An 80s Ride: The K-Car

#growingupinthe80s #susanstrasser #amwriting #susanstrasserblog

What were your family cars growing up? The year we left our old Suburban for a Chrysler was huge!

In Spring of 1985, Dad bought a Plymouth Reliant K-Car, as the model was called. It was an extremely modern upgrade from our family’s ’71 Suburban. Dad had sold the Chevrolet in the Spring, and boy was our driveway and street in front of our house looking sharp! Now, we had a brilliant, brand new navy blue K-car in our driveway, and our pretty-new, burgundy 1983 Ford Escort out front, too!

The K-Car had light blue, dual parallel pinstripes lining the side and I remember thinking this was so sporty! It had a trunk, which was novel because the Suburban had a partial, wide open truck bed. And it was unlike the Escort, with the hatchback that was a “sometime” trunk.

Dad was very proud of his new purchase. He would’ve preferred a Chevy- something, but I think Plymouth was the closest and best that he could do to stay true to an American made car. He’d read about Lee Iacocca and idolized him as a classic, pull-himself-up-by-his-bootstraps kinda American guy. Professionally, Iacocca salvaged Chrysler from bankruptcy in the 1980s with the K Car models, too.

Research about the 1980s and iconic business leaders such as Lee Iacocca led me to read his biography, Iacocca: an Autobiography. If you’re business-minded or into cars, you might enjoy this read, especially the many chapters about Iacocca’s decades-work with Ford and the Mustang. I enjoyed it for his life lessons or philosophies. I remember a copy of the book sitting around the house when I was growing up.

Iacocca was a Pennsylvania boy like Dad and the rags-to-riches motif resonated with him. Buying a new car from such a man and his company in the 1980s, a decade rife with tycoons both real — Ted Turner— and fake— J.R. Ewing, but who also espoused the American Dream was part of what Chrysler was selling with Iacocca. And that dream also broke down to the simple fact that we, middle class Strassers, could now afford multiple cars with air conditioning, or “AC” as we began calling it. Central air or central air conditioning had been installed in our house, too, lately, so in the words of that famous ‘80s sitcom The Jeffersons, “we’re moving on up!”

Dad had bought the K-Car specifically for our summer vacation. At the end of June we planned to drive from Lanham, MD, to see his friend, his old Air Force buddy, Melvin C. and his family in Grand Prairie, Texas. We might as well have been going to the moon! WOW!


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