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      Chronological History of Chrysler Corporation
      Part VII: 1981-1992, The K-Car Years


      1864-1911
      1912-19
      1920-39
      1940-49 1950-63 1964-19711972-801981-92 • 1993-97
      History By Year • Coming: 1998-2007 (Daimler disaster) • 2007-09 (Cerberus) • 2008-2015 (FCA)

      by the Allpar staff, continuing the work of Bill Watson

      The first of Chrysler's comebacks builds on cars started during the dark days of imminent bankruptcy; under Lee Iacocca, Chrysler revolutionized its lineup, and then stagnated, falling prey to many of the same problems that had hurt it in the 1970s. Under the surface, another revolution was building.

      1981 Chrysler, Dodge, and Plymouth: the K-cars are coming

      • The first model-year of the K-cars, the Plymouth Reliant and Dodge Aries. They used torque-biased engines for a familiar feel, with a semi-independent rear suspension, McPherson struts, rack-and-pinion steering, and excellent packaging. The cars were small outside, yet have interiors competitive with the Volare/Aspen. Most important, they felt much more "American" than most small cars. The K-cars were a near-instant hit, after a moderately slow start, and 300,000 K-cars were sold every single year until 1989.



      • The new 2.2 liter engine was launched at the same time; durable, efficient, reliable...though there are some head gasket issues in early years (not unusual for the time). Computers controlled the electronic ignition, spark timing, and carburetor (Toyota, Honda, and other still used carburetors, too). The engine had much more torque than horsepower, and feels more "American" than Asian competitors with lower torque.
      • The LA 360 V8 was dropped, except in trucks; oddly, the efficient Super Six was also dropped, making 1980 its last year.
      • Re-designed Dodge Ram pickups debuted.
      • A new Imperial was launched, the very last V8 Imperial - a gussied-up, reskinned Volare.
      • Now on all V8-powered vehicles was the modern lockup torque converter, a Chrysler invention from 1978.
      • Wide-ratio automatics for each engine range increased economy without hurting performance; V8s got an economy-ratio axle.
      • Door locks and wiring quality were improved. Radios could tune to new information channels. A 1.8 horsepower starter was launched on sixes and eights.
      • Cordoba and Mirada got upgraded interiors; and New Yorker, Newport, St. Regis, and Gran Fury got new models and appearance packages. Mirada gained CMX and S packages and Cabriolet became standard.
      • AMC creates Spirit Liftback off the Gremlin, and created new Eagle cars based on the Spirit; they dropped the AMX and made the CJ-8 Scrambler, the only convertible pickup.
      • Sales in 1981 were similar to 1980, but the mix was more favorable; Chrysler still lost money. See our 1981 Chrysler Corporation page.
      1982

      • Chrysler-Huntsville and National Semiconductor create the world's first all-digital car radio, with digital tuning.
      • Launch of the Dodge 400 and Chrysler LeBaron K, upscale versions of the K-cars (mainly trim changes).
      • The 5/50 Protection Plan covered the powertrain for five years or 50,000 miles, bringing back an old plan.
      • Work began on the Chrysler Technology Center.
      • Chrysler started a $287 million investment in Windsor to boost minivan production.
      • Market share rose to 10% and Chrysler declared its first third quarter profit in five years.
      • AMC debuted Select Drive, switching between RWD and 4x4 easily, and dropped the GM 2.5 in favor of their own four-cylinder. Renault bought more stock and put their executives onto the board; AMC had to sell AM General as a result, since, at the time, foreign companies could not have a major role in defense contractors. (Today, some very large defense contractors are foreign.)



      1983




      1984



      • The famous Plymouth Voyager and Dodge Caravan (in order of production) were launched; based on the K-car, with numerous shared parts from powertrain to door panels, they were a hit from the start. Minivans provided more interior space than traditional extended wheelbase wagons, but had greater flexibility and gas mileage, were easier to park, could handle bulkier cargo, and fit into a garage.
      • The first in a long series of turbocharged engines appears, bringing the 2.2 up by a full 55 horsepower, to a usable 142 hp. The ordinary version of the 2.2 engine gets numerous upgrades and a power boost. Electronic fuel injection is finally used on the 2.2 but only in Daytona, Laser, and New Yorker. A-525 manual transmission appears.



      • Dodge Daytona hogs magazine covers; its handling is far above domestic competitors, though performance is mediocre without the turbocharged 2.2. Daytona is loosely based on the Reliant, but was heavily modified to compete with Mustang and Camaro; its turbo engine generated greater horsepower than the contemporary 318 V8. Its stablemate, the Chrysler Laser, quickly faded. See our separate Dodge Daytona chronology.
      • The Dodge Rampage and Plymouth Scamp appeared in 1984, with pickup beds instead of hatchbacks, and a "Shelby" 2.2 was available with 110 hp. They were based on the original Horizon chassis.
      • The Mini Ram Van name was switched to a cargo version of the minivan; the little B-van was dropped (larger B-vans continued).
      • Chrysler established a design center in California (Pacifica) to get a head start on new styling trends. Until its closure, Pacifica was responsible for some of Chrysler's most advanced designs.
      • The Limousine and Executive were launched; Reliant and Aries, face-lifted inside and out.
      • Colt GTS Turbo appeared.
      • Sales rose to 2 million (worldwide) and net profits rose even further. Profits would peak in 1985 (for the era) but sales would keep rising.
      • The last rear wheel drive car was the M-body - Gran Fury, Diplomat, and Fifth Avenue. It stayed on through 1989, mainly as a police car and taxi.
      • All radios had a digital clock and electronic tuning.
      • Chrysler had the best gas mileage of the Big Three.
      • Perhaps the most popular sport utilities of all time, the SportWagon Cherokee and Wagoneer replaced their larger predecessors. Though lighter and shorter (bumper to bumper), the new Jeep XJ had more passenger room than the old ones, which dated back to 1963.
      • The only true AMC car left was the Eagle, in four-door sedan and wagon bodystyles; it was joined by a little sister to the Alliance, the Renault Encore, late in the year.
      • For more, see our detailed 1984 Chrysler Corporation page.
      1985



      • Launch of the "H bodies," Chrysler LeBaron GTS and Dodge Lancer, smooth sport-luxury cars with (optional) turbocharged engines that prove popular despite relatively high prices. LeBaron GTS gains a minor following in Germany, with one Business Week article quoting owners comparing the $35,000 (in Germany) car favorably against more expensive BMWs.
      • 2.2 engines get new upgrades, turbo versions get computer controlled boost and a slight power upgrade. First year for the Shelby Charger Turbo.
      • Five-lug wheels replace four-lug wheels on FWD cars. The Ultimate Sound System appears, with a graphic equalizer and much more.
      • At AMC, a Renault turbo-diesel was available for Cherokee and Wagoneer. A pioneering deal was made with China to build the new Cherokee at a plant in Beijing, a partnership that would last for decades until usurped by Mercedes.
      1986

      • Starting a partnership that would have much greater impact in 1989, AMC agrees to build the Chrysler Fifth Avenue, along with the slow-selling Dodge Diplomat and Plymouth Gran Fury, in their Kenosha plant.
      • Chrysler LeBaron "J" car launch and move of Dodge/Plymouth Conquest to Chrysler Conquest combine to eliminate the Chrysler Laser, leaving Dodge Daytona the sole car on its slow-selling platform (still beating Conquest). Conquest remains a Mitsubishi, mildly restyled, made in Japan.
      • Daytona gets its first (minor) refresh at the age of two (modified front and rear fascias, new nerf extensions, integrated body side moldings, and third brake lights); a serious makeover will come next year. The Dodge Daytona Turbo Z had wrap-around front and rear fascias which extended to the wheel openings; accent tape striping; and Turbo Z nameplates on the tail lamp lenses. Tinted glass and new 14-inch cast aluminum wheels were standard, and a new center brake light was integrated into the rear spoiler.



      • Chrysler announced that it would expand its Huntsville complex, creating the $65 million Chrysler Electronics City at 100 Electronics Boulevard to build electronic parts for automotive, commercial, and military uses
      • Minor facelift for the B-vans - around 100,000 are sold for 1986 (both "vans" and "wagons")
      • A515 "fast burn" cylinder head and notched "fast burn" pistons cut 2.2 engine emissions, with little or no effect on power. The 2.5 liter four was launched, using the 2.2 heads with standard single point throttle body injection, a taller block, and balance shafts in the oil pan. A new throttle body design for the TBI injection system improved fuel-air distribution; there were many other changes to the system as well, including a new distributor and numerous engine efficiency and durability upgrades.
      • Head bolts on all 2.2 / 2.5 engines went from 10mm to 11mm for greater strength.
      • The Jeep Comanche pickup debuted. Comanche was a classy compact truck, and could be ordered in any trim for any buyer; light and fast, the unit-body pickup had a high capacity for its class, but could outrun many cars. Stagnant production lines in the Kenosha plant were put to use building the Diplomat, Fifth Avenue, and Gran Fury under contract for Chrysler.
      • See Plymouths, Dodges, and Chryslers of 1986
      1987

      • Lee Iacoca made an under-the-table deal with Renault to purchase their stake in AMC. At the beginning of August, the deal was finalized, and 2% more was purchased on the open market to give Chrysler controlling interest in AMC. The payments totaled $1.1 billion in all. Thus, Chrysler Corporation bought American Motors, including Jeep, from Renault, a moved that most likely saved Chrysler's life and led directly to the 1993 resurrection.
        • Jeep J-series pickup production was halted and the Kenosha plant, making cars since the first Rambler in 1897, was torn down. AMC employees were absorbed by Chrysler.
        • Evan Boberg wrote: "Engineering departments were reorganized into an AMC fashion. After the first few years, it looked as if AMC had taken over Chrysler...the merger with AMC brought Chrysler back to life...many of the AMC brain trust had been former Chrysler employees..." (Common Sense Not Required)



      • New Dodge Dakota launched with new 3.9 liter V6, based closely on the venerable 318 V8. Dakota, largely done under contract for Chrysler, was billed as America's first mid-sized truck. A new version of the 2.2 four cylinder was also used - carbureted.
      • A520 manual five-speed transmission debuted.
      • "P" body Dodge Shadow and Plymouth Sundance launched - Shelby CSX version comes later in the year. Meant to replace the original K-cars, they are up-contented because of continued Reliant/Aries/LeBaron popularity - Chrysler sold almost 350,000 of the K-cars in 1987, had sold over 300,000 in 1986, and would go on to sell close to 350,000 in 1988. Even in their final partial year, over 100,000 Reliants and Aries would find owners. Sundance and Shadow styling was (deliberately) almost identical to the high-line LeBaron GTS and Lancer.



      • The Shelby CSX and the factory Turbo II debut; the factory Turbo II had many changes for durability which were not adopted by the Shelby people.
      • New (119 inch) long wheelbase Dodge Mini Ram Van
      • Ram 100 and Power Ram 100 added (economy versions of Ram 150 and Power Ram 150)
      • Dodge Raider mini-SUV, made by Mitsubishi, added to lineup; Mitsubishi-made Ram 50 and Power Ram 50 updated
      • Four-cylinder engines all got fuel injection; power ratings dropped to 93 hp on the 2.2, with no explanation. Rocker camshafts were adopted in all 2.2 and 2.5 engines; post-hardening of the nodular iron camshaft was believed to be an industry first. The new system cut friction by 20%, raising city gas mileage by 4% (automatics) or 3% (manuals).
      • Computer modules were combined into a single-module engine controller (SMEC) with two circuit boards; the CPU was upgraded and programming was refined, allowing for the engine to cancel limp-in mode
      • Turbochargers changed, turbo manifolds changed, minor change to Turbo I control systems.



