The K-car once saved Chrysler from financial ruin. Today’s Nice Price or No Dice Plymouth K-car has been similarly saved and is in impeccable shape. Could its price turn you into a K-car convert without triggering your own financial ruin?
There are certain things in life that just make no sense. Some examples include finding out that the French venerate Jerry Lewis, or that Salisbury steak is just a hamburger without the bun. You can add to that list the worship of Volkswagen’s long-serving line of rear-engine vans and people carriers. Versatile and efficient as they may be, they’ve never had any hint of the performance that you’d think necessary to engender such a following. That hasn’t stopped the models from reaching Porsche-crazy pricing in the collector-car market.
Yesterday’s 1991 Volkswagen Vanagon addressed the performance issue with the adoption of a six-cylinder engine donated by a Subaru sport coupe. Its $23,000 asking price was in line with the market, but too few of you were in that same market to care. That resulted in a decisive 83 percent No Dice loss for the now speedy but still brusque-nosed brick.
Minivans like that VW have been part of the automotive scene for decades. It was, however, not until the 1980s that the Chrysler minivan took the nation by storm and really started making a serious dent in the station wagon market. Chrysler’s small van was, of course, a K-car derivative, the platform that singlehandedly yanked the company from bankruptcy at the dawn of the ’80s. It proved so successful that the company killed off the K-car’s traditional wagons not too many years after its release.
Fortunately for those who never experienced the humble K-car wagon in all its glory, this 1987 Plymouth Reliant exists in what looks to be an almost as-new condition.
Why would you want an old Reliant wagon? Well, I mean, just look at it. It’s brown, for crying out loud. Not only is it the perfect hue, but it’s also a car that hails from the pre-airbag age. That means a wide, double-backrest bench seat up front, a low central tunnel and plenty of space between you and the ’80s-tastic dash. You just can’t find that kind of stuff in cars any more.
Amazingly, the car is presented with a mere 21k on the odometer. The ad claims it to have been owned by an elderly health care worker who didn’t allow smoking or kids in the car. Naturally, being a health-care worker, the owner would have delivered a stern lecture to those smoking kids in lieu of giving them a ride.
Power is provided by Chrysler’s sturdy 2.2 liter SOHC four. The 2.2 was a clean-sheet design, Chrysler’s first all-metric engine. Its development was led by Chrysler’s then-chief of engine engineering, Willem Weertman, the slide-rule guy who previously had been behind the company’s faithful Slant Six.
The ad claims the engine to have had a recent change of fluids and a conversion of its a/c to the modern R134 refrigerant. New brake pads and rotors up front, and new shocks in the rear, add to the positive points. There’s no word, though, on how old the valve timing hardware might be. Even if it only has 21k under its belt (see what I did there?) it’s old enough that it should be replaced for peace of mind. The 2.2 is a non-interference engine, so you needn’t really lose sleep over the matter. The transmission is a three-speed automatic, and that wonderfully works off a column shift.
The bodywork looks to be in fabulous condition, with only minor age wear evident on the trim. Full wheel covers and new whitewall tires add a bit of panache to the small wagon.
The interior, in grippy beige cloth and matching hard plastic, appears nearly unused. The car even has its original luggage area cover intact. With that removed and the rear bench folded down, the car allows for a good bit of space for long items, say, comically big baguettes or your first-place trophy from Radwood.
The car is said to run without issues and comes with a clean title. The low mileage and its heritage of having been plucked from a different era means this Reliant is not a strong candidate for being thrown into daily driver duty. This is more of an oddball survivor that would be fun on weekends and at your local Cars and Caffeination.
That’s a somewhat limited scope for what is, in reality, nothing more than a cheap car that was never intended by its maker to outlast the warranty by more than just a few years.
The fact that it did survive and that so few others have does, however, make this one special. And just like there’s an ass for every seat, there is someone out there who is jonesing for a car just like this.
For that one individual, we now need to decide if this Plymouth’s $4,800 price is worth making that dream come alive. What do you think, could this amazingly well preserved K-car be worth that kind of cash? Or, does that price make this an un-reliant?
H/T to Tim Kolb for the hookup!
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