Home » The Plymouth Prowler Was Way More Advanced Than You’d Guess

The Plymouth Prowler Was Way More Advanced Than You’d Guess

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It’s easy to dismiss the Plymouth Prowler as lazy boomer bait. Another car in an endless wave of wheeled kitsch that remixed a rose-tinted past for the nostalgia-addicted present. Automotive edge lord hacks will decry it for having the wrong engine and transmission. All of this misses just how bold and influential the Prowler was, and what makes it so interesting. Welcome back to Damn Good Design.

It’s not a galloping shock to regular readers that I’m a massive Mopar fanboy. A love affair first ignited over twenty-five years ago by a snarling, overpowered and under-braked green hell-beast of a car – my 1971 Plymouth Duster 340. Not an ideal daily driver, but petrol was cheap and I was young and stupid. Months of carefully examining the for-sale section of Custom Car magazine had convinced me I had to have a Mopar of some description. Ford and GM muscle cars were too apple pie for me. A Dodge or a Plymouth was the car for someone who went to a loud metal concert and then woke up in a stranger’s bed the next morning with three hangovers. Mopars were just cool.

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

That wasn’t always the case. Chrysler CEO Lee Iacocca was a brilliant salesman who by the early eighties had dragged Chrysler from the brink of bankruptcy back into the black. The K-car and the minivan had been runaway successes and gave Iacocca a lot of freedom to make decisions unopposed at the top of the company.

Lee Iacocca Introduces the Plymouth Voyager in 1984
Lee Iacocca Introduces the Plymouth Voyager in 1984

But by the end of the decade he was losing touch with the market and his desire to make Chrysler more European led to some terrible decisions – the Chrysler TC by Maserati was a monumental blunder on every level. Buying troubled Lamborghini, another company that lurched from crisis to crisis was never going to work, although it would indirectly inspire the LH cars.

Mopar Finds its Design Mojo

1989 Dodge Viper Concept
1989 Dodge Viper Concept

Head of Product Development Bob Lutz had a better idea to improve Chrysler’s image. Working with head of design Tom Gale, Craig Durfee sketched a modern version of the AC Cobra. The maximum amount of engine in the minimum amount of car – what was to become the Dodge Viper. First shown as a concept at Detroit in 1989, Iacocca initially balked at the (relatively paltry) $70 million investment required, but the Viper’s rapturous reception convinced him to approve the car for production as a 1993 model.

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Freed from Iacocca ,who retired in 1992, by the middle of the decade Chrysler was on a roll. The success of the LH cars, Jeep Grand Cherokee, second generation Ram and the Neon was Chrysler finding its design confidence. After the Viper, Tom Gale wanted each of Chrysler’s brands to have a halo car. The Viper had shown Chrysler the time and financial benefits of having a small skunkworks team dedicated to one project, bringing in outside engineering help only when necessary. This approach would be pivotal in getting the Prowler off the ground.

The Prowler is Born

In 1990 a small team led by Tom Tremont at Chrysler’s Pacifica studio in California was given the job of coming up with some off-the-wall ideas for niche, low-volume vehicles. Designer Kevin Verduyn came up with a ‘retro hot-rod style vehicle’. Bob Lutz, then the head of Global Product Development for Chrysler, liked the small thumbnail sketch but thought it needed more attitude. Gale was a fan of hot rods but he was against the idea of a throwback car for the sake of it. Nevertheless, Verduyn’s idea was the clear stand out proposal and it progressed to a full-size model for management to approve a year later.

Kevin Verduyn's Original Prowler Sketch
Kevin Verduyn’s Original Prowler Sketch
Prowler5 1edit
Prowler Fifth Scale Studio Model

If you want proof of how far ahead designers are thinking when they are getting the ideas down on paper, look at that first Prowler sketch. It has a completely glazed passenger compartment and a horseshoe-shaped bumperette in front of the grille. By the time it progressed to a fifth scale model, it gained Syd Mead-esque hub-less wheels. The overall shape is the only hot rod thing about it – the rest is wildly ahead of its time.

None of this overt futurism would make the concept that appeared for the first time at Detroit in 1993. Like the Viper before it, the reception was incredibly enthusiastic. But not for one minute did the attending journalists and public think Plymouth would actually build it. It was just too out there. An OEM hot rod. Had Bobs Eaton and Lutz lost their minds? What the audience didn’t know was that from the beginning it was envisaged if the Prowler made production, it would plunder the deep Mopar parts bin. And secondly, being a halo car Chrysler was prepared for it not to make any money.

Prowler Concept Production

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What’s incredible is how little had to be changed for production. At least, that’s how it appears – in reality the real Prowler you ended up being able to buy from 1997 was about 75 mm (3”) longer and 100 mm (4”) wider than the concept. Visually, the faired-in headlights had to be pulled out from the nose slightly and side marker lamps appeared on the front of the bodyside, but for all intents and purposes, nothing was lost in translation.