      • AMC launched the Jeep Wrangler, which replaced the CJ. More stable, to avoid killing a new breed of "fun-seeking" buyers, it had a more car-like interior; one goal was to get more repeat buyers. Despite square headlights, sales rose over the old CJ.
      • Encore rebadged as Alliance Hatchback, and a new hi-po version, GTA, launches.
      • The old 258 was refined and equipped with fuel injection to become the Jeep "Power-Tech Six." It produced 173 hp and 220ft/lb torque. It replaced the GM 2.8 V-6 in Cherokee, Comanche and Wagoneer. A new 5-speed manual and 4-speed auto accompanied the new SUV efficiency leader. For more details, see our 1987-1989 Jeep page.
      • Renault Medallion and Premier were introduced.
      • Dodge Daytona got its first major restyle, with pop-up headlights that brought a resemblance to its 1969 namesake. A new rear
        spoiler was optional, the taillights became wrap arounds, and options were added. The interior was updated.
        • The
          Shelby Z edition appeared, with charge air cooling that brought 174
          hp (the Turbo II); it had a deep chin spoiler and
          225/50-15 tires, with top speed in the 130s and 0-60 in 7.2-8.0 sec. To handle the power, the Turbo II had a stronger bottom end with a cross-drilled block, forged crankshaft, the larger 1984-85 turbo rods, stronger bearing caps and full-floating pins, and Mahle cast pistons (the engine development work was done by Chrysler). The base Daytona engine changed from the 2.2 to the 2.5.
        • The
          Daytona Pacifica launched with the turbo engine
          standard and a common option group. The C/S package was dropped.
      • See Jeep 1987-1989
      1988

      • The Military/Public Electronic Systems division was renamed to Pentastar Electronics, Inc (PEI). PEI began to set up systems for testing Chrysler's cars and military systems alike; their work is still the primary test and diagnostic system for Abrams and Bradley tranks, and the Marines' LAV.
      • Last year for the K-based Chrysler LeBaron



      • Launch of the Dodge Dynasty and Chrysler New Yorker, AC bodies: they look like luxury cars outside, but the interior materials are much lower-end. The cars sell relatively well, mainly to older buyers who appreciate the chrome and boxy styling, but do not garner critical accolades; some would say they were a sign of Chrysler's decline.
      • In trucks, the ancient slant six is finally replaced by the 3.9 V6, with single-point fuel injection. Ram 50 got a Club Cab with 11 more inches of cab length.
      • Chrysler started offering the powerful, highly rated Infinity stereo systems as an option.
      • Daytona regained C/S packages, but only on base models.
      • Ramcharger 100 added to SUV line in RWD and 4x4 configurations
      • New: 7/70 warranty protection for the powertrain and outer panel rust-through on all domestic cars and trucks
      • Four-speed automatic (essentially a TorqueFlite with an overdrive unit included) replaces the three speed.
      • Also see Chrysler Corporation 1988 and Jeep 1987-1989
      1989

      • Midyear, the Reliant and Aries are finally dropped, despite high sales. One of their best sales years had been 1988, and even in their final year, over 100,000 were sold.
      • A new, stronger common block was used for turbo, standard, and 2.5 liter engines. Non-turbo engines got a new injector and higher fuel pressure, and cam drive sprockets and belt were changed to a quieter design. 2.5 gained Turbo I setup, 150 @ 4,800 (180 lb-ft @ 2,000). The turbocharger exhaust was enlarged, and the throttle body was gained automatic cable locks. The 2.5 Turbo I now shared the Turbo II's internal cooling. The air cleaner went from round to oval, and the Turbo I wastegate control was revised, providing initial boost at a lower speed, and more boost at medium and high speeds. Turbo II engines used a milder cam for smoother idles. The CPU on the SMEC was upgraded again.
      • Chrysler added a pioneering 2.2 Turbo IV VNT (variable nozzle turbo) without a wastegate, using the Garrett VNT25. It made the same 174hp as the Turbo II, but slashed lag. This revolutionary design would stay state of the art for years.
      • The Ultradrive four-speed automatic makes its debut, nearly-instantly slamming Chrysler's reputation for quality again, and destroying the idea that Chrysler transmissions were bulletproof. Hundreds of changes were made starting almost from its launch to get reliability up to normal standards. Despite horrific reliability concerns, Consumer Reports, after harping on the transmission for a decade, would finally admit that the Ford Taurus/Lincoln Continental four-speed was actually worse.
      • A new turbo powered 2.5 liter four-cylinder with 150 HP joined the lineup, providing less power overall than 2.2 Turbo II but with a smoother transition from launch to redline.
      • The
        Daytona Pacifica model became the ES and gained new ground effects, rear
        bumper, and spoiler, with 2.5 turbo standard. New alloy wheels were available. It was the last year for T-tops; the "Turbo Z" was no longer available. Last year for the digital dash. This year was the sales peak for the Daytona, despite the Turbo IV and V6 options to come in 1990.
      • Also see Jeep 1987-1989
      1990

      • Introduced in 1990, the 3.3L V6 was the second-ever Chrysler-designed V6 engine; it was also the first to be used in cars, and the first to be designed from the ground up to be a V6 (not a V8 with two cylinders cut missing). The 3.3 was used for decades, and was successful as a 255-horsepower racing engine (as used in Shelby Can Am cars). The 3.3 had a traditional cast-iron block, aluminum head, overhead-valve design along with sequential, multiple-port fuel injection (SMPI) and an integrated electronic ignition system.
      • Front-drive manual transmissions were upgraded for smoother shifting; standard driver airbags start to appear.
      • A single board computer replaced the dual-board unit. Numerous durability and sealing improvements to the 2.2 and 2.5 engine.
      • The revolutionary (due to the turbocharger design) Turbo IV VNT engine became factory production, with 174 hp, 210 lb-ft of torque, reaching full boost in half the time of the Turbo II, with a smoother response. Turbo I and IV engines both got new air cleaners and an integral turbo bypass valve.
      • Chrysler TC Maserati switches from the hot 2.2 Turbo II to a more luxurious, but tamer, Mitsubishi V6, with an Ultradrive four-speed automatic.
      • The Mitsubishi 3.0 V6 was upgraded with roller rocker arms and hydraulic lash adjusters, along with numerous other upgrades. The PRV 3.0 V6 used in Monaco was also upgraded to improve engine sealing. The various LA family V-engines got a new valve stem seal design and dual-lip crankshaft seal.
      • High-end cars all got dual hydro-elastic engine mounts to reduce engine shaking when driving over bumps.
      • Imperial gained an electronically controlled air suspension option.
      • Daytona Shelby and LeBaron GTC (coupe and convertible) both gained a driver-adjustable suspension dampening system with firm, normal, and soft levels. 3-liter V6 joined Daytona line, with power similar to 2.5 turbo and much lower than Turbo II or Turbo IV. Daytona interior is changed to a wraparound "cockpit style" setup. Daytonas are used in IROC races with Chrysler 355 V8 engines.
      • All domestic cars (and TC) other than Omni/Horizon and minivans switched to oval rear suspension bushings to improve ride; they also got front strut jounce bumpers made of urethane.
      • A new four wheel antilock brake system was used for Imperial, New Yorker Fifth Avenue and Landau, Chrysler Salon, and Dodge Dynasty. LeBaron coupe and convertible and Daytona got a new center mounted parking brake system. Standard rear wheel antilock brakes were added to Ram van/wagon, Ram club cab pickup, and Ramcharger.
      • Trucks with the 3.9 V6 and manual transmission got a new clutch to avoid driveline clunking. Ram pickup, B-vans, and Ramcharger also gained a new instrument cluster with an electronic speedometer and magnetic gauges; the speedometer cable was now in the past. All trucks got improved exhaust systems.
      • Most cars got a new corporate steering column and improved ignition switch with halo light, and a new, simpler multifunction control stalk. A new tilt-steering column was also available.
      • LeBaron coupe and convertible and Daytona got a new instrument panel, guage cluster, overhead console, and seats with manual or power adjustments. There were both analog and electronic-readout clusters. LeBaron Coupe and Convertible got a very well equipped EVIC (electronic vehicle information cluster); the EVIC for Imperial and Fifth Avenue were also upgraded. Some cars got auto-dimming rear view mirrors.
      • The standard electronic cruise control system was upgraded on all vehicles. Washer/wiper systems were also improved on minivans and all domestic-production cars other than Omni/Horizon and Premier/Monaco; it included a new airfoil element, new wiper blades, arm-mounted washers, a faster motor, and pulse wipe system.
      • Dodge trucks finally moved to double-bitted keys (double sided) with molded plastic heads covering the brass. There were still separate single-sided keys for the glove box and storage area.
      • Daytime running lights (DRLs) were added to Canadian vehicles to meet a new law; they used the high beams at reduced intensity, as encouraged by research.
      • Side-by-side electric cooling fans were used on New Yorker Fifth Avenue and Salon.
      1991



      • The big news for 1991 was the minivan refresh, an extensive re-engineering of the basic K-car based platform which conquered the economy feel of the minivans. Chrysler had the two top selling minivans in the US.
      • The dual-cam, returnless-injection, distributorless-ignition Turbo III appeared, generating an amazing 225 hp from 2.2 liters - propelling the five-passenger Spirit R/T sedan from 0 to 60 mph in under six seconds. It was used in just two cars in the US, the Spirit R/T and Daytona R/T (in Mexico, the LeBaron R/T also used it).
      • Jeep improved its 2.5 liter and 4.0 liter engines, both of which
      • The 2.5 turbo had an increased torque peak due to software changes.
      • Chrysler brought in $1.9 billion in sales, and lost $795 million.
      • The Dodge Dakota became the only mid-sized pickup to have a V8, and had a five-speed manual transmission option.
      • The
        Dodge Daytona Shelby model was killed off in favor of the IROC, halfway through the
        year. The IROC was only available with the 2.5L Turbo or the V6. Daytona sales plummeted to under 20,000.
      • The final Jeep Wagoneer was sold.
      1992



      • The New York Times profiled Chrysler's upcoming 1993-model-year "LH" large cars; the stock price tripled within a week. Launching the vehicle slowly and listening to assembly line workers resulted in what Chrysler claimed was the highest-quality launch in the company's history.
      • Dodge Viper, the first car engineered in the company's new platform-team system, could do 0-60 in 4.5 seconds, easily beating the Corvette and Stealth R/T Turbo; and could reach 100 mph and stop again in 14.5 seconds.
      • Lee Iaccoca was company chairman throughout 1992, retiring on December 31, 1992.
      • Imperial was the highest rated American car by Consumer Attitude Research
      • Chrysler earned a $723 million profit on $37 billion of overall revenues, selling 2.2 million vehicles in 80 countries through 8,000 dealers, with 13 assembly plants, 10 powertrain plants, 3 stamping operations, 21 component plants, and 123,000 employees (as of December 1991, and including all subsidiaries).

      • Chrysler's first child care center opened in Huntsville, Alabama.



      • The Grand Cherokee won "of the year" awards by Petersen's, Four Wheeler, and Motor Trend. The Grand Cherokee was brought out in April 1992, selling over 86,000 units by the end of the year in the United States alone. Cherokee continued to sell, going up 6% to nearly 129,000 units in the US. The last Comanche was produced midyear, and Wrangler moved from Ontario back to Toledo.
      • Chrysler sold more minivans than all competitors combined; and they opened the Steyr-Daimler-Puch joint venture plant in Austria to build the 25,000 minivans per year sold in Europe (one fifth of the Eurominivan market).
      • Corporate change was in the wind, with engineering already completely revamped, and the supplier idea program saving over $200 million. The CustomerOne training initiative, including 360 degree feedback for zone reps, had started, and the new Chrysler Technology Center was in nearly full swing by the end of the year, with 6,200 workers in the state-of-the-art building.
      • Chrysler raised cash by selling its share of Diamond Star Motors (for $100 million and debt release) and $215 million of Mitsubishi stock.
      • LeBaron coupe and convertible gained optional four-wheel antilock disc brakes, and, with the 3.0 V6, sequential multi-point fuel injection, raising power to 141 hp. The base engine was the 2.5, with an optional Turbo I.
      • Dodge Shadow and Plymouth Sundance were carried through with numerous minor modifications, mainly to increase perceived and real quality. For 1992, the turbocharged engines were dropped (and the Sundance RS was converted to Sundance Duster) in favor of the Mitsubishi V6.
      • Final year for Dodge Monaco, the AMC/Renault designed car.
      • Dodge Daytona got its final major facelift in 1992. The IROC came with the 3 liter V6, and the rare 2.5 liter turbo as an option. Fewer than 11,000 were sold.
      • Ram Van and Wagon were given minor upgrades; a one-inch diameter front stabilizer bar was used with gas-charged shocks in front and back. The alternator was up to 75 amps, and three-point seat belts were added to outboard positions of the rear seat.
      • Minivans were given standard driver airbags, even in the C/V, and an integrated child
        seat option.
      • The 3.9 liter V6 and the 318 V8 were given the Magnum treatment, with sequential multiple-port fuel injection, a tuned intake manifold, and other changes, boosting output to 180 hp, 225 lb-ft (V6) and 235 hp, 285 lb-ft (318 V8). Nearly four fifths of the components of these engines were redesigned.
      • Also see Chrysler Corporation 1992

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      Chrysler Hybrid-Electric Cars of the 1990s: Dodge Intrepid ESX

      Evan Boberg, in his book Common Sense Not Required: My Career With Chrysler, wrote that none of the hybrid vehicles described here lived up to the specifications given by Chrysler.

