first appeared in 1981, in both turbo and naturally-aspirated forms.

Screenshot (1432)

The “Volaré Sport Wagon” appears to have been an appearance-only package, typical for the malaise period, with sporting pretensions satisfied by fender flares, a front spoiler and “color coded” items. The Sport accoutrement could be paired with a lowly Slant 6, though hopefully most were specified with a 360 V8 and the beefed-up suspension.

Rain Sportwagon Ts

Inside, you could likely get a bench seat but hopefully most of them had the boxes checked for bucket seats, a floor shift, and a center console as seen below; at least the famous “tuff” steering wheel was standard. If I recall, the floor shift is nice since the column shifter blocked the radio when in Drive.

1979 Dodge Aspen Rt Interior
Bring A Trailer

Below you can see the wagon juxtaposed with the sporting coupe variant, a fake muscle car cartoon that looks about as silly as its name of “Plymouth Volaré Road Runner” would imply. Surprisingly, but undeniably, that the Sport Wagon’s appearance is about ten times better than the “Road Runner” coupe; in fact, that Sport Wagon looks pretty damn good.

1980 Plymouth Volare Sport Wagon Cutout

Honestly, it looks so good that I’d almost consider buying one if I didn’t know that this was the most recalled car in history until that title was taken by the GM X-Car in 1980. And as I’ve mentioned before, the Volaré is the vehicle that Chrysler chairman Lee Iacocca said never, ever should have been replaced the Dart/Valiant, which “ran forever.” With the Aspen/Volaré, you pretty much had to go with the wagon anyway; despite the coupe’s many differences rom the Dodge Dart, it retained the ultra-shallow trunk that couldn’t hold grocery bags upright without smashing your eggs when you slammed the lid. Brilliant.

Ah, but the picture at the top of the page. It’s pretty obvious that the art director was counting on a beach scene with cool, hip-looking people standing around a fire, until ensuing rainstorms forced him to modify his plans. Actually, the director did a pretty good job; the lighting in the images works and the rain drops on the cars is a cool visual. I’ve always liked how somebody had to go back in these pre-photoshop days with a broom to cover the tire tracks of the cars in the sand. The only jarring part is the hipsters trying to huddle from the showers under jackets or some tarp while smoke from the now-dead-and-smoldering fire likely causes them to cough.


Why not hop in the cars to get out of the rain? The sad fact is that, based on my experience and road tests of cars from this maker at the time, if the goal was to stay dry then the hipsters may have been better off under the tarps.



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3 months ago

My boss let me drive his company Volare 4 door sedan, 6 with slushbox a few times. I told him that while free has a lot to recommend it, if that were my ride I’d never change the oil in it.

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