Chrysler’s Plymouth Division has been known to make some outrageous cars but there is one that takes the cake: the Plymouth Prowler. The Prowler was unlike any other car ever made by a major automobile company. It was basically a modern version of the California roadster hotrods of the 1940s. If you are like us, you will probably wonder what the story is behind the Prowler. We asked the folks at Kims Dodge of Laurel, MS, a full-service Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Ram dealer, to fill us in and, yes, there is quite a story behind the Prowler.
First, let’s put the times in perspective. In the late 1990s, Chrysler Corporation’s Plymouth line was being considered for termination. The argument was that the brand just didn’t have the cache that it used to have and sales were tepid. After a great deal of discussion, it was decided that one last attempt to reenergize the brand would be taken.
It is interesting to note that this story is similar to the Dodge Viper story. The Viper was also a speciality car that was designed to inject a little juice into the languishing Dodge brand. What is interesting is that neither the Prowler nor the Viper were really supposed to make any real money for the Chrysler. They were really just to revive the brands they represented.
Designing the Prowler
In the early 1990s, Chrysler’s Pacifica Design Center fleshed out the Prowler. It was basically a retro-looking roadster with modern drivetrain. The designer, Tom Gale, personally owned a ’33 self-built highboy hot rod so he was the perfect person to bring the Prowler to life.
The design was completed and shown at the 1993 Detroit International Auto Show. It was a show-stopping hit. With an open cockpit, wide back end with 20″ wheels and a narrow front end, there had never been anything like the Prowler before.
The Prowler went into production in 1997 and dealers got them soon thereafter. Here’s what it looked like. Outside it had all the styling of a modern hot-rod. The paint colors were limited, but bold. They included large grain metallics such as purple, yellow, black, red, silver and “Inca Gold”. In the first year, there was only a V6 engine available. Inside the prowler, the seats were aluminum-framed and a retro-dash layout put a single gauge in front of the driver. The tachometer stuck up from the steering column giving it that “DIY add-on” look.
Even though there was big interest in the Prowler, sales were modest. Some say it was because the Prowler wasn’t particularly practical for everyday use. After all, it had an open top, two seats, and a pretty small trunk. This was really just a big toy. Chrysler estimated that 3,000 would sell in its first year but only 457 drove off the dealer lots. The remaining years were a bit better, averaging a tad above 3,000 per year until 2002, when the Prower was discontinued.