1988 Dodge Shadow car review and reader feedback

Main Shadow/Sundance page | Shelby CSX Page

Plymouth Sundance / Dodge Shadow / Plymouth Duster Advantages

Opinion: You're less likely to bend a wheel or bottom out or hit a road obstruction in a P-body than in any of its competitors. This car has tough wheels and a durable suspension.

Fact: in my case, the Sundance cost about $600 less per year than a Civic for insurance (in 1991). Your mileage may have varied.

Trunk space is large compared to the competition, and mainly usable (deep and easy to access).

Reliability is variable. The worst models seem to be those built before the 1990 redesign. The speed sensor on post-redesign P-bodies tends to go bad, particularly those made before 1992. There is a TSB on this. Dan Stern pointed out that you might be able to fix it by squeezing the connector, which is the part that usually dies, with pliers so that the sockets will grip the terminals on the sensor.  He wrote that if you take off the air cleaner and, from the driver's side, look down at the axle housing on the transaxle, you will see a two-wire plug connecting to an oval-shaped "thing" held onto the axle housing with a single 10mm bolt.

Based on on-road performance and government crash tests, the Dodge Shadow/Plymouth Sundance was awarded Prevention Magazine's Safe Car Achievement Award for 1994. The pair was selected based on their actual on-road records of safety performance from 1990 to 1992.

Plymouth Duster / Sundance and Shadow handling

Given the adapted Daytona suspension, handling was good for cars of their class, and could be greatly improved by replacing the base Goodyear Invicta tires with comparably-priced Goodrich Comp T/As, Yokohama Avid MD-H4s, or Michelin XGT4 tires. The Shadow ES and Duster had a stiffer ride, with 15 inch, 60-series tires. (In some years, 205/65 R14s were optional and the 15 inch aluminum wheels were not available. The base models generally had Invictas, while the optional models generally had superior but comfort-tuned Eagle GAs. Many Dusters came with Eagle GT+4s, which sacrificed ride for performance. The aluminum wheels were about the same weight as strength as the steel ones, according to a Chrysler designer.)

safety and such, Plymouth Sundance

Rich Rubel said replacing the "sport suspension" struts in the rear with NTW's sport replacement yielded a much smoother ride on choppy roads without hurting handling too much.

Roger Crawford wrote:

    2804.140 Eibach Spring kit fits up to 1991 Shadow and Sundance. Replacing the struts and shocks is not necessary, although replacing your existing struts, and shocks with Monroe SensaTracs, replacing the springs with the Eibachs, and replacing your front sway bar with a 1.220" one from a Daytona Shelby will make your car suspension wise the equivalent of a 1989 Shelby CSX.  Can you say "slot car?" All for less than $500!

Several people have now installed a Greddy strut brace - it's about $100, and is said to improve the handling without negative effects. (Other handling tips)

Gas mileage

With a 2.2 liter engine and five-speed transmission, I used to get about 28 mpg overall. My 2.5 lowered that to 27, as the EPA predicted. However, on my current commute, which is mostly highway, I was getting only about 27-28 mpg. I started to shift at very low rpms, as the factory recommends, and that brought me up to a consistent 28.5 mpg (not bad considering the aerodynamics...and the highway speeds I drive at). There was a terrific amount of wind noise, though; so, while trying to fix that, I bent the door to bring it closer to the roof and tighten the weatherstripping. (The alternative is bending the hinge...no body shop was willing to do that so I bent the door myself, with the window rolled down. It was not too hard but I do not recommend it! It's a dangerous thing to do unless you have a spare door or window).

The result of my experiment: a 1.5 mile per gallon improvement, for 30 mpg overall over the past five fill-ups, and much less wind noise.