Breaking Down the Design

Having wheels outside the bodywork gives you all sorts of packaging headaches, something I learned the hard way when I designed an electric hot rod for my degree graduation project. Essentially you’ve got less body space to squeeze everything in. Because the Prowler has a narrow nose, this pushed the engine way back giving it a big dash-to-axle ratio (measured from the back of the wheel). Having too big a dimension here is a bit of an overrated virtue and can make your design look cartoonish and out of proportion (c.f. Mercedes AMG GT). The Prowler avoids this trap by having the base of the windscreen in front of the halfway point of the car, so it doesn’t end up nose-heavy.

Prowler9 Edit Copy

The packaging problems don’t end there – the Prowler’s wheelbase is a whopping 2895 mm (114”), which is longer than an LH car. Apart from something like a Smart, it’s about as wheel-at-a-corner as it’s possible to get. Again, this is something I see amateurs and students overdoing all the time – shoving the wheels to the corners is a cheat to make your side view sketches look dynamic but as soon as you get to a front or rear three-quarter view it falls apart. And it’s implausible for production. The Prowler solves this problem by having 17” front wheels and 20” rears – keeping them in proportion with the bodyside so it doesn’t look stretched out and helps hide the overhangs, making them look smaller.

The profile has a wicked forward rake – coming from the rear the body follows the shape of the rear wheels and then dive towards the nose. Designers describe this using flowery words like ‘dynamism’ but what it really means is the profile has a feeling of movement even though the car is stationary. There’s just one feature line but look how cleverly it’s also the shut line for the trunk and hood. And the flare at the base of the body neatly becomes the rear wheel arch – it adds substance to the lower body but the way it wraps under stops the car looking heavy; important because at 1270 kg (2800 lbs.) the Prowler is a very light car.

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Prowler10 Edit Copy

Quite often I think that even some of the best designs have one part that’s a bit challenging to look at: the beauty in imperfection. And on the front those federally mandated front quarter bumpers are it. They’re just a little bit too soft and bulbous. It’s only four 13 mm bolts to remove them, but I’m not convinced removing them is an improvement. Without them, the front view looks a bit insubstantial and naked. I generally don’t like the de-bumpered look on any car, so slimming them down a bit and tightening up the radii of the fillets would work better. Keeping the grille body color makes it look modern, and the shape has an almost art deco feel to it, which ties it visually to the Chrysler Atlantic and slightly less successful Phaeton concept cars from around the same time.

Prowler12 Edit Copy

The quarter bumpers are replicated at the rear where, aside from protecting the under-slung exhausts, they allow the rear fenders and bodywork to start much higher than normal – contributing to that raked stance I mentioned earlier. Look how high the rear fender starts in relation to the wheel – it’s way above the axle line. Again, this stops the car from looking soggy and heavy, and exposes a healthy portion of the tire for that proper hot rod look. I love how smoothly the taillights are integrated and the trunk lid is so clean. There’s no visible catch or handle and it has subtle surfacing that is ever so slightly hollowed out before rising again towards the centerline, adding tension and visual interest. The shut line management around the trunk lid is brilliant – it just wraps around the base of the trunk before continuing up the side of the car with no breaks. It’s so simple but visually consistent.

It Wasn’t Just a Pretty Car

You might think I’m contradicting myself praising the Prowler. Aren’t I always ranting against post-modernism and retro redoes? First, chief designer’s prerogative. If I had a heart I’d be allowed to change it on a whim. Harley Earl used to do it all the time. Second, hot rods are an idea. An ethos not tied to a specific car. Anything can be a hot rod – soup it up, lighten it, customize the bodywork. The first hot rods were built from whatever post-war tinkerers could find lying around – the Prowler uses Viper coil-overs, the engine and gearbox from an Eagle Vision, the steering rack from a Dodge Caravan.

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Prowler11

More than just giving Plymouth a halo car, what Chrysler learned from the Prowler project was even more priceless. Despite their mid-nineties success, Chrysler didn’t have R&D money to throw around like Ford and GM. They had to be a much leaner, smarter company. The Prowler was essentially an engineering test bed for using aluminum to build cars, years before anyone else had gotten far with the idea. VP of Procurement Tom Stallkamp led efforts to get suppliers involved much earlier in the design process and leveraged their knowledge and research to pioneer advanced construction techniques, such as adhesive bonding and self-piercing rivets. This way of working would eventually lead Stallkamp and Chrysler to introduce the SCORE (Supplier Cost Reduction Effort) program that would reap huge savings, right up until the disastrous ‘merger of equals’ with Mercedes Benz.

