Chrysler Sports Cars: History of the Big Three

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Gone, but not forgotten. Or so the saying goes.

But, when it comes to a few sports cars now gone from the Chrysler line, it’s possible that you have, in fact, completely forgotten about the Big Three.

Granted, it’s not actually been that long since they were on the road. However, their time on said road was rather short indeed and these cars are now considered a part of the Chrysler legacy.

So, who are these Big Three?

The Big Three were the sports cars conceived by the joint efforts of Chrysler, Plymouth, Mercedes-Benz, and Mitsubishi.

Sounds strange, it’s true.

And in some ways, the Crossfire, Conquest, and Prowler, were somewhat strange creations, but the combination of their blink and you’ll miss it existences and their unusual innovations lend them a fascinating quality worthy of a closer look.

Since they are no longer among the inventory at Chrysler dealerships, let’s go back in time and revisit some of the Chrysler legacy.

The Chrysler Crossfire

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To make a short story even shorter, the ultimate downfall of the Chrysler Crossfire was due to the fact that its appearance out shone its performance.

A car big on beauty, but short on brains.

Despite its sleek and sophisticated good looks, the driving experience was lackluster, and even reported as rough and uncomfortable in the later SRT model.

The Chrysler Crossfire, introduced in 2004, as a two-seater coupe was based on the first generation Mercedes-Benz SLK.

Eighty-percent sourced from the Mercedes-Benz SLK, the Chrysler Crossfire was equipped with a 3.2-liter V6 engine, capable of 215 horsepower with 229 lb.-ft. of torque, the Chrysler Crossfire came standard with six-speed manual transmission or optional five-speed automatic transmission.

Other features included four wheel anti-lock disc brakes, cruise control, dual-zone climate control, and keyless entry, poised on 19-inch aluminum wheels.

Only one short year after its initial introduction, Chrysler added to the line by releasing the Crossfire convertible, amounting to little more than a topless headturner.

The Chrysler Crossfire Convertible

2008 Chrysler Crossfire Roadster Limited

In 2005, Chrysler released the convertible option of the Crossfire.

The SRT-6 convertible model was a high performance vehicle with a 3.2-liter V6 engine, same as the coupe, but boosted to 330 horsepower with a five-speed automatic transmission.

The SRT-6 could zip from zero to sixty miles per hour in 4.8 seconds.

Over the four quick years that the Chrysler Crossfire coupes and convertibles were produced, Chrysler sold an approximate 76,000 cars total.

Despite being featured in a number of television shows, like MTV’s “Laguna Beach,” and “The Real Orange County,” as well as movies like “The Fast and The Furious: Tokyo Drift,” and the award-winning, “Crash,” its prevalence in the media was not enough to positively impact sales.

Flagging demand ultimately ended production in 2008.

Though sightings are rare, the Chrysler Crossfire is still eye-catching on the road.

The Chrysler Conquest

1989 Chrysler Conquest

A Japanese-manufactured car for the American consumers, this Chrysler began its life as a Mitsubishi.

Introduced in 1983, the Chrysler Conquest was actually a rebadged Mitsubishi Starion.

This was a common automotive trend in the 1980s and many cars were actually manufactured in Japan and later rebadged for the American car scene.

A two-door, four-seat hatchback, the 1983 Chrysler Conquest was based on the Mitsubishi Galant Lambda/Sapporo platform.

Featuring rear-wheel drive and a front engine, the Chrysler Conquest had MacPherson strut front suspension and independent rear suspension.

Equipped with a 2.6-liter inline, four-cylinder with a turbocharger, the engine’s power ranged from 150-198 horsepower and came standard with a five-speed manual transmission and optional four-speed automatic transmission.

Aerodynamically-designed, the Chrysler Conquest boasted a drag coefficient of 0.32.

In 1986, the Chrysler Conquest was rebadged yet again, but this time as a Plymouth and came standard with a 2.6-liter turbocharged engine, getting 145 horsepower with 185 lb.-ft. of torque.

The Conquest had a fuel economy of 19 city and 24 highway miles per gallon.

Production on the Chrysler Conquest wrapped up in 1989.

The Chrysler Prowler

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Manufactured between 1997-2002, the Chrysler Prowler, a retro-styled “hot-rod” production car, was first introduced as the Plymouth Prowler.

The first, and ultimately the last, rear-wheel drive Plymouth since the 1989 Plymouth Gran Fury, this lightweight car with Indy-racer style front wheels boasted attention-grabbing acceleration.

Reminiscent of racing, the front wheels measured 7”x17” and were wrapped in 225/45 HR 17 tires; while the rear wheels measured 10”x20”, wrapped in 295/40 HR 20 tires.

The front and rear brakes were composite 11” and 13” vented discs.

The 1997 model, only available in an unmistakable Prowler purple metallic exterior color, was able to reach 0-62 mph in 7.2 seconds with a top speed of 118 mph and 457 were sold that year.

Of the single generation, Chrysler sold 11,700 Prowlers, equipped with a 3.5-liter Chrysler SOHC V6 rear drive, front engine capable of 214 horsepower at 5,850 rpm.

The Second Prowl

Chrysler Prowler

In 1999, the Prowler was given an engine enhancement, with the original one replaced by a 253 horsepower at 6,400 rpm aluminum block upgrade.

Using a similar arrangement to the C5 Corvette, the Porsche 944 and Alfa Romeo 75, the Prowler’s engines were equipped with a four-speed Autostick automatic transmission at the rear of the vehicle which was joined to the engine by a drive shaft that rotated at the engine’s speed.

What this created was a 50-50 front-rear weight distribution.

These models moved from 0-62 mph in 5.9 seconds, achieving a top speed of 126 mph.

Though it only had two production runs, any Chrysler Prowlers you might see on the road today represent a rather impressive and extensive array of exterior colors, including:

  • Prowler black clear coat
  • Prowler bright silver metallic
  • Prowler red clear coat
  • Prowler yellow clear coat
  • Prowler orange pearl coat
  • Inca gold pearl coat
  • Deep candy red pearl coat

As well as some special editions: the Woodward two-tone black-red, the Black Tie two-tone black-silver, the Mulholland Edition midnight blue pearl coat, the Copperhead Edition in copper, and finally, the Conner Avenue Edition high voltage blue pearl coat, which was the only one of its kind and auctioned at Christie’s.

Because of limited trunk space, Chrysler released a $5,000 trailer option, which resembled the rear of the Prowler, and sported tinier versions of the car’s five-spoke wheels.

The trailers could be painted to match the color of the car.

Production on the Chrysler Prowler came to a halt in 2002, but the story doesn’t end there.

There is a 1998 Plymouth Prowler that has been sealed up, in the spirit of a time capsule, in Centennial Park, located in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Though it is not to be opened until 2048, automotive experts believe that the Prowler will have withstood the ravages of time, and look just as it did after being sealed up for fifty years.

Even though these three Chrysler sports cars are no longer in production, you can still find them a various Chrysler dealerships.

If you keep your eyes peeled, you’ll likely spot one of these potential classics on your next commute or road trip.

Better yet, you can always explore the new line of Chrysler innovation by test driving any of the current 2015 models, including the Chrysler 200, the Chrysler 300, or the Chrysler Town and Country.

The new Chrysler lineup, branded “America’s import,” was created in the dust of a legacy which had combined the efforts of international manufacturers to deliver creative innovation.

Visit any of your nearest Chrysler dealerships to see how that innovation continues to represent the Chrysler brand.

Be a part of the legacy and drive a car backed by a history of daring design.

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