Mopar Quick Shift Thursday – A 1987 Dodge Diplomat

Continuing on with Mopar Quick Shift Thursday, I spotted this car, the very definition of Malaise, only without a hint of Brown anywhere. Many of you know that I go crazy for Malaise Mobiles, and this Dodge was no exception. So let’s discover the Diplomat, by Dodge….

When the Diplomat was introduced in 1977, few thought it would soldier on in the Chrysler lineup for the next 12 years virtually unchanged. In its debut year, there were three body styles offered , including a two-door coupe (styled like a Personal Luxury Coupe), a five-door station wagon, and the popular four-door sedan. The Diplomat was really nothing more that a fancy Dodge Aspen, with the interior cribbed from the Chrysler LeBaron family of cars.

In 1981, the tooling for the Diplomat (and the Chrysler and Plymouth models) was moved to the AMC Factory in Kenosha, Wisconsin before AMC became part of the Chrysler empire. AMC was able to produce these cars at a much higher profit margin than Chrysler could, which was one of the reasons they were on the market for so long. (AMC was purchased by Chrysler in 1987)

As the 80’s progressed, the Diplomat had far fewer private buyers than the Chrysler New Yorker and Fifth Avenue, and went on to become the cop car of choice for cash strapped Police Departments. Which brings us to this anomaly, a Bright Red 1987 Model.
The engine was the Chrysler LA 318 CID V-8 producing 140HP. Police packages could be specified with a 4BBL Carburetor, boosting horsepower by 30. The only transmission offered is the 3-speed Torqueflite Automatic. This was also the last year the car was offered without a Drivers Side Airbag.

I know many of you are never going to be fans of this type of car. It isn’t beautiful, it has horrible build quality, it isn’t a great driving machine, and it’s a throwback to a different era. And that’s the reason I love it. What about you?

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27 responses to “Mopar Quick Shift Thursday – A 1987 Dodge Diplomat”

  1. RichardKopf Avatar

    I don't know if I would put quick shift in the same sentence as Dodge Diplomat.
    Having said that, I actually like these cars. There may not be too many left, but the ones that are seem to be soldiering on just fine.

    1. Paul_y Avatar

      They aren't horrible, considering their heritage. I had a roommate in college who had one (in 2001-2002 or so)- an 83 Fifth Avenue. Slow and goofy, but really comfortable. It was mostly reasonably reliable, too (the 318 is basically unkillable). It met its end in a demolition derby, because its a lot of work to replace a slipping transmission in a $400 car.

  2. platformhoon Avatar

    My 1st car was a 88 plymouth gran fury cop model complete with search light, I put a 5th avenue front on it 1st week out with my license after rear ending a bastard nova. I was too busy watching the tail in front of U.C. lol

  3. acarr260 Avatar

    It's still rocking the CB radio… so you can hear the semi truck drivers mocking you as they pass you going up hills.

    1. mdharrell Avatar

      Yeah, welcome to my world.
      <img src="; width="450">
      Fortunately my Messenger 130A is old enough that I can only hear the truckers' comments when they're on channels 1-23.

      1. BlackIce_GTS Avatar

        Is that the steering linkage down there? Looks like it would get caught on your pants.

        1. mdharrell Avatar

          That is indeed the linkage. Mine's an early-production model without Ackermann and I haven't retrofitted it. It seems to steer okay as-is, particularly after I installed a kit designed by one of the club members for improving the front suspension geometry (the Freeway Advancement and Racing Team [F.A.R.T.] Kit). I agree the steering looks awkward in the angle of this photo, but everything is actually far enough up to be entirely out of the way. It's what I drove to work today.

  4. P161911 Avatar

    Paint it brown and put a gumball light on top and you would have what my local sheriff's department drove back when I was in high school. They kept these things well into the 1990s. Loved the gumball light, you could spot it a mile away and never confused it for a roof rack. They might have been Plymouths, I really don't remember that well.

  5. LTDScott Avatar

    Weird, just the other day I randomly thought about how I hadn't seen a Diplomat or Grand Fury in a LONG time. You see the occasional 5th Ave, but the more pedestrian versions seem to have disappeared. Glad to see someone is taking good care of one. I actually like them, and think it'd be fun to rock one that's lowered on cop steelies with the vented cop poverty caps.

  6. tonyola Avatar

    By 1985, most of the civilian Dodge Diplomats used a front clip that was much closer to the Chrysler Fifth Avenue in style. It was mostly the fleet versions that got the old 1980-vintage nose which was shared with the Plymouth Grand Fury. Having said all that, these were impossibly boring cars to drive – I rented a couple back in the '80s. The V8 was gutless, handling was soft and sloppy, and the car as a whole felt old and cheap (which it was). Maybe it's because I was around when these cars were current and common, but to me it seems we're kind of reaching here honoring this thing.
    <img src="; width="400/">

  7. facelvega Avatar

    Now that the detroit sedans of this variety are reaching the 25 year emissions exemption, it would be easy enough to get a lot more power out of their strangled engines. A 318 may not be a classic powerhouse, but 200 or so horsepower would be inexpensively feasible, and combined with modern shocks and brakes could make these old malaise junkers reasonable drivers. They'll never be great-handling cars, but they are cheap to keep running and have an appealingly unpretentious vibe. Around here in Brooklyn, they're more highly-prized than vintage European cars because they're less showy– more 70s cars than 80s so far, though.