Was the Prowler perfect? No car ever is. There’s always compromises somewhere, even if they’re not immediately visible. Unfortunately for the Prowler they were a little too visible – there was no room for a V8 or any luggage, both a consequence of the tight packaging. The engine being forced rearwards meant having to use a transaxle, which destroyed trunk space.

’32 Fords are iconic, but they are an ergonomic shit show. Plus you’ve got to build the damn thing, an undertaking of considerable time and expense. The Prowler did the dirty work for you. It was a turnkey hot rod with modern conveniences and safety systems you could buy from your local Plymouth dealer. It looked fabulous doing it, and despite some parts bin mechanicals, elsewhere it was extremely advanced under the skin.

As Tom Gale reflected at the time, it’s not a sin to have fun.

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All images courtesy of Stellantis media.

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Col Lingus
Col Lingus
3 months ago

Well shit Adrian. Now l have the want for one of these, after basically forgetting about them for years.
One positive is that they were not commonly modded as the owners tended to be older and less inclined to fuck up a decent design than the kids were.
And down the rabbit hole I go.
Thanks as always dude, you really do some good research, write well, and are a welcome respite from stories detailing all the stupid shit that Torch and DT are famous for.

Lockleaf
Lockleaf
3 months ago

This car was one of the few that were “poster worthy” to me when I was younger. Long before Turo was a thing, I very much tried to rent one of these for my senior prom in high school. Unfortunately, that would have required a serious road trip down to Vegas in order to do so. So yeah that never happened. I always hoped these would become totally undesirable so I could afford one, but they are too expensive for me still.

Drew
Drew
3 months ago

That’s a really cool history. I had no idea how close the concept was to both the initial design and the final product. I’ll never own one, but I appreciate automakers doing something different and taking some risks to make something cool.

Fuzzyweis
Fuzzyweis
3 months ago

I love the pre-recession, pre-crossover days of the late 90s/early 2000s. The fact that the Prowler/Viper/Corvette/NSX/RX-7/SVX all existed at the same time, all for under $60k, is amazing. I’m hoping after the “varying sizes of EV Crossovers and $100k pickups” trend settles down some they’ll use the flexibility of EV packaging some actual artistic freedom will come back again, even if it has the rotary shifter from an EV6 in it and screen with the knob from a Mach-E.

Taco Shackleford
Taco Shackleford
3 months ago

In the Philadelphia area there are no less than 5 Prowlers still used as promotional material for one of the local dodge dealers (not the Dodge dealer that fell asleep during a 76ers playoff game). Whenever I’m driving on 23 or Ridge Pike I get a chance to see one, which brightens up my day almost every time.

StillNotATony
StillNotATony
3 months ago

(Takes deep breath)

I have always liked the Prowler.

I also liked the PT Cruiser.

And the Chevy HHR and SSR.

The last T-bird, too.

But that’s just me.

AssMatt
AssMatt
3 months ago
Reply to  StillNotATony

I may mis-remember the dates, but I always think of the Thunderbird as the front runner of the whole retro thing (new Beetle not included since they hadn’t really stopped), and I thought they did a bang-up job, while the rest–especially the beefy Charger when it first came (back) out–were too cartoony, right up until (but not including) the Challenger (which was immediately awesome upon returning).

Ranwhenparked
Ranwhenparked
3 months ago
Reply to  AssMatt

I thought the Thunderbird did a good job of recapturing what it was supposed to have been in the first place- basically, a “grown-up’s sports car”, an open two seater with decent, but not neck-snapping performance, that was comfortable and plush enough to use as an everyday commuter and not too crazy looking to raise eyebrows at the country club.

I think it was mostly let down by the chintzy interior and by the MSRP being higher than it should have been, and by dealers tacking on more on top of it.

Also, the Thunderbird hadn’t been a two seater in a very, very long time, and it may have been that whatever customer base it still had just still wanted 4 seats (actually, it had sprouted back seats in the first place to boost sales, it never quite met expectations as a 2 seater to begin with), and taking like 5 years off where the nameplate was absent from the marketplace wasn’t a great idea, either, it broke continuity and undoubtedly sent prospects elsewhere. Someone who traded in their old Thunderbird on another car in 2000 or 2001 wasn’t going to necessarily be back in the market in 2002 or 2003.

Ranwhenparked
Ranwhenparked
3 months ago
Reply to  Adrian Clarke

I remember the “making of” special Ford did for the History Channel on the new Thunderbird, apparently they did solicit alternate concepts from each of their international studios – they only showed quick clips of some of the other ideas, and the narrative was that they all weren’t “Thunderbird” enough, so they ended up going with the original American team proposal. But, some of the alternate ideas were much more contemporary, they all had obvious T-Bird styling cues, but most of them weren’t as overtly retro, kind of wonder if one of them would have produced better results.

