Nature Always Wins
by Mercedes Blair
Abandoned, rusty, vehicles are intriguing for some, for others they are an eye sore and a hazard. Not everyone can see the beauty in decay. To me each vehicle is a piece of history, left for the earth to reclaim and take over. Each one has a soul and as a photographer I love to try to capture a piece of that soul. I like to revisit abandoned homes and vehicles often because eventually they won’t be there at all and I want to document what pieces of history I can. My passion for this began with finding a 1976 Dodge Aspen at a farm house that has been abandoned for over 30 years.
Quoting an ad from 1976, “The new Dodge Aspen. For a small car at a small price, it’s Unbelievable”. It was Motor Trend’s car of the year in 1976. This green machine was an East Coast farmer’s brand new ride, but, was abandoned after his death in the early 80’s. He parked it in the barn one day thinking he would be back soon to run errands as usual, but, life was taken away from him, ending the car’s life as well. It was left pretty much untouched until the barn that was protecting it fell down on top of it a few years ago. It was the first abandoned vehicle that I ever photographed. This car got me hooked on finding abandoned treasures, especially old vehicles! For me, the older and rustier the better. I am beginning my contributions for GasPains Magazine with this car because this is where it all began for me.
For a 1976 Dodge Aspen that has been sitting untouched since the early 80’s, it is still in decent shape. It has less than 57,000 miles on it but it does have many issues to be expected from sitting for so long. The body is in surprisingly good shape, thanks to the barn it was sitting in for decades until it succumbed to weather and fell to pieces. When I first found it, the car was covered in boards. I love to get inside the abandoned vehicles I find if possible, but I could not get in this one. So, for the last 3 years every time I would visit the farm I dreamt of sitting inside, imagining what it was like to drive this back in the day. That dream recently became reality when someone else decided to remove the boards, so Jazzy and I got to pretend like we were driving this old car! It will be interesting to revisit this car now that the boards aren’t protecting it anymore, it won’t take long for Mother Nature to take claim and make this car truly Rust in Peace.
Most abandoned vehicles I find don’t have anything left under the hood; it’s either been parted out, or it’s completely rusted and rotten. I am always curious as to what is under a closed hood. It took a few visits to get it opened to satisfy my curiosity. I was pleasantly surprised that there is still some shine under there and some mint looking stickers. It is better than most motors I find in abandoned cars, looks like all the parts are still there as well. I believe what I have read about these motors being tough as nails!
Dodge Aspen’s were short lived (1976-1980). They were introduced as a replacement for the Dart, but didn’t turn out as expected. The Aspen was, very early on, known for rust issues. Many say that if they had given the production of this car more time, it would have been an amazing car, the “family car of the future”. Many who have owned one say that they loved it, minus the rusting in the fenders and subframe. The slant 6 was a very reliable engine and, with regular maintenance, owners say that they didn’t have any issue driving them for years. It’s a reminder of what could have been, if only they had taken the time. Even so, it was a very popular car in its day. Many different types of people drove them and they were even used as police cars; the mainstream car of the late 70’s. Ask anyone you know who was alive then and I am sure they have a story or two to tell about them!
Body and chassis: Class Compact
Body style: 4-door sedan
Powertrain Engine: 225 cu in (3.7 L) Slant-6
Transmission: A230 3-speed manual, A833 4-speed manual, A904 3-speed TorqueFlite automatic, A998/A999 3-speed TorqueFlite automatic
Wheelbase: 112.7 in (2,863 mm)
Length: 201.2 in (5,110 mm)
Width: 73.3 in (1,862 mm)
Height: 55.3 in (1,405 mm)
Curb weight: 3,200 lb (1,500 kg)
Sedan Start Price: $3,371
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