We finish up our Abandoned History coverage of the long-lived UltraDrive transmission today. The pursuit of simplification, modernization, less weight, and better fuel economy lead to the creation of the electronically controlled four-speed A604 marketed as UltraDrive. The idea floated around at Chrysler in the Seventies and then was greenlit and put into production (before it was ready) by an eager Lee Iacocca. A case of unfortunate timing, the new transmission arrived in 1989 at a time when there was almost no exciting news in Chrysler’s product portfolio. Thus the UltraDrive name was coined by marketing, and the new and advanced transmission was featured heavily in the company’s PR materials in 1989 and 1990.
The UltraDrive’s debut version was prone to numerous types of failures because of fluids and sensors, build quality, parts, really everything. But engineers at Chrysler quickly massaged the A604 into the improved 41TE that was ready for use midway through the 1990 build year. UltraDrive was up and running within acceptable reliability standards per Chrysler. Clearly, it was time to create more UltraDrive variations!
The recent Rare Rides Icons post on the 1990 Chrysler Imperial Super-K Gingerbread Cookie Edition generated a few comments not only about the subject in question but its four-speed UltraDrive transmission. It seems more than one of you wants a discussion – no – an essay on the UltraDrive. Wish granted! Here we go.
We arrive at the end of our Dodge Colt journey today. Colt started in 1971 as a cooperative program to provide Mitsubishi with a sales outlet in North America, and Chrysler with a compact and fuel-efficient car it didn’t have to design or build. Over the years the Colt evolved with the needs of the consumer and branched out into several different body styles.
Eventually, the tides shifted. Mitsubishi established their own dealerships in the United States (but not Canada) and started selling identical cars as were on Dodge/Plymouth dealer lots. Then, as Eagle came into being it also needed product to sell. Chrysler turned Eagle into its de facto outlet for imports and Mitsubishi cooperative products: Colts of regular and wagon persuasion became Eagles called Vista and Summit, in addition to their Dodge and Plymouth twins.
Last time we left our tale it was the dawn of 1993, and Colts were badged at Eagle dealers as a new generation of Summit. The Vista Wagon name was dead, now called Summit Wagon. Dodge, Plymouth, and Eagle dealers had an exciting new Colt as well! But it didn’t last long.
We rejoin the world of the Colt today, specifically the lineup on sale at various Dodge, Plymouth, and now Eagle dealers in the United States and Canada in the early Nineties. The addition of Eagle to Chrysler’s brand portfolio for the 1988 model year had a direct effect on the future of Colt: Almost immediately the Colt sedan was drafted onto the Eagle team, where it became the more expensive Summit.
Remaining as Colts in the US in 1990 were the hatchback and the dated Colt Vista and wagon. Canadians were offered the contemporary Colt sedan and hatchback, while the Colt Vista was sold over the border as the Eagle Vista Wagon. The Vista Wagon was accompanied in Canada by the old Colt sedan from the mid-Eighties, branded as Eagle Vista sedan and offered only as a very basic vehicle. We pick up at the beginning of the 1991 model year.
When we last left off in the tale of Dodge, Plymouth, and Eagle’s various Colt branding adventures, it was the late Eighties. After a wave of modernization in 1984-1985 where the first Colt sedan appeared and the range extended into the larger and very forward-thinking Colt Vista, Mitsubishi got in on the Colt action and sold a hatchback with its OEM diamond star up front and Mirage lettering on the back. As the Nineties approached, it was time for a new generation of Colts, and more options from a hot new brand: Eagle.
By the early Eighties Chrysler was deep into its product partnership with Mitsubishi, which in North America was most visible via the mutually beneficial Colt. A lineup of rebadged Mitsubishis, the Colt expanded from its rear-drive beginnings in 1971, morphing into a rear- and front-drive mix by the end of the Seventies. In the earliest part of the Eighties, the line was consolidated into a single front-drive hatchback model. Around the middle of the decade, it was time for a fifth-generation Colt and some more lineup expansion. But this time, Dodge and Plymouth dealers wouldn’t be the only ones selling a Colt.