However, I do think it was a case where the styling, polarizing as it may have been, was not really the main issue with the car

JDE
JDE
3 months ago
Reply to  StillNotATony

I think they were all appropriate for that turn of the century nostalgia styling kick. The T-Bird was extremely attractive, but did not really survive the long haul longevity mark, the prowler however seems to come and go on popularity still to this day. I also felt it deserved a big V* rather than the 3.5, but to be honest That motor was pretty reliable and made better power for the time. Had they made the 5.7 Hemi and not shoehorned on in in time before the Plymouth demise, I would be more disappointed

Jdoubledub
Jdoubledub
3 months ago
Reply to  StillNotATony

I’m a hot hatch fan, but I’ve always had a soft spot for the last T-Bird with dreams of supercharging. Adding rear fender skirts really improves the look of that car.

Cerberus
Cerberus
3 months ago
Reply to  StillNotATony

I was hoping the PT Cruiser would have been the start of something interesting where each subsequent generation moved the retro style ahead to the next decade. Might have been kind of fun.

StillNotATony
StillNotATony
3 months ago
Reply to  Cerberus

Y’know what? It might have been.

Harvey Park
Harvey Park
3 months ago
Reply to  StillNotATony

Nah those are cool.

Toecutter
Toecutter
3 months ago

I’d have made it look more like a bellytank salt flats racer. It would be a production version of the form given to us by the 2003 GM Ecotec Lakester, but instead of seating for one it would be with a tandem 2-seat arrangement to retain the same characteristic small frontal area. Added would be wheel fairings like those found on the Edison VLC2 to reduce the massive drag that would come from the outboard wheels. Don’t compromise the aero for aesthetics, but build it around the Viper V10 mid-rear mounted and get 30+ mpg highway with that engine thanks to the slipperiness. Have less expensive V8, V6, and L4 options that would offer significantly more efficiency. It would retain roughly the same mass as the Prowler we got, around 2,500-2,800 lbs or so.

Last edited 3 months ago by Toecutter
Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
3 months ago

I think the Prowler looks like a water strider on wheels. That’s a purely subjective observation, which has nothing to do with its admitted technical sophistication. I do not bemoan the lack of a V8, but I would prefer a manual trans. Again, just personal preferences, but it’s those things that would keep me from buying a Prowler. Well, that and no money.

Goof
Goof
3 months ago

Prowler was a legit, “Holy shit, they’re actually building it” moment. How have the times since changed. There’s far fewer crazy risks nowadays, never mind at prices that mortal could actually afford to purchase.

Ranwhenparked
Ranwhenparked
3 months ago
Reply to  Goof

Chrysler did used to have a good track record for that “holy crap, they’re really doing it” stuff, until they just decided to stop launching new products entirely

Automotiveflux
Automotiveflux
3 months ago

One of the good things about these is that they have remained (relatively) affordable for a unique sports car. Not sure how much longer that will last though

Cerberus
Cerberus
3 months ago

Glad you mentioned the chassis, which was absolutely brilliant. People only focused on the “no V8” and “no manual” or what they felt was a design aimed cynically at cash-rich Boomers, but even for those who liked it, the forward-thinking chassis (especially for a company like Chrysler instead of Lotus) was usually ignored. Even the suspension was really well conceived. I had planned on using the A-arms for one of my own open wheeled designs because they’re aluminum, aero-profiled, and really damn cool (also, unsurprisingly expensive).

RootWyrm
RootWyrm
3 months ago

Adrian, point of order. The Prowler doesn’t use the Eagle Vision’s engine. (Which was the EGA 3.3 by default, optional 3.5 EGE.) See, the 2.7/3.3/3.5 had a common block and heads, but something like 13 calibrations.

First generation Prowlers (1997) use the 3.5 cast iron EGE with a distinct calibration good for around 220-225HP. They built less than 500 of these, in fact.
Nearly all Prowlers are second generation (1999+) which packs the 3.5 EGG, which was by far and away the most advanced V6 you could buy in terms of manufacturing at the time. It was the only all alloy mass production V6 on the market. And with 253HP (later software tweaked to 255HP,) made the Prowler proper quick even with the 42LE – 5.9 on the 0-60 sprint. The 300M Special needed a full second longer with the same drivetrain. Even the BMW M3 was only a bit quicker at 5.2.

As to the design aspects, honestly, I always thought the Prowler just needed the front bumpers to be thinner and a bit lower (an inch or so thinner on the vertical, with top of them about where the centerline is as delivered.) Changing up the bulbousness just rubbed me the wrong way, because I always felt that was the element that most definitively tied it to the era it actually lived in.

Rust Buckets
Rust Buckets
3 months ago
Reply to  RootWyrm

Only all aluminum v6? Wasn’t the all aluminum Honda J series out by then?

RootWyrm
RootWyrm
3 months ago
Reply to  Rust Buckets

It’s complicated, but the short answer is: nope. Not even close.

