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Last night, something happened that made me want to reflect on my experience with my Acclaim. I never realized (or maybe I did) that I was so attached to this car until last night.

It was my first day of my first IT internship in 2008, and someone had run a stop sign and totaled my Ford Escort. We knew of this car sitting somewhere for $150, needing a head gasket, and it was us or the crusher that were going to get it. "Nobody fixes these, they aren't worth anything" was the sentiment of the guy getting rid of it. But, it was in pretty nice shape, an old lady must of had it before and took good care of it. It was shiny in a way that only a garage-kept car could be, and other than peeling clear coat on the hood (that I now think was from overheating and probably what killed the head gasket) and a dent in the fender, it was a nice looking car. My 20 year old brain thought it was supposed to be a piece of crap that would get me by until I find something better. However, over the years, it has shown me that it is more like a tank than a car, and that I would struggle to find a better car, even when comparing to new cars. For reasons that I cannot understand, the other younger people that I see driving Acclaims or similar cars always look so pissed off about being in it, and never seem to take very good care of them. Little do they know, if it is anything like mine, they are driving the best car they will ever own, and whatever they get next will not be so forgiving to the obvious abuse they subject their cars to.

Not only has this car driven me from being an intern starting my career into being a full-fledged professional IT worker at a time when jobs are scarce; it has driven me through 3 homes, hundreds of job interviews, 2 jobs, 4 girlfriends (1 now my wife), 2 trade ins of my wife's new cars, and countless other adventures. The time it went 15 miles with zero coolant after the defective gasket blew and I was on a 2-lane road in the middle of nowhere on a -20 degree day, or the snow drifts that were over the bumper after the city halfass plowed after a blizzard? It handled it like a champ and started right up for more next time I needed it. Being stuck on the side of the road was very rare, and repairs are usually relatively easy and cheap when something does happen.

Last night, at 190,100 miles, my car decided to nuke its head gasket when I went to start it after running into a store for a few minutes. Literally drove the car to the store, went inside, came back out, hit the key, and was treated to a bang, the car struggling to run, and tons of white smoke. The only reason to suspect an issue with the gasket stemming before that was from when I overheated a few years ago, but the car ran great ever since. Other than smelling antifreeze maybe twice when I started it over the past few months, and the occasional weird bump at idle that went away when I hit the gas, I never had more than a slight hunch that there was an impending failure. This would be the 3rd head gasket we put in the car in ~5 years (1 blown by previous owner, 2nd was defective, and this one 3 years later).

As I'm sitting there waiting for my wife to come and pick me up, I'm really feeling like it's the end of the line for the car that has brought me through so much. We were leaving it parked where it was overnight, 50 miles from my home, so I removed all of the valuables and put the other stuff in the trunk. I can't help but admit that the song "Right Here Waiting for You" was playing in my head as I prepare to abandon my car in a somewhat unfamiliar place for the night. It looked so sad, like it knew that it had let me down and that the future might not be good. My wife asks me "are we looking for a new car, yet?" No, we're going to get it in the shop, look closely at how far it is gone, and make an informed decision. This morning, on my way to work, I see my dad pulling my car on the trailer, so I know it survived.the night in the big city. I give him a call, "Yea, she started right up, and it was limping, but it made it on the trailer on its own before the smoke got too bad."

After a quandary of whether the car was worth fixing since it's so rusty underneath, it actually started to look more solid than rust. We were able to locate a replacement motor from a friend of ours (who owns a junkyard) that has 120,000 miles on it for the cost of labor to remove it from the car its in. That one is pretty beat up and is going straight to the scrapper, so we got to it just in time. The guy actually drove it in to the junk yard, an unfamiliar concept to me. To us, it is cheaper and about the same amount of work as replacing the head gasket, so we're going to go for it. We're pulling the motor out of my car this weekend.

