Tuesday, March 3, 2015

5k: What's Your Spirit Animal? 1991 Dodge Spirit R/T

From 1991 through 1996 Dodge built a few boat loads of an abysmal family sedan on a stretched version of the Chrysler K-car, and badged it as the Dodge Spirit.  Most have mercifully been crushed into compact cubes for a trip to China to be recycled into the metal containers that hold the ass gaskets (Texas t-shirt, North Hollywood horse collar, paper cowboy hat, baloney in a butt-seat sandwich...whatever those things are called) above the toilet in a public restroom.  However, there was one particular flavor of the Spirit that is actually worth sparing from the jaw of the crusher -- the limited production (1208 built) '91-'92 R/T.  Find this 1991 Dodge Spirit R/T offered for $4,000 in St Louis, MO via craigslist.


Various internet sources claim the Spirit R/T was the quickest 4-door sedan in the world (or US built sedan) at the time of manufacture, but at 5.8 seconds to 60mph and 14.5 in the race to 1320 ft, it was marginally slower than the e34 M5.  It was however, a blisteringly fast car for a front-wheel-drive 4-cylinder family car from Detroit with an $18k MSRP. 



The R/T is powered by a Chrysler Turbo III engine with a 16-valve cylinder head designed by Lotus and boosted by a Garrett turbo to produce 224 horsepower and 217 ft-lbs of torque.  The only transmission available was a 5-speed manual gearbox that put the power to one of the front wheels.  At 2,900 lb curb weight the Spirit R/T isn't a heavy weight and should be decent in the turns for its choice of drive wheels. 


See another low production turbocharged weirdo from the past? Send it here: tips@dailyturismo.com

29 comments:

  1. "..marginally slower than a...(1991) M5"...you sure about that? I've seen times for the M at around 0-60 mph in 6.2 and 14.4 in the quarter.

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  2. Well...maybe those sources are incorrect. Here's a C&D article that says the 0-60 is 5.6 and a 14.5 quarter.

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    1. 1991 M5 $56,600 MSRP, 10/19 mpg
      1991 Spirit R/T $17,820 MSRP, 17/25 mpg

      I'm pretty sure the only claim was that the R/T was the fastest sedan made in the US, which is hilarious because it wasn't. It was made in Mexico.

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    2. Yeah, and Chrysler (or Fiat, or whatever alias they are currently using) continued that nonsense with their "Chrysler 200: Imported from Detroit" campaign. Once again, the car was built in Mexico.

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    3. I thought it was made at Sterling Heights in Michigan?

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    4. The 200, I mean.

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  3. The Fat Boys on Velocity bought one for $1800 from a little Ole Lady !

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  5. Get your heads out of the magazine numbers. There's no question that the E34 M5 was a faster car, overall, than the Spirit R/T or the Taurus SHO.

    0-60 times aren't a measure of 'fast', they're a measure of 'quick'. The only one of the three that'd poke 150mph was the M5.

    Even at that, the open-diff FWD Detroiters would lose two seconds off the line at the first dewdrop or pine needle caught by a front tire. And while I know the SHO would touch 140mph (don't know the book top speed of the R/T) it had 100mph brakes from the factory. Been there, done that, got the brown underwear. We used to routinely end up with front rotors that looked like they came from a Pringles can.

    The M5 was (and is) a better car, and in most conditions not involving a wet racetrack, a faster car. It was also, out of the showroom, a vastly more expensive car. Even the 535i (more directly competitive in the real world) was a whole lot more money.

    Now, all that said: it's nice to see DT find a real Spirit R/T, and like the SHO these are usable real-world cars if you can find parts and certainly worth preserving. I could see dumping something near forty Benjamins for this thing if I didn't already have a very full driveway.

    The most important part, of course, to owning any FWD vehicle of more than stock 1983 GTI power output that you intend to really drive is the availability of a helical limited-slip differential, the budget to pay for it, and the mechanical skills (or additional wallet thickness) to install it.

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    1. Ah, feeling verbose.

      Once you get past the 0-60 numbers there's a few other cars that have to be brought into the party, depending on whose shoes the bouncer doesn't like.

      The Maxima SE of the day was probably a 'better' car in terms of the things the civilian populace thinks of as 'good', 30HP down on the SHO and more on everyone else but Nissan was really the only one at that point that realized you HAD to have a limited-slip diff to make a FWD really go. Of course, it also had cheesy-ass motorized seatbelts.

      The Mercedes 500E was the sedan muscle king, but slushbox-only and the pricetag was a little like one of those sex toys sold for use with reciprocating saws.

      The Audi 200 Quattro 20V was a work of art, the AAN motor went out the door with 227HP driving all the usual Audi locomotive bits and the complexity was terrifying for the time. The later urS4/S6 were a little less dramatic, a little more businesslike, the same basic stuff underneath.