The J-series launched in 1996 in fairly low quantities. The first all-alloy 3.5L V6 from Chrysler was launched in 1993, and they shoved it into literally everything they possibly could.

Nsane In The MembraNe
Nsane In The MembraNe
3 months ago

I have rose colored glasses for the Prowler because it’s one of those cars that really captivated me as a kid. I remember seeing one up close at an auto show in the early 2000s and just being dumbfounded by it. I just had no idea that cars could look like…well, this!

I too share a certain disdain for a lot of the postmodernist/retro designs of the late 90s/early 2000s, but mainly because, like seemingly everything, once American manufacturers got a hold of the idea they turned it into watered down, cheap, mass market misery. I’m not here for the PT Cruiser redemption arc that’s gaining steam these days. The Chevy HHR is one of the laziest cars ever made. I think the pre-refresh S197 Mustang and the 5th gen Camaro are aging pretty poorly…and I have a very ironic love/hate (mostly hate) relationship with the early 2000s Ford Thunderbird. What a hilariously inept and half baked car that was.

That being said, there are some examples of it done right and the Prowler is one of them. It looked amazing then. It looks amazing now. The proportions and body lines are very well executed…and it somehow looks both modern and old school simultaneously. That’s hard to pull off, as most of these designs wind up earning the dreaded Boomer Bait label, and for good reason.

I hate that the enthusiast community shat on Prowlers for so long and I always push back against this idea that muscle cars HAVE to have a V8 and a manual. It just gets silly and pedantic to me after a while. I have no idea why and how enthusiasts have managed to retcon the manual transmission as essential to the American muscle car experience.

It never has been. Most famous muscle cars were sold with an automatic option or even only offered an automatic and anyone who’s spent a day at the drag strip knows that very few people run manuals. I think there’s slightly more of a case to be made for a V8, and I love a V8 as much as anyone, but the V6 in the 99-02 Prowlers was more than adequate…not to mention V8s have never been mandatory. All the pony cars had other engine options and no one is going to tell you that the Grand National or Mustang SVO are invalid.

The later Prowlers hit 60 in under 6 seconds, and the mission of this car was never times or maximum engagement…it was always meant to be a stylish and entertaining cruiser. It fulfills its mission perfectly, and who cares about trunk space when you could buy the trailer to go with it? So freaking cool.

Anyway, we should all accept the Prowler on its own terms and stop trying to make it into something it was never intended to be. It’s okay that it’s just a stylish GT. That was the point. If you refuse to consider anything without a stick or certain number of cylinders valid then go buy a pony car.

Last edited 3 months ago by Nsane In The MembraNe
Col Lingus
Col Lingus
3 months ago

Well said.

SlowCarFast
SlowCarFast
3 months ago
Reply to  Adrian Clarke

Remember, the article says it was a halo car that lost money on every sale. Keeping that in the lineup isn’t great for the long term. It is a fun car to see on the road even today.

Pappa P
Pappa P
3 months ago
Reply to  Adrian Clarke

I guess I’m one of those edgelord kids.
I worked on tooling for the prowler, specifically the convertible rear window frame, so that shape is burned into my memory.
I hated it for what I thought was an overly compromised profile and styling, and a complete lack of substance, seeing as how it was essentially a tall Neon in a frumpy costume. They were the malaise wannabe retro hot rod. I felt that the HHR pulled off the aesthetic much more convincingly.
I think the fact that boomers lost their mind over it added to my disdain. As you said, they sold and sold. I love boomers, but I definitely couldn’t see what they saw in this.

Citrus
Citrus
3 months ago
Reply to  Pappa P

I’ve actually never really got the backlash for the normal PT Cruiser – it’s a really practical, quite interesting little car.

However, you reminded me of the PT Cruiser convertible and, as a man who is both quite tall and put groceries in the back of cars when it was somewhat popular, I have an intense loathing of that version. The trunk lid opened up, but not FAR ENOUGH up, so if you’re loading in the back of that thing you have to duck down to actually put stuff in it, all the while avoiding the pointy corner that has it out for the top of your head. The opening itself is basically a mail slot too.

I am impressed that Chrysler took one of their most practical cars and made the trunk nearly unusable.

Pappa P
Pappa P
3 months ago
Reply to  Pappa P

Sorry I meant to say I worked on the PT not the Prowler

Harvey Park
Harvey Park
3 months ago
Reply to  Adrian Clarke

Why are we supposed to hate the PT Cruiser, again? It was cool. They tried something.

Rust Buckets
Rust Buckets
3 months ago

The whole manual transmission thing is because although they sold muscle cars with autos, and few drag racers run manuals now, until the 80s automatics were considered a joke when it came to performance and drag racing. Manual transmissions really were a fundamental part of the hot rod and muscle car formula.

