Monday, June 9, 2014

Daydreams: The Plymouth Prowler

In the first post of our new ongoing series, Daydreams gives us the opportunity to examine cars that struck a cord with us as children, only to discover as adults that they were not all that we imagined. West Brother kicks us off with one of the more imaginative cars from his childhood and shares his thoughts on it now. If you are interested in contributing to the series as a guest, please contact us.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia
As I was driving back home from work one evening, a bright yellow car caught my attention. As it got closer and made its left turn, its shape looked strikingly familiar. The hot-rod like profile, open-wheel race car style front wheels, and soft convertible top seemed to drum up memories from when I was much  younger. It finally dawned on me as I began to drive away: it was a Plymouth Prowler. I had not seen one of these cars in years!

When I was a kid, I did not know much about cars. I always thought they just looked cool. At the time, the Plymouth Prowler was the pinnacle of cool to me, with its outrageous shape and unique styling that drew on the classic American hot rods. The first time I encountered one of these machines, I thought to myself, "man, when I get my driver's license, this is the car I want to drive! I bet I would look so cool in this thing!" As I grew up, and my knowledge of cars began to expand, my interests moved on to other vehicles. It was not until I entered high school and began understanding the inner workings of automobiles, power-to-weight ratios, and other important automotive measurements that I realized the Prowler, despite its cool looks, was a real dog.

Image courtesy of Barrett-Jackson Auctions
Introduced in 1997, the Plymouth Prowler was, in a sense, Chrysler's gift to its engineers, giving them free
reign to design a hot rod or roadster type vehicle. During its first two model years, the Prowler was powered by a 3.5 liter SOHC V6, making a surprisingly wimpy 214 horsepower. The car was revised in 1999 and included a more powerful, aluminum block V6 that made a more respectable 253 horsepower. The only available transmission was a four-speed automatic that was mounted at the rear of the car, and sent power to the rear wheels. Despite the large V6's surprisingly low horsepower rating, it actually made roughly the same horsepower as the Chrysler group's V8s of the same era. The Prowler's mostly aluminum construction meant the car was surprisingly light weight and translated to somewhat respectable performance numbers.

The Prowler was Plymouth's last rear-wheel drive vehicle. After the Plymouth brand was eliminated, the vehicle continued to sell as the Chrysler Prowler until the car's demise in 2002. Less than 12,000 units were sold during its five year production, making it a rare sight on the road today. Though the car worked well as a "halo" car for Plymouth, it was often criticized for its lack of V8 power, as most hot rods are expected to have, and its rough riding suspension. Along with the lack of cargo and passenger space, the Prowler could never amount to anything more than a weekend toy.

Image courtesy of orangeprowler.com
Even though the car had quite a few negatives, I still have fond memories of wanting one. It will probably never happen, but I would love to see a rebirth of the Prowler from Chrysler. Instead of selling in under the Chrysler brand though, I think the car could benefit from the SRT treatment and be sold under the SRT brand along with the new Viper (yes, I realize that the SRT brand is going away). Powered by one of Chrysler's modern Hemi V8s mated to modern transmission options, and with the proper SRT treatment of the suspension and chassis, an all new SRT Prowler could be a big hit. With rear-drive sports cars starting to make a resurgence, Chrysler having one more affordable than a Viper could potentially help with sales and help increase the company's cool factor. After all, another V8-powered sports car never hurts!