      The Intrepid was Chrysler's first attempt to exceed 80 mpg without losing space or acceleration. The total project cost $3 million to make, and Chrysler estimated that, if produced, the ESX would cost $80,000. Most of the cost was from the exotic materials and electronic components.

      The engine was derived from a series hybrid-drive propulsion system meant to use 40% of gasoline's potential energy (the typical car only uses 15% of gasoline's potential energy). The car was powered by three engines. The first was a VM Motori S.p.A. 1.8-liter three-cylinder, turbocharged diesel, whose energy was diverted to an 180-pound, 300-volt battery and two oil-cooled electric wheel motors. The electric motors were also part of the regenerative braking system, where energy normally lost through the disc brakes recharged the motors.



      The rear suspension, where the two 100-hp electric motors were located, was the semi-trailing arm type with coil-strut shocks. Panels were made of ultrathin-gauge aluminum, cutting the weight by 600 lb.. The controls for parking, reverse, and forward were located on the windshield wiper knob. The styling was incorporated in the 1998 Intrepid production car.

      Evan Boberg wrote that the Intrepid ESX was actually a rush job, set up as a show car late in the game; they decided to use a series hybrid because it would be faster to set up, though a real production car would not have that architecture. "[We were] building what we knew was obsolete hardware ... We made up impressive fuel economy numbers (lies) that were slightly based on our simulation." Press rides were made with the car on full-battery, he wrote; "the controls to charge the batteries had not yet been developed," and cited real fuel mileage, based on simulations, at around 30 mpg. Through the ESX development, though, Mr. Boberg said that the company was indeed working on a real high-efficiency vehicle program, and "were getting close to the government's goal of 80 mpg." This would be the ESX-3.

      Specs: Dodge Intrepid ESX hybrid-electric car, 1997

      • Vehicle: rear-engine, rear wheel drive, hybrid propulsion, 5 passenger,
        4-door sedan
      • Engine types: I-3 SOHC diesel, 2 valves/cylinder, with 2 electric wheel
        motors
      • Regenerative braking (brakes acted as generators to recapture energy and
        converted it to electricity)
      • Power: 75 bhp diesel + 2 x 100 hp electric motors = 275 bhp
      • Torque: 135 lb-ft @ 2400 rpm
      • Fully electric power steering
      • Acceleration: 0-60 in 15 seconds (this was decreased in 1998 to around
        9 seconds)
      • Transmission: none
      • Wheelbase: 113.0 in
      • 600 Bolder Technologies spiral-wound lead-acid batteries producing 300
        volts DC (180 lb), stored under the hood
      • Length: 195.0 in
      • Curb weight: 2880 lb
      • Estimated 55 mpg
      • Low emissions - below Tier 1
      Specs: Dodge hybrid, 1998

      • Same as above, except:
        • Engine types: I-3 SOHC diesel, 2 valves/cylinder, with 2 electric wheel
          motors
        • Power: 80 bhp diesel + 2 x 100 hp electric motors = 280 bhp
        • Torque: 135 lb-ft @ 2400 rpm
        • Acceleration (0-60): 9 sec (for 3.2-liter)
        • Curb weight: 2880 lb
      Dodge Intrepid ESX2

      The second run was the ESX2, with a more modest goal of 70 mpg. Chrysler called it a "mybrid" (mild hybrid) because its reliance on electrical power was not highly dependent on the battery. This system contained two motors that worked in parallel: a 1.5 liter, 74-bhp direct-injection Volkswagen diesel and a 20-bhp AC induction electric motor. Coupled with the powertrains were a 5-speed electronically shifted manual transmission, a nickel-metal hydride battery pack, and controlling equipment which included components from the Patriot hybrid race-car program.



      The main power came from the diesel engine. The electric motor charged the batteries, added to the acceleration, and powered the reverse gear.

      Evan Boberg wrote that the car did indeed meet a simulation of 70 mpg, if one made uncalled-for assumptions, including lighter weight than was practical (2,000 lb - the ESX3 actually weighed in at 2,250), better aerodynamics than any five-person car ever built, and extremely low rolling resistance tires. The diesel engine would also have had to be smaller than any available at the time. Many of the components were supplied by Delphi. In the end, he wrote that the car would likely have made similar numbers had it done without the motor.

      To cut down on cost and weight, Chrysler fitted the car with a cheap, unpainted thermoplastic body attached to an aluminum frame. The shape had low aerodynamic drag. Inside, trim was constructed of carbon-fiber and seats were constructed from tube frame. The final projected cost was claimed to be only $15,000 more than a regular Intrepid, or about $37,000; though this may not have worked out if it had been approved.

      Intrepid ESX-3

      The ESX3 was reported as costing only about $7,500 more than a comparable gasoline-powered car, down from a $15,000 premium with the ESX2, and $60,000 with the ESX - if it had been approved for production.

      The ESX3's mild hybrid electric powertrain combined a diesel engine, electric motor, and lithium-ion battery to achieve a claimed 72 miles per gallon (3.3 liters/100 km). An electro-mechanical automatic transmission (EMAT) provided the fuel efficiency of a manual transmission with the convenience of an automatic (this technology's origins are unclear.)

      The lightweight body used injection-molded thermoplastic technology that cut weight and cost (Chrysler was working on other projects to use this kind of material, including the Plymouth Pronto). The ESX3 weighs 2,250 pounds (1020 kg) while meeting all federal safety standards.

      Rethinking the car's electronic and electrical systems cut several pounds from the weight of electronics while providing an ergonomic system of controls and indicators, high-performance audio and video systems, and a state-of-the-art telematics package.

      Some elements were incorporated into other vehicles. The Dodge Durango hybrid had 20% higher mileage, though it mainly used General Motors/BMW technology (an electric motor setup within the automatic transmission). A thermoplastic hardtop would be used on the Jeep® Wrangler for the 2001 model year, while EMAT transmission technology was being developed for future production vehicles - never to actually be produced by Chrysler, though planned for minivans and Rams.


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      Chrysler Liberty Group Magic Engine

      See also: hybrid-electric Intrepid ESX | turbine engines | technology

      According to Evan Boberg in Common Sense Not Required, much Liberty Group research was not measured appropriately - in short, we would not stake our reputation on the truthfulness of the following release or, if true, on the viability of the project.

      June 13, 2002 - Chrysler Group researchers are using a series of small steps in engineering to produce a giant leap in fuel efficiency that could benefit consumers in the not-too-distant future.

      With a series of engineering changes to Chrysler's standard gasoline-powered, 4.7-liter V-8 engine, researchers have produced an engine with 14 percent better fuel efficiency. The cost of those changes: less than $200 per engine. The project has been nicknamed the MAGIC engine, which stands for Multiple Approaches to Great Internal Combustion. The improvement in fuel efficiency was achieved with no sacrifice in emissions, power, cost, weight, engine life or other engine characteristics such as noise, vibration or harshness.

      "We call it the MAGIC engine, but it's really pure engineering," said Thomas Moore, Vice President and head of the Liberty & Technical Affairs advanced technology research group in Rochester Hills, Michigan. "Our goal was to demonstrate that all these little changes actually work in the real world and add up to major improvements in efficiency. Today we can say that it all works."

      Eight different design and engineering changes were made to the standard engine. "Most of these changes are not new, and individually, they produce miniscule gains in fuel efficiency," Moore said. "The idea of the MAGIC engine is to package them all together so the overall gain is significant."

      As a next step, Chrysler engineers packaged the MAGIC engine into a Dodge Durango SUV with several additional design changes to enhance fuel efficiency. That vehicle, project Apollo, achieves an overall improvement in fuel efficiency of 25 percent. Total additional costs for project Apollo are only about $500 per vehicle.

      Areas of improvement are:

      • Increased compression ratio (4 percent) through intake port air-gap thermal barrier (patent pending)
      • On-demand piston oil-squirters
      • Precision cooling system
      • Charge motion control (5 percent). Use of swirl control valves to enhance flame propagation during warm-up and partial load. This also enables increased EGR (Exhaust Gas Recirculation)
      • Friction loss reduction (4 percent). Design changes to lower friction at no extra cost: Crankshaft offset, Reduced oil-ring tension, Shortened coolant jacket
      • Parasitic loss reduction (1 percent). New design oil pump with reduced internal leakage and reduced friction

      Chrysler Group engineers used the same incremental approach to fuel efficiency improvements in the Dodge Durango SUV fuel efficiency demonstration vehicle. The Apollo project includes the following enhancements:

      • A 12V alternator/restarter to allow transparent shutdown and restarting of a warm engine in stop/start traffic conditions (4 percent)
      • Improved cooling technologies, including electronic thermostat, electric water pump, transmission temperature management and multi-mode temperature strategy (5 percent)
      • Improved undercarriage aerodynamics (belly pans and air dams) and grille shutters resulting in reduced drag (1.2 percent)
      • Electro-hydraulic power steering (1 percent)

      "Engineers have been improving the internal combustion engine for 130 years, so big improvements are hard to come by," Moore said. "We made the big improvement one small step at a time."


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      The People of Chrysler: biographies and interviews

      Also see our interviews page.

      Mopar / Chrysler engineers

      Dodge, Plymouth, and Jeep racers

      Chrysler corporate leaders

      Chrysler stylists

      Avard T. Fairbanks, designer of the Dodge Ram and the Plymouth Flying Lady
      • John E. Herlitz, stylist of the 1970 Plymouth Barracuda and Dodge Copperhead
      • Bob Ackerman, stylist of the M4S
      • Roy Axe, who worked with Rootes Group and designed or influenced many Chrysler Europe cars
      • Elwood Engel, whose clean designs were well-received from the mid-60s to the mid-1970s
      Other Mo-people of interest

      Celebrities' cars




      Books





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      Jeep Cherokee: best of breed from 1975 to 2001



      First generation Jeep Cherokee

      1975-76 Wagoneer Cherokee police cars
      2014 Jeep Cherokee • Grand Cherokee
      Can and should Jeep build a new XJ?


      The first Jeep Cherokee, launched in 1974, was simply a two-door version of the Jeep Wagoneer. In 1977, the Jeep Cherokee, still a low-end version of the Wagoneer, was available with both two and four doors.

      All Cherokees for North American sale were made in Toledo, Ohio, regardless of generation; later Cherokees were also made offshore.



      Second generation Jeep Cherokee (1984-1996)

      After ten years, a new and completely different Cherokee was brought out, which would revolutionize American SUVs. This new Jeep Cherokee had a shorter wheelbase than the original, and a shorter length - seven and 21 inches respectively - helping it to check in at a svelte 3,100 pounds, a thousand pounds less than the Wagoneer-based model, around the same weight as a Plymouth Valiant. The new Cherokee was more economical, and easier to drive both on and off road. Again, both two and four door models were available; a pickup version called the Comanche was built on the same assembly line.

      In front, a multilink front suspension with a track bar and coil springs was used, with recirculating ball steering; traditional leaf springs held up the rear.

      The coil link suspension, a version of which remains on the Wrangler, allowed the Jeep to have superior wheel travel, while maintaining a surprisingly good ground clearance under all conditions. The suspension, assailed by critics as "outdated" for years, resulted in a ride those same critics loved - firm but not punishing, with good cornering, fine off-roadability, and a feel that left drivers feeling refreshed after a long trip.



      The upper angled arms restrict the lateral movement of the axle in the vehicle, caused by the track bar, by trying to form a three-link system, but with rubber bushings, the effect is minimized but progressive as the axle goes through its jounce-to-rebound travel. This is what causes the assymetrical handling and braking of the XJ, MJ, ZJ, and WJ (although as these arms and the track bar mounting were revised on each succeeding vehicle, the effect was minimized more in each series after the XJ and MJ) - Bob Sheaves.