It’s unofficially been Chrysler Time around the Rare Rides pages lately, and another Chrysler product follows up the New Yorker and Conquest. It was much more important product than either of those two, however, and it signified the end of one of Chrysler’s divisions.
Picture it: 1995, Eagle Vision.
The Great Recession of 2009 wasn’t kind to many automakers, a few of whom were forced to jettison brands like the crew of a sinking boat heaving cargo overboard. With a decent level of consumer confidence and continued cheap gas, things are looking up — even as they’re looking down (January results were less than favorable for a few).
Imagine for a moment you could conjure the ability (and the funds) to revive a brand that’s recently departed this landscape. We have four from which you can select — and a brand new way for you to vote.
The Rare Rides series has featured a few Renaults from the Eighties and Nineties previously, and even one sporty coupe which shared a showroom with today’s Rare Rides subject. It’s the family-friendly Renault Medallion, in comfortable grey wagon guise. Let’s take a look.
There’s not a soul in here who doesn’t, from time to time, go and make a nuisance of themselves in a dealer showroom. I’m not talking about wasting the time of the sales staff, or even helping themselves to copious amounts of free coffee during scheduled maintenance. No, I’m talking about simply wandering through the showroom, looking at all the metal merchandise.
Today, it’s easy. Drive or hoof it down to the brand of choice, examine whatever’s caught our fancy at this minute, and hightail it back out again once the Dealer Principal starts giving you the evil eye. It wasn’t that simple as a kid though, whether it was thanks to being chased out by surly managers or simply living far enough away that one depended on the parental unit to drive them there.
Which brings us to today’s question: what was the first car you remember seeing in a showroom? Given the photo above, one shouldn’t have too much trouble guessing my answer.
While assembling my website pages with links to every Eagle and Mitsubishi car I have ever photographed in wrecking yards, I learned something troubling: I had never shot an Eagle Talon. Sure, there was this Plymouth Laser Turbo and this much never Mitsubishi Eclipse, but no examples of the Eagle Division’s most beloved — well, only— sports coupe.
I resolved that I’d shoot the next Talon I spotted in a wrecking yard; that car turned out to be this one in Denver, from the final model year of Eagle.
Back in the early 1980s, Renault/Jeep/AMC dealers sold quite the assorted lineup of vehicles in the North American market. Shortly after it obtained a 59 percent ownership stake in AMC, Renault launched a new sporty coupe that was assuredly lit.
Come along and check out the Fuego.
Earlier this week in TTAC’s always entertaining Slack chat, Adam Tonge suggested (without sarcasm) how the B&B might enjoy discussing the market entrants of the Diamond-Star Motors company and picking favorites. Shortly after this discussion, the very DSM Plymouth Laser we saw in yesterday’s Rare Rides fell right in my lap, and this all seemed like destiny.
Of the varied selection, which Diamond-Star Motors vehicle is your favorite?
Our last Rare Ride was the little hot hatch Isuzu I-Mark RS, which was just oh-so-80s. Today we move forward in time just four years, to a different sort of sporty hatch.
This one’s Japanese and American. It’s also turbocharged and all-wheel drive. Can you handle some extreme Diamond Star?
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- FreedMike Smart idea. EVs are a far easier sell to someone who can charge them at home.
- Dwford This is just going to become part of selling EVs. Automakers need to make it as simple as possible to buy an EV. And the process of hiring an electrician etc is a barrier many people will not want to deal with.
- MaintenanceCosts So I'm not the only TTAC reader who follows LPL.His channel basically teaches you that with the right knowledge there are very few security products that can't be defeated in a short amount of time.
- Analoggrotto Musta spent that solution development money on that fancy styling department aye Posky?
- Fred I like racing, especially F1 and IMSA where Cadilac races or will. I just wonder if most buyers of that car really care? For me it's that they don't race their sedans like BMW, Acura and others do. Even then the IMSA program could be branded with any GM model and has. What their F1 drivetrain will be I don't know.