By Ed Hennessy • Plymouth Volare / Roadrunner and Dodge Aspen / Super Coupe page.
At launch, there were three Volare models, Volare, Custom, and Premier; they were all sold as a coupe, sedan, and wagon, except the Custom (coupe and sedan only).
Available transmissions included the A230 3 speed (Slant Six only), the A833 4 speed overdrive (Slant Six and 318-2 only), and the A904 and A998/999 Torqueflite 3 speed automatics. These were coupled with either the Chrysler 7 1/4 inch rear axle (for Slant Six coupe and sedan, non-towing applications) or the Chrysler 8 1/4 axle for the wagon, heavy duty, and V8 versions. Axles were available in 2.45, 2.76, 2.94, and 3.23 to 1 ratios, depending upon transmission and engine. Sure-Grip limited slip axles were optional. Torqueflites got a lockup torque converter in 1978 for non-heavy duty engines.
The 1978 Street Kit Cars and Super Coupes were somewhat faster and quicker, although the 360 4 barrel had 10 ft-lbs less torque than the 2 barrel in 1978 (HP was 20 more for the 4 barrel, though). Note that the 1978 kit car speed, with 1978 tires (not as grippy as current rubber), managed to do 0-60 in the same time as the Saturn Sky.
Weight: In 1976, the V8 added 125 lb to the coupe and sedan, 90 lb to the wagon; in 1979, it added around 110 pounds (the weights below are for the six).
For 1979, power steering was full time with constant control and a 15.7:1 gear ratio for an overall 18.7:1 ratio with 3.5 turns to go from stop to stop. The rear suspension used 58 x 2.5” leaf springs — four with the slant six, and five with the 318 V8. Frnot sway bars were 0.94” (diameter), going up to 1.00” with the heavy duty suspension and radial tires. The turning diameter was listed as 39.44” for copes and 40.70” for sedans and wagons. Tire options ranged from D78 to FR78, all on 14-inch wheels; the rims went from 5.0J to 6.0JJ. The selection was based on options, engine, and body.
Throughout its lifetime, the F body served Chrysler and its owners well, as a bread and butter family car. The F body was Chrysler's compact car as the 1970s ended. By the end of production of the very similar M body in 1989, the same size 4 door car was suddenly somewhere between a midsize and a full size. This transition began around the time of the F body's debut, and was very obvious by the end of the run in the summer of 1980. The cars nonetheless competed well with their American counterpart during a difficult period in American car history, both for reasons of quality control and gasoline economy. Chrysler sold many F bodies throughout the 5 year run.
A few notes: one, Chrysler production figures are often spotty, so these figures may differ somewhat from others. Two, these figures represent F body production shipped to US dealers for sale to customers. It does not represent the total F body production, which also includes Canadian sales and export sales (export is foreign market and military personnel abroad). For instance, there were a total of 74,818 '78 Volare 2 doors built, or 13,116 more than those sold in the US.
One reason for the sales surge between 1976 and 1977 was that in 1976, the A body was sold alongside the F body. Those who wanted to buy the older design did so, to the tune of some 53,464 Darts/Dart Sports/Swingers and 68,044 Valiants/Scamps/Dusters, for a total of 121,508 A body US sales in 1976.
Sales appear huge for 1977, especially in comparison to 1978's sales. However, one must also remember that beginning in 1978, the F body was joined in the Chrysler line-up by the subcompact, front wheel drive L body Dodge Omni and Plymouth Horizon. This model undoubtedly stole sales from the F body and is one reason why sales dropped by 200,000 units between 1977 and 1978. In fact, Chrysler sold 70,971 '78 Omnis and 95,817 '78 Horizons in the US, or a total of 166,788 cars. Combining '78 L and F body sales brings Chrysler's total sales volume closer to the 1977 level.
Competition got tougher through the F body's model run as well. The introduction of Ford's successful Ford Fairmont and Mercury Zephyr in 1978 increased the competition, as did two models from GM. GM's midsize cars were shrunk for '77, putting them on a 108 inch wheelbase. The more expensive ones competed with the Diplomat and LeBaron, but the Chevrolet Malibu and Pontiac LeMans fought squarely against the F body. A second squeeze came when GM introduced its front-drive X cars in April, 1979. The Chevrolet Nova was also a competitor, but it changed little from 1975 through the end of its run in 1979, and probably had a smaller effect because it was not a new entry to the market.
Of course, these were the American companies' responses to each other and the times of the day. Foreign companies were getting stronger during the F body's run, chipping away at Chrysler, GM, and Ford alike. At the time, though, the F body (and their GM and Ford competition) were considerably larger than anything from Honda, Datsun (now Nissan), or Toyota.
(Most of the information originally on this page is included in Ed Hennessy's article.)
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