Hammer Time: Chrysler's Retro Halo

Steven Lang
by Steven Lang

It’s heartbreaking. To see a major company that literally carried a healthy portion of America’s heartland go up in Euro-flames. I remember the beauty of it. The 1990’s minivans that completely obliterated their competition. LH sedans that were state of the art for their time. Cloud cars that had more power and road feel than their American brethren. Neons that were so good that even Toyota was jealous. Believe it or not, I still think the talent base of Chrysler is there. But to get it out…

You need a reality check. Chrysler has been lead by idiots for 10 years now. The few successes of modern times have been so limited, that not even the word Limited means anything at Chrysler anymore. Limited. As in a last gasp of breath before the good night. We all have discussed what’s worth saving (Jeep, Ram, and the Vans). But how about the memories? What cars will be the halo for Chrysler’s journey to the automotive afterlife?

Steven Lang
Steven Lang

More by Steven Lang

Join the conversation
4 of 55 comments
  • Brandloyalty Brandloyalty on Nov 07, 2009

    It was said the vans should have come with a spare transmission rather than a spare tire, since you were more likely to need the spare tranny. But a lot of the transmission issues, like the A604, were due to a major fiasco regarding the fluid as opposed to the design of the transmission. A few years ago I posted the New Spirit nonsense on allpar. A number of people genuinely believed it, and were unhappy to learn it was a hoax. We have a '90 Spirit with lots of upgrades and the various quirks corrected, from the V6's valve guide job to backflow valves in the windshield washer lines. It's a perfectly good car. It (and the sister Acclaim) was an excellent design that somehow was mostly ignored. Had it been just a bit higher quality, it would easily have equalled the Camry and Accord of the day. Features such as steering wheel mounted cruise control and split folding back seats were ahead of their time at that price level. It's amazingly rust-free and can get 42mpg (Imperial) on the highway. The '93's to '95's were cheapened somewhat. There was also a dual-fuel version for masochists. The R/T was quite the car and I gather it provided much fun to the few who owned them. There was a European version of the Spirit, called the Saratoga. The LeBaron and LeBaron convertible of the time were shortened Spirits, and those LeBarons still on the road look up-to-date.

  • Anonymous Anonymous on Nov 07, 2009

    [...] http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/hammer-time-chryslers-retro-halo/Chrysler gave us one of the first large crossovers with the Pacifica, some great import-style sports cars with the DSM Eagle Talons and the Dodge Stealth, a great fullsize wagon with a big honking V8 with the Magnum, and one of the … [...]

  • Joeaverage Joeaverage on Nov 07, 2009

    Questions: Why does Chrysler engines start to smoke so badly later in their lives? Because they smoke so badly after a red light I'd guess valve guide seals? Is the shift from 2nd to 1st in the Chrysler FWD auto trannies normal when they make that clicking, ratcheting sound? Just curious... Did American cars get the same "rust protection" if you want to call it that as my Fiats and VWs - i.e. a heavy coat of paint and no galvanized panels??? My VWs stayed rust free as long as there were zero rock chips in this paint. Once that happened though and not corrected the car would simply rust away. I don't have much experience with Chryslers as I have watched friends' troubles enough. That said my sister had an 80s non-turbo Dodge 400 (K-Car) convertible that served her reliably enough. I drove it a few times. Was very comfortable and had enough power for cruising. Everything was VERY dampened. Felt like there was a big torsion spring between the engine and tranny. Very smooth and gut-less. LOL. Had the standard wire hubcaps of the era. Didn't like the look but I liked putting the top down. Another friend bought a new Neon back in '95 (?). I was HUGELY impressed with that car. Don't know if it lasted but he flogged it constantly. I think he wanted a new engine before the warranty ran out. VBG! Had that car gained the reputation the Honda products have for durability I would have owned one. The Neon was one of those domestic products that gave me hope that Detroit was going to make something import-like that I would want to buy. I had just returned from three years in Italy and really not impressed with anything made by Detroit having enjoyed driving Fiats, Lancias, Alfas, BMWs, Opels, Renaults, Peugeot's, etc. Cars that were fun to drive and somehow stayed together despite the rough southern Italian roads. Cars that were small but still boasted good utility and surprisingly good interior space.

  • Brandloyalty Brandloyalty on Nov 10, 2009

    I may look like an idiot, but presumably someone will correct me on this explanation of the smoking Chrysler products... The Mitsubishi 3.0L V6 and larger versions of it were used in a lot of Chrysler cars and minvans from the mid-80's to who knows when. The valve guides were not properly secured, and came loose over time. This wore out the seals. At, say, 50,000miles the valves could wobble enough that oil could find its way directly to the exhaust manifold without going through the combustion chamber. This did not have much effect on the engine's performance and durability, though it probably didn't do the catalytic converter much good. High vacuum such as at idle exaggerated the problem, so with the high throttle needed to get up to speed after sitting idling for a while, a cloud of smoke would be produced so bad it could have been of interest to the military. Situations included stop lights, ferry lineups, and lineups for emissions testing. Enough that people such as yourself who don't know about the problem, have noticed it. The fix was to replace the damaged parts and install some sort of rings that better secured the valve guides. If caught early enough, this could be done without removing the heads. One time I got kicked out of the lineup for emissions testing, because the Spirit was chugging out blue smoke. Since I knew about this matter, I drove to another testing station. On the way there, the smoke cleared up. By keeping the rpm's above idling while waiting, the Spirit passed the test with no problem. Which proved that while operating normally, the engines are relatively clean. However, since we planned to keep it for years, it made sense to get it fixed. This was done by a Chrysler dealer for almost $1800, and included rebuilt heads with a valve job. Although the tailpipe still is not as clean as I'm used to on other cars, it now passes emissions testing with flying colors and no messing around. Another common issue with these cars and minivans is transmissions failing into limp mode. That's why you see so many of them crawling along highway shoulders with the 4-way flashers going.