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1997 Plymouth Pronto concept car: The start of a new brand

The Plymouth Pronto concept car was billed as "an affordable five-door four-passenger sedan with an instantly recognizable personality" when unveiled in 1997. Head of design John E. Herlitz called it "Another clever response to Plymouth's calling for unique, affordable transportation."

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Herlitz noted, "Before setting out to create Pronto, we gathered guidelines and specs for designing traditional four-passenger sedans. Once we studied all of this information, we threw it out and built a new vehicle from the ground up for our next generation."

The engine was the Rover/Chrysler 1.6 liter putting out 115 hp at 5,600 rpm (113 lb-ft at 4,400 rpm), connected to a five-speed manual. Like the future PT Cruiser, the Pronto had a tall architecture, which allowed for a spacious interior and high seating position; its gimmicks were the roll-back fabric roof and stand-alone bumpers.

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Extra interior space was achieved by moving the windshield forward and utilizing minimal front and rear overhang.

Design director K. Neil Walling wrote, "We studied driving habits of future first-time car buyers and learned that they're interested in a vehicle unlike any other on the road today. They don't want a vehicle that looks like their father's. They want a car that was built just for them, a vehicle with a fun, distinctive personality."

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The Pronto had a Prowler-like face. "Much in the same fashion that we seasoned the Dodge brand with Viper cues, we will seek opportunities to season the Plymouth brand with Prowler cues," said Walling.

The concept car was made of traditional materials, but the designers explored using composite plastic with molded-in color for the body; specially, Acrylonitrile/Styrene/Acrylate (ASA) plastic, with a single molded-in color to simplify assembly and eliminate painting.

Pronto and the Plymouth resurrection plan

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The Plymouth Prowler concept debuted in 1993; Chrysler announced in 1996 that the Plymouth Prowler would be put into production the following year, suggesting that a new plan to revive Plymouth had been approved. Chris Theodore said, years later: "Prowler was supposed to be the spark to rekindle interest in Plymouth, and PT Cruiser was then to fall on as a Plymouth. ... Then we were going to do a whole line.")

Dimensions (L x W x H): 167.2 x 68.4 x 58.5

Wheelbase: - 104; Track: 59.1
Cast aluminum wheels. Tires: 205/55R18 front, 215/55R19 rear

Pronto and ...

Doug Hetrick put us wise to this one - could the Plymouth Pronto have been Lancia's inspiration for the Ypsilon?

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See our main concept cars page. | Plymouth Pronto Spyder concept car (1998)

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Concept cars are often made so a car's feel can be evaluated, problems can be foreseen, and reactions of the public can be judged. Some concepts test specific ideas, colors, controls, or materials - either subtle or out of proportion, to hide what's being tested. Some are created to help designers think "out of the box." The Challenger, Prowler, PT Cruiser, and Viper were all tested as production-based concepts dressed up to hide the production intent.

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