Reader feedback

Edward J. Kelly wrote in 1996: “After having spent a few hundred miles in a 1993 Accord, I found it had some nice features, but handling and power were about the same as my base-model Shadow. The Accord lacked the fun to drive feeling that my Shadow has, despite my Shadow being 6 years older and having a 100,000 more miles, it was the hands down winner between the two cars! My Shadow has never ever left me stranded and has only had a few minor repairs except for the clutch, which wore out in only 125,000 miles.

gez wrote: I own a 1993 Plymouth Duster V6, 2 door, 5 speed, with a few performance modifications. Last year at New England Dragway, my Duster went a 15.3 @ 89mph, on street tires. I expect to go mid-14s this year. (The car in the other lane was a 1995 Firebird Formula V8 automatic, and it did 15.8 @ 96 mph.)

Phyllis Costello wrote: “I have owned my 1990 Dodge Shadow since new and it now has 173,000+ miles.  Although I drive the car hard, I have had only minor problems with it. I just replaced the timing belt for the first time!  The timing had never been adjusted previously, and  the timing belt cover had not even been removed before.  All of the gaskets and seals were original, along with most everything else.  This engine it will go before it needs a rebuild, if I live that long.”

Dodge Shadow car review (by Justin Emory)

I loved my parents' Shadow. It was a great little car all and all. Cornered great and had a different style then most cars of the road (especially after they stopped making them). The trunk was huge for this size of the car and it was even better with the hatchback instead of the small opening of a traditional trunk. To top that off it had seats that folded down which made even more room.

The interior had a great look to it also and everything was in easy reach and easy to read. There were no cup holders in mine because my parents had not gotten that option. I believe they replaced it with a cigarette lighter (even though we are all non-smokers) and an ash tray (to keep stuff in). I put a cover on the steering wheel when I got the car because after 8 years of use the original covering was wearing off. I didn't have power windows, but it did have power locks which are more important to me.

The P-Bodies had great ground clearance with a stiff suspension, but they also had a stiff ride which is why some people didn't like my car. My grandfather said once, "It rides like a hay wagon." Basically he meant that you felt every bump, but liked it that way though. Stiff suspension mean less body roll. To tell you the truth I would have liked to have put a stiffer set of springs in the back to help even more. Now don't get me wrong, I am not some speed demon, but when I need to get out of something quick I like to know my car can do it.

When the car was purchased, my parents got the ES package which added the better tires (205/50/15s on 6 inch rims). [Webmaster note: ES cars had a much stiffer suspension than the standard models, which did not ride like a hay wagon!]. These tires also helped the car stick to the road a lot better, get the motor power to the road and help eliminate some body roll. For a while after we first replaced the tires went when to a skinnier set on a different set of rims. The tire height was about the same but its just seems to handle different. Also the it had a center hub instead of a solid 6 inch rims (pizza rims and my friends called them). This proved to be very annoying. The screws never seemed to never hold right and the would crank and your drove down the road. That seemed to be a trend though with every P-Body I came across. Either the hubs were missing or loose.

The back seat was a little small though. I looked at the car as like a cheap solution for a single guy/girl who wanted something to drive that want a gas killer yet had some speed to it. I don't know if that what they wanted, but I take it as that.

My car also had something in it that disappeared in all cars, automatic seat belts (early models only). People said that these were unsafe because the door would open and people would fall out. This was mostly because people didn't wear their lap belts. Also some of the other cars that had auto seat belts were attached to the car door itself. These were a love-hate thing for me though.

Sure it was great that I could start the car and while I put my lap bet on the shoulder would come back to me. Then when I stopped and opened the door the shoulder belt would return to the parked position and let me out. Some people that got into my car would have trouble with these. Mostly the ones that were no smarter than the seat belt itself. They would forget that the seat belt moved and push it behind their head then open the door. Well, I think you know what happened then.

The hate part is that the drivers side seat belt broke three times and the passenger broke once. The last time the drivers side broke we never fixed it, because it was stuck in the locked position and it was a bit expensive to fix.

Other then the head gasket going and cracking the head we only had one other problem. The distributor pick up went bad which caused the vehicle to loose all power while driving and then suddenly start back up. Cute, huh? Well to make a long story short after many parts it ended up being a problem with the Hall effect sensor.

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1988 Dodge Shadow Review