Spotted in Santa Monica, this is Plymouth‘s ironically named Reliant wagon from the 1980s. The Reliant, and its siblings the Dodge Aries and Chrysler LeBaron, which are probably better known in boxy sedan form, were Chrysler’s famous mid-size “K” cars, built after Chrysler Chairman Lee Iacocca obtained a federal government loan for his nearly bankrupt company in 1979. For a while, the K cars sold well, and were somewhat of a fixture on America’s highways. Chrysler came back from the brink of extinction. Then, as the price of gasoline slipped from its then-shocking record high of $ 1.35 per gallon in 1981 (equivalent to about $ 3.17 in inflation-adjusted 2008 dollars), and stayed relatively cheap for the next 20 years or more, Chrysler and the other American auto makers built bigger cars with more powerful engines, and successfully lobbied for lower fuel economy standards (or none at all) for high-profit Sport Utility Vehicles. We all know the rest of that story.
Today, Chrysler and the other American car companies are again on the verge of bankruptcy, and are again seeking a bailout from the federal government. The Reliant pictured here may well last longer than the company that built it.