Nobody has ever dared before: a hot bar series! And the craziest thing is that Chrysler hardly cared whether it was going to sell or not.
The Prowler had other goals to fulfill.
In the early 1990s, Chrysler was again in a bad state. Its president, Lee Iacocca, was stubborn in the monoculture of K-Cars. Fortunately, the launch of the LH cabin sedans in 1992 (for the 1993 model year) went well and ushered in an era of prosperity for the company. But we still have to dust off the brand image. For this, Chrysler can rely on a team of designers, led by Tom Gale, who are ready to design the most recent concepts.
The presentation of the Viper in 1989 as a concept and then in 1992 as a production vehicle did Dodge very well. Wouldn’t it be possible to do the same for Plymouth, then already brain dead?
The Prowler story begins in the spring of 1990, at the Pacifica Studio in California. The designers are looking for new ideas for prototypes and one of them exclaims: “Why not a hot bar? The proposal is appealing, especially since Tom Gale is building a hot bar Ford 1933 about the same time.
It was the sketches of Kevin Verduyn, who would produce many concepts for Chrysler from 1987 to 2008, that caught the eye of Bob Lutz, then vice president responsible for development, during a visit to Pacifica in the fall of 1990. Pacifica owned the vehicle design. until his presentation at the Detroit Motor Show in 1993.
There is an alternative history. At this time, Chip “Overhaulin ‘” Foose was completing his thesis the Art Center College of Design in a project sponsored by Chrysler. He creates a concept called Hemisphere. Foose claims that his design produced the Prowler. In fact, the final design is relatively close to its own warm bar de Gale and the latter clearly give credit to Verduyn in an interview with Wall Street Journal.
The story stutters
Four years after the Viper, Chrysler is again the star of the Detroit Auto Show. The purple V6 coupe makes heads turn. Everyone wants one.
As crazy as it sounded at the time, Bob Lutz launched a study to determine the feasibility of production. In the spring of 1993, the green light was given. Craig Love is hired as project manager and a $ 90 million budget is released.
According to Lutz’s logic, the company spends hundreds of millions on forgotten-as-seen ads. You might as well just market a vehicle that will get people talking. And then the Prowler has another goal: to serve as a test bed for new production technologies with aluminum, a material that reduces the weight of vehicles but with which Chrysler has little experience.
If the lines of the concept are relatively retained (the most obvious differences are at the level of the headlights, the trunk and the wings) at the transition to the range, the final model is longer by 3 inches and wider by 4 inches .
The chassis is aluminum, as are the body panels. To still reduce the weight, the structure that supports the dashboard is made of magnesium.
To reduce costs as much as possible, the engineers pull a lot on the Chrysler’s component bank (40% of the Prowler’s components). The 3.5-liter V6 (214 horsepower and 221 lb-feet of torque) comes from the LHs. This engine was chosen to reduce the number of kilos on the scale (the Prowler weighs only 1,350 kilos). At this point, the company does not yet have its modern Hemi and the cast iron V8s it has would have severely changed the weight distribution (45% front and 55% rear). Today we know that a V8 returns to the shoehorn, conversions are not lacking.
The 4-speed automatic gearbox is also taken out of the left hands. It is placed in the rear axle, again to favor weight distribution. The latter offers the “Autostick” function that enables gearshift by hand and thus partially makes up for the absence of a manual gearbox. The steering wheel comes from the group’s minibuses and the suspension of the Viper.
The final version will be presented at the 1996 Detroit Motor Show, the marketing will be announced at the same Motor Show in 1997. Some still pinch themselves to make sure it’s all true. Production began in the summer of 1997 at the Conner Avenue plant in Detroit, Michigan, which is also responsible for manufacturing the Viper. Chrysler then thinks of being able to sell between 3,000 and 5,000 copies a year.
The color purple
The Prowler comes in dealerships for the 1997 vintage with only one color available and with a complete list of equipment: electric windows, central locking, air conditioning, leather seats and steering wheel, airbags, 320-watt Infinity hi-fi system and bill – link turn on the steering column, just to stay in the mood hot bar.
In Canada, it’s marked at $ 51,995, which is not cheap (for example, a Mustang GT V8 then costs $ 23,595), but it’s a unique vehicle with no real competition. Performance is good without being surprising (0 to 100 km / h is achieved in 7.5 seconds), road holding is considered excellent (0.84 g lateral acceleration) with somewhat limited comfort. But the number one flaw is the hull: from very small, it goes to non-existent once the hood is lowered.
To fix this, Plymouth offers a trailer with the design of the rear of the Prowler and color coordinated (only 1,367 will be sold in the entire career of the vehicle). The first vintage is short and only 457 Prowlers are produced (including 53 for Canada).
A laboratory vehicle
The Prowler was not made in 1998 and returned in 1999 with a V6 pushed to 253 horsepower and 255 lb-foot of torque (0-100 in 6.2 seconds). This full year ended with 3,921 vehicles manufactured (including 230 for Canada).
The Plymouth brand is discontinued in Canada at the end of the vintage. However, the Prowler will be marketed under this name for another two years before becoming a Chrysler in 2002.
By SEMA Show from 1999, Plymouth presented the Howler concept, which corrected the main error of the Prowler. Thanks to an enlarged boot, you can now load 3 golf bags without any problem. The engine is a 4.7-liter V8 mated to a 5-speed manual transmission. It will remain in the prototype state.
In the year 2000, revised suspensions were introduced that improve comfort. Production drops to 2,746 copies (155 for Canada). Plymouth, in turn, disappeared in the United States in late 2000. The Prowler then became a Chrysler. Production in 2001 amounted to 3,142 units (150 for Canada) and that of 2002 to 1,436 units (including 85 here).
Three limited ranges will be offered: Woodward in 2000 (red and black), Black Tie in 2001 (black and gray) and Mulholland (blue), still in 2001. If purple is the only color available in 1997, the Prowler will be available in 12 different colors, depending on the year, the most popular of which is black.
The merger with Mercedes-Benz in 1998 changed the group’s priorities and production of the Prowler ceased on 15 February 2002. The last copy (called Conner Avenue Edition, in honor of the factory) was painted in a pearl blue “high”. voltage “unique and will be auctioned on May 18, 2002 in aid of a Multiple Sclerosis Foundation. It reaches the sum of US $ 175,000.
In total, 11,702 Prowlers will have been manufactured in 5 years (10,905 sold in the United States, 673 in Canada, and 124 pilot vehicles). The absence of a V8 and a manual gearbox was a determining factor for sales. While it did not have the boost for Plymouth that was expected, Chrysler did not waste much money on the Prowler thanks to an extremely low development budget. The real challenge was to work with new materials. And in that sense, it was a fruitful research project!