By on July 15, 2013

01 - 1989 Plymouth Acclaim Turbo Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinMembers of the Plymouth Sundance/Dodge Shadow K-Platform-based compacts of the early 1990s remain easy to find in self-service junkyards these days, but the larger stretched-K-derivative Plymouth Acclaim/Dodge Spirit isn’t so common. This probably has more to do with quantity sold than reliability, as both types are pretty similar under the skin. Here’s a first-year-of-production Acclaim Turbo, spotted in a Denver self-service yard a couple months ago.
13 - 1989 Plymouth Acclaim Turbo Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe Taurus-inspired “bar of soap” design philosophy hadn’t caught up with Plymouth’s designers by 1989, though Chrysler would beat Ford at their own game a few years later, with the futuristic-looking LH.
03 - 1989 Plymouth Acclaim Turbo Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin153,632 miles, which is about average for junkyard-dwelling Detroit cars of this era.
09 - 1989 Plymouth Acclaim Turbo Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinYou could still get a column-shift automatic on a bucket-seat-equipped midsize sedan in 1989.
05 - 1989 Plymouth Acclaim Turbo Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe turbocharged 2.5 engine in this car made a fairly decent (for its time) 150 horsepower.
06 - 1989 Plymouth Acclaim Turbo Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinCurb weight on the ’89 Acclaim sedan was just 2,753 pounds (a little less than a 2013 Civic), so 150 horses went a long way.
04 - 1989 Plymouth Acclaim Turbo Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinFuturistic cassette-deck technology!
17 - 1989 Plymouth Acclaim Turbo Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe white-with-red-tape-stripes scheme looks very fleet-car-ish, but rental-car companies didn’t buy many turbocharged cars back then.


Tina Turner: “You think you have to give up a lot to get Acclaim? Not when it’s a Plymouth!”

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56 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1989 Plymouth Acclaim Turbo...”


  • avatar
    jgcaulder

    Good looking car. One of these in good shape would make a nice project car with all of the available turbo upgrades that are available.

  • avatar
    craiger

    She’s right, I can’t imagine the satisfaction.

  • avatar
    snakebit

    When TTAC begins their best and worst rental car experience poll, this will be my entry for worst, hands down.

    First, when ‘jgcaulder writes ‘good looking car’. I agree. When I first saw this model, I loved the style/design.

    But, as a rental during its time for about 800 miles and a weeks worth of driving in Northern California, it was the biggest sled; lack of power, uncomfortable front seats, dash lighting at night that was so bright it was annoying(no owners manual to figure out how to dim them, thank goodness later rentals managed to keep the om in the glovebox). To me, this was not Chryslers high point. The Plymouth Breeze and it’s fraternal brothers were heads above the Acclaim in every department, save perhaps outward design, but much nicer cars. And, no, my rental wasn’t a turbo, but I doubt it would have mattered on balance.

  • avatar

    I had that same cassette deck in my Shadow. It was the best one they offered those years and generally perfomred pretty well. I always thought the stick control blanace/fade control was a neat little feature.

    I backed this up by cross wiring a remote controlled CD Shuttle with an 8 disc changer I kept in the trunk – amazing technology for that era. The speakers in that car were pretty good and I didn’t bother to swap them out – although I did add a 200watt amp. It was a clean install, everything out of sight and you would never know it was in there.

    These were such pleasant, clean looking designs. They really hark back to the Diplomats of the 1970s. Basic shoeboxes that had decent performance but were otherwise invisible to the police.

  • avatar
    99_XC600

    Why did she get in the back seat? I guess it was just an indication that she didn’t want to drive it either.

  • avatar
    danio3834

    My dad was given one of these as a company car for a period of time when I was young. I remember being very disappointed because it replaced a LeSabre of similar vintage which was such a nice ride. I remember him complaining that the Acclaim didn’t really get better mileage but was much smaller.

  • avatar
    NormSV650

    These things cooked at highway speeds! A black wouldn’t let Beretta GT around her until about the third time. Got to love turbo-4 torque.

