At one time, the line up for Chrysler Corporation’s Dodge division would make the founding Dodge brothers’ heads spin. From the minuscule Colt and utilitarian Dart all the way up to land yachts, pickup trucks, and full-size vans, the “Dodge boys” (as their dealers were known colloquially in the ‘60s and ‘70s) had their lots and showrooms full.
In 2020, that expansive lineup was whittled down to the Journey and Durango crossovers, the Challenger coupe, the Charger sedan, and the Caravan people-carrier. Let’s pour one out for some of the models that have come and gone but live on at car shows and in Craigslist ads from coast to coast.
For 2013, Fiat Chrysler dug back into the archive and affixed the Dart name to a shapely compact sedan that rode on a widened Alfa Romeo platform. The little Dodge was competitive in the segment; all that was missing were buyers. After three short model years, FCA ditched the Dart, though its platform lives on under the Jeep Cherokee.
But in its debut year, it also arrived with a hidden problem: fenders that began corroding well before the cars were paid off. Chrysler ended up recalling thousands of Aspens to replace front fenders. That gave it an unfortunate reputation as a “lemon,” but it ended its run in 1980 as a decent, well-liked car. And the resourceful engineers at Chrysler stretched and pulled the platform to create the Diplomat, LeBaron and Fifth Avenue.
The original 1981 Aries coupe, sedan and wagon offered interior space and performance comparable to the Aspen it replaced, in a considerably smaller front-drive package that offered superior fuel economy. And added attention to detail ordered by Chrysler CEO Lee Iacocca helped ensure that the K-cars were dependable. Dodge retired the Aries in 1990.
In 2005, DaimlerChrysler decided that Dodge’s LX-platform replacement for the Intrepid would not be a four-door sedan, but a wagon with a small-ish cargo area and a rear hatch that opened halfway into the roof. More of a European “shooting brake” than an American-style estate car, the Magnum really only proved that Americans don’t like station wagons anymore, not even when they have enormous Hemi V8s under their hoods. The Magnum was fired after 2008, one year after the debut of the Charger sedan.
Powered at first by a 1.7-liter VW engine and later by the K-car’s 2.2-liter four-cylinder power plant, the inexpensive and practical Omni stayed popular for much of its life, and spawned the hot-hatch GLH (literally, “Goes Like Hell”), the wedge-shaped 024/Charger hatchback coupe and the Rampage small pickup. Reduced to a single “America” trim level in 1987 to drive down the sticker price, the Omni hit the off-ramp in 1990.
Along the way, Monaco pioneered the use of halogen automotive lighting with 1969’s “Super-Lite” auxiliary driving lamp. The last Monaco was sold in 1992, but the Premier/Monaco would play a big role in the next decade of Dodge sedans.
But a new name didn’t do much to improve Mirada sales; it was comfortably outsold by the Cordoba, which itself was on a downward slide after the 1980 downsizing. Dodge exited the mid-sized personal luxury space in 1983.
3 St. Regis
The St. Regis’ major distinguishing characteristic was its flip-down clear headlight doors, a feature also used on the Magnum personal coupe. But it didn’t sell terribly well, and by the end only fleet buyers were choosing the St. Regis over its competition. The big sedan was gone after 1981, leaving the Aspen-based Diplomat as Dodge’s largest sedan.
The Dynasty may have looked like a throwback to the ‘70s, but its four-cylinder and V6 engines helped provide modern motivation. In a sign of how much the market has changed in the last 30 years, the Dynasty was pitched as a mid-size car, but its dimensions put it within a couple of inches of the now-full-size Charger sedan. In any event, this Dynasty didn’t live up to its name; it lasted just five years, until the Intrepid replaced it in 1993.
The Intrepid sold well through two generations and was also offered as the “Chrysler Intrepid” in other North American markets before being replaced by the LX-platform sedans in 2005.