Some people (my wife) will never understand why some of us choose to keep these old beasts going when we can afford something newer. All I can think of is that my $150 car has been doing the job for almost 5 years with less than $1,000 invested overall, and for that I owe it to it to keep it until it falls apart around me. Here's to 200,000 and beyond, Mr. Acclaim!
 

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Virginia Gentleman
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I had two Acclaims - a '90 and and '92. Both had the 2.5L 4 cylinder/3 speed auto and both were "tanks". Between the two I racked up over 542,000 miles. The '92 we bought new in November of that year. Wanted a minivan (had two kids at the time) but we couldn't afford it. Settled on the Acclaim. I really wanted the Intrepid but it was out of our price range. Overtime I came to appreciate the Acclaim - easy and inexpensive to maintain and fairly decent fuel mileage. I usually observed 24-25 mpg in local driving. Best I ever did with either one was 30.5

After 302,500 miles the '92 decided to spring a heater core leak. I temporarily t'd the heater hoses together (meaning no heat) until I could decide what to do. Ended up finding a '90 Acclaim sitting in the back row of a local dealer. It looked to be in horrible shape - bad tires, peeling paint on the hood and trunk, but something told me to go further. Dealer had it listed for $400, but as soon as I asked about it he dropped the price to $300. I said, if we can get it started let me take it for a test drive. Got it started, running fine, but the CEL was on due to low battery charge and it was trying to charge it up quickly. Told the dealer if he would charge up the battery, I'd give him $100 to hold it and the balance in a week.

Got it home and transferred the good tires from the '92 to the "new" '90. Installed new plugs & wires, changed the coolant and topped off the transmission fluid. Kept that car up until 2 years ago. The '92 was hauled off the the scrap yard - I had neither the time or the money to fix it (labor $$$). The '90 had 110K miles on it when I brought it home and over 240K when I sold it. Over the time I had it I invested about $3500 in two sets of tires, struts, brakes, rear bearings, radiator, water pump, muffler, battery and various other maintenance and repairs. It was a solid car underneath and like the '92 was a tank in the snow. I never got stuck with either one of them.

I've been keeping an eye out for another one, but there's not many late 80's/90's FWD MoPars left road worthy in this area.

Here's a few pics of the '90:


Side by Side with my 2006 Ram 1500 (Yeah it's got a Hemi)
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Awesome story, and for $300 running and driving it was an awesome find! I'm kind of surprised that for as many views as the thread had there wasn't more replies. I've only had mine a few years and have tons of stories I could share about growing up in it. Some of these guys have had K-cars for decades, at least a few of them must actually like them.


And an update: I just have the exhaust and the motor mounts and the old motor will be out. I will likely get to it sometime next week, since I'm kind of scared to do it without a more experienced person with me and he is gone for the next week. I also have all of the proper tuneup parts and a new exhaust coming for it, so my wife won't hate riding in it anymore. I'm driving a 87 Corsica we had in the yard in the mean time, and while not a bad car, it lacks the solid feel that my Acclaim has.
 

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Rezachi said:
Awesome story, and for $300 running and driving it was an awesome find! I'm kind of surprised that for as many views as the thread had there wasn't more replies. I've only had mine a few years and have tons of stories I could share about growing up in it. Some of these guys have had K-cars for decades, at least a few of them must actually like them.
Oh, there are lots of stories here, too many and too long to tell. I had a 92 Daytona that I bought new, it lasted 308,000 miles before it finally rusted out in 2009. The motor was like new, so I saved the driveline as a spare for the 93 Daytona that I bought. The 92 only broke down twice - fuel pump died at 210K miles, and original clutch jammed at 270K miles. The lining was like new, the pressure fingers fractured. I bought the 93 at 155K miles, it now has 212K and runs virtually like new. On average, they cost about 20-25 cents per mile to own and operate.
 

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I wanted one for the longest time.. but now that my wife & I already have 6 vehicles.. She's once again reminded me that I am not running a retirement home for wayward Mopars. I would bring them all home if space and budget permitted.. It's great to have a car that dependable around..
 