      Downsides of the five-link suspension were asymmetrical braking and steering, described in Evan Boberg's book. Suspension engineer Bob Sheaves wrote that there was no way to eliminate these issues in a five-link design; "You can move the effect around in the performance envelope, you can raise or lower the speed where the driver loses control of the vehicle, you can minimize the effects in one area (but lose the control outside that band). ... An independent system, a 4 link, even a 3 link does not have this issue. They do have other issues, but not the cause of 'death wobble' and the brakes pulling the direction of the vehicle out of the intended path."


      At rest, an independent front suspension can match the static height of a coil link axle. However, a coil link axle remains a constant distance in relationship to the wheel; the axle moves with the suspension; while, with independent front suspensions, the differential is fixed to the body; so that, when a wheel travels during jounce and rebound, the entire vehicle is closer to the ground. Thus, a coil link suspension with "less" ground clearance can have a higher "effective ground clearance" in actual driving than the more "modern" suspension type used in the later Jeep Liberty. (Thanks, "MoparNorm.")

      The 1984 Cherokee would be instantly recognizable today, combining the big wheel well flares, boxy shape, and general appearance of the final 2001 model and the new Jeep Patriot and Commander. The interior was simple and functional, and fit four in comfort. There were three trim levels - base, Pioneer (luxury), and Chief (sport) (Laredo would come later, providing most of the Pioneer features with a lower price).

      The base engine was Jeep's own 2.5 liter four-cylinder, and the optional engine was a 2.8 liter Buick V6. Both were carbureted, with one and two barrels respectively, producing 105 and 115 horsepower (with much greater differences in torque). A four-speed manual transmission was standard, with an optional five speed manual and three-speed automatic for V6 models. A Wagoneer version included standard full-time four wheel drive.

      In addition to the suspension, the Cherokee was set apart by the four wheel drive system. Command-Trac was a conventional part-time system, but it had a shift-on-the-fly feature in an era when many people had to stop to change to four wheel drive; Selec-Trac was a full-time four wheel drive system that didn't destroy the tires too quickly on dry roads. A two wheel drive version was also sold, as was a diesel using a Renault engine; the diesel was dropped by 1988. While the Cherokee diesel engine was, according to Bob Sheaves, "advanced for the time, a decent performer, economical, thrifty, and inexpensive" as an option, the market ignored it.

      One interesting aspect of the Cherokee, according to Evan Boberg in Common Sense Not Required, was the power steering pressure - it started out normal, was raised to a very high level by an engineer who sought to remove the "catch-up" condition common to all cars with power steering, and was later brought back down after an unusual number of failures. There was also a condition in 1989 when the Cherokee pulled, because the wrong caster was specified by one department; this was also corrected later. (Caster would not be adjusted without fairly major work to the suspension, due to the design. One highly valued engineer wrote, "The proper fix is to replace the asymmetrical panhard rod with a Watts linkage to prevent the axle from moving in an arc, perpendicular to the vehicle longitudinal centerline.")

      The XJ Cherokee also included amber rear turn signals, an oil pressure gauge, and, despite the ground clearance, a relatively low roof and cargo bay height (making it easier to use the roof rack). When the XJ Cherokees came out as 1984 models, they were sporting a length of about 10" less than a K-car, with four doors and, in 1983, 71.2 cubic feet of cargo capacity with the rear seat down. In 1987, they changed to 71.8, coinciding with the firewall adaptation to make room for the inline 6 engine, theoretically cutting into interior space, but AMC did it well and got more room for cargo inside. (The K-car, albeit with a much lower height, was rated at 67.7 cubic feet).

      In 1985, a 2.1 liter four-cylinder turbodiesel was added; two-wheel drive was made available; and the Wagoneer got Limited trim.

      In 1986, the 2.5 liter engine gained fuel injection, bumping power to 117 horsepower and easing starting and general operation, with no gas mileage penalty. A new off-road package with bigger tires, skid plates, a raised suspension, and a 4:10 gear ratio was also added.

      As Evan Boberg noted in his book, Common Sense Not Required, the Cherokee also was a hit from the start because it was the only four-door SUV on the market when introduced. The introduction of the four liter engine in 1987 turned it into a performance vehicle as well, and sales continued to be strong.

      Evan wrote:

      I was told [that] the executive in charge of the design of the Cherokee hated the AMC inline 6 cylinder engine (the 4.2 liter) and specifically designed the Cherokee so it would not fit. The Nash 2.5 liter engine was fitted with fuel
      injection and the General Motors 2.8 liter V6 with oil leaks were the original engine options.
      The four liter engine had long been under construction at AMC, and was based closely on the successful new 2.5 liter four-cylinder. It provided 170 at first, and was quickly boosted to 177 hp, making acceleration faster than most cars, and allowing 5,000 pounds to be towed. (Evan also noted that since the Cherokee was more profitable than its pickup version, lower Comanche sales meant more profits.)

      Sharing parts with the Cherokee/Wagoneer XJ body was the Jeep Comanche (MJ body), a light pickup with the optional Command-Trac four wheel drive system which could shift at any speed. It had a standard six foot bed, with a seven foot long bed optional; towing capacity was raised in 1988 to 1,475 pounds. Early-model XJ and MJ models (mid-1980s) could have a Peugeot diesel (later a Renault diesel); a metric-ton (2,240 pound) payload package was available on the Comanche until 1990, with heavy duty U-joints and propshaft, Dana 44 rear axle, and heavy duty brakes. The base engine on the Comanche was the four cylinder, more powerful than any other compact pickup engine; but the four liter six was also available (standard on Eliminator models), making the Comanche quick indeed. (Jeep Comanche page)
      Evan also suggested that the success of the Cherokee led Chrysler to buy AMC from Renault. Certainly it was a lone bright spot in an otherwise struggling company; the Wrangler was selling at a steady if low volume, but the Renault-based cars were experiencing a lack of success similar to the earlier, heavier four-wheel-drive AMC cars.

      Changes to the Jeep Cherokee

      Also in 1987, a new automatic was added, providing four speeds and electronic control, which allowed power and comfort modes. The four speed manual was finally dropped, along with the diesel. The Limited arrived, with the six cylinder engine and Selec-Trac four wheel drive, not to mention leather and various de rigeur luxury items.

      Starting in 1988, components were slowly changed, in an effort to increase reliability; this process continued through to the 1994 model year, the first of the all-Chrysler interiors and components. The Sport also arrived in 1988.

      Four-wheel antilock brakes were added in 1989; unlike competitors', they worked even in four wheel drive models.



      For 1990, Cherokee added a new optional overhead console, new colors, three-point seat belts on the back seats, and a standard AM/FM electronically tuned stereo. The 2.5 liter engine stayed at 121 hp, 141 lb-ft; the straight-six at 177 hp, 224 lb-ft.

      In 1991, the four cylinder was given multiple point fuel injection - the only non-turbocharged four cylinder at Chrysler to get it - to provide 130 horsepower; the six cylinder was upgraded the same way, and now pushed out 190 hp with 225 pound-feet of torque. The Pioneer disappeared and the short-lived Briarwood showed up. By 1992, only the base model could have the four-cylinder.



      In 1993, Chrysler rationalized the Cherokee, dropping all but the base, Sport, and Country (luxury) models, and added sequential multiple-port injection to the 2.5 liter engine, increasing gas mileage. 1994 brought non-CFC air conditioner refrigerant, better roof crush resistance, and side door beams for impact protection; the base model was renamed SE. In 1995, a driver's airbag was added.

      In 1996, the engines were made quieter and given more usable torque with several air path changes; the Selec-Trac system was upgraded; OBD II on-board diagnostics were added; the powertrain control module moved to the JTEC system; and a revolutionary returnless fuel supply system, first seen on the Neon, was installed. For 2000, some changes were made to the graphics and exterior appearance; and extended-life headlamps that were brighter than the 1999 headlamps.

      Jeep Cherokee repairs

      We have dedicated pages for:


      There appear to have been few systemic problems with the Cherokee. Evan Boberg's book noted that the power steering suffered from early failure in early models; and models built from 1989 until about 1993 could pull to the right if caster was adjusted to spec (7 degrees). (The solution, according to Evan, is to adjust camber to 4 degrees - and to ignore the pull.)

      Tom Wand wrote, "On Jeep models including the 1991 model year and possibly 1990, a large connector near the center of the Dash Panel (Firewall) can cause some problems. This "C101 Connector" carries all of the engine mounted circuits. If the engine is running rough, no power, stumbling, hard starting, simply disconnect this connector and reconnect it. The oxygen sensor signal, which passes through it, is such a high impedance that it may corrode in the connection and not work. Simply undoing and reconnecting it cleans the corrosion of and fixes the problem." (Our note: you may want to use di-electric grease to prevent corrosion.)

      John Mastiano helped a customer with a 1995 4x4 Cherokee that shook violently when over 45 mph; it had had the steering stabilizer replaced and a leaf added to the rear springs because the rear was about one inch too low (this made it four inches too high). A mechanic replaced the traction bar because it had a slight movement but this did not help. John wrote, "This is usually caused by loose front end components (control arm bushings,ball ends, etc). Lifting the rear by 4" could also play a major role due to the front end alignment (caster) being thrown way off spec. Though it was written for the Ram, TSB 19-05-96 could help."

      Another mechanic wrote about a problem that causes many shops to replace or rebuild the AW4 automatic transmission. "These have a special type of Park/Neutral safety switch. Starting, reverse lights, and shifting input are all part of this switch function. These are expensive at $250, but it is a switch you can take apart, clean the wipers and contacts, and reassemble.... very carefully. With one 298,750 mile 1992 Jeep Cherokee which two shops had said needed a new transmission, this switch was filthy inside; I cleaned it and put it back together, sealed the outer part with RTV to prevent any contamination in future. The Jeep shifts great again. This is the third one we have done and it worked all three times. Be very sure to set up the position of the switch after cleaning with an ohmmeter to make sure it has flow to starter relay in P and N."

      Cherokees with the Borg-Warner automatic do not take the same transmission fluid as those with Chrysler automatics.

      Pete Jackson wrote about changing the starter on the 1987 Cherokee 4.0. He said this was a 15 minute job requiring a 3/8" drive ratchet with 14 mm, 15 mm, and 13 mm (1/2") sockets, preferably standard depth though deep would work with some challenges; and a 1/4" combo wrench.

      1. Be sure the brake is set and the transmission is in gear or Park; disconnect the negative (and positive if desired) cables from the battery.
      2. Remove the 1/4" nut from the solenoid terminal, if yours isn't a spade connector. Mine uses a ring terminal and 1/4" nut with a screw.
      3. Remove the 13mm nut (and cable) from the positive battery cable on the starter solenoid terminal.
      4. Remove the 15mm upper mounting bolt from the starter (this one faces the rear of the vehicle) and the 14mm lower mounting bolt from the starter (this faces the front of the vehicle)
      5. Remove the starter and put the new one in; put on the upper and lower bolts, the 13mm nut and cable, and the solenoid terminal nut. Torque the mounting bolts to 37 pound-feet and the cable connection just past snug. (Torque specs are from the service manual; the rest is straight from Pete.)
      1997-2001: third generation Jeep Cherokee

      The Jeep Cherokee was extensively restyled for 1997, with new sheet metal, seats, door trim panels, and a new, electronic instrument panel (with microprocessor) added; a tachometer and trip odometer became standard. Outside, a new grille and air dam, along with numerous other changes and additions, updated the Cherokee's appearance. Front doors switched to a single pane of glass, and outside mirrors were enlarged, with optional power, heated mirrors.



      The Cherokee kept its powertrain, but most of the electrical connectors were upgraded, a new plastic gas tank (20 gallons) replaced the steel tank and had a new fuel pump and new fuel lines. Transmissions were carried over, other than a new hydraulic clutch and pedal linkage on the manual transmissions. The Mark 20 antilock brake system was made available; the parking brake was relocated; a single-touch-down driver's power window was added; and a floor console became standard, with an optional overhead module.

