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Chrysler/Plymouth Prowler INFORMATION


1997-2002 Plymouth Prowler: Highlights

Styled like a roadster of the 1930s, but redone in the mode of the '50s, the Prowler looked like no other modern car on the road. Motorcycle-type front fenders, for instance, moved along with the front wheels. Like the Viper before it, Prowler had been a show car--but one later made ready for the street. Appearances aside, the Prowler's technology was strictly up-to-date. About 900 pounds of aluminum were used--in the hood, front side panels, doors, rear deck, frame, bumpers, front-suspension wishbones, and seat frames. Plastic was used for rear body panels, rocker panels, and front fenders. Borrowed from Chrysler's LH sedans, the 3.5-liter V6 engine produced 214 horsepower. Rear-wheel drive helped impart a more traditional hot rod feel. Prowler's sole transmission was a rear-mounted automatic unit with Chrysler's Autostick manual-shift feature, which permitted manual gear selection when desired. Antilock brakes and traction control were not available, though brakes were all-disc. Front tires were 225/45VR17 size, while the back end held massive 295/40VR20 rubber. Both tires had run-flat capability--essential because there was no room for a spare tire. The retro theme continued into the interior, which featured a full complement of gauges at the center of the dashboard, in an elliptical pod. That pod matched the body color--which was purple-only in the Prowler's first season. A tachometer was mounted atop the steering column, simulating the look of aftermarket speed equipment. Standard equipment included air conditioning, a tilt steering wheel, cruise control, 6-disc CD changer, and a defroster for the convertible top's glass rear window. Power windows, locks, and mirrors also were standard.

Year-to-Year Changes

1998 Plymouth Prowler: No '98 models were issued, but Prowler would be back for 1999.

1999 Plymouth Prowler: Reintroduced in spring of 1998 as a '99 model, Prowler had a new V6 engine that produced 253 horsepower--39 more than in 1997. That engine came from the Chrysler 300M and LHS. As before, the sole transmission was a rear-mounted automatic unit with Chrysler's Autostick manual-shift feature. Antilock brakes and traction control remained unavailable. In addition to the original purple body color, the revived Prowler came in yellow, black, or red. Chrome wheels were newly optional, too.

2000 Plymouth Prowler: Suspension revisions were the major changes this year, along with new body colors. Springs were softened and shock absorbers recalibrated, in an attempt to improve ride and handling. Silver joined the body-color list, replacing yellow and purple. A new chrome bezel and leather boot went on the gearshift, and an automatic-dimming mirror contained an integral compass and trip computer.

2001 Plymouth Prowler: Adjustable shock absorbers and new colors are the only changes for this limited production model. Production ceased at the end of the year.

2002 Plymouth Prowler: Inca Gold replaced Mulholland Blue midyear as an option to orange or silver. The last Prowler was put together on February 15, 2002.

1997-2002 Plymouth Prowler

Cargo room
Antilock brakes not available

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1997-2002 Plymouth Prowler Trouble Spots

Air conditioner: A growling noise from the A/C is probably due to the A/C line rubbing on the air-filter housing. A revised line must be installed. (1997-99)

Dashboard lights: The low-tire-pressure warning may blink intermittently. If the pressure is not actually low, the pressure
sensor(s) will be replaced. (1997-99)

Dashboard lights: Low tire-pressure warning light might indicate a faulty sensor/transmitter. (1997-99)

Fuel gauge: If fuel tank does not fill completely or is slow to fill, and updated filler neck and hose are available. (1997-01)

Fuel pump: When refueling, the pump nozzle may keep clicking off and/or the tank may stop accepting fuel when it is only half-full due to a problem with the filler neck. A revised neck is available. (1997-99)

Hard starting: Reprogramming the power train control module could aid cold start idle quality. (1997)

Oil leak: In colder weather, oil may be forced out of the differential case vent. (1997-00)

Vehicle noise: A fluttering or vibrating noise from the center dash vents means the HVAC mode door needs to be recalibrated which is done by removing the battery cable, turning the blower switch to high, and reconnecting the battery cable. (1999-2000)

NHTSA Recall History

1997: Some welds that affect vehicle control and crashworthiness may have been omitted in six areas of the frame; loss of control can occur.

