The Plymouth Arrow
The Plymouth Arrow is completely unrelated to the Sunbeam Arrow/Hillman Hunter, also known as the Plymouth Sunbeam Arrow. Additional Fire Arrow information and photos were added by George Hogue.
The Arrow began life in 1974 as an extension of the Mitsubishi Lancer lineup, known as the Lancer Celeste in Japan, and featured the same drivetrain and underpinnings in an attractive fastback body style.
Dodge had been importing the rear-wheel-drive Lancer, known stateside as the Dodge Colt, to the US since 1969. With fuel prices rising, a global fuel crisis, and with no small car available for sale after the Plymouth Cricket ceased to be imported in 1974, Chrysler re-badged the Lancer Celeste as the Plymouth Arrow (Dodge Arrow in Canada). The car was launched in North America as a 1976 model in September 1975.
Three hatchback models were in the original lineup: base models were equipped with the 1.4 or 1.6-liter "Silent Shaft" engine with a 4-speed manual transmission and wore "Arrow 140" and "Arrow 160" nameplates. A step-up GS model included special badges, striping and interior trim. A 3-speed automatic transmission was also available. The top-of-the line GT model included sport mirrors, a 5-speed manual transmission, sport seats, console, and special striping.
Jim Benjaminson wrote in the Plymouth Bulletin:
The Colt had been in Dodge's stable since 1971 when Chrysler answered the sub-compact challenge of Ford's Pinto and Chevy's Vega with captive imports. (Chrysler had purchased an interest in Mitusbishi in 1971.) Dodge had an instant hit with its Japanese Colt. Plymouth, meanwhile, got the short end of the deal, with the British Cricket from Rootes Group.
When the plug was mercifully pulled on the Cricket in 1973, observers assumed Plymouth would get its own version of the Colt. That's what happened in Canada, but not stateside, where Plymouth had to carry on with no subcompact. Finally, it was 1976, and Plymouth had its Mitsubishi import. Rather than a version of the Colt, it was an attractive fastback coupe that had a more sporting flair than Colt's hardtop. Called the Arrow, it fit in with Plymouth's Barracuda heritage, with its roof line and folding rear seat.
It was said Mistubishi's stylists, as they were designing Arrow's progenitor (Celeste), were intrigued with the Bricklin. Look at Arrow's rear three-quarter view and you can see evidence of this fascination.
Sharing the Colt's drivetrain and chassis, the Arrow measured in with a 92.1-inch wheelbase, 4.2 inches less than its Dodge sibling. The engine was the standard 1600 cc with an optional 2000 cc overhead cam version; both were four-cylinder hemis. The base engine was available with four- or five-speed manual transmissions and an automatic; the 2-liter started with a five-speed manual.
Arrow was available in three trim levels: 160, GS and GT. The GS, a $208 optional package on the 160, came with styled road wheels, flip-out rear windows, chrome bumpers, a woodtone instrument panel and carpeting in the cargo area.
The GT, with a base price of $3748 compared to the 160's $3175, was the premium model. It boasted all the GS features plus a console, a Rallye Cluster with a tachometer, a soft-trim steering wheel, an overhead console and exterior tape stripes.
Chrysler Canada reversed the U.S.’s choices, giving the Arrow to Dodge dealers and the newly-redesigned Colt to Plymouth dealers. Both were the same car except for the nameplates. From 1973-75 the Cricket nameplate had been shifted to a version of the Colt for Canada's Plymouth dealers; it had unique grille and taillight trim. In its first year alone, Canada's Japanese Cricket doubled the sales of the British version. But once 1976 arrived, the Cricket name was gone for good.
For 1977, the Plymouth Arrow cars gained a new 2.0-liter engine option on the GT and GS. The two-door Plymouth Arrow had sporty styling and the MCA-Jet system, which shot air into each cylinder at high velocity to make combustion more efficient. The Arrow came as Arrow, Arrow GS, and Arrow GT; the GS or GT could be purchased with a "silent shaft" overhead valve four-cylinder of 2.0 liters (starting in 1977), with a standard five-speed manual transmission on the GT (four speed on GS) and optional automatic. The 1.6 liter version of the same engine was standard on other grades, which made do with a four-speed manual transmission or automatic. The Silent Shaft feature would be familiar to later 2.5 liter Chrysler engine buyers, as it used a counter-rotating balance shaft on each side of the crankshaft to reduce vibration and noise. The Arrow could be purchased with full instrumentation, disc brakes, a center console, and a number of other options; the interior was every bit as fancy as considerably more expensive American intermediates.
