Purchased from the second owner in the Spring of 2001 with 12,000 original miles, it has the venerable 225ci slant six coupled to a A904 three speed automatic. It needed some minor body work on the drivers side and a new coat of paint, but everything was there. These first pictures were from late 2001 to early 2002 with around 15,000 miles and after the body work and installation of a large air horn (because I thought it was cool!).
By March 4th, 2014 this workhorse was up to 124,000 miles, sporting two replacement fenders and passenger door, completely rebuilt cylinder head, and sucking on it’s 3rd carburetor (having switched from a Carter BBD to a Holley 2 bbl) when tragedy struck. An unavoidable accident twisted the hood, drivers fender, passengers rear quarter, and both bumpers and also smashing the grill and all nose trim. I have to say, both the other driver involved and the police officer who came to the scene were two of the nicest people I have EVER met.
Not 5 hours later that night while searching online for replacement parts an unbelievable thing was found: a 3rd owner 1977 Dodge Aspen with 34,000 original miles and a 318 V8 engine coupled to the same A904 transmission. Like the first Aspen, this one needed body work and new paint but it was in good shape overall. Visions of aftermarket parts began dancing in my head! If 1.0 was the daily driver, 2.0 will be the toy daily driver.
Since it had been driven so lightly it’s entire life, the cork intake manifold gaskets gave way after only a few hundred miles of (my) driving. While I was replacing gaskets, I installed a thermostat (which it was missing for no reason) and replaced many of the under hood electronic modules as preventative maintenance. With various types of help from my brothers and father I gave it a new oil dipstick and tube, a new starter, re-keyed the doors alike to the ignition.
On May 3rd, 2014 Aspen 2.0 was brought to a local speed shop and put on the chassis dyno. At the rear wheels it put out a bone stock max of 144 HP and 218 Ft-Lb of torque. Not bad for its age.
Where a block off plate had been on the dash of its predecessor, this car has a small, rectangular, mechanical, analog clock. Like all such car clocks from that era, this one was broken. There were several options: leave it broken, block it off, find a (readably available) N.O.S. replacement, purchase a quartz action rebuild kit, or my choice, fabricate a housing to fit in the same place and hold a dismantled off the shelf tachometer made to fit the style of the deceased clock. As of now (late August 2014) this side project is not complete….more to come.
The Trojan Tire.
Trouble struck on what would have been a leisurely 3 hour drive up to Troy, NY on June 7th, 2014. At about the half way point the car started to shake at any speed above 45mph. Between 50 and 60mph it would shake violently and over 65 it would slightly ‘smooth out’. This was not good. I had 100 miles ahead of me to Troy and 100 miles behind me to home. Pulling over out of frustration to look for the problem several times proved useless, I couldn’t see anything. The axle looked good. The shocks looked good. Tires were fine. Nothing was coming out of the differential, transmission, or engine. I gave up my search and continued heading towards Troy…… at 40mph. I was that guy driving a 37 year old car in the right lane on the highway holding up traffic. After I arrived that night I found the closest car shop in Troy. First thing the next morning I drove the car over, explained my situation ‘200 miles from home, car doing weirdness, etc.’. Once the car was up on a lift it was clear that several of the tires, around 30 years old, were delaminating their tread. It just happened that every time I pulled over to look, the bad tread was in a spot I could not see. Five hours later they had found me a suitable set of new tires and I was good to go!
Now, look at these pictures below and then go back up to the video from the dyno run. Same tires, one month apart.
By June 18th, I decided it was time to get the body work and paint done. This was a bit ahead of the expected order of repairs and upgrades to be done but the more important issue of bare steel on the passengers door being exposed from failing older repair work done some 20-30 years ago. I am not going to let this car rot. It was supposed to take 4-6 weeks but after 8 weeks the last of primer had just gone on. The shop is being meticulous repairing every little ding, dent, and scratch along with redoing the old repairs on the passenger door to a higher standard of quality.
Come September 22nd color and clear coat had finally been put down on the body, September 29th saw the body wet sanded and polished out, and by October 3rd all the body work and reassembly had been completed and the Aspen was picked up. You read that right, 15 weeks, an entire week longer than I had owned the car before bringing it in for bodywork and nearly twice as long as they estimated it to take.
This is as far as I am with the Aspen (2.0) as of now, updates will be posted as they occur….
…up next, aftermarket front brakes or EFI/electronic ignition/intake/heads/cam