V10omous
V10omous
3 months ago
  1. I agree with your Prowler takes.
  2. This has nothing to do with the Prowler, but since I know you keep tabs on it, a dealer in Michigan is advertising on FB $3K rebates on CT4 Blackwings, both manual and auto, multiple units in stock. Just fyi 🙂
Nsane In The MembraNe
Nsane In The MembraNe
3 months ago
Reply to  V10omous

Thank you my friend! I’ve been seeing discounts too, they’re out there. For god knows what reason they don’t seem to be selling all that well. And you know what? I’d even suck up city driving a stick for one. You and many others have made me Tremecpilled

V10omous
V10omous
3 months ago

The market is really shrinking for a lot of these discretionary purchases it seems.

A few months ago, Z06s commanded $75-100K over sticker, today a BaT auction closed on a brand new well-optioned example at $4K over, and local dealers are seeing their cars with $25-30K markups sit and sit.

Anyone still trying to get a markup on a 5BW, even manual, is delusional at this point.

It’s getting tough out there for flippers, brokers, and greedy dealers. *plays tiny violin*

Paul B
Paul B
3 months ago

For the front bumpers I would:

  • not as tall as you mentioned.
  • make the shape inboard to outboard taper from small to large and be a similar shape as the main body looking down on the car.
  • slide the lights out more
  • lose the plastic cladding over the triangular support structure (ideally a tubular look to match the suspension arms)
  • paint to match the body work or a black chrome/dark nickel plating. There’s very little bright work on the car, so chrome is out.
Harvey Park
Harvey Park
3 months ago
Reply to  Adrian Clarke

Can we have you, Torch, and Bishop each draw that description and see what comes out?

Chris Stevenson
Chris Stevenson
3 months ago

I never liked the production model’s bulbous headlights. I wish they’d kept the original look and have them pop out, like a Porsche 928 turned on its side.

Cerberus
Cerberus
3 months ago

I thought more rotational, like an Opel GT.

Ben
Ben
3 months ago

The best part about these is that if I ever find myself with excess garage space they are attainable enough (at least for now) to be a realistic option to fill that space. My Corvette is my attainable forever fun car, but if I’m ever in the market for something else these will definitely be high on the list.

Arch Duke Maxyenko
Arch Duke Maxyenko
3 months ago

The only other engine it should have used was the 4G63T, and a manual transaxle. Then they would have had an amazing Miata/Boxter/SLK competitor.

Goof
Goof
3 months ago

Screw it. Go fully crazy with the actual 4G63. Won’t crankwalk like the Ts did.

I had an Evolution VIII MR. I cannot think of any modern mass-market turbocharged car after the Evolution IX that felt as boosted as those did at the time.

Porsche GT2s aside. Granted, GT2s sure as hell aren’t mass market.

Last edited 3 months ago by Goof
Arch Duke Maxyenko
Arch Duke Maxyenko
3 months ago
Reply to  Goof

I was just thinking what would have been available to Chrysler in 1997

Goof
Goof
3 months ago

It was available, it just would’ve been a ton more effort at the time.

In that alternate timeline the US might’ve got Evos earlier as well if Chrysler was willing to eat the homologation costs. Not to mention, the Prowler today would be coveted instead of a curiosity.

Last edited 3 months ago by Goof
Harmon20
Harmon20
3 months ago

I have been gaslit, and I know it, and have been powerless to do anything about it.

I loved the Prowler when it came out. It was nostalgia done right. I still think that. I want to love it. But I’ve been steeped in the decades of automotive journalism and car culture that I respect and constantly learn from crapping on it seemingly at every opportunity and it has taken a toll on my psyche. I want to love it but can’t quite, and that ticks me right off.

Jim Stock
Jim Stock
3 months ago

Sadly another victim of perception being more important than reality. The bad press around the v6 vs v8 unnecessarily hurt the car.

Cerberus
Cerberus
3 months ago
Reply to  Jim Stock

I think I saw a comparison someone did comparing the V8 Chrysler had at the time to the V6 in the Prowler and it would have been slower with the V8 as the power was about the same and it weighed more.

World24
World24
3 months ago
Reply to  Cerberus

I always do the comparison whenever people complain about the Prowler never having a V8.
Drive’s me wild, honestly.

Col Lingus
Col Lingus
3 months ago
Reply to  World24

Plus there lots of ways to wake that V6 up if more power is what makes your world spin.

Marathag
Marathag
3 months ago
Reply to  World24

The one thing V8 always does better than a V6

Exhaust Note.
Just sounds better with an low restriction exhaust system.
That, and the ‘Hemi’ mystique left behind
Hot Rods are about sounding like a Hot Rod, and old school tech to brag about.

World24
World24
3 months ago
Reply to  Marathag

Muscle cars are all about their V8’s too. Just ask Buick in the 1980’s.
Oh wait.

