By on August 30, 2012

Chrysler sold P-body compacts in near-identical Dodge and Plymouth flavors; we saw the ’91 Dodge Shadow yesterday, and the very same self-service yard has this ’92 Sundance.
In the early 1990s, cars sold in the United States were required to have maddening automatic seatbelts if they didn’t have a driver’s-side airbag. Chrysler opted to spring for the airbags in the Shadow/Sundance.
Here’s another feature you won’t see in most compacts of the period: hood hinge springs. Yes, Chrysler was willing to add several pounds of weight and (I’m guessing) $5 in cost to each Sundance, so that owners wouldn’t have to fumble for a hood prop. Corollas, Sentras, and Civics got no such convenience.
The problem was that these cars didn’t hold up under the rigors of street abuse for quite as long as their (non-Mitsubishi) Japanese rivals. This one nearly made 160,000 miles.
The Pabst-and-Marlboro diet of the car’s last owner indicates that perhaps the process of depreciation had gone as far as it ever would.

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26 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1992 Plymouth Sundance...”

  • avatar

    I always like to know the mileage on the featured junkyard finds, but it makes me pity the poor saps who had to drive penalty boxes such as this so many miles.

  • avatar

    It was nice to see all the haters come out in force for yesterday’s Shadow, but looking through the 40 odd comments it was even nicer to see people with positive memories chime in too.

    I’m one of the latter. My first new car, purchased in February of 1988, was a graphic red Turbo 5 speed Shadow. Owning it wasn’t all peaches and cream, I broke the core support under the front motor mount doing burnouts, had the paint peel off the front spoiler and replaced the head gasket at 90K miles, but I still remember the little car with great fondness.

    It was one of the most comfortable cars I’ve ever owned, with nice high seats and a great clear view all around. I made two trips from Seattle to DC and another couple of Seattle to LA runs as well. I could sit in that thing for hours on end and not get tired.

    The turbo engine was strong and turbo lag was only a minor issue since I knew how to downshift. When I would drop that little guy into the right gear it would regularly out run more powerful cars on the highway. I’m sure I embarrassed a lot of guys.

    Shortly after I bought my shadow, my best friend bought a CRX SI. We would trade cars once in a while and while his Honda would stick to the road like glue, it was readily apparent my little Shadow packed a lot more punch under the hood. I liked the Honda, but I honestly think I had the better car.

    I suppose cars today are superior in every way but I have to say that none of them can match the fun factor of my little Shadow.

    • 0 avatar

      “I liked the Honda, but I honestly think I had the better car.”

      Sure, if going in a straight line is your thing (but then any monkey can go fast in a straight line.)

      Other than that, the CRX was the clear winner.

      • 0 avatar

        How many monkeys have you been around? Based on what I’ve seen in my travels, monkeys are some pretty nimble little bastards.

      • 0 avatar

        Seen a few at zoos.

        From what I’ve seen, they probably would be pretty good at just mashing down on the accelerator pedal and keeping it fairly straight.

      • 0 avatar

        You sound like a Honda fanboy. Don’t let my real life experience with both cars get in the way of you spouting your opinion.

        I grew up and learned to drive in the foothills of Western Washington. I think I learned to throw a car around in the corners pretty well and will tell you that the road would have to be pretty darn tight for the CRX to have any kind of advantage over my Shadow. On most corners my Shadow would hang right in there and in the straights it was no contest.

        On top of that, the Honda was small inside, uncomfortable, hard to see out of and even smelled funny. I also disliked the feel of the hydraulic clutch. On long trips, the Honda was miserable – the seats were always too hard and too low to the floor for my taste.

        The Honda was better built, I think, and more reliable. It was a nice car, but it wasn’t my thing. I bought what I wanted and the Shadow was about as close to a muscle car as you could get back then without going to a Mustang GT.

      • 0 avatar

        Not a fanboi – stopped liking Hondas 10 years ago.

        Owned a 91 CRX for a few years. Autocrossed it as well. Also, had the opportunity, as an instructor, to drive a few Shadow/Sundances at driving schools, so I am familiar with them as well.

        So yeah – I have real world experience – in a forum where I can actually drive 10/10ths, not some back roads.

        Small – well yeah, but that didn’t stop me from getting 4 race tires, a jack, tools, an clothes for two people into it for a trip to SCCA Solo Nationals in Salinas, Kansas.

        Uncomfortable? Not that I remember, even on said 3200 mile round trip to Salinas

        Smelly? Sounds like your friend had some issues.

        The P-cars win on power and being bigger. If that’s you’re thing, great. But overall the Honda was a better car.