      The largest change was a switch to the CCD bus, which eliminated numerous wires and electrical connections; the bus included the powertrain control system, instrument cluster, airbags, compass, electric locks, and, with the Aisin Warner automatic, the transmission computer. The remote entry system was switched from infra-red to radio, and could be programmed using either the MDS or DRB systems.

      A 500 amp battery replaced the 430 amp one, and a 117 amp alternator replaced the 81 amp alternator. An electronic airbag replaced the mechanical one, and became standard equipment.

      See our 1997 Jeep Cherokee page and Jeep Cherokee Police Car pages; the latter has details on the differences between the standard and police Cherokee, and how their results in performance testing.

      Also see Can and should Jeep build a new XJ?

      Jeep Cherokee Specifications, 1992 and 1997

      For acceleration, braking, and cornering results with comparisons to the Chevy Tahoe and Ford Explorer, see our coverage of the Michigan State Police tests of the Jeep Cherokee.

      Offroad specs, 1997: Running ground clearance, 10.2 inches; approach, 38°; breakover, 24°; departure, 32°. Weight distribution 9four door), 53/47.

      4WD specifications 199019921997
      I4 power 121 @ 5250130 @ 5,250 125 @ 5,600
      I4 torque 141 @ 3250149 @ 3,000 150 @ 3,250
      I4
      mpg (manual)
      19/2417/2119/22
      I6 power 177 @ 4500190 @ 4,750 190 @ 4,600
      I6 torque 224 @ 2500225 @ 4,000 225 @ 3,000
      I6 mpg (manual)n/a15/2017/21
      Track57.057.0-58.058.0
      Length165.3168.6167.5
      Width70.570.568
      Height63.363.364.0
      Axle clearance 8.88.3
      Payload11501,1501,150 lb
      Cargo,
      rear seat up
      35.7 c.f.35.6 cubic feet 34 cubic feet
      Cargo, folded seat71.8 c.f.71.8 cubic feet 71 cubic feet
      Max towing 5,000 lb
      Drag (cD) .51
      Frontal area 24.5 cubic feet
      Headroom, F/R 38.3/38.038.3/38.037.8/38.5
      Legroom, F/R 41.1/35.341.0/35.341.4/35.0
      Shoulder room, F/R55.3/55.355.3/55.355.2/55.2
      Brake type, F/R Disc/DrumDisc/DrumDisc/Drum
      Base wheel size15 x 6 steel 15 x 6 steel 15 x 7 steel
      Wheelbase101.4

      101.4

      101.4
      Stabilizer bars, F/R.94 / .63.95" / .63" Unknown
      Weight2,832-3,0762,985-3,0283,111 - 3,153 lb

      2014 Cherokee2005-2007 Jeep Liberty2002-2004 Jeep LibertyCan and should Jeep build a new XJ?

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      The Spirit Is Still Alive: American Motors Corporation 1954-1987

      by Chad Quella

      Through its 34-year existence, AMC created some of the most memorable, inspirational, and exciting cars the world has ever seen.



      American Motors was formed in 1954 from the merger of Hudson Motors and Nash-Kelvinator. The deal was the largest corporate merger up to that point - worth $197,793,366 - but was just one phase of a planned megamerger of Hudson, Nash, Studebaker, and Packard.

      The combined company would cover all segments of the market, and their size and ability to share engineering would amortize costs nicely; at least, that was the plan of Kelvinator's George Mason, whose company owned Nash. The name "American Motors" originated with Mason, who started working on the plan just after World War II (thanks, Dan Minick.)


      The standard Hudson cars were an excellent design in the mid-to-upper range, but the lack of money for annual restylings had hurt sales. Racing successes sold Hudson Hornets, but not the bigger cars that were Hudson's main business. Hudson was, therefore, receptive to the plan to merge with Nash, which had strengths in the low-to-middle range.

      The first casualties of the merger were the Jet, Hudson's slow-selling entry into the compact market, and the little Nash-Healey sports car, which had left its mark on European sports car racing but had not been a major seller. A year later, the Nash Rambler and Metropolitan were badged as Hudsons and sold under both marques.

      Hudsons kept their in-line six cylinder L-head (flat head) engines; standard models had single carburetors, while optional "Twin-H Power" package had higher compression heads with dual carburetors. Moving up, the Nash Ambassador and Hudson Hornet models boasted the Packard 320 V-8, producing 208 hp, with Packard "Ultramatic" automatic transmissions. [Why AMC used Packard V8 engines]

      AMC used GM's Hydramatic transmission in the 1950s (using Packard Ultramatics in Packard V8-powered cars), Borg-Warners on some 1954 Hudsons and then from 1957 on, and finally moved to the Chrysler Torqueflite in 1972 for cars, and around 1979-80 for Jeeps - the slow adoption due to existing contracts.

      1955: new Wasp and Hornet

      AMC proudly introduced a new line of Hudson Wasps and Hornets in 1955, "new from stem to stern" (in reality, moved to the newer Nash platforms); but they did not reverse the companies' fortunes.



      In Canada, one could buy the Nash Rambler, Hudson Rambler, Nash Canadian Statesman, and Hudson Wasp sedans, assembled in Canada, at the Nash plant on East Danforth Avenue in Toronto (Nash bought the plant from Ford of Canada in 1946 and started production in 1950). Hudson dropped its contract with CHATCO Steel Products, which made Hudsons on an assembly line in Tilbury, Ontario. Meanwhile, in a move that would have ramifications for AMC years later, Kaiser Motors made its final Manhattan models and converted its car factories to Jeep production.

      1956: the Rambler returns

      Rambler Canada: The Little Company that Could, 114 pages, is available from James Mays, Box 47547, 1550 Maisonneuve West, Montreal, QC CANADA H3G 2V7, for US$25 or C$37.50 via cheque or money order made out to James Mays.

      The controversial Pinin-Farina styled Nash "bathtub" body was updated with open front wheelwells; but the big news was the new Rambler, a car of the future with a name from Nash's past - indeed, from Jeffery, the company that was later renamed Nash.

      The new Rambler, selling as both Hudson and Nash, had a flashy body with plenty of chrome, a wraparound windshield, reverse-slant C-pillar, and two-tone paint. The Rambler carried either Hudson or Nash badging, depending on the brand selling it, branding similar to that of the Dodge/Plymouth Neon.

      A brand new AMC-designed 250 cid V-8 replaced the Packard V-8s [the story behind the engine change] in the 114-inch wheelbase Ambassador Special and Hudson Hornet Special; the 121"-wheelbase Ambassador V8 and Hornet V8 continued with Packard V8s for 1956, but moving up to the bigger 220 horse 352 V8. Rambler four door sedans and wagons, along with the Hudson Wasp and Nash Canadian Statesman, were assembled in Canada and imported to the U.S.; American Motors Sales (Canada) Limited was formed, taking over Nash Motors of Canada Limited and Hudson Motors of Canada Limited.

      Frank Swygert added:

      Packards contained engines of the same size but rated at higher power. Due to a parts sharing dispute between Packard and AMC, AMC brought out its own 250 cid, four-barrel-fed, 190 hp V-8 in April, used only in the 1956 Ambassador and Hornet Special models. The Specials were built on the 114"-wheelbase Statesman and Wasp bodies with Ambassador and Hornet trim, with the 250 V-8; the lighter Specials performed as well as the larger Packard V-8 cars.
      1957: Nash and Hudson become Rambler; Rebel

      1957 was the last year for both the Nash and Hudson marques, which were dropped in favor of Rambler, simplifying sales and marketing. The Rebel was launched as the first American factory hot-rod. It came in silver, with silver and black upholstery, a new 255 hp 4 bbl 327 cid V-8, four speed or auto, and dual exhaust. It ran the quarter in 17.0 seconds; Mike Sealey pointed out that it was advertised as the fastest four door car in America from 0-60 mph. Only 1,500 silver Rebels were built; in addition to the silver paint, these Rebels had anodized gold trim.

      Bill Watson noted that the Rambler Six and Rambler Rebel V8 were assembled in Canada until July 1957, when the Toronto plant closed; all Ramblers were then imported until December 1960, when a new plant in Brampton opened. Frank Swygert noted that the 327 was a larger version of the 250 and 287; they used the same block, crank, and rods as the 250 (the crank and rods were forged and expensive to change). The 250 was used in the Rambler V-8. Bob Goyette added: "The 250 was a 3.5 inch bore, the 287 was 3.75 inches, and the 327 was 4.0 inches."

      1958: Rebel, Ambassador, and Classic

      The big news for 1958, at least according to AMC at 1957 car shows, was the new Bendix Electrojector electronic fuel injection system, a design which was quite similar to modern systems. When confronted with Chevrolet's mechanical fuel injection option, set at $484, an AMC spokesman said theirs would cost less; but high costs and poor reliability led AMC to drop plans to use the system, and it ended up at Chrysler, which replaced nearly every unit with conventional carburetors. The design of the system was excellent; but electronic components of the day were not up to underhood duty. Bosch would end up buying the rights to the system and successfully launching it, many years later.



      All lines were now badged Ramblers, with the historic Hudson and Nash names in the dustbin. The original 100-inch wheelbase Nash Rambler was brought back with modern styling and 195.6 cid six, and named the Rambler American (100" wheelbase). The Rebel V8 (108"), Rambler 6 (108"), and Ambassador (117") were restyled as well with quad headlights, toothy chrome grilles, and pointy tailfins.



      Frank Swygert wrote: The Rambler V-8 was renamed Rebel and received its own series number (20). It was produced through 1960. The only V-8 Ramblers from 1961-mid 1963 were Ambassadors. The 1958 American was a reintroduction of the 1955 Nash Rambler, the only time an old model has been successfully reintroduced. It had a reintroduced L-head 195.6 of 90 hp; the engine, too, had been dropped with the 55 Nash Rambler, being converted to overhead valaves for 1956. The L-head shared the same lower block, crank, rods, and timing components (except grind of cam) as the 195.6 overhead valve engine. There was no bolt-on conversion because the right side of the block was changed. The 125 hp OHV was optional in the American.
      James K. Sims wrote: We owned a 1958 Rambler Ambassador Country Club. I understand that there were only about 1200 made.
      It was a four-door hardtop with all power accessories, spare tire on the continental kit, and a pushbutton automatic transmission. It had 900-15 tires and would spin them on command.
      I pumped it up to almost 120 mph (it had no problem jumping up there). It continually had power window failures, but otherwise, I remember it being a dependable vehicle.


      1959 brought cosmetic changes only (the Metropolitan continued without any styling changes).

      1960: Next Generation Rambler

      The next generation of Rambler arrived, featuring cleaner styling and increased interior room. The Rebel was deleted after 1960, but was still available for one final year with the V8. American and Classic were available only with the 195.6 cid six, with single-barrel carb or optional two-barrel Power Pak. Ambassador was powered by the 327 cid V-8. Metropolitan importing stopped, but their stock lasted through the 1962 model year, making the late-model Mets very collectible today. (Gerald Henry disagreed: "[the] last Metropolitan for the North American market was E-95981 and it was built on April 19, 1961.")

      AMC's Brampton plant opened in December 1960. It would be used until 1994, when it was sold to Wal-Mart and used as a warehouse.

      1961

      Though mechanically unchanged, the curvy American was completely restyled to become the "breadbox" American, with a linear shape and attractive grille. Ambassador receives a memorable, European-looking front end.

      This was the first year of the Rambler Classic, sold as a six or V8.

      1962

      The slanted petite tailfins on Classic and Ambassador were eliminated for a rounded back end, much like MoPars of the same period.

      The Rambler Classic came as a six only, as the Ambassador was shrunk to the 108" wheelbase, and shared the Classic's front end clip.

      1963

      The entire Rambler line was named Motor Trend Car of the Year for their unitized construction, (a Nash tradition), modern engines, and value. Classic and Ambassador were completely redesigned with chic, clean styling and the unforgettable "Pac Man" grille. The V-8 was available again in the Classic, and a new 287 cid version was introduced.

      A 287 V-8 was introduced for the Classic line due to dealer demands for a V-8 option late in the 63 model year. It was used only in the Classic, with the 327 still reserved for use in the Ambassador only.

      1964

      The Rambler American got its first redesign, with neat, trim lines, tunneled headlights, and a plain horizontal bar grille.



