By on August 29, 2012

The Chrysler K platform was getting pretty dated by the early 1990s, though the 2.2/2.5 engine family was still technologically relevant (when compared to such Industrial Revolution-era machinery as GM’s Iron Duke). Chrysler put together yet another version of the K platform to create the P-body, which it then used as the basis for a family of compact cars intended to replace the even-more-dated Omnirizon cars. Thus was the Dodge Shadow born. Chrysler sold quite a few Shadows, which means you still see them on the road every now and then. I’ve been seeing Shadows and Sundances in large quantities in junkyards for the last 15 or so years, and only recently has the flow of P-bodies to The Crusher slowed down. Before they’re all gone, here’s a bronze Shadow I spotted at a Denver self-serve yard.
Just 110,000 miles on the clock, which means this car averaged just over 5,000 miles per year during its lifetime.
The Shadow was just your basic transportation appliance, and most examples were used up and thrown away before the dawn of the 21st century.

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50 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1991 Dodge Shadow...”

  • avatar

    Ah, the ur-Sebring. Look at all the right angles on those door panels…almost as if the interior wasn’t designed with human comfort in mind.

  • avatar
    Polar Bear

    And people wonder why Chrysler has gone bust twice.

    • 0 avatar

      It is almost as if ya’ll never saw a 1991 model car before. This is a classically-styled vehicle compared to a Cavalier or Escort of the same year. Even a 1991 model Civic or Corolla looks gauche and overstyled next to this handsome little thing.

      The v6 was a very interesting little car. Available with a manual shift, and in a coupe body. Oh, the middle-american coupe. How I miss it.

      • 0 avatar

        Agree, the styling is pretty good for the era. Compare it to a 91 Corolla and you’ll see. And as a former owner of a ’91 Corolla, I can’t imagine this Shadow would have been any flimsier than its Toyota competitor in a crash.

        Having ignored these cars for 2 decades, I’m now studying the lines and the design strikes me as very similar to the Hyundai Excel that Sajeev gave a hearty Vellum Venom stamp of approval a few weeks ago. Honest, functional, inoffensive.

      • 0 avatar

        Actually these were quite comfortable. They were such a bargain with the level of options they provided. I know, hard to see here. I had an ’87 1/2 Dodge Shadow ES hatchback and loved it. The 3 spd auto sucked, but the car itself had every option. The 2.2L turbo had the worst lag. To get it to launch, you had to hold the brake with your left foot, feather the gas with your right til the analog turbo-gage needle perked just barely into the red. Once got it at a 1/4 mile track to 0-60 in 5.5 and the 1/4 mile in 15.2, not bad for an ’87 anything.

      • 0 avatar

        I remember in high school, two of my friends got a Shadow (or was one the Chrysler version, can’t remember). One was a red two door (couldn’t bear to call it a “coupe”) with a manual transmission and no thrills. One was a four door in some kind of godawful aqua color and had an auto and more upscale equipment.

        I remembered thinking the day I sat in each of them that they were possibly the biggest POS that I had ever sat my rear in, and that the only reason my friend with the red coupe should be happy upgrading over the ’79 Toyota that it replaced (couldn’t remember the model) was that the Dodge had power steering and air conditioning. But that was about the limits of the improvement that I could see.

        Yes, the 80’s and into the early 90’s were a miserable time for cars, however these stood out as being total POS’s to me even back then. I had an ’82 Olds Omega with the Iron Duke and even that I preferred. At least it seemed like it would hold together…

      • 0 avatar

        I know cars from the era well, having worked at a mega-dealer in 1989. Compared to the Sundance/Shadow, the Civic was something from the future. With a Civic’s low cowl, ergonomic dashboard, and sewing machine smooth engine, the only way to sell Chrysler cars was to keep them on a separate lot. I resented Honda based on my previous experience with a Belgian built Honda motorbike, but I had to work pretty hard to ignore how superior their cars were to the Mopars I’d grown up with. The best I could come up with was that the Civics had minimal suspension travel at the time. They used to lift wheel coming out of our sloping parking lot.

      • 0 avatar


        I had an ’83 Civic hatchback in the 90’s and had no issues with the suspension on those, that is until the last couple of years or so as the struts wore, it would momentarily slip on metal pavement joints when it rained, more and more, but handled just fine otherwise, even in the interstate, doing 70.

