One of the things I didn't like about the K-platform Chryslers was their
narrow width compared to GM's similar class vehicles. None were real 6
passenger cars, though, as they used to be, unless the middle passenger
was 5 years old.
Then handling was not as firm or crisp as the earlier torsion bar/leaf
spring cars . . . by any stretch of the imagination. But they weren't
supposed to be corner-carvers as such. Still, by the end of their
product run, the chassis calibrations did become a little firmer and
more "fitting for a Chrysler product" (my words). I suspected that a
different tire choice would have helped sporting intentions, though, as
would stiffer strut calibrations and larger sway bars. If I'd been
inclined to purchase one, that's what I would have done.
One thing Chrysler did, even in those "dark" fwd days, was NOT give up
on performance orientations. Ford and GM built economy cars that were
nothing more than that--period. The similar Chrysler products still had
the genetics for performance in their designs. Even if the "decal
performanc packages" might not have looked a little flaky and such, the
little Turbo 2.2L 4 cyl was an easily-modified engine that would build
enough power to get peoples' attention back then. Mopar Performance had
the parts and Forward Motion carried on the Mopar FWD performance banner
with all sorts of modified parts for that motor.
Drag slicks on the front of a Chrysler/Dodge/Plymouth minivan? Most
certainly! Of course, with the turbo motor under the hood. And the
modified Neons and such, running mid-high 12 second quarter miles times,
do NOT sound like a pissed-off weedwhacker as many of the modified
import 4 cylinders do. If you don't believe that, head over to National
Trails Raceway and the Mopar Nationals the 2nd weekend in August. Watch
the time trails and racing action in the fwd classes. It'll surprise
A few years ago, I got a cold drink from the Duchess Shop on the north
end of the track. As I sipped the drink, I noticed that a high school
guy was putting the slicks on the front of his modified Neon sedan,
using a torque wrench, too. Watching was his father who was a Mopar
owner and enthusiast. I could easily visualize a grandfather also
watching, remembering how they used to drag race when HE was that age.
The Mopar car hobby is a definite multi-generational and diverse group
of enthusiasts! Oh, and in the car show area, there was a suicide-door
Plymouth Acclaim sedan which some guys did in their auto shop, custom
paint and interior and all (any one part of their "changes" would have
been more than what the car was bought for, I suspect).
In order to understand the significance of the K-car platform and its
many factory-based configurations, you have to remember that in that
particular period of the automotive industry, there was little to get
excited about in product or much else. The fact that Chrysler was doing
something different from a single vehicle platform was unique. Every
model year brought a new upgrade of some sort, whether in interior trim
or chassis or engine. They were credible cars for that period of time
and still had the Essence of Chrysler in their designs.
Sure, some of the trim items had the molded-in stitching in the
castings, BUT if you looked closely, you could see the lint from the
thread of the pattern they used to make the molds from. GM or Ford
would not have gone to that much trouble, I suspect, to use such a high
quality molding process from their original pattern piece.
The LeBaron Coupes and similar Dodge sedans were the best ones of the
breed . . . and the last ones on that platform.
The first year I went to Mopar Nats, others of our Mopar club had gone a
year or so before that. The "car of choice" for our guys was the
LeBaron Convertible, so I called Thrifty and got one reserved. It was a
Turbo 2.2 with 3-speed automatic. We got into Columbus on the late
flight, so we got the car and headed for the motel. I could tell the
converter was a little looser than I suspected.
The next day, after having been at the track all day, we had gotten to
the off ramp and red light to get off the freeway and head to the motel.
I was sitting there at the red light and decided to check out the stall
rpm on the converter. I nailed the brake and started easing into the
throttle. It didn't seem unusual when the tach got to 2000rpm, but when
it kept going until it was "stalled" at 3000rpm, that got my attention
as NO stock converter would stall that high, especially a 4cyl. That
rpm was reserved for the likes of 440s and such.
About that time, the light turned green and our guys in front of us
drove off. I had put the trans in "N" after the quick stall check, then
put it in "D" and made a quick start to catch up. Well, the front tires
squalled when I did that (not from a "neutral drop", as they did it
after it had gotten back in gear in "D"). It was enough tire noise that
it got the attention of our friends in front of us.
As for the Chrysler limo vehicles, it was certainly a more fuel
efficient conveyance than the alternatives . . . of gas drinking
Cadillacs and Lincolns . . . and still was what it was. They were
fitted out pretty nicely inside, too. After all, Chrylser execs had to
have something upscale to travel in that was current production "new".
They were just enough counter-culture to be cool. But for those that
used limos for "conspicuous consumption" or to look big shotty, only the
larger Lincolns would do, with all due respect.
All in all, to judge the K-cars by what GM built in the same market
segments and consider them to be boring or uninteresting by that measure
is not completely justified. They might have appeared that way on the
surface, but when you got to looking around at the way the cars were
built and configured (even WITH a K-frame for the engine, just like
Chrysler used on the B-body rwd cars!), and how the exhaust system on a
Dodge Shadow Turbo was about 2.75" at the inlet to the catalytic
converter, decreasing a little at each exhaust section (a little smaller
on the converter out flow side than the inlet, a little smaller on the
outlet side of the muffler than the inlet, etc.) was a good indication
that all it would need to make more power was a cat-back exhaust system
and some other upgrades for the motor. By comparison, if anybody
thought about doing the same thing to a Chevy Cavalier, you might have
grabbed the Yellow Pages and looked under "Mental Health" for anyone
considering doing that to a Cavalier (complete waste of time as the
architecture of the Chevy was NOT designed for such power increases nor
would the chassis have supported such activities, either).
In the back of the second book on Chrysler Police Cars, there's a
mention of some police package turbo cars. An account of something like
the last gen fwd Dodge Charger turbo in the hands of a Deputy Sherriff.
He was on normal patrol when he spotted a speeder coming toward him. He
made the u-turn and nailed the throttle in pursuit. He happened to look
down and see the certified speedometer reading of 130+mph and was
surprised at several things. One was that it got that fast so quick.
Second that it did it with the legendary high speed stability of prior
Chrysler police cars. He was impressed and the speeder was surprised to
see him so quickly, hehe.
Oh . . . and don't forget that the K-cars came with a HEMI! Even if it
was a 2.6L Mitsu engine.