Sometimes at night, when I’m having trouble getting to sleep, I like to imagine the design brief for the Dodge Dynasty. “A car. Just make a car,” it reads in its entirety, and for styling inspiration they included some diagrams from the Illinois DMV driver’s manual. The result, the Dodge Dynasty, is a potent and powerfully forgettable vehicle. I bet most of you forgot about it until just now.
For a car that came out during the run of the goofily over-the-top ‘80s grown-women-fighting-in-silken-pantsuits television show, Dynasty, Dodge sure managed to make something that was the polar opposite of its namesake: where Dynasty the TV show was ridiculous campy fun, Dynasty the car was a rational, boring box of tepid grey tedium.
The Dodge Dynasty was introduced in 1987 for the 1988 model year as the replacement for the mid-sized Dodge 600. The Dynasty was based on a stretched K-car platform called the Chrysler C platform. The Dynasty and the related and slightly more upscale Chrysler New Yorker were the only cars built on the platform, a testimony to how miniscule of a crap even Chrysler Corporation cared about the car.
Being K-Car based, the Dynasty was a front wheel-drive car, and the base engine was the 2.5-liter inline four that also showed up in the Dodge Caravan and the Acclaim. That engine made all of 100 horsepower, which, when mated with the standard three-speed automatic, was the automotive equivalent of what a diet heavy in saltpeter is always said to do.
If you sprung for the higher-spec LE Dynasty, you could get it with a Mitsubishi 3-liter V6 making about 150 HP, and, later, a 3.3-liter V6 making all of 162 HP. These were, um, fine, I guess.
The meh-ness of the Dynasty really seems to come from the very basis of its conception: Lee Iacocca, the man who came up with such thrilling taglines for Chrysler as “If you can find a better car, buy it,” decreed that the Dynasty’s styling would be more staid and boxy than the new cars like Ford’s Taurus, which was, to his mind, aerodynamically curved to the point of indecency. The thoughts those curved quarter panels could lead to!
With this focus on bland, upstanding conservative styling, the Dynasty ended up looking like it was designed with the edge of a shoebox and all the imagination of a time clock.
“Switchgear felt rather dated even at the time, with a feel from the 1970s. Indeed, the Dynasty was a good option for those who missed their Polara’s interior.”
Sure, there’s likely a market for a car like this that challenges and excites absolutely nothing whatsoever, but that’s precisely what makes it so staggeringly meh.
The Dynasty is the automotive equivalent of doing research about mortgages, or carefully reading pamphlets about home safety. The Dynasty is the Werther’s Orginal of cars: functional, sexless, and always seeming more at home with a septuagenarian gripping it.
Even the advertising seemed to capture the slightly melancholy tone of a retirement community:
Ugh, that ad. It’s all mindless, saccharine patriotism, a significant dash of fear and safety consciousness, all over an absolutely wrist-opening version of “When Johnny Comes Marching Home” played at a glacial tempo on what I guess is a pan flute.
Later, they stepped up their commercial game with a healthy dose of elevator-grade muzak and lots of slow pans:
Dear God. I can’t tell if it’s advertising a car or the benefits of entering a coma for your retirement.
I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that the leading cause of accidents in Dodge Dynasties were from people driving them into walls just so they could feel something, anything.
The Dynasty Wikipedia page also has this oddly fascinating tidbit:
One 1990 Dodge Dynasty LE was factory ordered by a 22-year-old customer from Maryland Motors in Rockville, MD, with a MSRP exceeding $22,000. According to the dealer, it was the most-expensive Dodge passenger car ever produced up until that time. The specific car was Midnight Blue with power sunroof, 4-wheel disc ABS, Infinity stereo, aluminum wheels, 3.3L V6 engine, memory seats, theft alarm, power trunk pull-down, and illuminated entry system. The only two options not ordered were the load-leveling suspension and leather seats.
Holy shit. For reference, a 1990 BMW 3 Series sedan was only about $3000 more than that. That’s $42,570 in today’s dollars. For a Dodge. A Dodge Dynasty.
Who was that 22-year-old? I have to find them. If, somehow, that’s you and you’re reading this, please contact us immediately. We have to examine you.
You want to know one of the most interesting things I learned about the Dynasty? It lost its remote fuel filler door release in 1991 or so. I’m not even sure I’m kidding.
If you’re a Dynasty lover, and are about to comment and tell me that this was a fantastic car and that I’m a fool, a miserable fool, I implore you to take a moment and watch one of those ads again.
Is this really the battle you want to fight? Is it?