      • 0 avatar

        It was the 4th generation Civic introduced in 1988 that had upper and lower control arm suspension which used to chirp a front tire and then lift a rear wheel as it was driven diagonally out of our sloped parking lot exit at the dealer. The 4 door sedans seemed particularly bad in this way, and lack of suspension travel compared to all the cars that didn’t exhibit this behavior seemed the most likely explanation.

  • avatar
    Speed Spaniel

    Back in the early 90s one of the gals in the carpool bought one of these in a hideous shade of red/pink called raspberry. Within a year the color faded to a hot pink. When it was her week to drive, I drove myself in. There wasn’t an ounce of comfort to be found anywhere in that machine.

  • avatar

    These cars served a purpose in their time and they did it well. If you have the patience, they still do. My cousin who is in her early 20s loves her peeling grey patina ’91 shadow and wouldn’t trade it for newer rides offered by my uncle. Ugly, but cheap to own.

    • 0 avatar

      Chrysler builds the patina right in. Especially during the 1990s whenever they were swapping over to water-based paints and electro-plating/dipping the chassis in primers.

      My old 1998 neon’s roof looks exactly like what I assume your Cousin’s Sundance/Duster/Shadow does, and I adore it. There’s something punk-as-fuck about peeling paint– either you appreciate it, or you don’t. It isn’t like Chrysler was alone with the problem– everyone else just junked their 1989 Corsicas and Barettas already :P

      These cars were available with a garnet red interior until 1993, at least.

  • avatar

    What bugged me about this car is they basically shortened and cheapened the Le Baron GTS, and in doing so they got rid of all of the GTS’s strengths and kept its weaknesses. The Shadow was smaller inside but got worse gas mileage, most likely due to awful aerodynamics. The GTS had a good interior for its time and class. The Shadow was at best average. The GTS had a very useful hatchback, but the Shadow was shy on luggage space. I only drove a Shadow one time, It vibrated terribly at highway speeds.

    • 0 avatar

      Thats how I feel, though I thought the Shadow was an Aries but with every quality removed.

      The AriesReliant was really a “compact big car”, it was roomy and decently aerodynamic while reasonable effcient.

      Chrysler being the genuis’s they are cheapened it out over time, eventually making the flimsier and cramped Shadow, a poor copy of the cars that the K-Car was built to compete with.

      What really worries me is that VWs trying to take this same approach.

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    I think I’ve owned 1 or 2. I can’t even recall buying them.

    When I was in Searsport, Maine 10 years ago, I used a 4 door version to get around. I think it was about $25 a day from the local rental car place.

    Not a bad deal. It did the job and nothing more. Given that Maine has a lot of small winding roads, the Shadow seemed to be well suited for the environment.

    I’ve always thought about opening a rental car place up there due to that experience.

  • avatar
    Mark MacInnis

    Granted that the safety technology of the time was not nearly as robust as it is now, and even giving due respect to Chrysler for igniting the airbag revolution in the late ’80’s / early ’90’s….these things were death traps. In a crash, they’d crumple like tinfoil. Seriously, I’ve seen origami pieces with greater structural rigidity.

    My bro-in-law t-boned one of these driving on campus in Michigan in 1990 (not his fault…other driver drunk, hit the right side curb, over-corrected causing him to cross the center line at a near-90 degree angle) …posted speed on campus was 25 IIRC, so he was doing maybe 40. When I went and looked at the wreck, I was nauseated: The passenger compartment of the Shadow was crushed to MAYBE 18 inches wide. By MAYBE a 50-mph combined-speed impact. Whoa.

    My BIL was driving a Mustang II…essentially a glorified Pinto.

    My BIL was cut out of the wreck, with a broken ankle, cuts and contusions. The other guy was removed from the Shadow in pieces.

    Made up my mind then and there that neither I nor anyone I loved would ever drive or own a Chrysler product, if I could help it….a promise which I’ve kept to this day.

    • 0 avatar

      Size has nothing to do with it. My cousin found his oblivion by an aero Thunderbird.

      • 0 avatar
        Mark MacInnis

        I wasn’t talking about size. There are any number of B- and C- cars which will maintain the structural integrity of their passenger compartment in a side-impact crash. But these Shadows were built as flimsy as toothpaste tubes….surprising they weren’t “sued” off the roads….

        Sorry about yer cousin, mate. RIP. But I’d wager a pint that he stood a better chance in his T-Bird than in any similarly-sized Chrysler product.

      • 0 avatar

        Door intrusion standards weren’t implemented until 1998.