1997-02: Some vehicles may have defective lower control arm ball joints, resulting in possible loss of steering control. Dealer will inspect and replace affected parts.

1999: Brake-indicator-lamp circuit does not contain the required ground circuit to illuminate the lamp in the event of a brake system hydraulic malfunction.

1999: Some aluminum castings used in manufacture of frame may have missed the required heat treatment; some of these frames could fracture under vehicle operating conditions.

2000-01: Some of the owner's manuals for these vehicles are missing instructions for properly attaching a child restraint system's tether strap to the tether anchorage.

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Vehicle Dimensions

Specification 2-door convertible
Wheelbase, in. 113.3
Overall Length, in. 165.3
Overall Width, in. 76.5
Overall Height, in. 50.9
Curb Weight, lbs. 2838
Cargo Volume, cu. ft. 1.8
Fuel Capacity, gals. 12.0
Seating Capacity 2
Front Head Room, in. 37.4
Max. Front Leg Room, in. 42.9
Specifications Key: NA = not available; "--" = measurement does not exist.

Power train Options and Availability
A 214-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 engine propelled the original Prowler. When it returned for 1999 after a year's absence, a stronger (253-horsepower) version of the 3.5-liter V6 went beneath the hood. All Prowlers have a rear-mounted 4-speed automatic transmission with Chrysler's Autostick manual-shift provision.

Size liters/
cu. in.
EPA city/hgwy
Consumer Guide®
ohc V6 3.5 / 215 214 221 4-speed automatic: 22/32
4-speed automatic: 17.2
ohc V6 3.5 / 215 253 255 4-speed automatic: 19/30
4-speed automatic: 22.1
Engine Key: l/cu. in. = liters/cubic inches; ohv = overhead valve; ohc = overhead camshaft; dohc = dual overhead camshaft; I = inline cylinders; H = horizontally opposed cylinders; V = cylinders in a V configuration; W = cylinders in a W configuration; rpm = revolutions per minute; CVT = continuously variable (automatic) transmission; NA = not available; "--" = measurement does not exist.

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2001 Plymouth Prowler
A car on parade in its own driveway
by Denise McCluggage

Base Price (MSRP) $44,625
As Tested (MSRP) $45,400

The Prowler could only have been created in an atmosphere where car guys called the shots - car guys who could look back with personal affection on the early American hot rods and at the same time look forward to technological advances in the manufacture of the automobile.

Chrysler executive Bob Lutz and Tom Gale, then head of design - car guys extraordinaire (and both now gone from Chrysler) - were uniquely situated in the early '90s to unite those seemingly disparate visions into a sincere homage to the hot rod and at the same time create a test-bed of non-traditional materials. (The Prowler is the most aluminum-intensive car built and puts magnesium, urethane and polymers to work as well.) Lutz and Gale could say, "build it." And they did.

Model Lineup

One model is made - a two-seat, manual-top convertible with rear-wheel drive and automatic transmission with AutoStick.

Walk Around

First came the concept car that turned slowly under spotlights at the 1993 Detroit auto show, stunning every journalist into statue rigidity - mouth agape, eyes misting. Then three years later the car emerged in its eggplant hue with its eggplant-shaped rear hip line - curvaceous and enorm with 20-inch rear wheels - contrasting in delightful incongruity to the airily light front end with motorcycle fenders capping 17-inch wheels and a brash bumper that admits it wouldn't be there on a real hot rod (but looks fine obeying street rules). This is the car that was to be a halo car for Plymouth - an image-enhancer like the Viper was to Dodge. Unfortunately, Cheshire-cat like, the grin outlasted the body. With Plymouth gone the Prowler is now a Chrysler adoptee.

