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The Consulier GTP: Fastest Chrysler 2.2 Powered Car?

Back in the late 1980s, Warren Mosler, who had started a small car company named Consulier, noticed what most of the auto industry missed - the full potential of the 2.2 liter four-cylinders coming from Chrysler, which were to make the Dodge Spirit R/T America's fastest sedan (and perhaps its least well-known!). So confident was Consulier that it offered $25,000 to anyone who could beat a GTP around a racing track with a regular production car. The quoted 0-60 time was just under 5 seconds, with a top speed of over 150 mph - in a car costing $49,900 in the 1980s.

Consulier GTP

Consulier used the standard Turbo II version of the 2.2 liter engine powering K-cars, minivans, and Daytonas alike; in stock trim, that engine put out 174 horsepower at 5,200 rpm, but most Consuliers, being used for racing, were considerably tweaked, so that estimates range between 200 and 250 horsepower, with Consulier itself quoting 195 on its history page and “approximately 200 hp” in its introductory press release. A small number of Turbo III equipped cars were reportedly also built, again with tweaking to go beyond Chrysler’s 224 horsepower. (The Turbo III had distributorless ignition, dual overhead cams, and four valves per cylinder). Some Turbo IV parts were also apparently used (the Turbo IV was a moderately troublesome but innovative design with variable-sized nozzles).

rear of Chrysler-engined Consulier GTPAs with the standard issue 2.2 turbos sold by Chrysler, the wheels were driven by an A-555 Getrag five-speed manual. Indeed, most of the powertrain parts were stock Chrysler pieces; the main difference was the chassis, which was designed for racing, and was made of fiberglass, Kevlar, and carbon fiber, with a steel front-suspension subframe and steel powertrain supports. The reason for using such space-age materials was, as you probably figured out, to save weight: the Consulier GTP weighed a mere 1,950 pounds (compared to the 1989 Corvette’s 3,200 pounds). The weight bias was not quite the fabled 50/50 desired for handling, but the rear was actually heavier (63% or 66% of the weight, depending on whether you believe the press release or the official history), which helped traction during acceleration to the point where one could stand on the gas and get only slight wheelspin. The GTP had a mid-engine design, with an unusual, surprisingly-long radiator mounted in the back. Four-wheel ventilated disc brakes and a hydraulic antilock brake system were used with 225/50VR-16 high-performance General tires.

The composite monoque weighed 275 pounds, yet Consulier claimed it had more than double the rigidity of a metal structure. The composite materials included S-glass, Kevlar, carbon fibers, and closed cell cross-linked PVC foams and resins. It was made in molds forming specific car sections, with outer layers of primer and S-glass around foam, S-glass, carbon fiber, and Kevlar.

The two-seater had a short 100 inch wheelbase, though the overall length was surprisingly (given the wheelbase) long at 172 inches. Unlike any vehicle designed and sold by Chrysler in the US at that time (the Omni/Horizon being a notable, Europe-designed exception), the GTP had a fully independent suspension at all four wheels, designed by McKee Engineering; it had lower A-arms, upper rocker arms, coil-over shocks, and a front torsional anti-roll bar. The disk brakes measured over 10 inches in both front and back; the rear brakes were borrowed from the Pontiac Fiero. Unlike any Chrysler Corporation car sold in 1990, the GTP had rear wheel drive; it also had a standard limited slip differential. In the October 1989 Road & Track Manufacturers Challenge, the GTP easily outran a ZR1 Corvette to get the fastest lap time.

The Consulier GTP was supposed to round up excellent performance figures, especially considering standards of the day, with Consulier quoting 0-60 in five seconds (in the following year, the 224 horse Spirit R/T was to be the fastest sedan sold in America, with a 0-60 in 5.8 seconds), but some sources hold that the GTPs used for racing were even faster. Braking from 65 took a mere 92 feet, and top speed was 155 mph, not unreasonable given the aerodynamics and weight; quarter-miles went by in the mid-13s. Gas mileage at highway speeds was supposed to be over 30 miles per gallon, again in keeping with the aerodynamics and weight, not to mention the relatively small engine for a supercar.

cars - Consulier GTP - 2.2 turbo engine

The Consulier GTP was reported to be very easy to drive very quickly, though one can also get into trouble very quickly with a patch of dirt or water; and the interior was surprisingly large. The dashboard provided full instrumentation, albeit in a plain/generic flat black panel, with eleven gauges (in two sizes).

