Hot Rod? Sports car? Both? No, Neither

In the late 1990s Chrysler engineers were tasked with building a retro-styled hot Rod which was suitable for road use. They succeeded but unfortunately it was a compromise between two entirely different types of car and whilst a lot of customers were happy with it many others were not. Pprowler was a two-door sports car/Hot Rod launched in 1997. It certainly looked the part, with a sharply raked front-end, Indy style front wheels and visible suspension at the front. It looked fast and aggressive. There was a lot of initial demand for it with buyers prepared to pay over the odds to get hold of one of the early ones; but criticism soon started to appear. Time Magazine even listed it amongst the 50 worst cars of all time. was this really fair?

The engine on this car was a 3523 cc V6 pumping out 214 brake horsepower. This was not terrific by the standards expected by the Hot Rod fraternity! It was generally expected that their cars would have V-8 engines; certainly the V-6 in the Prowler put out horsepower more or less equivalent to the Chrysler Magnum V-8's but there was less torque; important for acceleration. To balance this the car was lightweight, with the body made of aluminium, but this did not satisfy the purists.

To make matters worse it was fitted with an 'auto stick' transmission system. This was semi-automatic transmission in which the clutch pedal was done away with; instead the clutch was operated by a manual switch. This was widely distrusted amongst the hot rod fraternity, many of whom preferred manual gearboxes. These allowed them not only to slip the clutch a little for a faster getaway but also select whichever gear they wanted at any given time. in addition it was widely believed that automatic gearboxes soaked up more power than manual ones.

As a road car the Prowler came in for a lot of stick as well. Okay it had air-conditioning, bucket seats trimmed with leather, a sound system, powered windows, keyless entry, and even, eventually, an automatic system for increasing the volume of the sound system when the car went faster! None of these however endeared themselves to the HOT ROD fraternity and road car buyers just yawned. To make things even worse; was boot space. If a two seater car is to be used on a day-to-day basis some space in the boot is extremely useful; but the Prowler had a folding top and when this was folded back it pretty much filled the boot up completely. This was such a glaring drawback that Chrysler even brought out a small trailer to fit the Prowler! These cost an extra US$5000 but the towbar, if it could be called that, could only be used to tow this specialist trailer and attempting to tow anything else would have invalidated the car's warranty. Not impressive.

Equally unimpressive were sales figures; in the five years of production until it was succeeded by the Crossfire in 2002 less than 12,000 were sold altogether.

Was it really such a bad car though? The ride was not good; the fat tyres at the rear jarred over every single pothole or bump they encountered. It could manage 180 mph which was reasonable, but nought to 60 acceleration of 7.2 seconds was hardly supercar performance.

Against that there are many who consider it to be a triumph of design; and so the jury is out on whether it was a great car or not. What is beyond doubt that it was certainly not, as Time Magazine stated, one of the 50 worst cars of all time. There have been many many inferior contenders for that accolade over the decades!

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