        Small cars were not as safe before multiple airbags and side beams. It is immaterial whether that compact was built by GM, Ford, Chrysler, Nissan, Toyota, Honda or any other mass-market, popularly-priced brand.

        It wasn’t the cars that killed these people– it was the forces a car is capable of exerting on the human body. Anyone can die in any automobile.

  • avatar

    Punk-as-fusk is moderated, and GD isn’t?

  • avatar
    Joe McKinney

    Chrysler was ahead of the curve in at least one respect. That ugly beige interior color looks exactly like what you will find in many 2012 model year vehicles.

  • avatar

    My dad had one of these as a company car for a while in the early 90s, an ice blue hatchback. He was a detective sergeant with the local police force at the time, and I remember he wound up the butt of jokes from other officers and city employees for having basically drawn the short straw at the motor pool.

    This was the car he accidentally drove through the garage door at our new house when his foot slipped off the brake, surprisingly tough cars – the door was destroyed, but the Shadow only got a little ding on the hood.

    Eventually, it got passed down to someone lower on the totem pole, but I believe it was still somewhere in the department’s fleet up until about 8 or 9 years ago, as I used to see it still running around town.

  • avatar

    I had one for 8 yrs. 2dr 2.5l 5spd. Great commuter car. Paint sucked but everything else did great. Just oil brakes and tires. Sold it cheap to a friend of my sons. They drove it for several more years.

  • avatar

    Second generation K car mechanicals were very robust, from the fuel injected era beyond. Head gaskets were still a bit frangible but with no overheats could last a long time. This one probably has such low mileage because nobody wanted to drive it, or it was a granny car. Around these parts, I recall quite a few really low mileage mint Ks on the street in the early 2000s as the old folks died off and the cars were released from the garages…

  • avatar

    Man, you used to see these everywhere and then they all disappeared from the roads almost overnight. Some girl in my high school drove a “Duster” version.

  • avatar

    Considering the outside of the car, the interior is in pretty good nic. I am rather curious to the many pieces of velcro tape decorating the driver’s side dash. Whatever was there was rather large. Early GPS device? Dancing Hula girl? Bobbly-headed dashboard dog? Beer cooler/eskie/chilly bin? Chuhuahua bed? Hydroponic marijuana farm? Fishbowl?

    • 0 avatar

      Can’t see the other side, but I’d guess some sort of dash cover. Given the low annual miles it was probably a Granymobile. Possibly Saint (fill in the blank) medals/statues.

  • avatar

    Having owned a 1981 Reliant, a 1984 E-Class a 1990 Acclaim, a 1980 LeBaron coupe, a 1976 Dart Lite, The Shadow/Sundance twins were, in effect, a down-sized reincarnation of the Duster/Dart twins of the 1970-76 years.

    They were nice, basic cars. Decent transportation and somewhat stylish, nothing more. Very simple machines that got the job done.

    I preferred the Sundance, because it had a nicer grille, a nicer name and a few other things, even if it was the same car. Plus I preferred Plymouth, of which I was a big fan back then.

    One interesting fact I picked up on was on the sedans, if you got power windows, the rear door glass rolled down just over halfway, compared to the manual crank, which didn’t make it halfway! About 2″ difference! I guess you get what you pay for!

    Later, on the Spirit/Acclaim twins, power got you glass all the way down, while crank left you about 4″ of glass above the belt! Go figure…

  • avatar

    Ah, memories. The first car I ever bought for myself was an ’88 ES 5-speed in white. Thing could scoot once you got past the turbo lag and torque steer. Went through at least one head gasket and clutch. Sold it to the girl across the street from my grandmother, who totaled it not long thereafter.

    In my mid-life crisis mode I’m thinking of revisiting that sort of vehicle via the Focus ST when it arrives.

  • avatar

    I rented one of these and drove it at night from Vegas to Phoenix. What a horrible POS. Every spatial relationship inside and outside the car was grossly wrong. The steering felt as if it were connected to the wheels by 4-foot-long rubber bands. I spent every minute of the drive through the mountains with wide eyes and white knuckles.

    My first new car had been a ’79 Plymouth Horizon, a close relative under the skin. My term of ownership ended prematurely at 2-1/2 years and 30,000 miles when a defectively welded motor mount broke, allowing the engine to literally fall out and lie atop the front suspension and the firewall. Everyone at Chrysler on up to Lee Iacocca’s office told me in writing that my 12/12 new car warranty was over, and that therefore I could go to hell. Still, that car was more agreeable to drive than this one.

