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The Prowler Story

1990 | 1991 | 1992 | 1994 | 1995 | 1996 | 1997 | 1998


   May 1990
   The words "hot rod-style retro car" appear on a 3x5
   card in a free association excercise called "Idea Fair"
   at Chrysler's Pacifica Design Center in Carlsbad,

   June 1990
   In discussions led by Pacifica chief Tom Tremont,
   decisions are made about which of the 250 ideas are
   realistic, and which concepts hold the most promise for
   the future. The retro-style hot rod makes the cut as a
   1/4 scale model in a paste-up diorama. 

   November 1990
   Top brass from back east visit. Then Chrysler President
   Bob Lutz sees a sketch of the retro rod on design
   manager Kevin Verduyn's office wall. He likes it,
   consuls "more attitude." 

   Bob Lutz brings a wide range of industry experience to
   his duties - as well as a passion for brawny
   performance related to Chrysler's rich heritage. He
   owns a '55 300, and a Hemi-powered Cunningham
   C-3. His support was pivotal to Prowler.

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   November 1991
   Pacifica's Tremont begins referring to the retro rod as

   December 1991
   Now-Executive VP Tom Gale, then director of styling
   for all of Chrysler, is at first bothered by the idea of
   "retro." "Great design is timeless," he soon reasons,
   "and becomes contemporary with modern surfaces,
   materials, engineering and the techniques of
   innovative manufacturing." (Gale's own
   Chrysler-powered '33 highboy is shown at the '97
   Oakland Roadster Show.)

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   June 1992
   As a full-size clay model evolves, it is felt that an "A"
   line should be added for interest and texture along the
   top of the Prowler. The rear is "bobbed" by Tim
   Anness, a Chrysler designer "on rotation" at Pacifica. 

   July 1992
   Approval for Prowler to become a concept car is
   signalled; its public debut is scheduled for the 1993
   North American International Auto Show in Detroit, six
   months away. 

   October 1992
   No greater sacrifice. Gale surrenders a "one-yard deep"
   purple paint he'd been eying for his own roadster. In
   production it becomes a full-body, color-keyed surface.
   The antichip primer's purple, too; so even if you chip it
   you'll see purple.

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   January 1994
   Prowler returns for a second appearance at the Detroit
   International Auto Show. It's the same concept car as
   the year before. It receives the same overwhelming
   universal enthusiastic response. 

   April 1994
   Engineering starts the build (from scratch) of Prowler 1.
   Many sheets of aluminum begin to be bent in
   Chrysler's metal shop, and power train people cobble
   together components in cramped quarters. 

   Importantly, a philosophy of working in partnership
   with suppliers begins to be codified by Executive VP of
   Procurement Tom Stallkamp. It is to play a large role
   in Prowler's development, and of itself is recognized as
   another of Chrysler's most significant programs of the

   A separate facility is established to pull together
   Chrysler workers and six competing interior suppliers to
   function as a single cohesive group led by Chrysler
   Engineering. It's a whole new way of working together. 

   May 1994
   Prowler fully reflects Chrysler's Extended Enterprise
   concept. Alcoa, Alumax, and Duralcon begin Tiers
   One, Two and Three supplier roles in metallurgy to
   providers of structures, processes, and parts for
   Prowler's assembly. 

   July 1994
   With pointed commentary from rodders who are seeing
   Prowler in magazines and at shows, no focus groups or
   formal marketing research will ever be conducted
   during the car's evolution. The group expected to be
   Prowler's severest critic becomes instead its strongest
   booster - and Dutch uncle. 

   August 1994
   Chairman Bob Eaton, Executive VP of Vehicle
   Engineering Francois Castaing, and Lutz, along with
   other top execs, take their first drives in a Prowler at
   the Chelsea, Michigan Proving Grounds. There are
   smiles and everybody's talking at the same time. 

   September 1994
   It's a green flag. It's on! Stamped approval. Though
   the public announcement won't be made until the
   1996 Detroit Show, the automotive underground
   burbles in anticipation, and the grins are contagious. 