  • avatar
    dolorean

    Had an ’87 1/2 Shadow that had the same engine set up and woeful 3spd auto. Turbo blew up at 49K miles, which unbelievably Chrysler fixed under its 5 yr/50K warranty of the powertrain. The other memorable aspect of the car was the fun you had setting the cruise control that once engaged, would fry the electrical system (sparing the fifty cent fuse) at 65 mph causing the car to become hilariously dangerous and deader than dogpoo.

  • avatar
    Wscott97

    Where’s the grey Primer? That Acclaim had to of been repainted.

  • avatar
    NoGoYo

    Having driven my sister’s non-turbo Acclaim, the idea of adding 50 more horsepower sounds terrifying…

    I dunno if all Acclaims are this way, but my sister’s ’92 has some of the vaguest least feedback providing steering I’ve ever seen…

    • 0 avatar
      jz78817

      pff. try adding 124 horsepower; e.g. the Spirit R/T. we had one; its appetite for timing belts was legendary.

      • 0 avatar
        NoGoYo

        224 horsepower and vague steering seems like a recipe for disaster.

        Also, I find that the Acclaim and Spirit have rather crappy rear visibility, which makes backing out of parking spaces a bit of an adventure.

        • 0 avatar
          zenofchaos

          Ahhh yes, the good old Spirit R/T. Had a friend of a friend that had one of these, and did every cheap redneckification possible to that sucker. The quickness of the car was not the issue, but rather the sloppy vague steering, and the bargain basement parts he was throwing at it. I remember one time transporting a leather couch on the top of his ride, two pieces of rope, and a guy on each corner holding this thing down while we fly at 80 down the freeway. After a few minutes,it started to rain, and traffic starts to slow. Dude swings into the carpool lane at about 60, and punches it. I assume because of the wind resistance of this huge couch, the front tires start burning out at about 65, and he just keeps the suckers spinning for about an eighth of a mile, as we fly past confused onlookers. I was pretty sure I was about to meet my maker that day.

          Funny, I can’t recall driving in one since…

        • 0 avatar
          jz78817

          god, I love listening to dumbass kids who think history started the day they were born.

          If you think the Spirit R/T had “vague steering,” you’ve obviously never driven any car built before the late ’80s. or you’ve never driven one at all and are just parroting what other people have said in an attempt to look smart. if the latter, we have a term for people like you. “Top Gear Viewers.”

          • 0 avatar
            NoGoYo

            Well if the Spirit R/T had the same steering box as my sister’s Acclaim, which I had to drive for a week until I got my Buick, then yes, it was hella vague.

          • 0 avatar
            Ryoku75

            Bitter much jz?

            I’ve never even rode in an Acclaim nor Spirit so I won’t comment on the steering, I just don’t see the reason for such a sour attitude.

            I wouldn’t mind trying one of these out though, it uses a design that Chrysler had worked on for years before hand so I would think that most of the faults were trimmed out.

          • 0 avatar
            golden2husky

            jz sounds a bit obnoxious, but compared to steering gear in a early 70′s Mopar, the K based gear was Porsche-like.

          • 0 avatar
            zenofchaos

            Actually I have driven quite a few Spirits, as I worked as a lot jockey at a Dodge dealer for almost 2 years. Of course there are vehicles out there with more vague steering if you go back, I’m sure a Model A has a lot more “vague steering” then a lot of vehicles, but that was not what I was discussing. However, I can tell you that I drove 80′s era Dodge Caravans that seemed to head more willingly in the specific direction I pointed them. Those Spirits were really fun with their torque steer too (there’s another Top Gear fanboy term for ya).

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Torque steer is not a TopGear fanboy term. It’s a legitimate automotive term.

          • 0 avatar
            zenofchaos

            I forgot to disable my sarcasm tag.

            Much apologies Corey.

  • avatar
    Compaq Deskpro

    Family had a Dodge Spirit when I was a kid, rock solid and roomy sedan, lasted for well over 200k miles, and surprisingly never required a transmission.

