The Dodge Heritage Series: Part 7, 1980-89

1982 Dodge Aries

Welcome back to the Dodge Heritage Series, a 10-part exploration of Dodge brand history. This is Part 7 in the series.


The 1980s at Dodge featured two key products that changed the brand and the industry forever: the K-car and the minivan.


Introduced in 1981, the Aries (above) was the Dodge version of Chrysler’s innovative K-car, featuring clean, honest styling, front-wheel drive and a rugged and powerful 2.2-liter engine. Two-door coupe, four-door sedan and station wagon styles were offered, all engineered for maximum consumer value. Eventually, even a sporty convertible model was offered on a limited basis.


Chrysler CEO Lee Iacocca took his pitch for the value-driven model directly to the car-buying public in a series of television commercials, boasting, “America, if you can find a better car, buy it.” Shoppers accepted his personal challenge, purchasing nearly two million units in the nine years the K-car was produced.


The popular K-car also served as the mechanical foundation for the Chrysler Corporation’s ground-breaking vehicle of the 1980s, the minivan. Dodge’s version, the Caravan, was introduced in the spring of 1983 with the bold yet accurate claim, “a transportation revolution.” Enormous on the inside but taking up no more space than a compact sedan on the outside, the minivan changed how American families use their vehicles. Dodge continues to lead the minivan category today with the Caravan’s successor, the Dodge Grand Caravan.


1984 Dodge Caravan


Read Part 6 of the Heritage Series for more Dodge history. Also, be sure to visit the Heritage Wall section of the Dodge Power Rallye Tour, a traveling Dodge-based experience showcasing the best in performance vehicles. You can find the schedule of Tour events here.



    Posted June 25, 2014 at 4:55 pm | Permalink

    The K-cars or should we say box cars. I cannot believe people bought them, however, with gas prices rising at the time they seem like the sensible thing to buy. Hopefully, they have all been crushed and melted down into new Challengers, Chargers, etc.

    • Rodzilla
      Posted June 26, 2014 at 3:20 am | Permalink

      Myself and 3 friends rented a K car, back in the 80’s, and drove from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, through the Rocky Mountains, to Terrace, B.C. Never had a bit of trouble with a car that almost certainly had not been treated kindly by previous renters. Not a lot of interior room, but I don’t recall any of us complaining about being uncomfortable. We drove straight through, almost 24 hours, except for bathroom breaks and fast food drive throughs, and took advantage of the fastback’s flat luggage area to take naps.

    • Scott Y
      Posted January 15, 2015 at 6:50 am | Permalink

      BS! my son still drives one every day we call it the KRT-4.

  • epicurus
    Posted July 1, 2014 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

    My parents bought an 87 Dodge Shadow brand new. Sadly it was very unreliable car, stranding them several times at night on remote country roads. And this was before cell phones were common. A mechanic at the local Dodge dealer finally found that there was some electronic module that was vulnerable to moisture, so if had rained or was even misty out, it would quit.
    It had some kind of fuel problem as well, if it sat more than a couple days, you would have to pour some gas into the air intake to get it started, even though i think it was fuel injected. Had motor mount problems, sloppy shifting manual trans, air vents leaked, etc. Maybe it was a one off lemon. Hopefully other shadows were better.

    • Derrick Hines
      Posted December 3, 2014 at 8:39 pm | Permalink

      My parents had the same model car back in 88. Thing had issues. It used to diesel for at least two minutes after you shut the key off often accompanied by a loud backfire when it finished. How embarassing to get dropped off at school with that pos.

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