      The Ambassador and Classic were sold in two-door hardtop form, the first AMC full-sized two-door hardtops since the 1957 Nash Ambassador Country Club and Hudson Hornet Hollywood.



      A special edition of the Classic two-door hardtop, in Solar Yellow with a black roof, was the first AMC to be powered by the "Typhoon" 232 cid six. This block spawned the "Great 258" 4.2l and the Jeep "Power-Tech Six" 4.0l, which was used through 2006.

      The 4.0 liter engine was still highly competitive when it was retired.



      1965



      Ambassador was lengthened and given a V-shaped front end with stacked headlights. Classic was restyled as well.



      Midway through the model year, a new midsize sport fastback was introduced on the Classic chassis. Named Marlin, it was, in reality if not by intent, a luxury alternative to the Mustang and Barracuda fastbacks.







      AMC also launched the Rebel, a two-door coupe derivative of the Classic, with an optional four-barrel 327 V-8 four speed and dual exhaust.

      The new 199 and 232 sixes were three to four inches longer than the old 195.6. There wasn't enough room between the grille and radiator in a 1965 American with the 232 for a condenser, so air conditioning was not available with the larger engine.

      "AMC-Rambler Man" wrote: "AMC was apprehensive of Chrysler's designs to produce a fastback turbine-powered intermediate sized car (the original plan for the Charger). AMC's 1965 Rambler Marlin, with many styling cues of the Chrysler Norseman, also challenged Chevy's Malibu and El Camino, though the pickup truck image was not AMC's intention. Hence, Rambler Classic/Marlin vs Chevrolet Chevelle/Malibu.

      Most of the styling cues of the Rambler Classic/Marlin and the Chevrolet Chevelle/Malibu are similar, except the Marlin got tapered sailpanels to have a fastback profile. Surely AMC wanted to beat Chrysler to make the first intermediate sized fastback. The 1965 Classic/Marlin featured an optional "Twin Stick" 3+2 overdrive manual transmisson for a functional five speed. (The four speed/no overdrive was an option by popular demand for 1966.) A stick-mounted button provided the overdrive kickdown, giving the driver complete manual control. AMC only had dual exhaust on one torque tube car, the 1957 Rambler Rebel; the 1966 Rebel featured a different roofline than the Classic, two door hardtop only."
      1966

      The Rambler American was restyled to wear the face that is now the most widely recognized. The rest of the lineup had minor cosmetic changes. This was the last year that Ramblers utilized the "torque tube" drive system; conventional driveshafts would be employed from 1967 on. Marlin was no longer a Rambler, but its own model.

      Frank Swygert added that a Rambler American redesign for 1966 added around three inches in front of the radiator support so air conditioning could be used with the bigger six; with the redesign, the 195.6 was dropped.

      1967

      The Classic was discontinued and replaced by a new AMC Rebel. Rebel, Marlin and the new, larger Ambassador wore sleek "Coke bottle" styling that was the fad at the time. A newly designed V-8 engine was also introduced in 200-hp, 290 cid and 280-hp, 343 cid versions.



      A sporty Rogue version of the American was added, available with the 232 six or 290 V8 engines. The American Motors script was now the marque that the new Marlin and Ambassador wore. American and Rebel were the only Ramblers left. Ambassador and Rebel could be ordered in upscale DPL and sporty SST trim levels.

      The Classic name was retired with the 1966 models. All series 10 (mid size) models were called Rebel through 1970, after which that name was retired in favor of Matador beginning in 1971. (Frank Swygert)

      1968: Javelin, AMX



      Arrived at last! The beautifully styled, legendary Javelin sports car rumbled onto showroom floors. It was originally available with the 232, 290, or 343. It entered SCCA Trans-Am competition and finished every race it entered, a record that none of the other factory teams were able to achieve.



      Craig Breedlove, legendary racer, piloted the 2-seat Javelin derivative AMX to 100 land speed records before it was even introduced for sale. When the AMX finally was available, it shook the sports car world to its knees. The AMX was available with leather seats, 140 mph speedo, A/C or "tic-tac" gauge package, hi-po "go pak," 4 bbl 290 or the new 315 hp 390 V-8.



      This was the last year any convertibles were available from American Motors. American was the only model that still wore the Rambler nameplate. All AMCs except American adopted their trademark flush-mounted paddle door handles.

      1969

      Ambassador grew again, now with a 122-inch wheelbase. It had graceful, swoopy lines and a distinctive "guppy mouth" grille. Most models were now available with any engine including 232, 290, 343, and 390. Javelin SST and AMX now came in optional eye-catching Big Bad colors: BBOrange, BBGreen, and BBBlue.



      Hurst was now coordinating with AMC, helping to create the dragstrip terror SS/AMX and the ram-air 390-powered Hurst SC/Rambler. The American "Scrambler" or "Super Car/Rambler" wore two different red/white/blue paint schemes, had r/w/b headrests, a Sun tach strapped to the steering column, and the T10 4-speed with Hurst linkage, and rear torque links from the AMX. The hood and mailbox-type air scoop were painted "AIR , 390," with an arrow into the air duct. The only option was an AM radio. Only 1512 were built, most employed to massacre the competition on the strip. Two were equipped with 4WD and ran in the Baja 500. One took first place in its class. By 1970, Mark Donohue and the Sunoco Racing Team had dumped their Camaros to race Javelins.

      AMXs, Javelins and Americans had the dealer "Group 19" heavy-duty performance option. The V-8's heads were refined to make it good for 340 hp and 430ft/lb torque. This was the last year that there would be any new Ramblers in North America; the name did not reappear in 1970, though it was used in Australia and South Africa until AMC pulled out of those markets in the 1970s.



      George Barris had an ongoing deal with AMC to produce a bolt-on customizing kit, sold by AMC dealers, for the AMX. Using his AMC contacts he got a new 1969 AMX and used it to create the AMX-400, which included a 4.5 inch lower top, revised pillars, an extended nose and tail, hidden headlights, and numerous other changes. The full width tail light lit up green during acceleration, amber when coasting, and, of course, red when braking. Each side of the car got a race-style gas cap - and each was fake; the real gas cap was, as with the standard AMX, under the license plate. The interior and engine were stock. The car toured the country and was filmed in TV's Banacek in 1972; it is now privately owned.

      1970: Gremlins

      On April 1, the first American subcompact since the Nash Metropolitan, the AMC Gremlin, was introduced. It had the 199 as the base engine, with the 232 six optional. The Gremlin's six-cylinder power was unusual for subcompacts, and resulted in proportions similar to the British "shooting brakes," with a long hood and short-looking cabin.



      AMX and Javelin received a mild styling update, and added an optional "Power Blister" ram air hood that boosted the 390s horsepower to 345.
      A special "Mark Donohue Edition" Javelin had all the performance options plus a spoiler designed by Donohue himself. Ambassador and Rebel received updated styling with new quarter panels and taillights.



      A special Rebel called "The Machine" was introduced. It had a fiberglass hood scoop with the tach built into the back, 390, dual exhaust, auto or stick, slotted wheels, and plush interior. Though there were various colors available, most Machines were white with reflective r/w/b stripes. The 343 V-8 was increased to 360ci, and the 290 became the 304.

      The compact Hornet made its debut in 2 or 4-door sedan models.



      AMC officially adopted the "A-mark" logo and discontinued the "AM" script. AMX/3 was a hot concept project utilizing a hand-made Italian fiberglass body and mid-mounted 390. Seven were built. A very-rare Hurst version of the Jeepster Commando was made in white with red and blue T stripes and hood scoop, again with built-in tach.



      1971: Matador, new Javelin



      Javelin was re-engineered and was longer, on a longer wheelbase, and wider; numerous cosmetic changes were made, and the AMX was dropped, with the name switching to the top trim line of the Javelin. For more details see Chrysler - AMC 1971, which has diagrams, details, and specifications.

      Javelin19701971 Javelin19701971
      Wheelbase109110 Headroom F/R37.5 / 36.037.5 / 35.6
      Length191192 Leg room F/R43/30.842.5/30.8
      Width71.975.2 Shoulder room, F/R55 / 5355 / 53
      Height5251 Trunk volume10.2 cu ft10.2 cu ft
      Overhang F/R41.5/40.542.2/39.5 Turning circle36.3 ft36.3 ft



      With a new grille, Rebel became Matador, and the Machine package continued, without the scoop. The beefed-up 390 from 1970 was bored to 401ci, and was rated at 330 hp.



      The 2-door Hornet had an optional SC/360 package with hood scoop, special upholstery and wheels, and a stripe that ran along the fender and door tops and around the rear window.



      The 2-seat AMX departed; the Javelin was redesigned with hump fenders, increased size, and an optional cowl induction hood, along with a "cockpit" feel and many upholstery options. SST trim continued, and AMX was the top-of-the-line, complete with a unique dash appliqué and styled grille.





      Hornet had up to 360ci optional, and sporty "X" and "Rallye" packages that could be combined to make it one competitive compact. Also new was the Hornet "Sportabout" wagon with 57cu. ft. of cargo room. Javelin was the champion of SCCA Trans-Am racing, while Wally Booth's Gremlin X tore up the drag strips.



      Mike Sealey wrote: 1971 was the last year for the Borg-Warner "Shift-Command" automatic, which was replaced by Chrysler's Torqueflite ("Torque-Command") automatic. Some late production 1971 rental cars got the Torqueflite a little bit ahead of the general market; police departments and other fleet buyers might have gotten a similar jump.

      1972: Gladiator

      Gremlin was also available in 1971 with the X package - but now had the potent 304 V-8 as an option, putting more meaning behind the trim.

      All lines disposed of the old Borg Warner auto (which dated back to the 1950s) and took on the B-W T10 4-speed with the Chrysler 727 "Torque Command" 3-speed auto or, for six cylinder engines, the 904 TorqueFlite (some 304s may have received 998 transmissions).

      Javelin again killed the competition in Trans-Am. So much for Firebird and Mustang!



      Mike Sealey wrote: AMC police packages start turning up with many police departments, the largest buyer initially being the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Office, followed by LAPD the following year. Usually the police used Matador 4 door sedans with 401 engines. I have also seen Matador wagons with the police package. Detectives with the Modesto, CA police department used unmarked Ambassador sedans with the police package, while uniformed officers continued using black-and-white 440 Dodge Polaras. [This may explain why so many period TV shows featured Matadors - they were filmed near Los Angeles, and the props people used what they saw.]

      The Chrysler-built Torque-Command replaced the Borg-Warner Flash-o-Matic that was based on the Borg-Warner built Ford-o-Matic/Merc-o-Matic of 1951. Studebaker also used the Ford-o-Matic derivative from 1957 to 1966, and called it Flightomatic. The Studebaker automatic of 1950-1956 was shipped overseas to Great Britain, where it was used in Jaguars, Austins, etc.

      American Motors introduced a Sportabout sedan/wagon with an interior designed by Dr. Aldo Gucci, of Italy, and a Javelin sport coupe with a Parisian flavor by Pierre Cardin.

      1973



      The Hornet Hatchback was named the "Styling Coupe of '73" by Car & Driver. Hornet and Gremlin now had an optional Levi's interior package, with copper buttons, jean door pockets, and red tabs. Sportabout wagons got an optional plush red and green Adolfo Gucci interior, and Javelins got an optional Pierre Cardin interior package featuring silky black seats with white, purple and red stripes flowing across them, up the door panels and around the headliner. Levi's sent out a press release that noted, "Gremlin sets another mark as the first U.S. subcompact to offer fashion interiors for the small-car market," adding that in addition to the denim look, copper rivets were used as buttons in seat backs and cushions, and snap off cargo pouches were included.



      A Javelin option was the "Trans-Am Victory" package to celebrate their back-to-back SCCA championships, after only five years of racing. Javelin also received new pod taillights, Hornet got a friendlier veed front end. Largely as a result of the small cars' lucky timing, AMC leaped up to 4.2% market share, well above the 3.3% of the prior year.

      1974

      It would be the last year for the Javelin, which still offered a 401.



      The 2-door Matador was replaced by the flamboyant Matador Coupe. It had an extremely long hood, deeply tunneled headlamps, bulbous curves, and four round taillights. It was a sight indeed. Car & Driver wrote that "It is, unquestionably, this year's style leader.... You can consider that newly acquired self-assured look a tangible warning to Detroit and the world that AMC is no longer bound by the threat of financial oblivion."

