Monday, January 5, 2015

1k: Strangely Appealing: 1992 Dodge Spirit R/T

The masses have spoken, and we have listened..or something like that.  A few of DT's regular commenters suggested that the Dodge Spirit R/T was worthy of a of course we found the ugliest example on the web!  This isn't entirely true, but of the 1400 Spirit R/Ts sold in the US in 1991-1992, only a few are for sale right now.  Perhaps they have all been crushed, or scooped up by some savvy collector, but this cheap one could be a good deal.  Find this 1992 Dodge Spirit R/T offered here on craigslist for $1000 in Maquoketa, IA.

The Spirit R/T discussion started with a comment from K2 Mystery Car on a K-Car article:
the Plymouth Reliant (and K platform in general) begs the question, “Was there anything good about it?” From an enthusiast’s perspective, it seems difficult to draw a positive conclusion, until you get to the (successor) Dodge Spirit R/T. In 1991, many automotive writers compared it favorably to the contemporary BMW M5, at an approximately $42,000 discount.

 Which was continued with more great input from mrkwong
The most direct competition for the Spirit R/T was the Taurus SHO of similar vintage. The Spirit body was a vast improvement over the preceding K-Cars, though the first-gen Taurus was still better. Both had material-quality deficiencies relative to, say, the Nissan Maxima.
K2 Mystery Car again:
I am in agreement with what you wrote, MrKWong. Which is why the Spirit R/T deserves a DT writeup. 
I agree. The Spirit R/T is actually a likable car and worth preserving. 

The Spirit R/T took the regular Spirit and turned up the fun with a DOHC alloy cylinder head designed by Lotus.  The Turbo III engine was boosted by a Garrett turbo and produced 224 horsepower and 217 ft-lbs of torque.  When new, the R/T hits 60 mph in 5.8 seconds, and it was advertised as the "fastest sedan made in America"  -- even though it was made in Mexico.  The "fastest sedan made in Mexico" just doesn't have the same ring to it.

The other Spirit R/T I could find is this 1991 example, found here on hemmings offered for $9,975 from a dealer in Sioux Falls, SD.  For 10 times the asking price you get a car with only 86k miles on the odometer and in much better condition, but it does seem a bit overpriced.  See another Spirit R/T for sale?  Send it here:


  1. Mexico *is* [North] America.

    I'll always have a soft spot for the Spirit... My first high school girlfriend had one, and it had a huge front bench seat...

  2. Buy it, build it, Quaife the transaxle, go really fast and grin a lot, just don't expect to get more than fifteen cents on the dollar out of what you spend.

    It doesn't look bad, but it needs a lot more pics or a personal inspection.

    1. Can't completely tell from the pics, needs a test-drive, but it seems to fit the role of a 'daily turismo' - cheap enough to buy and drive until you decide whether you love it enough to spend real money on it.

    2. Ah, but there is a problem here. That's not a DOHC Turbo 3 motor.

    3. I owned a white 91 R/T for 6 years, it was a good car comfortable and fast.I raised the boost with a manual controller to 14psi cut out before the cat and 22" slicks (that's all that was available at the time 1996) It ran 13.20s @ 105 I was beating most of the newer cars at the track. The head plugs and head gasket were replaced under warranty @ 38,000 mi,I replaced the turbo @ 50,000mi,and then at 62,000mi it sheared the timing and oil pump gears, I replaced those myself and traded it in on a Buick roadmaster LT-1 engine. I give the car a 8 out 10, best sleeper of the 90s.

  3. Yeah, Chrysler seems to continue to struggle with their grasp of geography. The recently-previous generation Chrysler 200 was advertised as "Imported from Detroit". I guess that would be Detroit, Mexico.

    I hear the real estate market is stronger in Detroit Mexico, however....

    As far as these Spirit R/Ts go, I have admit that I just ignored them totally at the time. Chryslers struck me as total sh*t, but I am now learning that I needed to sift the litter box a little harder. That's why I enjoy this site.

    1. actually the chrysler 200 is made in the U.S. with 67 percent American content and 16 percent Mexican content, final assembly is done in the U.S. and both the engines and transmissions are produced in America, too. The sibling avenger was also produced in the sterling heights plant. I dont know where you get your info at?