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Image-enhancement is still the car's strong suit - the image of the driver. Prowler remains as eye grabbing as ever. Shouts of "I love your car" trail it through restaurant parking lots. It evokes thumbs up and smiles from every age group, every gender. (Though it skews heavily male among purchasers.) The Prowler evokes the emotions and entertains the eye at every angle. Its enduring appeal depends on the fact that it is not just a bright idea and a smart design but that it is well executed. Detail is attended to, fit and finish are admirable. Sleekly sophisticated with its flattened wedge shape, voluptuous curves and unique color schemes, the Prowler is nonetheless a most affable machine. Indeed, if you didn't climb into its lap first it might climb into yours.

Colors! In some ways Chrysler is more like the Franklin Mint than a carmaker with this car. Collectability is a real consideration, and the choice and timing of color options is a teaser to craving. The first year's purple (I called it "aubergine") led to a singing yellow in mid 1999. Then came a lipstick red and a black. (And two-tone red and black for a special Woodward Dream Cruise edition.) For 2000 silver was the new color. That was joined around Halloween with a deep orange, sort of like a Jack O'Lantern flashed with candle fire (the color of our test car). Also new for 2001 is a two-tone black and silver metallic called Black Tie Edition, as entertaining as a lounge magician. A special Mulholland Drive edition is a deep sapphire Pearlcoat blue with light blue hand striping and a dark blue top. Sounds edible, doesn't it? True collectors, of course, want one of each.

Interior Features

The top is made of a substantive padded cloth. It fits solidly and looks good when up, and it goes down with relative ease (aided by a few expletives), storing out of sight behind the rear deck lid. The rear window is real glass with defogger. The side windows are power with one-touch down.

The leather-trimmed bucket seats are handsome things both in appearance and in use, providing good driving support and cruising comfort. The dash is another Chrysler design statement, a body-colored stretched lozenge-shaped cluster with centralized instruments. Never mind, the important thing is the little round tachometer apparently after-thought-mounted smack in front of the driver's nose on the steering column. It reminds us of hot rods with tachs from the J.C. Whitney's catalog.

Prowler has all sorts of comforts that few real rods have: remote keyless entry, air conditioning, 320-watt stereo with six-CD changer, audio and cruise controls on the steering wheel, power locks, windows and mirrors, even a cup-holder (singular).

Outward visibility suffers notably. Hot-rod like, the sides of the car rise high, engendering that three-year-old-in-a-bathtub syndrome. The top in place achieves a cocoon-like visual isolation. But even with the top down it is impossible to know exactly where the right-side front tire is. This is more a problem in parking lots than on the road, but care is suggested to avoid damaging or being damaged. (Also be cautious in edging up to low concrete parking space markers lest an unpleasant underside scraping results.) Fortunately for locating other objects in the world the side mirrors are amply sized. (Hint: adjust them so that they take in some of that great swell of the rear fender. This is for aesthetic considerations only.)

The Prowler will teach you to travel light - and flat and soft-sided. The great rear haunches are for transaxle, tires, gas tank and top storage - not your gear. Some garment bags might fit in the shallow area remaining, and a truly skinny brief case behind a seat, but if you carry more than what you wear opt for the small rounded color-matched trailer. It's cute. Fortunately, the center console has a little stuffing space.

People much above the national average in size may find the Prowler's cockpit (and the term is apt) cramped. Seat travel is limited. Certainly anyone who can play above the rim will not find a home in the Prowler. My 6-foot, seven-inch ergonomic tester could sit in the car only with the top stowed. He could drive - sort of - peering over the windshield, knees akimbo around the steering wheel at full tilt. It's not easy to watch an overgrown man cry.

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Driving Impressions

The first-year Prowler drew some carping for being a mere V6. (Many of the Prowler's components are modified LH bits, including the transaxle transplanted to the rear - nice for balance.) Real rods have V8s, detractors said, but the Prowler power was soon improved.

The current 3.5-liter 24-valve V6 offers 253 horsepower at 6400 rpm (and a well-placed 255 pounds-feet of torque at 3950). That power has to whup only 2838 pounds off the line. So wimpy it is not.

