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A Hooniverse Thanksgiving Turkey: “Help Me!” Cried the Plymouth Prowler

Robby DeGraff November 28, 2013 Hooniverse Thanksgiving Turkey 20 Comments

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I really don’t want to call this the biggest let down in sports car history…but then again I probably do. While you’re all garbling down warm turkey, delicious stuffing and oomphs of pumpkin pie; take a moment to reflect back on the best-looking car from the pre- and post- millenium. The Plymouth Prowler is gorgeous, there’s no arguing in that. Nothing from the 1990s and early 2000s screamed “hot rod” like the Prowler. If you didn’t crank your head every time one passed by, get your eyes checked. Massive back wheels, visible steering and suspension components up front, dual exhaust and a stubby sharp nose flanked by two Angry-bird like headlamps. A tall hood and bold rear fender flares set it off even more. I’d also argue that the interior looked retro too and miles ahead of other Chrysler interiors during the time. I was seven years old when this car was introduced, and I was hooked. It looked terrifyingly fast and fun. The word we’re focusing on folks though, is “looked.”

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Now I don’t want to turn this post into  pessimist rant about the Prowler because as soon as I hit the jackpot, a red one is taking up residence in my garage. The biggest problem with the Prowler was the lack of a promising powertrain. Under the hood was a weak, 214 horsepower (later beefed up to about 253hp) 3.5-liter V-6 that was commonly found in depressing cars like the Dodge Intrepid and Chrysler Concorde. Remember those bloaty plastic-filled disasters? Yes the Prowler had an aluminum chassis, was rear-wheel drive and had an almost perfect 50/50 weight balance; but who wants to use the standard “SlapShift” 4-speed automatic to really get your blood running? No one. From personal experience with this transmission, yeah slapping it to the right while saying “kapowwww” might have been fun, but it took longer to upshift than it will for those gazillion calories you just flooded your stomach with to burn off. Better hit the gym.

How to make this car cool and give it a bit more street cred? Simple. Swap out the grandpa engine and transmission, replace it with a monstrous 6.4-liter HEMI V-8 and a six-speed manual transmission from a new Dodge Challenger. It doesn’t hurt to dream right? Maybe the red wine is catching up to me.

Happy Thanksgiving all. ~Robby

  • craigsu

    According to the Wik of Pedia it was the last Plymouth product made with RWD. I was never a fan, but then, I wasn't 7 years old at the time either.

  • JayP2112

    At least this one has the bumper delete.

  • Van_Sarockin

    The Prowler was made to appeal to the aging white male demographic, who fondly remembered the hot rods of their youth. So, it was supposedly channel some of the spirit of those hopped up specials that started from Model T and other, lowly origins. Few hot rods had any pretensions to being sports cars. Most focused on powerful, modified engines, reducing weight, and creative customizing. Winning anything but a dragstrip or stoplight race wasn't a consideration, much less going around corners or winning some multi lap race. I'd say the Prowler succeeded in being a pleasant, distinctive cruising roadster.

  • ptschett

    Within Chrysler, Prowler functioned as a technology test bed for making a car largely out of aluminum, and as the halo car for the planned reinvention of Plymouth (which was called off around the time of the PT Cruiser launch.) http://www.allpar.com/model/prowler.html

    They didn't have a transaxle that could take V8 torque, thus the LH car's V6 was used. http://www.allpar.com/history/interviews/chris-th

    Re Intrepid/Concorde:
    They weren't bloaty, or disastrous, or depressing by the standards of their era (I'll grant plasticky). Heck, they got onto the C&D 10 Best list, & Consumer Guide gave them positive reviews in their 1993 & 1995 car books.

    • Maymar

      I will gladly second all of this – especially the LH part. They were in many ways proper American sedans (vast interior, great highway manners), but were tastefully handsome, and didn't fall over themselves in a corner. They physically aged incredibly poorly, but they were fantastic cars when they were in good shape.

      • Van_Sarockin

        Thirding. The LH was pretty classy when introduced. Very impressive and comfy. A friend got one, but he stopped talking about it much after a year or so. Like too many ChryCo cars, it was lightly designed and engineered, and longevity wasn't its strong suit.

  • BobWellington

    It's a shame because I feel like we'll never see another car like this from one of the big car companies. No matter what you think about the car it definitely turns heads.

    • dukeisduke

      One of my neighbors has a yellow one, along with a newer Challenger and a Hemi Ram.

      • BobWellington

        Oddly enough my neighbor has one as well – in purple (probably the only interesting car in my small neighborhood). I don't see it being driven much.

  • OA5599

    You forgot the link to the hemi transplant.

    [youtube tFfIho5mCw0 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tFfIho5mCw0 youtube]

    • dukeisduke

      What kind of rear end does that require? A Ford 9"?

  • Maymar

    To be fair, with the upgraded 3.5, the Prowler was, if not scary fast (that was the Viper's job), it was properly quick (1/4 mile times in the 14 second range). And going with the parts bin engine because it worked was reasonably within the hot rod ethos.

    But really, the only thing wrong with the Prowler was misdirected expectations. It was a fantastic looking car, this is generally accepted. And, a lightishweight (2800lbs) convertible with a decent engine and a 50/50 weight distribution? This is not bad either. It's just the Prowler's strengths were slightly different from what its looks suggested.

  • Rover1

    A shame that it's sister car,using the same running gear, the Dodge Copperhead, didn't make production.It would have been a good lower price companion to the Viper. Although that metallic orange did become popular.

  • Rover1
  • Vann Himoura

    The looks certainly IMPLIED that it was a "hot rod". I rented out some garage space to a neighbor who had purchased one for himself as a retirement present. Part of the deal was that my wife and I got to take it to car shows over the weekends as long as we brought it back clean and with a full tank of gas (which was the easy part because of the tiny fuel tank in these things AND the fact that he cared for it about as well as I'd care for my Mom's Hyundai Elantra… "Dirty" doesn't even describe the mess that we had to clean up before we ever got to leave the driveway…). But I digress…

  • Vann Himoura

    PART DEUX… The tops of the doors were far too high to allow "elbow out the window" cruising, the windshield and side glass were laughably short, and driving that thing with the top up made me feel like Kenny from South Park with all the same peripheral vision capabilities. The cowl shook at every bump or set of railroad tracks, and the meagerly powered V-6 was a bit disappointing in the accelleration department. Admittedly it took some stones for Chrysler to agree to manufacture this thing (and to decide NOT to manufacture the Copperhead), but I'll leave it at "Nice try Chrysler! You were SO close!!!"

  • 2fuzy

    I rented one in vegas on a lark and found that this car is criticized for things it does not deserve its meager v6 does quite well and handling is crisp almost on a go cart level lots of fun to drive for a day
    I will never however own one as fitting my 6'3" 280lb frame in the car was an act of defying physics