      Ordered with the 401 X package, the Matador could beat any new sport sedan. The styling, under Dick Teague's leadership, was intended to help Donohue, Bobby Allison and the other AMC racers get more aerodynamic advantage on the track, which it did. It was the only all-new American midsize car, and had an optional interior styled by Oleg Cassini. The Matador Coupe kept its styling unique from the four door and wagon versions, and used an automatic sold by Chrysler - the TorqueFlite - with a Ford carburetor and GM Saginaw steering. (Car & Driver wrote that the car had higher than usual wind noise and ride harshness, but with superior braking.) Acceleration with the 401 was brisk, with a 16.3 second quarter mile time recorded by Car & Driver (a tad slower than Monte Carlo S but quicker by far than Cutlass); braking was far superior (184 feet from 70 mph) to Monte Carlo S, Cutlass, and Gran Torino Sport. Gas mileage was commensurately low, at 9-12 mpg (C&D figures). (0-60 was recorded at a swift 8.3 seconds and 0-100 at 23.9). At $3,000 - $4,523 as tested - the car was cheaper than its GM and Ford equivalents.



      Matador and Ambassador 4-door and wagon got a controversial front end restyling that some called the "coffin nose" or "Jimmy Durante Snout." These were best known as late 1970s police cruisers, and were used in the "Police Academy" movies. The police 401 had heavy duty components and was brutally powerful. It was the Ambassador's last year.

      B. Rabbit added: "The Bricklin sports car (1974-1976) used many AMC parts, mainly undercarriage, and [the 1974s had] the AMC 360 with four barrel. Due to availability problems, the 360 was replaced in later cars. The 360 cars are more desired by Brickophiles, because their performance is far superior." Alan Morton noted that the 1975-1976 models of the Canadian car are sometimes preferred because "they fixed a few of the design flaws and had better build quality." Bill Cawthon noted that the first Bricklin concept used a slant six.

      1975: Pacer

      The car that best defined the "AMC Philosophy of Difference" made its debut: the Pacer rode a 100-inch wheelbase but measured 80" across. It was designed by placing four people in seats and designing the car around them to best accommodate their comfort and safety. The body was refined in a wind tunnel to give it superior aerodynamics. The passenger door was 4" longer than the driver's to let back seat passengers in more easily. The dash was beautiful and ergonomically designed.

      "JavelinAMX" wrote,

      The design process was attributed to Richard Teague during the development of the AMC Pacer. The Pacer's final shape and size was determined only after the interior accommodations were known ... they first sat four real people (of real size) in automobile seats then scribed the outline of the interior space and measured the results. Then Teague applied his new-style sedan concepts to that. Those concepts were organic and roundish with line flow instead of boxed-out shapes. They did seek a lower drag coefficient and they improved on those of other brands' products. Later on, designs of other sedans and coupes from other companies bettered what the Pacer accomplished.
      Though originally designed to use the Wankel Rotary engine, General Motors did not supply the engines, and AMC had to substitute the 232, with the 258 optional. Sales almost doubled expectations the first year, even though the car was not designed for the engines it received.

      The rest of the lineup got cosmetic changes, and the 401 V-8 was no longer available in passenger cars (it remained for select Jeeps).

      1976



      The "Honcho" package was available on pickups, and gave them more sport appeal.

      AMC's heavy division, AM General was busy filling orders for transit buses, M915 military trucks, and postal jeeps.

      The Matador Coupe got a luxurious "Barcelona" package with velour seats.

      AMC introduced the 1976 AMC Pacer fleet version; it was 77 inches wide, wider than the Vega, Maverick, Datsun B210, or Chevelle. AMC boasted of its value to fleets, from an oversized passenger door to make entry and exit from the back seat easier; the low beltline for visibility; the 30 cubic feet of cargo space (with the rear seat folded down); and the extra stability and interior space that came from the width. Gas mileage was estimated at 20 city, 31 highway, with the optional straight-six and manual transmission with overdrive. Fleet buyers got a 12 year, 12,000 month warranty covering all items other than tires, whether the parts were defective or wore out from normal use. By comparison, Chrysler Corporation fleet buyers had to change maintenance items like filters and wiper blades, but got unlimited mileage (except for police, taxi, and limousine service).

      Chris wrote: "In 1979, the Spirit was not available with power windows, and the 5 speed was not used until 1982. Also, the kammback body style was available from the onset of the Spirit line."

      Rick Shahovskoy wrote: "I had a 1976 Pacer 4-speed with the 258-6. I loved it except when it came to changing #1 spark plug behind the A/C compressor.
      Aerodynamically, it was fantastic. I had a large GM car just about blown off the road as I came up I-91 one evening as it followed me. I felt absolutely nothing except the nearly wild whipping of the radio antenna.
      "As for the statement about the motor choices, however, wasn't the first pick from Curtiss-Wright who held the patents but they couldn't get the manufacturing going? And then GM fiddled and diddled with the V6 - which was an obvious choice and would have been a perfect fit- but that fell through resulting in the unbreakable AMC units finally going in?
      "

      1977

      Pacer sales were slumping, but were boosted somewhat by a new wagon model that increased cargo room and reduced the "raindrop in overalls" look. Road & Track took one for a test drive and was unimpressed with the cornering and feel; 0-60 came in 13.7 seconds with the 2.0 liter engine and four-speed manual, with a quarter mile run taking 19.8 seconds (71.5 mph). Stopping distance from 60 mph was a respectable 176 feet; lateral acceleration was just .653 g. They recorded gas mileage of 17.5 mpg. The Pacer Wagon cost $3,800 base, and was $5,788 as tested; curb weight was a surprisingly high 3,435 pounds.

      With sales low in 1976, Gremlin were given a new, classy looking slanted front end, and for the first time had a 4-cylinder option from Volkswagen - the same 2-liter engine as the Pacer and Porsche 924, built in the United States by AMC, with Volkswagen buying engines from AMC. The redesigned front end cut nearly four inches from the overall length of the car, while a redesigned rear increased the glass area by 23%, with a lower liftover height. The V8 was no longer available, and the smallest six-cylinder was the 232, with an optional 258. With a price cut to $2,995, Gremlin was the cheapest American-made car in the U.S.

      While Porsche shared the engine with AMC, the Porsche version was somewhat different, with a forged crank (cast on AMC), and electronic fuel injection boosting power to 95 hp and 109 lb-ft; AMC's carbureted version only got 80 hp and 105 lb-ft, with a two-barrel carb and 4-branch aluminum intake manifold. At launch, there was no electronic ignition. The EPA rated the Gremlin at 23 city and 34 highway, and normal drivers could expect to get far lower mileage. Road & Track took the 2-liter four-speed manual Gremlin from 0-60 in a leisurely 15.7 seconds, with a 20.6 second quarter mile time (ending at a mere 67.5 mph); the engine was crippled by the car's 3,095 pound weight (as tested; nominal curb weight was 2,745 lb).

      The Hornet Hatchback was dolled up as the new AMX, with 258 or 304, stainless "targa" roof band, wheel flares, and color-keyed rear window louvres. All Jeeps got power disc brakes.

      1978: Concord

      With major refinements to suspension, trim, body and interior, the Hornet was transformed into the Concord. Though well-appointed in base trim, the Concord could be ordered with all the goodies, including an optional "Silver Anniversary Package" to commemorate 25 years of AMC. The 2-door sedan was brought back and led the assortment of Concord body styles. AMX hatchback became a Concord also, and had new stripes. To boost Gremlin sales, the rear was restyled with a larger window, and a fancied up GT package was offered with rally wheels, graphics, and fender flares. Though given a new "Barcelona II" package, Matador coupe, sedan, and wagon were gone before the end of the model year. The 232 engine was dropped from production. Pacer got a taller grille, 304 V-8 option, and luxurious "Limited" package.

      1979: Spirit

      With a new grille, quad square headlights and a clever restyling of the back end, the Gremlin became the new Spirit liftback. It could be ordered as a $3999 economy car. Spirit also had a "Limited" package that included power windows and locks and leather buckets, and an AMX package with fender flares, graphics, front and rear spoilers, turbocast wheels, suspension package, full gauges, 5-speed, sport wheel, and a 258 or 304. With the V-8, it was a class Mustang GT killer. Along with a wraparound taillight treatment, Concord and Eagle would receive the new front end as well by 1980. The GM "Iron Duke" 2.5 replaced the Volkswagen 2.0 four and was used in economy model CJs as well as Spirit and Concord. The Spirit no longer was available with the V8.

      1980: AMC Eagle, Renault Fuego and LeCar



      Pacer was dropped part way through the model year. To aid the unhealthy financial situation, Renault purchased 25% of AMC and began selling their 18i sedan, Fuego sports car, and LeCar mini at AMC dealers. Renault struck a similar deal with VAM autos of Mexico, which used many AMC products in creating its own. The V-8 option was deleted from all vehicles, leaving the 2.5 four and 4.2 six as the only engine choices.

      AMC Eagle dawns

      Though Subaru claims to have the "first sport utility wagon," the AMC Eagle pre-dated it by 17 years. It employed the revolutionary New Process Gear NP119 transfer case that transferred power to the wheels with the most traction via a 42-disc viscous coupling transfer case; it had full time four wheel drive, dubbed Quadra-Trac (a name first used in 1973 for a different system). See our AMC Eagle page

      1981: Kammback, Hummer, Sundancer

      The Gremlin bodystyle was resurrected with larger quarter windows and renamed to the AMC Spirit Liftback. The two Spirit body styles were adapted to Eagle 4WD, and became the Eagle SX/4 hatchback and Eagle "Kammback." AMX was no longer available. Griffith made a limited number of Eagle and Concord "Sundancer" convertibles, with fixed targa band, removable T-tops, and droppable canvas rear top.

      1982: Renault enters, AM General leaves

      Eagles could now be switched from four wheel drive to rear wheel drive with "Select Drive." The GM 2.5 was replaced midway through the year by the new, more powerful AMC 2.5 (150 cid) four which had been under development for some time. The Eagle 2-door sedan and Kammback left production.



      Renault was allowed to purchase 49% of AMC stock, and French executives began to infiltrate the AMC board. As Frank Swygert wrote, Renault's cash was needed because Jeep sales plummeted with the 1980s oil crisis. Unfortunately, because Renault was partly owned by the French government, and a foreign company was not allowed to have a major role in defense contractors (at that time), AMC had to sell AM General to complete the deal; LTV bought the defense division, causing problems when, years later, AM General licensed the "Hummer" name and cues, including the "Jeep grille," to General Motors.

      One largely forgotten part of AMC history was the use of a computer for the electronic feedback carburetor which could provide mechanics with diagnostic information.

      1983: Renault Alliance

      Motor Trend again awarded an AMC product the Car of the Year award, though this time it was for the Renault Alliance, a well-equipped car that got 37 mpg in city driving; it was designed using mostly AMC funds. This would be the last year for the heavy Concord, Spirit, and Eagle SX/4 compact cars.



      1984: Eagle

      The only true AMC car left was the Eagle, in four-door sedan and wagon bodystyles; it was joined by a little sister to the Alliance, the Renault Encore, late in the year. The Encore was basically the same as the Alliance, with the trunk replaced by an odd, French-looking hatch window. In 1985, a Renault turbo-diesel was available for Cherokee and Wagoneer.

      1986: contract production

      Stagnant production lines in the Kenosha plant were put to use building the Diplomat, Fifth Avenue, and Gran Fury under contract for Chrysler.

      1987: Alliance GTA and Hatchback; Medallions; Chrysler buys AMC

      The Encore was rebadged as Alliance Hatchback, and a new hi-po version of the Alliance was offered, called GTA. It was very peppy and available in 2-door sedan and convertible bodystyles.

      A new Renault, which was heavily based on the 18i and derivative Sportwagon, came across the border midyear. The first Medallions, full of options, sold well. About that time, Lee Iacoca was making an under-the-table deal with Renault to purchase their stake in AMC. At the beginning of August, the deal was finalized, and 2% more was purchased on the open market to give Chrysler controlling interest in AMC. The payments totaled $1.1 billion in all.