  • avatar

    In 1992, I bought a year old Dodge Shadow Convertible. Remember them? It was 1 of about 10 that a used car dealer had bought from a rental agency in SoCal. It was Okay to drive, the right window leaked in the most minor rain or car was and about a year into it, the drivers window fell down into the door(it was a manual job, as was the top).

    I drove it about 2.5 years and everyone I knew thought it was so cool! Little did they know.

  • avatar
    bill mcgee

    Rented one in Colorado in the early nineties , in fact the odd door panels with the right – angle armrest / assist grip brought back a memory of thinking it was odd at the time and the interior must have been the same color , with the same cheapskate plastic . I had some unlimited miles deal and drove it 3000 miles in maybe 10 days . It was quick enough but once you hit higher elevations it lost power so abruptly that suddenly I could barely go 20 mph , flooring it . After a few days the right -side window suddenly wouldn’t go all the way up leaving a half-inch gap that whistled annoyingly and like memike ‘ s car leaked during an unexpected rain . But , hey,for $ 99 a week or whatever it was …

  • avatar

    funny timing for this article, I saw a Shadow this weekend in a parking lot in San Jose. Caught my eye right away because it was in mint condition – white 2-dr, clean and shiny, even the black trim (with red stripe) looked like new, as if it just came out of a time machine. I should’ve taken a closer look, or tried to read the odo thru the window, but was with my wife at the time. I have to wonder what the story is, you don’t see too many cheap cars from ~20 years ago in such good condition.

  • avatar

    A friend traded his ’93 Lada Samara for a ’87 Plymouth Sundance. He got the better end of the deal. :)

  • avatar

    I drove one of these for a time a while ago. Headgasket was blown and you could only keep coolant in it for a few days at best. I drove it most of the winter with no coolant at all, not enough for heat anyways, and well into the spring/summer, never adding any coolant. The engine ran forever, it wouldn’t die air cooled as it was. I finally replaced it with something, sending it to the scrap yard still running.

  • avatar

    Almost bought one of these (a ’94) back when I was 16. It had the Mitsu V6 and a 5spd, was also the ‘Duster’ (HA!) package.

    Green on tan. Nice car, especially in Y2K.

  • avatar

    I had an 89 (I think) Shadow that I inherited from my Mom. Fuck I hated everything about that car, though I was grateful to have wheels. When I was finally flush enough to buy my first new car in 92–a Jetta Turbo Diesel–I felt like I’d won the lottery.

  • avatar

    The last of these were built in fall 1993, for a short ’94 model year. The Neon was an early ’95 model, brought out in spring 1994. So, after nearly 2 decades, P bodies are nearly as rare as Chevettes, now.

  • avatar

    First time I got laid was in a Plymouth Sundance. I later worked at Trenton Engine, where the 2.2 was made.

  • avatar

    I can state with authority that this car is worth at least a dime more than some of the other cars in that yard. My authority comes from Picture #5, of the shifter/console/cupholder.

  • avatar

    The woman who broke my heart had one of these, a 92 black 2 door. Being a college student, it was a very spacious car and great transportation to get her around. Fond memories of driving her car with the St Christopher medallion firmly attached to the drivers sunvisor. Then again, I was rocking a 90 Beretta at the time…so my fondness for her Shadow is only now in retrospect barely justified.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    The other day I saw a white Shadow convertible which was basically a shortened LeBaron convertible. Mopar apparently farmed these out to ASC to do the conversion. Future collectable? It was in fine shape but I noticed the door fit in particular in the latch area was way off. Maybe it was a bad conversion from the folks at ASC or just plain old age.

  • avatar

    One of my high-school friend’s sisters drove one of these, blue with a white top.

    I remember someone asking her which she would rather have, a sports car or an SUV, and her answering ‘An SUV. I have a sports car now, and it sucks.’

  • avatar

    I recently came across the web site of a company called Exline Custom Auto, and they have a kit to transform a Dodge Shadow into a RWD V8-powered car. This car could have benefited from the Exline kit.

  • avatar

    I think that all of the chrysler cars from 88 to 94 had that same door handle on the inside.. my acclaim has it but chrome

  • avatar
    martin ramos

    Buenas tengo un dodge shadow 1987 ando buscando el panel de encender el aire acondicionado lo vi en una foto nose si esta ala venta aquí soy nuevo me pueden ayudar por favor se los bit agradecer

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