Sound, which is what noise is called when it's agreeable, is important in the Prowler: the big rear tires on the road surface, the top-down wind whipping by, the rise and fall of the engine's contralto drone sounding like mammoth bees approaching in intimidating numbers. Don't expect the shriek or fabric rip of a V12 or even the rumble of a V8, but the sound this V6 makes is music. You could dance to it.

Other things to dance to aren't the stuff of traditional hot rods: independent suspension fore and aft and four-wheel disc brakes. With no room for spares, the Prowler is shod with run-flat tires; a cluster light warns when tire pressures are low.

The fun of driving the Prowler is not just in being noticed. The independent suspension is wise to the ways of holding the road. Take a nice sweeping bend and accelerate through it feeling the Gs mount, the tires grip. Play open-wheel race driver watching the front tires work. Zip-zapping through tighter turns and chicane-like corners produces a smile.

Some have decried the automatic transmission in the Prowler. I shrug. This is an excellent four-speed automatic and it has AutoStick, Chrysler's semi-manual shifter. I actually prefer its side-to-side selection motion (rather than fore and aft). The driver can casually backhand it to achieve a gear change. Or hug it inward when it's time to gather the forces for a brisk canter up the green hillside, meandering amidst the trees.

Any no-compromise car will have notable shortcomings. Like most convertibles, which lack a hard top and the rigidity it adds, cowl shake is more than evident. Roughen up the road surface and there's a whole lot of shakin' goin' on. Still, the 2001 Prowler rides notably smoother on proper pavement than the rather nervous original Prowler (which I nonetheless happily piloted from Santa Fe to Monterey and suffered not at all).

The Prowler's brakes are not sterling performers. Discs are all around, but no ABS is available. (Remember your threshold-braking techniques!) The front brakes grabbed now and again, particularly at crawling paces and not consistently. Braking hard from speed takes more territory than you might anticipate so drive accordingly. And the headlights are not up to the best available today. Anyway, the Prowler is a sunshine car. Go forth in daylight and prosper.

Final Word

In short, the Prowler is delightful. It can parade and it can party. It looks like a real hot rod, but boasts all the creature comforts of modern automobiles. It's fun to drive.

It is to DaimlerChrysler's credit that real hot rodders generally like and admire the Prowler. They recognize it as the tribute to their cars that it was meant to be.

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1999 Chrysler Howler Concept
Source: Chrysler

DaimlerChrysler unveiled the Howler show car at the Specialty Equipment Market Association's (SEMA) annual show in Las Vegas in 1999. With the 250 bhp, 300 lb.-ft. V-8 Howler, the Company shows off a performance roadster pickup interpretation of Prowler, which pays homage to the rolling art of hot rods.

Howler is the result of two internal projects. In DaimlerChrysler's Advanced Packaging studio, designer Christopher Schuttera, who graduated just two years ago from the University of Cincinnati, created his vision based on a modern version of classic forms incorporating a pickup bed into the clean, pure Prowler design.

At the same time, Jon Rundels, Concept and Specialty Vehicle Executive, was looking for ways to meld the Prowler platform with the all-new Jeep® PowerTech V-8 engine and a Borg-Warner T5 manual transmission.

"Here we had two enthusiast projects going on in our own Auburn Hills studios that you would expect to see in an automotive specialty shop," said Tom Gale, DaimlerChrysler Corporation's Executive Vice President for Product Development and Design. "What better occasion than the SEMA show -- which is all about customization and conversion -- to link these projects and create another stunning show car."

Howler is an unprecedented combination of outrageous yet practical design and powerful performance. Technically, Rundels" team changed the engine from the standard V-6 to the PowerTech V-8, replaced the rear transaxle with an engine-mounted five-speed manual transmission with 10.5 inch clutch and a Dana 44 rear differential, and fabricated a custom driveshaft and half-shafts. A pedal package with clutch was borrowed from the Neon to replace the standard two pedal package. Removing the rear transaxle provided the opportunity to reposition the fuel tank.

"This in turn allowed us to open up the rear of the car and create space for a trunk while leaving the front end, doors, top and interior untouched," added Schuttera. "The result is a show car that remains true to the heritage of the home-built hot rod, yet offers true everyday convenience."

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