      But the most direct European competition to the Spirit R/T and the SHO were the Volvo 940 and Saab 9000 turbos, in the case of the Saab the '91-up 2.3-liter was almost impossible to match.

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    3. The Audi 200 didn't have the AAN motor. It used the 3B with 217 hp. The S4/S6 had the AAN and was certainly NOT less dramatic than the 200!!!

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    4. I stand corrected.

      What I meant by 'dramatic' was in the styling and interior design, the earlier 100/200 were a bit exotic for their time where the later car was attractive enough but wasn't a shape that stood out in a crowd.

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  6. The key to happiness with this car starts with 'QDF16B'

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  7. Fleetwood T. BroughamMarch 3, 2015 at 1:50 PM

    Ahem, as you guys are back and forthing on which early 90's sedan broke 6 seconds to 60 and could hit 150mph, I'll just leave this little 377bhp, 5.2 seconds 0-60, and 177mph sedan here. Ladies and Gentlemen, the Lotus Carlton

    [img]http://i.telegraph.co.uk/multimedia/archive/01125/LotusCarlton_1125156c.jpg[/img]

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    1. Now we'll all sit down and whinge about the Lotus Carlton vs the E39 M5 vs the first-gen CTS-V but if you're not talking about US-market product you've got to include the various Australian HSV models; I'd argue for the FPV Falcons but I think in terms of raw numbers the GM product beats them.

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  8. Nobody's arguing about which is a better car, be it M5, Spirit R/T or Lotus Carlton. Frankly, all three are amazing cars and it would be a treat to own any of them, in my opinion. What I take from Vince's write-up is what an interesting car the R/T was, especially when you consider all of the stats, such as price and number of cylinders (half as many as the M5 and two less than the LC). Let's not even factor in that the LC was never even sold in the US. This is a car that deserves a better place in car history.

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    1. Oh I'm not arguing which is "better" either, but it does seem that some bench racing was going on above, which is why I dropped that little bombshell. The main thing I recall about the Spirit R/T from the advertising of the day wasn't any 0-60 boasting, but rather they always were sure to highlight it's 143 mph (I didn't look that up, it's seared in my memory from the ads) top speed. Also, the e34 M5 actually was only up two cylinders too (still had the glorious 3.6 I-6 for North American models and 3.8 for later Euro models). The R/T was a helluva bargain for the time though for what it was. It would be like Chevy making their new SS model available today for $30k.

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    2. Doh! You're right, of course. I just associate the M5 with the V8. Alzheimer's. You might be able to tell that I'm not all that interested in BMWs.

      I wouldn't put too much stock into what mrkwong is rattling on about as he just argues about everything, no matter what. You could say the sky is blue and he'd claim it was azure. Plus, it's not too hard to guess what he drives...he's clearly a smart person that you probably wouldn't want at your dinner party unless you loosened him up with a lot of alcohol.

      But you bring up an interesting point. If the new SS is $47,500 msrp, how does that compare to the R/T in 1991 dollars? The R/T would be about $30,900 now, adjusting for inflation. Interesting comparison and still makes the R/T something of a steal, as you pointed out.

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    3. Cylinder count doesn't matter. What matters is (the order of importance depends on your wallet) HP/weight and powertrain configuration.

      The R/T is a cheap car with a nice motor and a really good HP/weight ratio.

      Cylnder count is irrelevant. The end the drive wheels are at matters much more. Whether the vehicle has a limited slip diff (M5 and Maxima SE) matters much more.


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  9. k2mc: 'I wouldn't put too much stock into what mrkwong is rattling on about' - love you too.

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    1. I don't drink, but I will buy you one any time. Note that I also referred to you as a smart person. That's a compliment in case you were wondering.

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    2. You guys only get to have a beer (soda pop?) together if it is at my place. In the meantime, play nice. If you feel the need to be dismissive about another person's opinion, please make fun of the people at that other site or make fun of the writing in the featured article. I don't always agree with everything that is said by people in the comments, but I encourage and welcome the "rattling on." It makes the site a more interesting place.

      -Vince

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    3. A rafting we shall go!

      [img]http://apartmentsanna.com/images/zrmanja-croatia-rafting-kayaking/zrmanja-waterfall-rafting.jpg[/img]

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    4. What is the airspeed velocity of an unladen...raft?

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  10. Heaven forbid a "Dodge" was faster than a more expensive marque at the time. That can't possibly be true! More $ always equals faster, right? Please save the "status" of more "important" cars with stats. We can't sleep at night otherwise, lol.

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  11. Oh, and as for all those 'removed' comments - half my comments seem to post twice.

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