The Consulier GTP: Chrysler Powered Supercar
Back in the late 1980s, Warren Mosler, founder of tiny automaker Consulier, noticed the potential of the 2.2 liter four-cylinders coming from Chrysler, which were to make the Dodge Spirit R/T America's fastest sedan. He built a car around that light, cheap, powerful engine, then 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 varied between “under 5 seconds” and 5.3 seconds, with a top speed of over 150 mph - in a car costing $49,900 in the 1980s.
Consulier used the standard Turbo II version of the 2.2 liter engine powering K-cars, minivans, and Daytonas; in stock trim, that engine put out 174 horsepower at 5,200 rpm, but Consuliers used for racing were allegedly tweaked to get between 200 and 250 horsepower, with Consulier quoting 195 on its history page and “approximately 200 hp” in its introductory press release. (On a specifications brochure, they stated just 174 horsepower, with a maximum boost of 12 psi.)
A small number of Turbo III equipped cars were reportedly also built, allegedly going beyond Chrysler’s own 224 horsepower rating. (The Turbo III had distributorless ignition, dual overhead cams, and four valves per cylinder). Some Turbo IV parts may have been used: the Turbo IV was a innovative design with variable-sized nozzles. As with the Chrysler turbo-cars, the wheels were driven by an A-555 Getrag five-speed manual.
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; the setup had a lower A-arm, upper rocker arm, coil-over three-way adjustable Carrera shocks, and front roll bar.
The car also differed from Chrysler stock cars by having rear wheel drive (and 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 chassis, designed for racing, had a steel front-suspension subframe and steel powertrain supports. 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 monoque weighed 275 pounds, with greater rigidity than a metal structure; all together, the Consulier GTP weighed a mere 1,950 pounds (compared to the 1989 Corvette’s 3,200 pounds). The rear was heavier than the front (with 63% of the weight), helping traction during acceleration.
The GTP had a mid-engine design, with a long radiator mounted in the back. Four-wheel ventilated 10-inch disc brakes (the rears taken from the Pontiac Fiero) and a hydraulic antilock brake system helped the 225/50VR-16 high-performance General tires to stop quickly.
The Consulier GTP had excellent performance figures, given standards of the day, with Consulier quoting 0-60 times as both under five seconds and 5.3 seconds (the 224 horse 1990 Spirit R/T was to be the fastest sedan sold in America in 1991 and 1992, with a 0-60 in 5.8 seconds), but the GTPs used for racing were allegedly faster. Braking from 65 took a mere 92 or 102 feet, depending on the Consulier literature one looks at, and top speed was 155 mph; quarter-miles went by in the mid-13s. Gas mileage at highway speeds was supposed to be over 30 miles per gallon.
The Consulier GTP was reported to be easy to drive very quickly, though one could 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, quite a pile for the time.
In IMSA Supercar races, Consulier GTPs beat the Porsche 911 Turbo, Pontiac Firehawk, Saleen Mustang, Corvette ZR1, Lotus Espirt, Calloway Corvette, and Dodge Stealth. 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. Between 60 and 100 were apparently sold, many to Mosler or his companies.
The Consulier GTP was the first carbon fibre and Kevlar bodied vehicle ever put into production. Take a close look at the waves and warps in that black car. 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.
In the Consulier GTP, foam coring 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 waves in the body surface. As this heating during the day, and cooling during the night (heat cycling) warped the 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).
The only way to eliminate this warpage is to cook the panels in an autoclave, until the composite material matrix (which is what moves around) is stabilized. This process is used by aerospace companies. Homebuilt aircraft and boat parts warp and get out of shape when they are not autoclaved. Look down the hull of a $5 million fiberglass hull that was built in the 1980s or early 1990s ago. 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.
This brings up the production time issue. 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 a Chrysler LHS was a just under 37 minutes. (Only to make the parts, no setup time, no maintenance, no bad parts, etc). Corvette body panels take around 49 minutes to cycle, but the Corvette body is not monocoque, so there is also time needed to stamp metal substructure components.
The Consulier was a composite monocoque and it took the Rivera Beach body shop between 4-5 days to create just one body shell. Boeing 777 wings, which are composite wings with total almost the same surface area in their molds, take almost 47 hours per wing, using an autoclave to maintain shapes.
Consulier GTP Specifications
According to Consulier, the GTP had a wheelbase of 100 inches, and a length of 172 inches, with a 60.5 inch track and 72 inch width. The car was just 44.5 inches tall, with a ground clearance of six inches. The overhang was 28 inches in the front and 44 in the rear. An alumimun tank held 17 gallons of fuel.