    • 0 avatar
      mr.cranky

      My Spirit wasn’t so lucky.

      Grenaded the tranny. Found an used tranny that was a dud. Eventually had to unload the car.

      Too bad as it was loaded with a V6. Light blue in color. Automatic.

      • 0 avatar
        blppt

        3 speed or 4? The 4 speed auto was the infamous A604, which early in its life had lots of design faults. The 3 speed was generally reliable, although paired with the V6, I’d imagine a bit less so.

        The Mitsu V6 wasnt a paragon of toughness either. The slow 2.5, other than the head gasket, was very reliable. Although, I’ve had three cars with the “Trans-4″ engine (2.2 and 2.5), and none required any head gasket replacement in their lifetimes.

      • 0 avatar
        jz78817

        you shouldn’t have been neutral-slamming it. That’s basically the only way to grenade an A413.

    • 0 avatar
      jhefner

      Same here; a 1990 Dodge Spirit was the first car I picked out, bought, and paid off.

      This example might have more than 150,000 miles on it as the odometer broke in mine at 175,000 miles. Maintenance was based off of time since last maintenance and some guesswork.

      After 15 years and somewhere above 200,000 miles, the radiator leaked, A/C was out, the driver’s door window mechanism was broken, and the gas guage read 1/4 tank too much; resulting in my running out of gas once or twice. Only repair the 2.5L four ever needed was a new timing belt; never had any trouble with the transmission.

      It’s dark blue paint failed badly like many cars of it’s day; a letter to the newspaper and Chrysler yielded nothing. Finally, the old dealership was bought out, and the new owners tried to make good by painting it for free. The new finish and my ownership outlasted the new owner.

      By 2005 it was the odd car out of our fleet; and I sold it to the gardener who probably tried to take it to Mexico. My son hated me for letting it go; but either Hurricane Rita a year later or the hard freeze in our new home a few months later would have taken it out; along with the Blue Goose. One of the best cars I have ever owned; only the Suzuki Esteem we bought for my daughter has been tougher and needed fewer repairs.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    Too bad most seem to dismiss these cars. We owned a 1990 Acclaim, Dark Quartz/gray interior bought new in Feb. 1990, and had it for 10½ years. Extremely reliable and the perfect family car. It was my baby.

    Ours was the 2.5L automatic and that was the year it came with a driver’s air bag.

    We also owned a 1993 Spirit 3.0L column shift w/bucket seats. That car, not so good, but not bought new, which I’m sure was the difference. Probably true of rentals and others’ experiences.

    Our last Chrysler bought new or used was a 1999 Stratus. I sold that in 2002, right after we bought Wifey’s 2002 CR-V, which we still own. The Stratus was a good car, too, but I never intended to keep it beyond warranty.

    It’s easy to hate on cars that are not comparable with today’s, especially if you haven’t owned one or bought one new. Maybe I’m the exception, but I try to take good care of my cars and maintain them by the book and treat them gently, for I am a firm believer in the “80% rule” – never push anything over 80% of its capability or capacity and it will last forever. Saying that, remember, I’m a cruiser, not a hot-rodder!

  • avatar

    My dad had a ’93 Acclaim, 4-cylinder, beige on beige. Between the beige and the styling, it was pretty much the most boring car ever. He bought it used after his ’95 Neon got totalled – he was looking for something that his insurance check would cover. He also test drove a Duster, with a V-6 crammed into a tiny Sundance, and I was really hoping he would buy it, as I was a year from getting my license and wanted him to hand it down to me. Alas, the Duster was “too loud” and he went with the Acclaim.

    The Acclaim was boring – I drove it a bunch of times and have absolutely no memory of anything about it – although at the time my daily driver was an ’87 LeBaron Sedan, which was pretty much the same car with the same power train, so it would drive pretty much the same. I think my Dad put over 100k on it without anything major failing except for the tape deck.