The GTP Sport was the base model, with the LX adding Recaro seats, VDO instrumentation, Fittipaldi wheels, and an Alpine pullout CD system, not to mention sunroof, leather, air, cruise, power locks, mirrors, and windows, tilt wheel, and wool carpets; options including a security system and cellphone. The LX started at $58,900.

Consulier GTPs were raced very successfully in IMSA supercar races, beating the likes of the Porsche 911 Turbo, Pontiac Firehawk, Saleen Mustang, Corvette ZR1, Lotus Espirt, Calloway Corvette, and Dodge Stealth. Indeed, Mosler offered a $100,000 bounty to anyone who could race a street-legal production car around any United States racetrack faster than Mosler’s racing driver could send a Consulier GTP through; no one was able to get that cash, though some said the conditions were not 100% fair. The Consulier GTP was eventually banned by the IMSA in 1991  —as the Mosler Automotive web site says:

After dominating local SCCA races and winning the 24 hours of Nelson Ledges in 1990, Mosler Automotive entered the IMSA Supercar World with 4 silver Consulier Series II GTP's debuting at Lime Rock in 1991 with pole position and a victory. At just 2100 lbs, this 5 speed, 2.2 liter turbo with about 195 hp easily outpaced the other, more powerful but heavier cars, including Hurley Haywood in a factory Porsche Turbo, Boris Said in a Callaway Twin Turbo Corvette, Stu Haynor in a Firebird, and Jim Minnaker in a factory ZR1 Corvette. It was subsequently announced by IMSA that it was not in the best interests of the series for Consulier to win at which time they added a 300 lb weight penalty and finally banned the Consulier GTP from the series. The GTP remains an exceptional sports car and can still outpace most of today's production cars.

The Consulier had standard air conditioning, Recaro seats, an Alpine stereo with CD player (still unusual then), power windows, and leather, and sold for about $62,000 in 1990 when it was introduced for retail sale. Much of the design work was done or sponsored by billionare Warren Mosler, using the Chrysler LeBaron GTS as a base. A number between 60 and 100 were apparently sold, many to Mosler himself or his companies. Warren Mosler eventually went on to making other vehicles, using Corvette engines, which added raw power, presumably at the expense of cornering and weight.

Non-metallic body

Regarding the first carbon fibre and Kevlar bodied vehicle ever put into production, the Consulier GTP, take a close look at the waves and warps in that black car (specifically the front picture, below). It had never been in an accident...all the waves are from simple heat and cooling cycling. There was no structural metal in that body at all.

Consulier GTP Kevlar and carbon fiber cars

In the Consulier, foam coring used between the layers of S-glass, E-glass (2 types of fibreglass clot, roving, and matte) distorted under the heat of the sun and introduced unacceptable waves in the body surface. As this heating during the day, and cooling during the night (heat cycling) warped the originally smooth mold surfaces, the composite structure "cooked" into a contour that was far from the original, intended contour. Corvette also had the issue in the early days (1953-1982). (Consulier also used Kevlar and carbon fibre in the structural parts of the body, along with epoxy resins and polyester resins.)

The only option that can eliminate this warpage is to "cook" the panels in an autoclave, until the composite material matrix (which is what moves around) is stabilized. This is the process used by the production aerospace companies to fix the issue. Homebuilt aircraftparts do warp and get out of shape when they are not autoclaved. Same with boats....look down the hull of a fiberglass $5 million dollar hull that was built more than 3 years ago. The hull will be as warped as the rolling hills of Kentucky (yes I am exaggerating for effect). Unless the composite parts are cured by heat cycling in the molds, under pressure in a male and female mold set, or under vacuum in a single side mold set, the parts are going to warp. Which brings up point 2..

The cycle time for a current body side aperture, one of the largest body stampings, is about 30 seconds for one panel. To completely stamp out all the parts for an old LHS is a total of just under 37 minutes. Now- this is only to make the parts, no dies setup time, no maintenance, no bad parts, no nothing out of the ordinary.

By comparison, the Corvette body panels take approximately 49 minutes to cycle, but the Corvette body is not monocoque, so there is additional time required to stamp the various metal substructure components.

The Consulier, for all its warts, was a composite monocoque and it took the Rivera Beach body shop between 4-5 days to manufacture just 1 body shell comparible to the LHS in the original example.

Boeing's 777, which has composite wings which total almost the same surface area in thier molds, takes almost 47 hours to make 1 wing (not both, just one) using an autoclave to cure the parts to maintain their shape.

Details on use of composite and resin body panels

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