When you think about a car that is used by countless police departments around the country, and by thousands upon thousands of cab drivers, what’s the word that first comes to mind? Is it fancy, classy or fast? Stylish, perhaps? No! It is ‘durable’, ‘reliable’ or ‘work horse’, although that’s two words, it still captures exactly everything about the 1977 Dodge Diplomat. Build on the Chrysler M-chassis, which it shared with the Plymouth Caravelle and the Chrysler LeBaron, this car was known for its incredible reliability. The front-end could easily have been mistaken for something else, but the elongated, stylish rear stood out; the car became an instant classic, of a sorts.
Powered by a variety of different engines, but more famously by the 318 c.i. Chrysler V8, it could reach a respectable 114 mph (183 km/h) and accelerate to sixty miles an hour in an honest 13-14 seconds. The versions of the car sold to police departments benefited from several performance enhancements, notably in the engine, suspension and transmission department.
Interestingly enough for the times, and for this type of car, it was available with a four-speed manual transmission, as well as the more standard three-speed automatic. 1979 Oil Crisis oblige, you could also get this car with a smaller 225 slant-six engine; of course, this seriously hampered performance, but it was cheaper on gas.
The Dodge Diplomat was produced from 1977 to 1989, essentially unchanged except for cosmetics, and a coupe and station wagon briefly made an appearance from ’78 to ’81.