      1988: Premier, end of AMC

      Renault Premier was introduced in late '87. It too, fit a hungry market niche of larger, well-appointed FWD cars. They, and '88 Medallions (made in France), were rebadged "Eagle." AMC Eagle was trimmed to the wagon bodystyle only. Less than 2500 were built.

      The Kenosha, Wisconsin assembly plant, which had been manufacturing cars since the first Rambler in 1897, was torn down in 1990. The spirit of AMC lives on, though, as many AMC employees were absorbed by Chrysler. Former-AMC engineers, stylists, and other personnel are helping to create the incredible MoPar machines of today. Indeed, some would say that the AMC engineers and managers rescued Chrysler from an egocentric, bureaucratic culture.



      Note: Nick McIntosh wrote that there is a rumor that the 1988 Eagle was packed with previously optional equipment to use up inventories. He provided evidence to the contrary.

      Evan Boberg wrote: "At the time of the merger in 1987...Engineering departments were reorganized into an AMC fashion. Internally, it was said to be patterned after Honda. After the first few years, it looked as if AMC had taken over Chrysler...the merger with AMC brought Chrysler back to life...many of the AMC brain trust had been former Chrysler employees..." He also noted, in his book Common Sense Not Required, that the Jeep design for the Grand Cherokee dominated over a Dakota-based SUV that would later become the Durango; and that the Intrepid resembled the Eagle Premier more than any current Chrysler. Another former engineer said that the Neon design team was made up mainly of former AMC people, and replaced a Chrysler team and its K-based design. Again, this includes many former Chrysler employees!

      AMC cars ended up being sold as Eagles for around ten years.

      For more, see our 1987-1989 Jeep page.

      AMC squad cars (from Curtis Redgap)

      AMC did make a short foray into the police car market. One of the biggest customers was the Los Angeles Police Department, several Southern California agencies, and the Los Angeles Sheriff.

      The first purchase for LAPD came in 1972. Most car companies were in the stranglehold of the EPA and V-8 power was down. AMC used a 401 cubic inch V-8 that blew MoPar and everything else out of the water for that size sedan. It reached 60 mph in 7 seconds flat! Top speed, while not a blazing requirement for the LAPD, was about 125 miles an hour - reached in 43 seconds. This was faster than the 1970 Plymouth Satellites that were so well liked by the officers. It easily beat the 1971 Satellite models that were down on power, and heavier than the 1970 models.

      AMC equipped the cars right, with all the goodies that Chrysler had. Since AMC had made arrangements in the late 1960s to purchase Chrysler Torqueflite for their automatic transmission, it was virtually assured of little trouble in that area.

      The Matador was purchased by the LAPD again in 1973 and 1974. They were the biggest users. A change in the body style for 1974 added weight, affecting cornering and acceleration, and the reliability was not as good as the previous two years. No Matadors were purchased after this.

      AMC UK information (from David Hayward, UK):

      As a matter of interest, AMCs were sold in the UK by Rambler Motors, then American Motors, though until the Javelins and AM Gremlins [which were also converted to RHD here] were badged as ‘Ramblers'. However, the Rambler name was dropped in the UK before AMI ceased assembly of their 1976 Matadors, which must lay claim to the last use of the Rambler name worldwide? Matadors were still being sold here in 1977, though North American-sourced. AMCs were imported from the USA, Canada, and also from their Belgian assembly plant in LHD form. Renault ran the Belgian plant, which exported throughout Continental Europe and of course in the end they owned AMC outright, before selling-up to Chryslers as before. All these companies were thus intertwined in the UK, just as in Australia.

      AMC / Rambler Australia information (from Graeme Roberts)

      Ramblers were assembled in New Zealand until the 1970s by Campbell Motor Industries in Thames (later Toyota New Zealand) in a versatile little CKD operation that regularly built Toyota, Datsun, Renault and Peugeot as well as Hino, Isuzu, Simca, and other models from time to time. We had Classics, Rebel 6s and V8s and the Matador up till about 1975. I suspect the kits came from or via Canada as there was a preferential duty rate for Commonwealth makers (GM's oddly-specced RHD Laurentian/Parisienne and Impala also came from Canada until 1968). The right-hand-drive Ramblers didn't get updated interiors as often as the left-hand-drive US versions (as was the case with the GM cars) but exteriors changed with the US updates.

      Afterwards

      • 1999: Daimler-Benz, AG purchases Chrysler at a bargain price.
      • 2000: Plymouth follows AMC, Hudson, and Nash into the dustbin of great automotive names.
      • 2003: The 2.5 liter four finally leaves.
      • 2004: Last year for the last AMC engine - the 4.0 liter six - still used as the Grand Cherokee's base engine and the Wrangler's optional powerplant.
      • 2007: Daimler sells the remains of Chrysler, terribly downsized, to Cerberus, a private equity firm.
      • 2009: Chrysler declares bankruptcy; its assets are purchased by a new company funded by the U.S. and Canadian governments, and the thread of AMC continues, now under the control of Fiat.
      AMC vs Chrysler

      Chris Theodore said:

      AMC / Nash El Segundo Plant
      AMC EnginesVin Decoding
      AMC EagleAMC GremlinAMXJeeps
      https://www.allpar.com/model/cj/index.html
      Willys and Kaiser Jeep Engines of Brazil

      AMC turned out to be a great culture - even though I didn't think it was going to - it was a lot of fun. It was a prototype for platform teams [at Chrysler] because it was all about pulling together to survive. This scrappy little company was trying to reinvent itself. People had a lot of responsibility and they had to deliver. Teamwork was imperative. You couldn't be fighting with each other.

      Chrysler, like I said, when we got the platform teams rolling with everyone working together under Lutz and Castaing, was like Camelot.


      AMC contributions to Chrysler include not only Francois Castaing, but also the Director of Small Car Operations, who was responsible for the PT Cruiser. Many of the Neon and LH engineers were also ex-AMC.

      Credits

      Chad Quella supplied many press photos. Many additions were provided by Frank Swygert of American Motors Cars and by Mike Sealey, Yellow Cab 9033, San Francisco.



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      1974 Plymouth Valiant - 2013 Dodge Dart - 2013 Chrysler 300C
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      • Ultimate Guide to American V-8 Engines : 1949-1974 ~ $15.96 - Specs for all U.S. V-8engines between 1949 and 1974. Lower-performance and Mopar engines get less text. Photos are excellent. There is a ton of information in this book, with identification notes and many tables. Based onthe number of people who helped, we suspect it’s the last word. Bargain priced.
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      Book review: Common Sense Not Required, by Evan Boberg

      Common Sense Not Required: an engineer's experiences at Chrysler, without any flattery

      Good books written by auto industry insiders are fairly rare, and most are written by executives: Carl Breer (Chrysler), Lee Iaccoca (Chrysler and Ford), John DeLorean (GM), and Pehr Gyllenhammar (Volvo) come to mind, along with perhaps Bob Lutz. But few insiders below the executive level have written about their experiences. The only one I know about is Common Sense Not Required, a new, self-published book by suspension engineer Evan Boberg.

      Evan Boberg has a reputation for being a skilled and honest engineer, so his book has some credibility. Because he describes quite a bit of his work on the Jeep triumvirate of the 1980s and 1990s - Wrangler, Cherokee, and Grand Cherokee - this book may be quite interesting to owners of those vehicles. Those who are heavily into trucks, off-roading, or any type of vehicle suspension design will almost certainly find the book to be an excellent buy, especially if they get the electronic version (a mere $5!).

      Part of the motivation for writing was, no doubt, the reaction of most people when they find out that Evan was an auto engineer: asking what it was like, and assuming that he was very smart to have worked in that highly competitive industry. However, as Evan illustrates, it's quite possible to be a successful idiot in the auto trade.

      The opening chapters are a mix of the lessons Mr. Boberg learned early in his life, and some ideas about finding a good mechanic which may or may not be valid. We suspect Common Sense Not Required serves two purposes: to answer the questions everyone asks him, as an ex-Chrysler engineer, and to expound with illustrations some of the ideas he espouses. Hence, the book is partly expose, and partly autobiography. The non-automotive autobiography part is relatively small, and largely confined to the first chapter or two. We follow Evan's life through repairing cars, and deciding that he should become an auto engineer because there was so much room for improvement - a feeling shared by many auto mechanics, we suspect.

      Aside from a very small amount of autobiographical material and opinions on mechanics, schools, and hybrids, Common Sense Not Required is a hard-hitting expose of Chrysler Corporation and the auto industry in general that shows both its genius and the foolishness. Mr. Boberg himself started as a contract employee at General Motors. From there, he moved to American Motors, which was small enough to avoid heavy bureaucracy, and where everyone could personally talk to engineering chief Francois Castaing, who was to transform Chrysler's engineering department to match AMC's (the official history credits Honda with providing the model for the new engineering design system). At AMC, Evan had a number of interesting projects, including fixing problems on the Jeep Cherokee which were the result of other engineers' foolishness.

      Not long after Evan started at AMC, the company was swallowed up by Chrysler. In the process, former Chrysler engineers who had left to get away from that company's crushing, egocentric bureaucracy ended up back at Chrysler again. Some Chrysler projects, including a Dakota-based SUV, were dropped in favor of AMC designs. Evan supports rumors that an existing K-based large car was replaced by a new AMC design, influenced by the Eagle Premier, which itself was heavily influenced by Renault (we've heard that the same happened to the Neon, with the design team switched to mainly former AMC employees).

      Evan continued to work mainly on Jeeps, and tells the story of some very clever Jeep projects that never saw the light of day, as well as some kludges that did. Fortunately for the reader, most of the book is concerned with various engineering projects that Evan worked on, some of which you can drive today, and some of which you cannot. There is quite a bit of educational material there for those who are not convinced by Mr. Boberg's more political or personal discussions.

      The picture of Chrysler engineering, as painted by Common Sense Not Required, is a company with some highly skilled engineers, and some very egocentric engineers and managers with little sense. (To be fair, he acknowledges that this is probably not unique to Chrysler.) As in many bureaucracies, Chrysler is portrayed as fairly inefficient at dealing with people who are not competent or who are troublemakers: it simply sent them out of the way to the Liberty Group. Those who know the Liberty Group from the amazing MAGIC engine or the Intrepid ESX hybrid series will be very disappointed on reading the sections related to Mr. Boberg's employment there. He writes that these projects were impractical at best and fakes at worst, with numbers plucked from thin air and implausible assumptions. Common Sense Not Required claims to have the astonishing inside story on these inventions, and given that none went anywhere, and that another insider has vouched for Mr. Boberg's character, we're willing to believe him.

      Mr. Boberg has little patience for boondoggles, within or outside of Chrysler, believes that the government's alternative-fuels programs are wastes of money, and has some evidence to support him. Likewise, he devotes a chapter to exposing hybrid vehicles - though he later admitted, in an addendum sent to buyers by e-mail, that Toyota's new Prius made him rethink his conclusion that hybrids would never be more efficient than simple weight reduction and similar techniques (which, along with brake regeneration and electric power, are used on current production hybrids). Perhaps GM and Chrysler are finding out that hybrids are not as sweet as once thought: the Ram hybrid will only be a niche vehicle, with about one hundred being produced for fleet buyers only.

      If there is a weakness in the book, it is in the large doses we receive of Evan Boberg's personal political and philosophical opinions, but spreading them is one of the reasons he wrote the book - and since we appreciate the latter, we can tolerate the former. Just remember Albert Einstein's warnings that being a great physicist does not make one an expert in everything (Thomas Edison's life and death are also illustrations of that). The use of pseudonyms to protect the incompetent is unusual (competent people tend to have their real names given), and insiders may find some of them easy to penetrate and rather clever.

      Overall, Common Sense Not Required is an eye-opening book for anyone who is interested in AMC and Chrysler of late 1980s and 1990s, suspension design, or hybrid vehicles in general. Most of all, we would hope that it become required reading for all Chrysler managers and executives. It's a perspective some of them may share, and others may not be aware of - but it's certainly one that they should all see, so they can rise above the idiocy implict in most bureaucracies, perhaps see their own egocentrism and "blind spots," and work to keep engineers like Evan Boberg engaged, useful, and, most of all, working at Chrysler with common sense and uncommon skill.

      Our recommendation, in case you couldn't tell, is to buy the book. It's inexpensive and eye-opening, and it's a good read as well.

      Buy this book!

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