I think it’s fairly typical of people to group memories into convenient categories. Most people probably look back at their lives thus far and see periods of time easily identified by markers such as childhood, high school, post-acne, and marriage—or something akin to that. But, our memories can play tricks on us.
Not all paradigms open and close as neatly as we recall. I have the vaguest memory, for example, of watching Talking Heads front man David Byrne chatting (or not, as it turned out, Byrne was a lousy interview) with Johnny Carson.
It is difficult for me not to remember The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson as anything but a product of the Seventies, though I know the show ran into the Nineties. Likewise, though the ‘Heads were already working in the mid-Seventies, they are fixed in my brain as a product of the late Eighties and early Nineties. For this reason I stumble over the notion of Johnny Carson and David Byrne ever crossing paths.
The car world is a lot like that. It may seem weird to some, for example, that Chevrolet’s category-redefining 1977 Impala and Caprice were available for a model year with Chevrolet’s grey-at-the-temples 250-inch straight six, or that the Dodge Viper (new in 1992) overlapped in time with the short-lived Oldsmobile Troféo (gone by ’93).
For an especially dramatic crossover of automotive eras we turn to 1980. It was for 1980 that General Motors rolled out it’s game-changing “X-Cars.” Though plagued by problems, the X-Cars (Buick Skylark, Chevrolet Citation, Oldsmobile Omega, and Pontiac Phoenix) represented a fundamental change in the design of small cars.
Marketed as compacts, the X-cars boasted front-wheel drive, lightweight construction, spacious cabins, and smaller engines, including a brand-new 2.8-liter V6 good for 115 horsepower.
Also sold and marketed as a compact was the Plymouth Volaré. In its last model year, Volaré—along with its mechanical cousin the Dodge Aspen—was, in many ways, a rolling museum of old-school car design. The rear-drive Volaré, still shod with rear-leaf springs, tipped the scales at nearly 900 pounds heavier than the Citation, yet delivered precious little additional passenger space.
Volaré’s standard engine was Chrysler’s 225-inch “Slant Six,” a trusty powerplant to be sure, but good for only 90 horsepower in its waning days. An available 318-inch V8 provided 120 horsepower, good for a Consumer Guide-reported 14.1 second 0-60 run, a solid second slower than a V6-equipped Citation.
Yet for as dated as the Volaré seemed, Consumer Guide rated it a better buy than the Similarly aged Ford Granada and Mercury Monarch. Volaré would go out on a high note, racking up almost 110,000 sales. Volaré’s replacement, the famed “K-Car” Reliant, would trump that figure, finding more than 150,000 customers its first year out.
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