    1. Mark Avatar

      I did exactly that with a ’79 Dip Wagon I picked up at Carlisle one year, and it just so happens to be red like this one. I use it as a “band car” to haul my keyboards/amp & stage gear.
      The FIRST thing we did was get rid of the Holly 2-barrel “lean burn” carbuerator. Replaced with a Edelbrock/Carter 4 BBL with dual exhaust. The original rear end was replaced with one from a police/interceptor, a sway bar was added. Chrysler road wheels (which actually were available with Dips in ’79…..) replaced the originals. Took a long time, cost WAY TOO MUCH, but I have, in addition to the world’s most expensive Diplomat, the world’s only (to my knowledge) “police car wagon.” It has been my part-time, high-style hauler with great performance, and solid reliability. Cornering is better than you think it would be, and it moves out with a vengeance.
      These Diplomats and earlier LeBarons have a boxy formal look that I think has aged well.
      THANKS – Mark.

  8. chrystlubitshi Avatar

    i met a guy in 2000 (while in college) who was thrilled to have just picked up a new "classic car" it was a mint condition '86 diplomat. he was in awe of it's comfy-ghetto-cruiser style… i showed him my car (at the time) a near mint '84 LeSabre. he was jealous. I don't have any personal experience with these cars.. but it's nice to see that someone has preserved the last of the 5/6 seater RWD mopars.

    1. OA5599 Avatar

      Last of the RWDs? Ramchargers had that seating capacity and RWD (iexcept the 4×4's, of course) and were often registered as cars instead of trucks. The LX family (Magnum, Charger, 300) has that seating capacity and RWD (except AWDs).
      <img src="; width=500>

      1. chrystlubitshi Avatar

        i was referring to cars ( i should have specified) not trucks/suvs. i also didn't put an end date on my statement… as i should have– prior to the Daimler years.

  9. Jim-Bob Avatar

    I have always liked these cars on styling grounds but then again I love boxy designs. One interesting tidbit of trivia is that the police versions of these were the only Chrysler products to ever use the Rochester Quadrajet carburator-making it the only carburator design used in cars built by all four domestic auto makers at one time or another. "But wait-", you say, "Ford never used the Quadrajet!"-and there you would be wrong. Ford used it on 1971 on the 429 Cobra Jet, making it the only engine and year that Ford used it.

  10. Devin Avatar

    I remember an old roommate of mine had one in university, and the main thing I remember is that it had a massive fuel gauge. It was as big as the speedo.
    Also, was there some version of this that had a spare tire poking through the truck lid like the old d'Elegance toilet seat? I swear I saw one once, in white with blue trim, but I've never been able to find it.

    1. tonyola Avatar

      Sounds like an aftermarket thing.

    2. BlackIce_GTS Avatar

      As big as the speedo, and I bet it moved faster.
      I like more than a few malaise era cars, and quite a lot of horrible cars, but not these. They make me sort of uneasy just looking at them. Not just because this one looks like a fire marshal's car either ('No, sir, I don't smell any thermite, why do you ask?')

  11. waltgator Avatar

    that would make a perfect sleeper!get rid of that smog crap! port & polish & add headers, exhaust, cam, lifters, pistons! woohoo! speed galore!

    1. facelvega Avatar

      I notice mopar muscle magazine has stories online about how to build up a 318 for 220 horsepower at the wheels for $1700 in parts, to build one that will dyno 400hp and still be generally streetable (for a lot more money of course), and I think two other articles for performance levels in between those. A lot of people with the bigger mopar engines run stock or near-stock builds that won't do anything like that power. To my mind, if you want something old that will be fun to drive for under five or six grand, you have to go with an old European or Japanese sports car, but if you're willing to do a restoration and update the engine, suspension, and brakes, the less-desirable American cars are extremely appealing.

  12. Van Sarockin Avatar
    Van Sarockin

    Ah, the ChryCo cop car. This told you that the town was cheap or broke, and didn't hold their police force in very high esteem. The go-to when you had no other options.

    1. rovingardener Avatar

      Yeah, Detroit had them into the 00's.

  13. Smells_Homeless Avatar

    Ewwwww, Lean Burn. One nasty, pinging, hot-running, twenty-miles-of-vacuum-lines having, lump of hot mess.

  14. don Avatar

    you may say im crazy but i imported a diplomat to the uk about 3 years ago and this is no lie it may be heavy on fuel considering every working class person drives diesels of not much more than 2L capacity myself included but i do drive a fair bit at weekends and drive fast at that and this old girl just keeps going with out any problems.i always had an interest in the ordinary american boxy styled cars and pick ups of the 70s and 80s and i suppose i was always probably annoying owners in car parks or car shows when i would start quizzing them on theirs just out of nothing but sheer interest, now i get a lot of attention but genuinely detest it for i just like driving this old car and really like the not so big size of it which nowadays is no wider than modern family sedans and just a bit longer with a lot less interior and trunk space.a lot of people have told me that they generally do not like american cars but say they like this one because it looks classy with plenty of chrome and just a nice size which is easy on the eye

  15. Jon Avatar

    My Dad had four of them as a company car. He would get a new one every 3 years. Some of my best memories are with them old diplomat's. He liked driving the white one the most because people had to respect it.

  16. Mike Avatar

    I have a 88 SE Diplomat 4 Dr in cherry black. I use it every day here in Norfolk England from march too November when I garage it away over winter. Its throw back to the last of the solid rear wheel drive v8s. I love it.