After spending the day at a large classic car show, it’s easy to think that modern cars simply aren’t as special – that the future collector car market will simply regurgitate ’57 Chevys and the like ad infinitum. What’s easy to overlook are the modern oddities that will no doubt be the stars of the future. Vehicles like the Chevrolet SSR and, the grandfather of the retro movement, the Plymouth Prowler. As U.S. car production has turned into a game of pleasing the government first and the enthusiast second, the fact that cars like this 2000 Prowler ever made it out of a Big Three plant grows more impressive every year. With just 3,642 original miles on the clock, this Prowler is a quiet, comfortable and stylish investment that you can enjoy anytime you want while the collector market catches up.
Originally penned by Chrysler engineers who were given free rein to create whatever they wanted in a hot rod or sportster type vehicle, this pristine Plymouth drop top is one of only 661 Prowler Silver Metallic roadsters built for the 2000 model year. Obviously well-maintained, the paintwork looks great with accurate reflections across the laser straight body panels. Since all Prowlers were completely hand assembled at Chrysler’s Conner Avenue Assembly Plant in Detroit, Michigan, these roadsters typically show above average build quality and stellar paint finishes. This one, with its tight gaps, solid closing doors and top that seals up tighter than any ’32 Ford roadster ever could, looks and feels better than most classics twice its asking price.
Like the old school street rods that inspired it, the Prowler swaps chrome ornamentation and flowery trim for an all-business appearance that wraps a custom look around OEM quality. Up front, contrasting gray bumpers join composite aerodynamic projector beam headlights and a smooth, heritage-inspired grille to create an instantly recognizable front fascia. Above the grille, a body-matched Plymouth emblem is centered on a pointed hood which leads the eye to pristine factory glass complete with an integrated windshield antenna. Behind that windshield, a black cloth top hangs a glass rear window between aerodynamic, body-matched mirrors and flared rocker panels which do a great job of mimicking classic running boards. Behind those running boards, rolled rear fenders feature smooth-fitting tail lights that are straight out of the hot rodder’s handbook. A trunk mounted center high mount stop lamp rides above two gray bumpers which, in typical street rod fashion, leave plenty of room to display the chrome exhaust tips.
When the Prowler finally hit the streets, many purists were upset that a V6 was the only powertrain option. What those purists failed to realize was: 1) with 253 horsepower and 250 lb./ft. of torque, this car’s 3.5 liter 24 valve SOHC V6 was making virtually the same power as Chrysler’s Magnum V8s at the time and 2) when combined with the car’s lightweight chassis and low center of gravity, it made some very impressive performance numbers. Mechanically, the all-aluminum engine is showroom new in just about every possible way. Naturally, it’s benefitted from basic maintenance but, beyond that, everything is essentially fresh out of the box. It certainly appears that the car has been properly maintained and driven often enough to keep everything in top operating condition. The smooth engine fires up instantly, idles perfectly and moves this relatively lightweight Prowler with real authority. With only 3,642 miles on the clock, the engine is barely broken in.
Behind that buff V6, a 42LE 4-speed automatic transaxle features an ‘Autostick’ gear change setting. While the manual mode is more of an accessory than a functional performance improvement, it fits the Prowler’s persona perfectly. Far more of today’s “real” hot rods are built with automatics than stick shifts, so who can blame Chrysler for doing their homework and giving the public what it wants? That road-ready drivetrain is held off the ground by an aluminum intensive chassis which is equipped with an independent double A-arm front suspension and a multilink rear. Koni coilover shocks at all four corners, and front and rear stabilizer bars out back combine with power rack and pinion steering to carve curves for lunch and eat potholes for dinner. Stopping power comes courtesy of composite four wheel disc brakes which feature 11-inch rotors up front and 13 inch vented rotors out back. All that advanced hardware results in a perfect 50/50 weight distribution which makes this roadster an absolute pleasure to drive. The engine produces a rowdy, throaty exhaust note through two fat chrome pipes which exit at the back of the car. At the corners, factory chrome wheels add some extra flash to the package.
Slide inside this roadster and you’ll find an Ebony leather interior that successfully doubles as both a comfortable cruise spot and a stylish, retro-inspired show piece. At the center of the cockpit, the driver and passenger benefit from plush leather buckets that are stitched around monochromatic Prowler logos. In front of the driver, an Auto Meter tachometer is perched top-dead-center on a tilt steering column that props redundant audio buttons opposite cruise control buttons via a factory steering wheel. At the front of the car, a center-mounted 150mph speedometer and four small accessory gauges, the voltmeter and oil pressure gauge to the left and the fuel and temperature gauges to the right, ride inside an instrument panel that’s a great tribute to vintage hot rods of all kinds. Naturally, the windows, locks and mirrors are all power operated; and the superb 320-watt, seven speaker sound system comes standard with a six disc CD changer that’s located just behind the passenger seat. Beneath that mondo sound system, a short factory shifter controls the aforementioned Autostick feature.
There’s no doubt Prowlers are cool. Their lines, their attitude and the sheer improbability they even got built is enough to make them a case study in automotive ingenuity. Ten years later, we’re still amazed that a large car company actually had the nerve to put something like this in showrooms. If you missed your chance to pick up one of these modern Mopar showpieces when they were new, don’t get caught waiting for the right one to come along. Prices are only going up from here!