  4. As long as people are requesting, how about another quasi-American, unloved and quite rare semi-performance sedan, the Geo Prizm GSi? Seems like they've all rusted back to the earth, or been harvested as an engine transplant for an AE86 drifto.

    Oh, and the hatchback is the preferred format, obviously.

  5. "Spirit R/T took the regular Spirit and turned up the fun with a DOHC alloy cylinder head designed by Lotus"

    Sooooo, why does this one have a SOHC engine? Did I miss something?

    1. It looks like the original feature car is NOT an actual R/T. But the car listed at hemmings (bottom of the page) is an R/T, complete with Lotus cylinder head.

  6. I could write a novel based on the Dodge Spirit. I owned a base model and it was by far the pinnacle of unintentional greatness. On paper there was absolutely nothing remotely good about it but as a form of simple, comfortable transportation, it has my respect.
    Until ground clearance becomes an issue, there is no better 2wd vehicle in the snow or off road. It has a huge backseat and will never let you down. The only weak spot, other than the entire design, is that its transmission may be a bit weak.

  7. Thanks for posting this DT! I was hoping you would.

    I said it before and I'll say it again. In my opinion, if you look at the history of inexpensive, turbocharged, FWD Chryslers, the picture becomes very intriguing. That’s a layout that I'd normally associate with Asian car makers, but this particular American company did quite a good job with what they had. Unfortunately, it appears to have been largely forgotten. Which is too bad, but an opportunity for enthusiasts with limited funds who aren't adverse to torque steer.

    Not to necessarily disagree with mrkwong, though the SHO was certainly a competitor of the Spirit R/T in terms of both being the same class (mid-size sedans) and FWD, I doubt many folks cross-shopped the two models. In fact, it's clear that not many bought the R/T whatsoever and though I wouldn’t be surprised that there were a few outliers, gearheads interested in that naturally aspirated Yamaha engine most likely wouldn’t think twice about a turbo four.

    And let’s admit something right now – other than the manual gearbox and motor, there wasn’t too much else enticing about the SHO over the everyday Taurus. I drove a couple of 1 gens when they showed up on the scene and the handling was pretty poor, in my opinion. You really had the throw the thing around to get it to do what you wanted and I always ended up more exhausted than exhilarated. It was pretty easy to find a better car from another maker, maybe not quite as fast, but a far better car to drive and own; a couple of turbo Swedes, a certain car with an SS badge on it and, at a stretch, the Galant VR-4. And then you had the Maxima which had a less exotic motor but could comfortably compete with the SHO for less money while being far more reliable (oh, what have you done to our beloved Datsun, you French owners!?!).

    Where the blue oval really screwed up is that they didn’t offer it as a package on other models and specifically on the Taurus wagon. Nobody other than people in the know understands the difference between SVO, SVT and SHO. They built some street cred with the latter, and then squandered it. I still find the V8 SHO strange. Were they trying to make it into a near-luxury or did they think by making it so slow that people would be fooled into thinking it had any actual performance?

    But that’s all another discussion. Actually, my point here is to connect the desirability and rich history of the K- (AA) and P platform cars. I’m sure there are Mopar fans out there that can help me with the specific details, but Chrysler utilized what they’d learned from Shelby and Mitsubishi to produce some really interesting turbo four-powered cheap cars. So, in my mind all of those should be clumped together. From the GLHS all the way up to the (more) current SRT-4 cars that weren’t actually just another car makers vehicle rebadged, there’s a marvelous enthusiast driven and focused series of cars that deserves attention.

    That still doesn’t excuse the fact that the company always did and continues to be a step behind the competition in terms of quality and interior design. And for that, I can’t argue with the folks who don’t like them. That’s fine; make mine a Dodge Daytona IROC R/T!

  8. Hey, DT! Did you get all of the other stuff I submitted?

    1. K2 - Yes, going to work it into a special post. Stay tuned!

  9. Awesome, DT! I'm looking forward to your article(s). It will be interesting to read what you think. As I wrote to you, some of that stuff had been floating around in the back of my mind for 20-30+ years. It's hard not to glamorize and idealize things like that to the point that they seem more than they actually are...

