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Plymouth Prowler buying guide, history and review

Words: Matthew Hayward

Motor show concept cars are often wild, boundary-pushing and would make little sense on the road. That’s why they rarely make their way to production, and even when they do they’re often watered down. That’s not an accusation you could level at the Plymouth Prowler. Perhaps its retro styling wasn’t to everybody’s taste at the time – it still polarises opinions in the Octane office – but the market has since come alive to the retro styling period kicked off by cars such as the Prowler and continued by the likes of the Ford Thunderbird and GT.

On paper it was a massive commercial failure for the company, but it was also a stepping stone to bigger things. Ultimately the Prowler led Chrysler down a design path to new, successful models, including the PT Cruiser. Some of us might laugh but, with over a million sold, that was a huge commercial success. Now 25 years old, the Prowler remains unique – and, whether you love it or hate it, you can’t deny that it still turns heads.

History and development

Chrysler started work on the Prowler concept in the early 1990s, as a follow-up to the Viper. Inspired by the hot rods of the 1940s and ’50s, the Prowler concept was the work of Tom Gale, Chrysler’s design director. Initially the Prowler was considered as a design study, but it was soon seen as a good project to spearhead a new, more exciting, modern era for Chrysler. Technologically the Prowler was cutting-edge in its use of formed and bonded aluminium panels, something the company wanted to explore in an attempt to improve efficiency in future models.

What ended up under the bonnet was less cutting- edge. While it looks like a natural home for a rumbling V8, for various reasons – including packaging and crash regulations – Chrysler fitted the Prowler with a fairly tame 214bhp 3.5-litre V6 engine from the Dodge Intrepid saloon. This was hooked up to a rear-mounted four-speed automatic transmission via a torque tube. Much of the car’s hardware was borrowed from other cars in the Chrysler range, with the rack-and-pinion steering and coil-sprung suspension taken from the Viper.

For the first year customers were offered only a single purple body colour, which hampered sales significantly: a mere 457 were sold in 1997. It was well-specified otherwise, including air conditioning, airbags and even an electric hood as standard, and thanks to the low weight of 1270kg it could manage the 0-60mph sprint in just over seven seconds, although top speed was limited to 118mph.

A second run of Plymouth Prowlers was built from 1999 to 2000 – and Chrysler had listened to the feedback. A selection of colours was now offered, but more importantly a new high-output alloy-block V6 increased power to 253bhp and dropped the 0-60mph sprint time to 5.7sec. Another issue customers had was the tiny boot, which Chrysler attempted to fix by offering an optional matching trailer.

In 2001 Chrysler pulled the plug on the Plymouth brand, but the Prowler soldiered on for two more years badged as a Chrysler. Only 11,702 were built before production came to an end in 2002.

Plymouth Prowler common problems

• Removing the front bumpers can massively transform the look of the car, but if you want originality these are very expensive to replace. If removed, the front is very susceptible to car park knocks, too, so check carefully for damage.

• Window regulators fail due to a design flaw. A kit to fix the problem is worth fitting, as replacements are pricey.

• Ageing ECU and powertrain control modules can cause issues, but can be repaired and future-proofed by Prowler specialists in the USA.

What to pay?

Finding a Prowler in the UK is not too difficult, although you’ll always have more choice in the USA. Tidy UK cars generally range from £30,000 to £40,000, though you may find a bargain if you look for a higher-mileage or slightly unloved example. Shop around in the USA and there are plenty more cars available from around $20,000 for a decent runner, $40,000 for a lower-mileage car; special examples will command $55,000 and more.

Plymouth Prowler Interior

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