Junkyard Find: Loss-Leader Sundance America Lasts 20 Years, Has Last Laugh

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin

Really cheap, low-optioned Detroit cars haven’t done well for decades, but that didn’t stop Chrysler from following up the super-downscale Omni America with the car advertised as “the lowest priced car on the market available with a standard driver’s-side airbag.” Apparently, no 1991 Plymouth Sundance Americas made it out of the showrooms. Well, none except for this example that managed to dodge The Crusher’s jaws for two full decades before its final tow into a Denver self-service wrecking yard.

Yes, it’s a K-car— technically a P-car— and 1991 car shoppers could get themselves a new four-door Sundance America for just $7,799. Compare that to the ’91 Ford Escort Pony’s $7,976 price tag, or the base ’91 Hyundai Excel’s $6,275; the Sundance was bigger and (arguably) more luxurious.

Of course, those same car shoppers might happen to wander into a Honda showroom and take note of the base ’91 Civic’s $7,095 sticker, and then there was that damn $6,488 Toyota Tercel, the $6,295 Subaru Justy, and the $6,795 Geo Metro XFi (fortunately for Chrysler, and the car-buying public in general, the last year of the $4,435 Yugo GV was 1990). The Sundance America was probably the most comfy of this group and it looked like a helluva deal, but buyers avoided it like chlamydia. Brand image problems, or just a general air of cheapness hovering about the Sundance America?

One nice thing about the standard driver’s-side airbag: no horrible self-deploying seat belts.

Murilee Martin
Murilee Martin

Murilee Martin is the pen name of Phil Greden, a writer who has lived in Minnesota, California, Georgia and (now) Colorado. He has toiled at copywriting, technical writing, junkmail writing, fiction writing and now automotive writing. He has owned many terrible vehicles and some good ones. He spends a great deal of time in self-service junkyards. These days, he writes for publications including Autoweek, Autoblog, Hagerty, The Truth About Cars and Capital One.

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  • Neb Neb on Mar 16, 2011

    Our family had one of these exactly like the feature car, except it was an odd sort of reddish-mauve color. It managed to be bad at basically everything. Uncomfortable seats, no room in the back, a leaky trunk, got pretty poor milage for such a small car. Past 120 km/h the whole dashboard vibrated alarmingly. It sounds like hyperbole, but it is the God's own truth: my grandmother described it as underpowered. When it died, it was not missed.

  • And003 And003 on May 14, 2012

    If the rear end of this Sundance could be repaired, I could see some Shelby CSX-style ground effects, Pentastar V6, and an AWD system being installed.

  • VoGhost Key phrase: "The EV market has grown." Yup, EV sales are up yet again, contrary to what nearly every article on the topic has been claiming. It's almost as if the press gets 30% of ad revenues from oil companies and legacy ICE OEMs.
  • Leonard Ostrander Daniel J, you are making the assertion. It's up to you to produce the evidence.
  • VoGhost I remember all those years when the brilliant TTAC commenters told me over and over how easy it was for legacy automakers to switch to making EVs, and that Tesla was due to be crushed by them in just a few months.
  • D "smaller vehicles" - sorry, that's way too much common sense! Americans won't go along because clever marketing convinced us our egos need big@ss trucks, which give auto manufacturers the profit margin they want, and everybody feels vulnerable now unless they too have a huge vehicle. Lower speed limits could help, but no politician wants to push that losing policy. We'll just go on building more lanes and driving faster and faster behind our vehicle's tinted privacy glass. Visions of Slim Pickens riding a big black jacked up truck out of a B-52.
  • NotMyCircusNotMyMonkeys dudes off the rails on drugs and full of hate and retribution. so is musky.