Remember the Plymouth Prowler? We Look Back on the Unlikeliest Car of the ’90s
If GM and Ford’s public holidays were the 1950s and 1960s, then Chrysler, the late blooming perennial, had its in the 1990s. After a decade of making no-interest K cars, Chrysler began to produce a design design after design. Between the Dodge Viper at the start of the decade and the Chrysler PT Cruiser (you laugh, but Chrysler sold more than a million in 10 years of their production), at the end of it, the Chrysler of the years 1990 was a design power. In the middle of the decade, Chrysler produced what is probably one of the strangest and most interesting cars of the 90s: the hot rod of the Plymouth Prowler factory (and later Chrysler Prowler).
Like Tom Gale, the man who wrote the Dodge Viper and the Prowler (among others) told us, “The [’90s were] a wonderful time… as a guy [at Chrysler] in the design, you had the wind in your back. “
The Prowler was the proof. Designed to lead the unfortunate renaissance of Plymouth as a youth brand for Chrysler, the Prowler is unlike any car before or since. Its chopped and relaxed shape pays homage to the 32 Ford hot rods that gained popularity in the 1950s. And if its high beltline, inclined windshield and optional travel trailer did not catch your attention , its open front fender wheels, protected by two small bumpers, would certainly do so.
Despite its exterior styling, the Prowler has shared about 40% of its parts with other Chrysler products. Its 3.5-liter V6, which produced only 214 horsepower and 221 lb-ft of torque when the Prowler launched in 1997, was borrowed from Chrysler’s LH front-wheel-drive sedans (such as the Dodge Intrepid and Eagle Vision) and turned longitudinally. Ditto for the Prowler’s four-speed automatic, which was mounted on the rear axle of the Plymouth and connected to the engine via an open drive shaft. The Prowler’s rack-and-pinion steering rack came from Chrysler Town & Country, Dodge Caravan and Plymouth Voyager, and its coil spring suspension was borrowed from the Viper.
Even more interesting is the 60% of Prowler that was not shared with the rest of the Chrysler range. As we noted in our first test of 1996 of the Prowler prototype, its perimeter frame is an extruded aluminum tube 6061 bent in shape around mandrels. The main body tank is made of aluminum sheet held together with self-piercing rivets and industrial adhesives. The suspension control arms were manufactured using a hybrid die casting / forging operation known as semi-solid metal formation (SSM). The rear brake discs were also made of aluminum. In addition to serving as an aluminum test bench for Chrysler, the Prowler also helped the company test its new way of organizing engineers, designers and product planners on a new vehicle project.
Despite its electric fabric roof, rather dull powertrain and 45/55% front / rear weight distribution, the extensive use of aluminum in the construction of the Prowler helped the Plymouth perform respectably for the era on our test track. When the Prowler hit the streets, we immediately compared it to its competitive package – in this case, a 1932 Ford “Highboy” Roadster and a 1933 Ford Roadster built by Boyd Coddington and powered by Corvette.
“With a brief beep from its wide, flat rear tires and a sharp mew from its hoses, the Prowler jostles at 60 mph in 7.1 seconds and across the quarter mile in 15.3 seconds at 88.2 mph”, we wrote. “Top speed is limited to 115 mph. Gear changes on the red line at 6,500 rpm are a breeze with the help of the AutoStick standing on the center console. While the Prowler couldn’t match the time slip with the 5.0-second sprint undulating on the ground of the Corvette-quick Boydmobile at 60mph, it let the classic-designed 32 highboy scramble to follow at 7, 8 seconds.
“Unfortunately, the Prowler’s legs do not fully compensate for its lack of convincing voice. The metallic rap of eight cylinders filling two pipes with a syncopated rhythm is so deeply anchored in the soul of the American hot rod that some enthusiasts will avoid the cool cat of Chrysler just because it doesn’t have the right rumble. “
Plymouth tackled the Prowler’s “legs” but not its voice for the 1999 model year, equipping the Prowler with a new 3.5-liter aluminum block V6 developing 253 hp and 255 lb-ft of torque, improving the 0 to 60 of the car. mph at 5.7 seconds and quarter mile at 14.3 seconds at 95.4 mph. Those hoping for more power or a V-8 should go to the aftermarket for this because at the end of the 2000 model year, the Plymouth brand was gone.
But that was not all for the Prowler; she, the Voyager and the PT Cruiser – the latter was supposed to be the second model aimed at young people in the Plymouth range – switched to the Chrysler brand, which is now part of the much larger DaimlerChrysler company. The Prowler would continue to operate for two more model years, but unlike the orphaned PT Cruiser, it never really matched the make. The Chrysler Prowler was abandoned in late 2002 and replaced by the Chrysler Crossfire, marking the end of an era for the company.
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