        BTW, I would rather be accused of being a CRX fanboi than a P-Car fanboi.

    • 0 avatar

      I’ve seen a lot of early-90s Civics/CRXs and Chrysler P-bodies in LeMons races, and the Hondas generally get around a road course a lot quicker than the Chryslers. The 2.2/2.5 clearly has the power advantage on the straights, so I suppose they’d be more evenly matched at a horsepower track such as NJMP. I’d say they’re about equal in terms of reliability; the Hondas blow head gaskets early and often and the P-bodies suffer from a grab bag of engine/transmission/brake/suspension/electrical failures.

      • 0 avatar

        Transmission issues? Did the P car have the 3 speed only? That automatic was a legend in reliability….I personally put over 252K on one (not a P but a K) and the trans was still working perfectly. And mine was not the exception….Surprised to see the other “fault” areas as my K had none of those, except the headgasket which caused me to scrap the car at the 253K…

    • 0 avatar

      I’ve stopped trying to defend the Turbo Mopars. You’ll never win.
      I have to agree that the Sundance was a good little car.

      I’m glad there are so many people that dislike the whole lot of Turbo Mopars, it keeps the prices low for cheap arses like me!

    • 0 avatar

      Your Shadow would be better in a fender bender, CRX’s crinkle if you just look at them he wrong way.

      The CRX did have more engineering behind it and better handling, but if you want a decent little grocery getter the Shadow was the better car. More room, tougher, cheaper, and it won’t have a fart can on it.

      • 0 avatar

        I was in a 1987 CRX Si when it rolled at over 100 mph, hitting a parked car and a house in the process. My only injury was a scratch from crawling out a broken window. My friend whose car it was didn’t even have a scratch. I don’t have a story for being in a big wreck with a K-car, but I must say that I was grateful for the integrity of the CRX’s structure.

      • 0 avatar

        After a few years, my buddy got into some financial troubles and ended up selling the CRX to some kid. It was totaled less than a month after he sold it. He still gets angry when he talks about it.

        It was a black on black 1988 SI, just like the one in the Stealth Bomber commercials they had on at the time. It was a slick little car, I’ve kicked myself a time or two for not buying it myself, but it just wasn’t my thing.

        I put 140K on the Shadow and then sold it to my older brother in 96. He drove it for another 5 years and gave it to his sister in law. When I got back from Japan in 2002 I asked about it, but by then it was in the bone yard.

        I think it did pretty well for a monkey driven sub $10K car.

    • 0 avatar

      @tmk, Thanks for posting. It’s interesting to me to hear an informed opinion dissenting from conventional wisdom. Sounds like the Shadow served you well and lined up with your needs/tastes.

  • avatar

    I hate dealerships that slap their giant badges or stickers on their cars. Every car I’ve bought, I always tell them that if their badge or sticker on the car at delivery, the deal is off. Just a peeve of mine, though I’m amazed this one lasted the life of the car.

  • avatar

    I’d like to see a 90’s Sundance Duster in ‘Junkyard Finds’. Was latest use of Duster name. Lots of green with gold trim Dusters sold around here.

  • avatar

    The 1993 Neon had the same platform and was introduced as a “1995” model. 93 and 94 Sundance/Shadows ended up mostly in the Thrifty/Dollar/Snappy Rental Fleets.

  • avatar

    Between the Shadow and the Sundance I do recall reading at allpar that the Sundance had softer suspension, while the Shadows was stiffer.

    Like the Tercel of that time, its silly how useful hatchbacks were done away with for cramped little trunks.

  • avatar

    A guy that used to work for me had one of these, a 1987 model, in blue. He’d bought it new (and this was 2009) and still loved the thing. Rebuilt the engine himself and had it painted at some point.

    More power to him. Nice to see someone take care of their ride, even if it is something like this.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    The last of these being 94 model year had the motorized passive restraint on the passenger side only since the drivers side airbag was standard since 90. Apparently Mopar did not want to bother with passenger airbag for one model year since it was being replaced by the Neon.

  • avatar

    Purchased a rootbeer-over-tan Sundance 2-dr auto new in 1990 for cash.

    A couple years ago decided to sell it on Craig’s list after calculating we put 100 miles a year on it this past five years. Priced it at $2,500. After 12 serious inquiries in 24 hours, took it back off the market. Just learned Allstate Insurance values it at $1,000 if totaled.

    We have space in the garage for it, its well maintained and could drive cross-country if needed, it hauls darn near anything, goes, stops and steers just fine, and it’s a great backup vehicle for two daily drivers.

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