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Car of the Month, December 2011: 300,000 Mile Dodge Dynasty

by Brian Funkhouser

I was a junior in college when I first saw a picture of Dodge's new Dynasty in an October 1987 edition of Motor Trend. Our family car when I was growing up was a '66 Plymouth Belvedere, and so I liked the Dynasty's conservative, squared up styling. I thought of it as a modern day successor to our old Plymouth, even though they shared absolutely nothing in common but a Pentastar badge.

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I graduated from college and worked for a year or two before finally buying a one-owner 1989 Dodge Dynasty in March 1993. It had 43,055 on the odometer and came with the Mitsubishi 3.0 liter V6. (The Dynasty replaced my 1972 AMC Matador, which had over 170,000 miles on it.)

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The Dynasty came with Goodyear's dual-stripe whitewall Invicta GA radials. In the spring of 1998, I learned that Goodyear would be discontinuing production. I stockpiled a few in advance and for some time had the only Dynasty around with the dual stripe sidewalls before mine eventually wore out and were replaced with single stripe whitewalls in 2001. Finding 14-inch whitewall touring radials has become more difficult as time goes by.

It was also around that time that I noticed many Dynastys on the road were now missing the pentastar emblem that covered the trunk lock. In light of this, I stopped using the car's truck lock, using the trunk release in the glove box instead.

In 2003, someone broke the Dynasty's rear window as it was sitting in a park and ride lot. The instrument panel trim was removed and the car's cassette player stolen. I replaced the trimwork, and replaced the cassette player with a new CD/MP3 player.

The following year, the odometer got stuck at 222,222. The car sat until a new instrument panel could be ordered and installed.

All major parts of the Dynasty have been replaced, with the notable exception of the transmission and the starter. All body parts have been repainted at least once, with the exception of the roof. I have changed the oil every 3,000 miles with Havoline 10w-30 and STP. The oil dipstick has been puzzling, as one side of the dipstick will show the crankcase as being full, while the other side of the dipstick will indicate it being a quart low. It is easy to change oil and spark plugs in a 3.0 Dynasty, which has contributed to its longevity.

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As for the transmission, I have never even replaced the fluid, and have only checked it two or three times in 19 years. The car is on its third windshield, alternator, and radiator. The original master cylinder finally went out earlier this year, and the driver's side seatbelt has not worked in years.

In 2009, I ordered classic license plates for the car. Here in Pennsylvania, a vehicle needs only to be 15 years old to qualify for the classic plate, and 25 for an antique plate.

The Dynasty has outlasted many other vehicles in our stable, including a 1989 Sundance, 1991 Dynasty, 1997 Intrepid, and a 1998 Oldsmobile minivan. It currently shares our driveway with a 2000 300M and a 2003 Dakota. Now with over 300,000 miles, it is our family's all-time long-distance mileage champion, passing the 204,000 on my uncle's '64 Dodge.

The car still gets 25 mpg, but shows some signs of slowing down, with holes in the rocker panels large enough to drive your fist through. The motor leaks oil like a sieve, even after I had the valve guides replaced in 1999. It starts and runs every morning though, and the only time it has left me sit was in 2000, when the timing belt snapped at 140,000 miles. (The 3.0 fortunately is a non-interference engine, so no damage was done.) I had the timing belt (and water pump) replaced again in 2007 at 259,000 miles.

When it was newer, I used to receive many comments from strangers about how nice looking the car was - now the only comments I receive is from people who can't believe it's still on the road. I took my future wife out on our first date in the car, then our honeymoon, and eventually it brought all three of our sons home from the hospital. It has been my daily driver now for nearly 19 years. It is still on the road…as is my dad's '66 Plymouth.

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