   December 1994
   Well into Phase Two of Production Approval -
   vehicle and process engineering, and the
   establishment of cost targets - the Platform Team has
   already cleared its first hurdle, resolution of all
   functional objectives, including everything from Safety
   to Performance to Emissions.

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   February 1995
   Prowler is a hit at the Detroit Autorama, arguably one
   of the three most prestigious hot rod shows yearly, the
   others being the hallowed Oakland Roadster Show,
   and the exclusive jewel box sponsored by the L.A.
   Roadsters car club. 

   March 1995
   Prowler 2 begins rolling evaluations at Mesa, Arizona
   Proving Grounds. 

   April 1995
   Development continues as a strange hybrid still
   perambulates the Chelsea Proving Grounds. It's called
   "Prangler," and it combines the frame, running gear,
   and power train of the Prowler reduced to near
   invisibility by the camouflage of a "channeled" Jeep
   Wrangler's body. 

   May 1995
   The Conner Avenue Assembly plant is named as
   "skunkworks" for Chrysler's niche market vehicles. If
   given the go-ahead, Prowler will be bolted together
   here, alongside Viper RT/10 Roadster and Viper GTS

   June 1995
   First extended over-the-highway road test takes Prowler
   from Arizona to Colorado and back, climbing Pikes
   Peak, and up to 14,260 feet at Mount Evans, finally
   traversing Death Valley. No boil overs, short circuits,
   lost tempers.

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   January 1996
   Eaton and Lutz, in a trailer-towing
   production-approved Prowler, cruise onstage to a
   fourth consecutive Detroit show. They're wearing Jake
   and Elwood shades, and they deliver plenty of attitude
   as the Chairman says, "it's for real; and you either get
   it or you don't." 

   February 1996
   Second extended cruise across America from Auburn
   Hills, Michigan, to Phoenix, takes in 2,150 miles. 

   April 1996
   Road Trip to Parkersburg, West Virginia, is the first
   time there are two Prowlers to stop traffic on the

   May 1996
   Prowler runs with the very best in HOT ROD
   magazine's "Power Tour," which crosses the country to
   a dragstrip in Norwalk, Ohio from the Peterson
   Automotive Musuem in L.A. It shares the road with
   Boyd Coddington's '96 Oakland Roadster
   Show-winning Deuce - and '96 car of the year. Dan
   Jacob's chopped '39 coupe, driven by builder Tony

   June 1996
   Trailer-towing marathon takes in 5,000 miles, covering
   Detroit, Chicago, New Orleans, Texas, Colorado,

   July 1996
   First "P zero" of 18 hand-built Prowlers at Conner
   Avenue is completed. The excercise is part of the
   assembly line shakedown, and parts approval process. 

   August 1996
   Two near-to-production prototypes are used by various
   enthusiast magazines for initial driving impressions. 

   Prowler runs with a thousand rods in Detroit's famous
   annual "Dream Cruise" on Woodward. 

   Marty Levine, who ramrodded the intros of two Vipers,
   is named General Manager of Chrysler-Plymouth,
   succeeding Ray Fisher, who with predecessor Steve
   Torok fiercely protected both Prowler and Plymouth.
   Levine is a no-nonsense up-from-the-ranks car guy who
   rides on HOT ROD magazine "Power Tours" and
   spends 12-hour days on Woodward Avenue for the
   "Dream Cruise."

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   January 1997
   Prowler joins the ranks of production cars, however
   limited, as new Chrysler concept cars are introduced at
   Detroit's North American International Auto Show.
   Prowler still draws the crowds, however, and some
   spectators still can't believe it's going to be available
   at selected Chrysler-Plymouth dealerships nationally. 

   March 1997
   The last of 16 "pilot line" (C1) Prowlers is completed,
   and the assembly process receives final approval.
   Targeted production rate is set for 20 Prowlers per day
   in one eight-hour shift. 

   June 1997
   The extended development "family" gathers at the
   Conner Avenue Assembly Plant to mark production of
   the first volume (V1) Prowler.

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   January 1998
   The evolutionary Prowler debuts at the Los Angeles
   show, with an all-aluminum 3.5-liter 24-valve V6 that
   produces 253 horsepower. There'll be a gleaming new
   available color with an old hot rod flavor - Prowler

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