    Regarding the SHO (though still a bit off topic), I forgot to mention that at the time I cross-shopped the Pontiac Grand Prix STE Turbo, which I actually preferred a bit more. Despite the SHO being the better looking car, the STE was a bit nicer to drive, with more precise steering. The car felt lighter, though it wasn't and the braking was better even though it was as not as solid after a few hard shoves of the stop pedal. In addition, the STE was about $2,500 cheaper, too. Though the numbers don't necessarily reflect it, the functional performance was very, VERY close.

    Of course, you can still find an old SHO. How many Pontiac Grand Prix STE Turbos can you find? Hmm...yeah. I don't want anybody to think I don't love the SHO. I do, but there were/are a lot of other really interesting options out there and I don't know that the brilliance (be that as it may) of that Yamaha engine should outshine other cars.

  10. 1991 Dodge Spirit R/T for sale, in USA - California.

    Mileage: 105,200 miles

    Asking price is $$3000

    Seller Information: Shannon Hudson
    Phone: (661) 510-6647

    "I just bought this 1991 Dodge Spirit R/T from the second owner in Las Vegas and after cleaning it up a little and putting a new 255 fuel pump in it I found out that it has blow by and is pushing a little oil out of the dipstick. The car runs and drives great. no cracks on the head and it is one of the cleanest Spirit R/T's I have come across in a long time. It has new tires and new rear shocks, the clutch is fairly new and so is the water pump and timing belt. The engine is super smooth and quiet, no lifter noise and it has great oil pressure. If you just drove it easy it would probably last forever. I have too many projects and don't want to go thru an engine R&R and rebuild so I am cutting my losses. $3000 obo gets this clean rust free car. If I cant sell it I will be parting it out. You can call me at (661) 510-6647."

  11. 1992 Dodge Spirit R/T for sale, in USA - Iowa.

    Mileage: 178000 miles
    Engine Size: 2.5 turbo TBI

    Asking price is $ $1200

    Seller Information: Kyle
    Phone: (563) 321-6099

    "First off this is an Arizona car so it has absolutely no rust anywhere. It's currently my daily driver. This would be a great restoration project."

  12. There are lots of R/Ts for sale, if you know where to look. From the $10K car listed above by DT, down to the drivable project car that I've listed above, they're out there. Here's one last one, a worked one this time:

    1991 Dodge Spirit R/T for sale, in USA - Pennsylvania.

    Mileage: 94000 miles
    Engine Size: 2.2 Turbo 3

    Asking price is $4000 firm

    Lost interest in the car and have no time for it anymore so i hate to see it sit
    contact me at not on here much anymore

    91 Red Spirit R/T - Originally Marc Ehrenbergs car.
    94,XXX miles. Bought it in Decemeber of 2008 from Marc with a blown bottom end caused by the typical TIII I-Shaft failure with 87k on it. New motor only has a little over 6000 miles on it.
    Original Red Paint is still in pretty good condition. NO RUST!

    Has Eurospec headlights (extremely rare)
    150 speedo, short sifter
    Interior is in good condition but needs headliner
    Dualcore t-bird FMIC made custom by TD member Pat. (will come with stock IC as well)
    60mm turbo - MBC to 15psi on daily basis..but have had it to 21psi
    Turbos Unleashed Dual Pattern 3" Swingvalve and New O2
    3" DP with 3" electric cutout then down to stock catback
    New 180 Thermostat
    New Valve cover gaskets
    3 Bar Map Sensor
    +40 Injectors
    .074 FWD-P MLS Cometic HG
    TU Red Plate DD Kevlar Clutch
    block bore .030 with new Venolia Pistons
    New oil Pump and pickup as well as I-shaft
    ARP Head studs, Rod bolts,and main studs
    resurfaced crank
    all new bearings and seals
    New Valves,seals and guides
    New Timing Belt
    FWD-P Valley Cover
    Jackson hex valve cover,valley cover,and coil bolts
    Completely Rebuilt A568 by CLIFF RAMSDELL with 300 miles on it
    Booger Bushings
    MOOG tie rods,ball joints, swaybar bushings and control arm bushings
    New wheel Bearings
    New Eibach Pro Kit Springs
    New KYB Gas-a-Justs and kyb GR2 struts
    Strut tower Brace

    Heres a link to when i was building the are kinda blurry (i apologize).

    I'm located in Clarks Summit PA. Price is $4000 Also comes with set of slicks mounted on white snowflakes."

    1. Oops. I screwed up the link. Here it is again, but you need to sign up to see it I think.


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