This 1978 Plymouth Volare Is a NASCAR-Inspired Gem From the Malaise Era

The mid-to-late-1970s was a sad time for performance automobiles. High-power big-block V8 became extinct due to stringent emission and fuel economy regulations, and most muscle cars barely exceeded the 180-horsepower mark. But that's not to say that U.S. automakers didn't create desirable cars during the Malaise Era.
1978 Plymouth Volare Kit Car 9 photos
Photo: Lou Costabile/YouTube
1978 Plymouth Volare Kit Car1978 Plymouth Volare Kit Car1978 Plymouth Volare Kit Car1978 Plymouth Volare Kit Car1978 Plymouth Volare Kit Car1978 Plymouth Volare Kit Car1978 Plymouth Volare Kit Car1978 Plymouth Volare Kit Car
In the absence of potent powerplants, Detroit relied on flamboyant appearance packages and race-related marketing to draw people into showrooms. Pontiac revived the spirit of the iconic GTO with the LeMans-based Can Am, while Chevrolet slammed stripes and fender flares to the Monza to create the Mirage. Both arrived in 1977.

Ford also spiced things up for the Mustang crowd by releasing the mean-looking King Cobra in 1978. Finally, Chrysler answered with a pair of coupes based on the Dodge Aspen and Plymouth Volare. Known as the Super Coupe and Kit Car, respectively, these coupes honored NASCAR legend Richard Petty.

Designed to make the streetable Mopars look as much like a NASCAR racer as possible, the kit included tacked-on fender flares, spoilers, quarter-window louvers, hood pins and graphics, and window retention clips and straps. And, of course, both cars came with giant "43" graphics. While the Dodge cars were finished in red, the Plymouth sported a two-tone blue finish.

Both cars were fitted with 360-cubic-inch (5.9-liter) V8 engines that struggled to deliver 175 horsepower, a tiny figure compared to the Mopars of the golden muscle car. However, it was still better than the Mustang II King Cobra, which had only 140 horses to brag about.

The kits cars were sold in limited numbers for the 1978 model year only. The Dodge Aspen found 145 customers, while the Plymouth Volare version moved 247 units. And both figures are low enough to turn these NASCAR-inspired twins into some of the rarest special-edition vehicles from the Malaise Era.

This also means we don't get to see too many of them on public roads nowadays, but many examples have survived, and a few of them soldiered on for more than 40 years in almost pristine condition. The Volare you see here is one of those cars.

If you're a fan of these Richard Petty tribute cars, the footage below provides an extensive walkaround, in-car driving footage, and a cool story. So go ahead and hit play for some road-legal NASCAR goodness.

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About the author: Ciprian Florea
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Ask Ciprian about cars and he'll reveal an obsession with classics and an annoyance with modern design cues. Read his articles and you'll understand why his ideal SUV is the 1969 Chevrolet K5 Blazer.
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