Marathag
Marathag
3 months ago
Reply to  World24

The Turbo GN were great on the street and the drag strip.
They didn’t sound great.
and the 3.8 is one of the better sounding V6

Rust Buckets
Rust Buckets
3 months ago
Reply to  Cerberus

Well the v8 Chrysler had at the time was a pickup spec Magnum with single point injection. There was another 100 emissions friendly, factory-warranty-reliable horsepower left in that engine, and Chrysler could have done it.

Pappa P
Pappa P
3 months ago
Reply to  Rust Buckets

People don’t seem to realize that the Viper was powered by a 2 valve, pushrod, low revving truck engine.

World24
World24
3 months ago
Reply to  Pappa P

The truck engine thing is a misconception. While it’s based on the LA 360 that was used in trucks during that time, it’s not much of a truck motor. It debuted in 1971 in cars like the Newport, Monaco, Polara, among vans and also trucks.
It was produced around the time the Magnum engine program was still being engineered, itself having a similar displacement V10. However, they share nothing alike.

Pappa P
Pappa P
3 months ago
Reply to  World24

I consider it a truck engine because it’s based directly on a truck engine, has pushrods and 2 valves per cylinder and an iron block like a truck engine, produces low revs and made 50hp/liter like a lazy-ass truck engine.
All Ford GTs have truck engines as well.
I realize the spec is different, but I guess the point is that there is a supercar engine buried deep in the heart of many truck engines.

World24
World24
3 months ago
Reply to  Pappa P

I’ll definitely give you the GT’s just having truck engines. That’s obvious.
But what truck engine do you think the Viper V10 is based on?

Pappa P
Pappa P
3 months ago
Reply to  World24

I suppose more accurately, like the Ford GT, the Viper’s engine shares DNA with a truck engine.
I’m not going to tell you which one.

World24
World24
3 months ago
Reply to  Pappa P

Well, I’m game to guess. Like the LA 360 it’s based on, which debuted in cars along with trucks, in 1971. And how it’s just a larger 340, itself never in a truck, based on the 318 that saw use in trucks, but was based of the 273, which never did.
We could think Magnum, but besides the fact it’d share more than some nuts and bolts that it currently does with the Magnum V10, but it doesn’t. Obviously doesn’t share with the much later released 4.7, which would leave the AMC 360 as the only other V8 it could be based on: itself debuted in both cars and trucks the same year like the LA 318 and LA 360.
So, my bet would be the LA 360.

Pappa P
Pappa P
3 months ago
Reply to  World24

Your wrong, need to brush up on your Dodge engine knowledge I guess.

World24
World24
3 months ago
Reply to  Pappa P

Like I said, I’m game to guess. I’m not trying to “gatekeep” information about an engine like you are, apparently. Must be this secret where if you let it out, Chrysler Corporation will send a hitman to come and get ya!

Pappa P
Pappa P
3 months ago
Reply to  World24

You’re being weird

World24
World24
3 months ago
Reply to  Pappa P

What do I look like, Mr. Regular?

Pappa P
Pappa P
3 months ago
Reply to  World24

Lol

TOSSABL
TOSSABL
3 months ago

The first time I saw one in person, my visceral reaction was negative because those bumpers reminded me of a Naked Mole Rat’s paws. Like, they extend them forward, ‘palms’ facing away from each other, then pull them apart and scoop dirt back along each side of their body. Weird, I know, but I’ve never quite been able to get over that.

Glad they pushed the envelope building it, though.

Cerberus
Cerberus
3 months ago
Reply to  TOSSABL

I think that’s more like a regular mole. The naked mole rat looks like a rat with severe mange.

TOSSABL
TOSSABL
3 months ago
Reply to  Cerberus

I had probably just seen a documentary on the naked ones

Cerberus
Cerberus
3 months ago
Reply to  TOSSABL

Those little things are pretty fascinating with how they barely age.

Ranwhenparked
Ranwhenparked
3 months ago

Also, the only V8 Chrysler had at the time was the PowerTech/Magnum, which was more of a truck engine and would have been too heavy and underpowered for this sort of application anyway, the V6 they used was really the best engine they had available for the job, and was arguably the most modern engine in Chrysler’s lineup, which fitted with the high tech ethos of much of the rest of the car. The only people pissed about it are people who put an irrational value in arbitrary cylinder counts, and people who think designing an all-new bespoke V8 was somehow a practical idea.