    • 0 avatar
      NoGoYo

      That’s my sister’s car! Beige on beige 4 cylinder Acclaim. It’s so incredibly dull, but she loves it for some reason.

      At least it was only 600 dollars, so when it inevitably pukes up oil and coolant on the road, it won’t be too much of a loss. Damn thing leaks oil and coolant constantly, it’s not much longer for this world.

    • 0 avatar
      Hannah101

      I once dated someone who bought a ’92 Acclaim with the same 4 cylinder, beige on beige (plus a blue fender) setup early on in our relationship. My ex didn’t have his license at the time, so the car was technically mine for two weeks and roughly 600 miles. We scrapped it at 157k because it needed repairs that cost more than the car’s value; he got it for $500.

      For the short time I got to drive it, I mostly enjoyed it. I loved that it was comfortable, lightweight and that it was the first car I ever drove without a passenger. I didn’t mind the front bench, either. I hated driving it at highway speeds, though. It is one of two cars I’ve driven that I despised on the highway, the other being my sister’s 2000 Mazda MPV with the 2.5 V6. I’m convinced neither one was designed for going 70 with the base engine. Now, if the Acclaim I had was equipped with the turbo seen in today’s ’89 model, I think I would’ve enjoyed it more.

    • 0 avatar
      Michael500

      Too bad you didn’t get dat V6, we had a company car 93 Dodge Spirit (same thing but uglier grille) with the Mitsubishi 3.0 V6 and that thing was a screamer! Now I know why it was so fast, it was so light.

  • avatar
    mktimes5

    The joystick for fade control on the Stero is awesome, it should be brought back.

    • 0 avatar
      AJ

      I never did understand that back in the day? Does one really mess around with the fade control enough to need a joystick? Or was it possible to hook up an Atari to it? (lol)

    • 0 avatar
      jz78817

      “The joystick for fade control on the Stero is awesome, it should be brought back.”

      you might want to seek professional help. that was like the worst thing ever.

      • 0 avatar
        Power6

        +1 try adjusting it while driving on something less than perfectly smooth road, nevermind trying to adjust *only* fade or balance while not affecting the other, good luck with that!

        • 0 avatar
          dolorean

          Chrysler was thinking ahead with the joystick, because within a few thousand miles, the rear speakers would blow, forcing the occupant to jam the stick northward until the fronts gave in. It also looked rather classy next to the “Warp Drive” and “Photon Torpedo” toggle switches that were the rage at the time.

  • avatar
    mypoint02

    I’d be interested to know what the last year/model was that you could get with whorehouse red interior.

  • avatar
    ranwhenparked

    These were all over the place when I was in high school, they were just at the right age for family hand-me-downs or bargain basement buy here/pay here, no job/no problem used car lots. Looking at the steering wheel cover in this one, I’m thinking a high school girl might ave actually been the last owner of this one too.

  • avatar
    luvmyv8

    Now I forget the exact agency that used it, no matter as it was way down south of the border, think it might have been the Mexican Federal police, but in the 90′s they used Dodge Spirits as squad cars, they were also turbocharged, but I think they made 250 or more hp, coupled to a 3 speed auto. They were alleged to be quite fast, though I doubt you want to find out!

  • avatar
    chicagoland

    For business rentals between 1988-94, mid size was Tempo, Corsica, or AA Mopar. And AA’s were the best of the three. Tempo slow and bouncy, Corsicas, just plain ick. AA car felt like driving a solid tank, compared to others.

    But, then a few years later, it was Contour vs. Cloud cars to pick. [Corsica never] While the Clouds looked ‘modern’, Countous had good ‘seat of pants’ drive. N

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    The font used for the Acclaim wording reeks of cheap 80s electronics. Why would I want to be reminded on the inside (via dash placard) I was driving something so cheap? “Hey Bill, what car are we in again? …It’s the Acclaim.” -sadface-

  • avatar
    CamryStang

    I remember my folks buying one brand new in ’90 (91 model); “light blue satin” with blue interior, V6, column shift, bucket seats. The tranny in the old Olds I guess literally fell out, and dad was being readied for deployment (USAF medic) so they needed something more reliable.

