The term "halo car" refers to a vehicle designed to attract consumer attention. They are often highly desirable vehicles produced by a mainstream brand that are unusual, have limited availability or are out of financial reach for most buyers. Back in the 1990s, Plymouth introduced just such a model: the Prowler.
Designed to recall the fond memories (if not fantasies) of hot-rodding in the 1950s, the Plymouth Prowler certainly looked the part. Originally appearing as a 1993 concept vehicle, the two-seat Prowler had a 1930s-style roadster body, with a long nose, exposed front suspension components, a bathtub-like passenger compartment and a short, sloping rear end. It looked like no other new car on the road, and that was the point.
While the styling recalled vehicles of the past, the Plymouth Prowler itself was thoroughly modern. It had an aluminum-intensive body that helped to keep weight down, an all-independent suspension supported by huge (for the time) 20-inch rear wheels with meaty tires and a modern overhead-cam V6 coupled to a rear-mounted transaxle. It even offered a relatively (given its role) comfortable interior with leather seats, air-conditioning and a high-powered sound system.
Though the Plymouth Prowler served its role well as a halo car and no doubt led to a few extra sales of Neons from people walking into dealerships, the car itself was obviously flawed. Most criticism concerned the car's V6; though it was decently powerful, America's hot-rodding code pretty much requires V8 power. Additionally, the Prowler's rough-riding suspension and scant versatility and utility prevented it from being anything more than a weekend toy.
With Plymouth's demise as a brand, the Prowler lived on for one more year as a Chrysler before being discontinued. Fewer than 12,000 were sold during its five model years of production. As such, the Prowler is a rare sight on the road today. That pretty much guarantees that owning one as a used model will provide a level of that "look at me!" factor that very few similarly priced vehicles can match.
Most Recent Plymouth Prowler
The Plymouth Prowler roadster debuted for the 1997 model year. Only a few hundred Prowlers were made that year; real production began for 1999 (there was no '98 model) and lasted until 2001. For that final year, some cars were renamed the Chrysler Prowler. Chrysler versions were sold until 2002.
For the car's first year, it came with a 3.5-liter V6 engine producing 214 horsepower. The only exterior color was purple. For all remaining cars, Plymouth upgraded the engine to produce 253 hp and 255 pound-feet of torque. The transmission was a four-speed automatic with manual shift control.
For later years, Plymouth made a variety of changes and improvements. The car's exterior paint choices were continually expanded and in 2000, the suspension's shock absorbers, springs and run-flat tires were redesigned to provide a smoother ride. Plymouth also added a few extra interior features that year. Adjustable shock absorbers were added for 2001.
Standard equipment was a bit limited, but did include power windows and locks, an Infinity 300-watt sound system with CD changer, leather seats, air-conditioning, power mirrors and cruise control. Safety features like traction control, antilock brakes and stability control were not available. Prowler options were limited to a supplemental "trailer trunk" (since the Prowler had no real trunk to speak of) and a handful of exterior color options.
Given that the Prowler works best as a weekend cruiser rather than a daily driver, the lack of luxury and safety features can be forgiven and is perhaps more in line with the raw nature of a hot rod. In fact, some felt that the Plymouth Prowler was too civilized. In reviews, Edmunds editors complained of a relative lack of power. They also were dissatisfied with the lack of a manual transmission option but did comment that the automatic transmission's manual mode provided quick up- and downshifts.