1978: Plymouth Arrow restyling, Fire Arrow, 2.6 engine
There were styling upgrades for the Arrow, Arrow GS and Arrow GT lineup, with rectangular headlamps, a new grille, taillamps, and faired-in body color bumpers. An "Arrow Jet" package became available, with special graphics and a flat-black painted hood. New arrow-shaped graphics appeared on the GT version.
The two-door Arrow featured sporty styling along the lines of other Japanese coupes, and boasted the MCA-Jet system, which shot air into each cylinder at high velocity to make combustion more efficient. The Arrow came as Arrow, Arrow GS, and Arrow GT; the GS or GT could be purchased with a "silent shaft" overhead valve four-cylinder of 2.0 liters, with a standard five-speed manual transmission on the GT (four speed on GS) and optional automatic. The 1.6 liter version of the same engine was standard on other grades, which made do with a four-speed manual transmission or automatic. The Silent Shaft feature would be familiar to later 2.5 liter Chrysler engine buyers, as it used a counter-rotating balance shaft on each side of the crankshaft to reduce vibration and noise. The Arrow could be purchased with full instrumentation, disc brakes, a center console, and a number of other options; the interior was every bit as fancy as considerably more expensive American intermediates.
The new "Fire Arrow" was available with the 2.6-liter "MCA Jet" engine, white paint and special trim. It was hoped this version would appeal to young first-time buyers who were looking for sporty styling and performance upgrades.
Road & Track stated the Fire Arrow's 0-60 times to be 9.6 seconds (June 1979). The Fire Arrow was an addition to the Arrow GT package, with the 2.6 engine standard and four -wheel disc brakes, then unusual. Fire Arrow specifications.
The 1.4-liter engine was discontinued. The 2.6 engine included a "silent-shafts" feature incorporating counter-rotating balance shafts to reduce noise and vibration, a feature to be used in Chrysler's long-stroke 2.5 liter engine as well.
1979: Plymouth Arrow pickup
A new companion Arrow pickup truck was introduced, based on the Mitsubishi Mighty Max. The pickups were offered bright colors with bold stripes to emphasize their relation to the Arrow cars. The Arrow pickup was sold through 1983.
The 2.6-liter engine replaced the 2.0-liter, which was discontinued, and the liftgate glass area was increased.
The Arrow GT included all standard features, as well as dual mirrors, radials, flipper quarter windows, floor console, hood and rear deck striping, tachometer, heated rear window, and simulated woodgrain instrument panel. The standard engine was still the 1.6. The Arrow GS had bright chrome bumpers, flipper quarter windows, wheel lip mouldings, heated rear window, and simulated woodgrain instrument panel, with a slightly wider track.
1980: final year
The 1980 model year was the swan song for Plymouth's Arrow. Competition from other Japanese makes cannibalized sales of the Arrow, and it was discontinued at the end of the 1980 model year. The car had done its job, bringing would-be Japanese car buyers into Plymouth stores for nearly a few years and giving Chrysler time to bring out its successful Horizon.
Ironically, two cars were introduced in the late 1970s to compete with the Arrow within Plymouth dealerships: A version of the all-new front wheel drive Dodge Colt known as the Champ, and the Sapporo, a mechanical cousin to the rear-drive Colt/Arrow. This may have spelled the beginning of the end for the Arrow, as the Champ had front-wheel drive and higher fuel economy at a similar price, while the Sapporo catered to a more luxury-conscious buyer. The Champ and Sapporo did not last long either, as North American sales of both cars ceased after 1983.
Plymouth Arrow Racing
Because of the car's aerodynamic profile, Arrows also were prominent in SCCA and Drag Racing, where Don Prudhome raced his "Arrow G-Whiz" to several wins. The car also appeared in Plymouth's print advertising.
Plymouth Arrows are still used for rallying in North America. A recent web page for the Dodge Arrow also shows a picture of a rallying Arrow from the late 1990s. With their lightweight body and tight steering characteristics, they became favorites of rally drivers everywhere during the 1970s and 1980s, including runs at Pike's Peak.