What steps should I take in reviving a 1976 Dodge Aspen thats been sitting for 15 years?

We have a 1976 dodge aspen that has been sitting on our farm for about 15 years. I intend to revive it, have it as a drive around town occasional car. What steps should I take first? Background, it was parked fully functional. I feel like a new battery would get it to crank, but how difficult would it be to take out the bad gas?

There is going to be a lot more than a new battery and fresh gas to get this running.

Before you start sinking money in this car check underneath for body / frame rust. My family owned an Aspen and a Volare. I was convinced they were undercoated with rust from the factory. These were unreliable when new.


There, I fixed it for you. :wink:
In one of his books, Lee Iacocca admitted to the Aspen/Volare twins being unreliable, rust-prone dogs.

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These vehicles are not worth the money. My dad owned a 77 Aspen and brother owned a 76 Volare. They were crap then and probably worse now.

If the car was fully functional, why was it parked?

The gas tank needs to come out, drained and cleaned. The fuel lines need to be cleaned, the carb rebuilt. At this point, you will see the crumbling rubber fuel lines and rusty metal lines.

While you are under there, the REST of the rust picture… brake lines, structure ect will be apparent. All this assumes you can drag the car out and all 4 wheels actually roll…which they likely won’t. Soooo a full brake replacement is in order. Master, wheel cylinders, calipers, hoses, maybe steel lines. It will take a lot of work to be safe.

And does the engine turn? Put a breaker bar on the crank to see it will even turn. It may not. The rings being rusted to the bores.

Is driving this really worth all this work? Only you can say. Get to work.


I wonder just how bad the Mold might be in this vehicle .


Within 2 years of my Dad’s Aspen and Brother’s Volare’s the carbs needed to be rebuilt because of faulty float. I looked at getting a carb rebuild kit. Instead I was able to get a rebuilt carb for almost the same price as the kit ($35). There was a $100 charge on the core which I got back when I brought them the old carb. I knew a few other people who owned Aspens/Volare’s and they all had to have the carbs rebuilt within 2 years of ownership.


Says a LOT about the reliability of the car when it was NEW… Says even more about it now, 46 years later! :laughing:

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I will just add on top of the other advice you have been given that belts, hoses, and tires are also on the agenda due to dry rot and so on.

If you do proceed with this I will suggest that when, and if, it gets to the point where you are ready to start the engine that you remove the coil wire first so the engine will not run.
Crank it over for a while until the oil pressure light goes out. You want some oil circulation first; then plug in the coil wire so it will start and run. Hopefully.

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I knew a guy who had the misfortune to have owned an Austin Marina, which was a truly terrible car. After the Marina’s crankshaft snapped for the second time :face_with_raised_eyebrow:, the Austin/Chrysler dealership offered him a really good deal on a new Aspen coupe.

The Aspen looked pretty nice (white, with a white vinyl top and red interior), but it had a nasty habit of stalling on the entry ramp to the Interstate, and he came very close to being smashed by 18-wheelers several times. The dealership was unable to remedy the problem, so he learned to live with it until the front fenders began to rust-out when the car was ~3 years old. Then, he dumped it, to the delight of wife, kids, and friends.

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I believe I’d do as OK suggested and rotate the engine over without firing it. Then I’d see if I could rig a new hose to the fuel pump from a container of fresh gas, just to see if it will even start. Most likely will have to pour a little gas or starting fluid directly into the carb. If I couldn’t get the engine to run somewhat, I’d probably bail on the project. I will be surprised if mice haven’t made a home under the hood, so new plug wires may be needed too.

To get it (safely) drivable - you’ll probably wind up replacing everything mechanical besides (hopefully) the engine and transmission. So I would want to focus on just seeing if the engine will run before doing much of anything else.

Interesting project. I’ll admit, if I found it sitting I’d want to play with it too. At least see if the engine will light.


The 2-barrel carb on the 318 V8 in the 1975-77 years had a design flaw that led to driveability problems.

Tightening the air cleaner wingnut caused the bolt to warp the upper half of the carb, causing a separation between the carb’s top and bottom halves. The bolt the wingnut was attached to was secured in the top half of the carb.

I repaired literally hundreds of these carbs.


My brothers Volare’ kept going through starters. I finally talked to a good mechanic friend of mine who had a lot of experience with Dodge’s. He said he had been seeing several Volare’s and Aspens with warped fly-wheels. The next weekend I pulled tranny and replaced fly-wheel. And it was badly warped. No more starter problems. What get’s me is this vehicle is just the next generation of the Duster. Not a lot of difference. You’d figure they’d figured how to build a reliable one by then.

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The guy whom I knew with an astoundingly bad Aspen had the Slant Six under his hood, so I guess that drivability problems went beyond the 318 V8.

My brothers Volare’ and Dad’s Aspen both had carb problems and both were slant 6’s

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Before spending a penny on it take an inventory of all the potential problems: Start with rust, then a seized engine, then potential replacement of the fuel system, all rubber bits and fuel and brake lines, then interior, etc. Is it worth the $thousand(s) to you?

As for bad carbs, I’m sure the Aspen/Volare were worse than average, but most all carbs were pretty bad in the late '70s

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I surmise that mice and mold will have made the interior a disgusting place to sit down in.

However, you can try to get the engine started without spending any time inside. It might be a fun project, if you have time. Let us know how it goes.

My second surmise: the impracticality of getting it actually useable will become more evident over time.

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In addition to the other bits of practical advice that you have been given, have you considered that, after spending tons of money to make it drivable, you will have a car that will get–at best–17 mpg around town if it has the Slant Six, and probably no more than 15 mpg around town with the 318 V8? Cars of the 70s got pretty lousy gas mileage, in comparison to modern cars, and their brakes are also pretty anemic by modern standards.

I Had a 76 Aspen 4 dr sedan with a slant six and a 4 speed floor shift with a bench seat ???. I bout it very cheaply from a Dodge dealer that had trouble getting rid of it because of the manual 4 speed.

It was bad for a reason. Because of the 74-75 gas crisis , Chrysler had done everything they could do to lighten it to get better gas mileage. They put in too small transmissions and differentials aqnd omitted the inner fenders.

I never had any carb issue4s though, it was 4 years old when I bought it and I sold it after 4 years, Both the transmission and rear end went.

The transmissions and differentials were very expensive in the junkyard because so many of them went. Mine got a three speed manual from an earlier Valiant and the center section of a Valiant differential.
Never had any carb trouble though. If I had I would have put on one of the 60s Valiant carbs I had.

Having said all that , it was still a better car than the 72 Chevy I had that also lost the transmission and differential. The Chevy went down the road with a slight constant side sway, was so not rigid that you had to jack up the cac to the last notch on the bumper jack t5o change a tire and the choke shut the engine down every time it snowed.

I would not give you two cents for any car made from 72 to 80.

This was in the early 2000s, my dads commute turned to about 45 minutes on the interstate.it became very impractical to drive a 76 Aspen and my parents bought new cars throughout the years. I am the son and would like to revive this car because I have a fascination with older vehicles. The rust doesn’t seem to be too terrible on it, however I have a picture of an area of concern.