    The car went through 2 or 3 automatic transmissions (I think the shop my dad used was a bit shoddy), 4 radios, had the peeling paint common to the era, but the v6 was solid (until my dad’s last wreck when he cracked the head gasket). I know this doesn’t make the car sound as reliable as it was though.

    The car was crashed a few too many times and was gone before I was even of permit age, I never drove it but I loved that car. Interior space was abundant, maintenance (outside of the aforementioned issues) was easy, and I loved the blue interior.

    I remember being five years old in the back listening to the radio and thinking that the rear speaker was so big, did they fit the DJ in there? Lol.
    The finicky ignition was fun too, I’ll never forget hearing over the Wal-Mart PA: “Mrs [CamryStang\'s mom] please come back to Tire and Lube Express, we can’t start your car.”. She calmly walked back there and started it first try.

  • avatar
    NoGoYo

    When I say my sister’s Acclaim has vague steering, I mean that I turn the wheel and don’t feel a god damned thing, the car just suddenly changes direction.

    Maybe overboosted would be a better descriptor…both my 1987 Nova and my 1995 Buick have (or in the case of the Nova, had) much better steering feedback than my sister’s Acclaim.

  • avatar
    gearhead77

    I never loved these cars, but I did think they had had decent styling for what they were and Chrysler could afford.

    The memory that sticks out from my youth with Chrysler products of this era is the speedometer. Chrysler seemed to be very early in ditching the 85 mph speedo compared to Ford or GM and most Chryslers had this IP. An Acclaim at least, might have been able to do 120, but the minivans? But that’s how the mind works when your 12.

    I loved the Chrysler radios too, especially the joystick fade/balance.

  • avatar

    Had a ’92 or so Acclaim for driver’s ed. “Two-tone” white/gray primer on the hood/roof, blue interior. This particular specimen was pretty well ragged out after 150k miles of hard use teaching us all to be good motorists. No hubcaps left, scratches, dents, AC didn’t work. Car seemed to run good (2.5 4 banger, 3 speed auto) but was kind of gutless on the highway. I remember multiple times my drivers ed teacher telling me and the other student driver with me to ‘kick it!’ when accelerating onto a highway onramp. I had the go pedal to the floor, but it definitely didn’t feel much with the butt dyno. Interior smelled of wet dog due to the bungee straps through the tops of the rear doors holding the “STUDENT DRIVER” sign on the roof, letting water get through the weatherstripping. Beat as that car was, it definitely seemed to keep going no matter what abuse it was given.

  • avatar
    brandloyalty

    If the steering was vague on one of these cars, it needed repair. 14″ rims meant a certain amount of slop in the high profile tires also. Yes, torque steer was a nuisance. And continuously exfoliating paint.

    About 6 months ago I wrote off our nicely maintained ’90 Spirit with the V6, A604 4-spd and bucket seats with a full console. Sorry to see it go since it was such a nice design. Not a high quality build, but then they didn’t cost a lot when new either. Fast, roomy, comfortable and it got great mileage (40mpg+ Imperial gallons, hwy). Split folding back seats, trip computer, steering-wheel cruise controls. Stainless steel exhaust system.

    Falling asleep at 110kph, I got off lucky and immediately questioned the wisdom of having a car with no airbags or stability control. It doesn’t take much damage to write off cars that old.

  • avatar
    RatherhaveaBuick

    Love those old Chrysler stereos.

    Reminds me of my dads 94 Shadow, which, even when I was 6 was my least favorite car ever. One of the worst interiors I’ve ever been in.

  • avatar
    JLGOLDEN

    My first “real” summer job was June, 1989, and I’d just gotten a driver’s license. I went to work for a brand-new Chrysler Plymouth dealer in the Houston suburbs. I simply LOVED the turbo kick from the LeBaron, Sundance and Acclaim, and was astonished that the same engine was also offered in the Voyager minivan.


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