Incidentally, the Prowler was supposed to have been the design leader for the entire Plymouth brand – Chrysler was finally ready to deal with the issue of Dodge and Plymouth having become way too alike and stepping on each other’s turf, so the plan was to differentiate Plymouth through styling. The whole range was to transition to a retro 1930s/1940s Art Deco/Art Moderne look by the mid 2000s, with the Prowler leading the way, and the PT Cruiser as the next in line. But, the new Daimler management decided to just kill the brand entirely, so the PT launched as a Chrysler and the Prowler also adopted that badge for the last couple years of production

Squirrelmaster
Squirrelmaster
3 months ago

A former neighbor had a Prowler, and I was always impressed with how well it aged. The V6 wasn’t a terrible performer, but it didn’t sound very good, which is important in a car styled like it should look, sound, and perform well. I think if they could have made the V6 sound a bit better they may have had a bit more success with it.

Also, I am normally against wheels with soft, curvy lines, but the Prowler wheels I have always loved.

Last Pants
Last Pants
3 months ago
Reply to  Squirrelmaster

I can’t think of a v6 that does sound good though. Is this just me?

Marc Fuhrman
Marc Fuhrman
3 months ago
Reply to  Last Pants

There are a few great sounding V6s, most of them seem to be Italian though. Like Alfa’s Busso V6 or Ferrari Dino V6 have awesome sounds.

Squirrelmaster
Squirrelmaster
3 months ago
Reply to  Marc Fuhrman

Bingo. Some sound terrible no matter what, like the Pentastar, some generally sound bad, like the VQ, some can sound reasonably decent if done right, like the VW VR6, and then some can sound downright great, like the Busso.

Squirrelmaster
Squirrelmaster
3 months ago
Reply to  Adrian Clarke

That just reminded me of another engine that always sounds bad – the 2.8L GM “High Feature” V6 found in the first gen Caddy CTS. There’s one in my neighborhood running straight-piped and it sounds awful. Actually, now that I’ve typed that out, I’m not sure any of the “High Feature” V6s ever sound good, with exception to maybe the turbo versions.

Brian Laczko
Brian Laczko
3 months ago
Reply to  Last Pants

The Taurus SHO V6 sounded good to me at the time, but I was in my 20’s so that may have had something to do with it…

Pappa P
Pappa P
3 months ago
Reply to  Last Pants

I guess you’ve never heard a toyota sienna at full chat

Bruce H
Bruce H
3 months ago

Wasn’t the problem with the Prowler was that it was a car that looked like a hot rod but wasn’t actually a hot rod?

10MM Socket
10MM Socket
3 months ago

No mention of the Chip Foose Hemisfear? I’d like to know if it was Foose who originally designed the car and Mopar just stole borrowed the concept.

10MM Socket
10MM Socket
3 months ago
Reply to  Adrian Clarke

As you are a journalist, I would love to see you get to the real truth of the story. Here is what the chipfoose.com website says about Chip’s involvement:

Hemisfear is the culmination of a 16 year personal dream for Chip. In 1990, during his senior year at the prestigious Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California, Chip and his classmates were presented with a Chrysler-sponsored graduation project. They were to design a vehicle for a niche market. Chip took a bit of a spin on the concept, he didn’t want to design for an existing market, he wanted to create a new one.

With its unique flair, Chip’s 1:5 scale model of the Hemisfear gained significant recognition and was even featured in an issue of HOT ROD magazine. It also became the inspiration for the Plymouth Prowler, as careful study of the two will show many design similarities. OEM’s had now recognized the need to fulfill this “hot-rod” niche market as vehicles like the PT Cruiser, Chevrolet SSR and Chevrolet HHR were made available to consumers.

https://www.chipfoose.com/hemisfear/

Last edited 3 months ago by 10MM Socket
Cerberus
Cerberus
3 months ago
Reply to  10MM Socket

If there’s one thing Chip Foose is amazing at, it’s selling himself.

Bizness Comma Nunya
Bizness Comma Nunya
3 months ago

The biggest problem to me with the Prowler has always been the lack of a V8.

Yes, I know, the V6’s weren’t weak. In fact MOPAR had some impressively powerful V6’s in the 90s. It just didn’t seem “right” at the time. Keep in mind, this was the late 1990s. They didn’t even need the V8 to make an ounce more power than the V6’s, they just needed to sound the part!

Ideally, they should have squeezed the 5.9 engine from the 5.9L ZJ Grand Cherokee in the Prowler. 4.7 would have been ok as well.. but that engine wasn’t ready for a couple more years, and 4.7’s are not nearly as durable as the 5.2/5.9 engines.

Besides the lack of a V8… I still am impressed that any automaker was able to produce this vehicle for sale to the public, from a design perspective. I thought it looked really cool when it first came out, and I think the design is aging very well compared to other late 1990s/early 00s retro throwbacks.

Jack Trade
Jack Trade
3 months ago
Reply to  Adrian Clarke

A manual might really have helped too I bet.

Nobody is buying a car like this to commute to the office in traffic everyday, and with a manual, you could hold the gears longer to impart a little more dramatic V8 drag racer feel as the rpms climbed maybe. The experience might match the looks a big closer.

Last edited 3 months ago by Jack Trade
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