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It's a testament to these cars that there's an extremely active forum group dedicated to a family of vehicles that has been out of production for nearly 18 years.
 

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Every year I keep wondering if it is time to get rid of the 91 Spirit. This has been going on for the past 4-5 years. The car rides smooth, gets good gas mileage, idles fine, and is the cheapest piece of transportation I have ever owned. Even when it needs some attention (usually plugs or a VC gasket), I find it easy to work on and simple to deal with (in comparison to other cars I have worked on). I just can't see letting it go, even with over 300,000 miles on the engine. I hear the same thing from a lot folks. Yet, I do get a few scorning looks as people drive by in their gas guzzling H2's (or other upscale SUV's) with their nose held high. Lol. It doesn't bother me one bit.. I chuckle right along with them. No different than the looks people give to the Smart car owners. :)
Alas, I'm not helping the economy along here. Lol

I hope you get the Acclaim running and enjoy many years of motoring around in it.
 

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Virginia Gentleman
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Yep, the two Acclaims I had were definitely the cheapest and easiest vehicles to maintain that I've owned. I would have still had the '92 had the heater core not failed. We bought it new and it had over 302K miles when I finally had to park it. Only major component to fail was the A413 transmission. At 191K the 2-3 clutches were worn out. Replaced it with an A413 from an '86 GTS and went another 111K miles. At the time I parked it the engine and "new" transmission were still good, though the body was loosing it's clear coat - a common issue of that era.

I really don't care what "other" people think about my vehicles. The Acclaims were very economical to operate. What's really funny is I really didn't like them when they first came out. Over time I came to appreciate them for what they were.
 

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Since others seem to be sharing their EEKs' stories, I figured I'd share mine.
My Spirit was built one month before the end of production. She was the second vehicle of an identical pair ordered by two of my aunts. Both vehicles were optioned the same, 2.5/A413, A/C, power windows and locks, full-size spare, PP5 paint. By the time my car came down the line, Chrysler had run out of power window and door lock mechanisms, so my Spirit got manual windows and locks. I got her at 100,000 miles as a 16th birthday present. Since then, I have put almost 20k on her. Her reliability has been nothing short of exceptional. I live in northeastern Massachusetts, where the elements take a toll on everything. We have subzero weeks in the winter, 95+ days in the summer, heavy rain, blizzards and high humidity. Aside from ordinary maintenance items and components that simply wore out due to age, my Spirit has only needed a head gasket. She has never left me stranded. I have no doubt that I could climb in, turn the key and go under any conditions. She is slow, but surefooted and extremely responsive. I have driven several other vehicles for various reasons, and by far, my "outdated" Spirit has the most steering feel and response. I feel more connected to what's actually going on with the vehicle in my Spirit than I do in any modern car of her market segment.
My Spirit is also far more flexible than almost any of my friend's myriad vehicles. She is the only car which can seat six (albeit uncomfortably for the driver). Although her styling is boxy and dated, it yields a massive useable interior volume, and provides unparalleled visibility. The engine compartment is enormous (there's enough room for me to sit inside, which I have done more than once when I was caught outside in a downpour), with plenty of room to access spark plugs, maintenance points, belts and hoses. I feel fairly confident that the car's computer systems are simple enough to let me "MacGyver" a solution to get me home for a proper repair. Again, aside from the head gasket, I have never had to do any major repair on the engine or the transmission, and even the repairs that fell into the "normal wear/maintenance" category were minor to moderate in nature.
By any standards, and especially for a car sold as basic transportation, my Spirit has proven to be exceptionally well-designed and reliable. It's a testament to Chrysler and their people that her service record is as good as it is. Yes, by styling and power standards, the later EEK's were not that great, but I'd rather have a rather plainly-styled, reliable, practical car than a trend-follower or a gas guzzler. Sure, I would be first in line to own a 440-6 Challenger, but that's not a car, it's a plaything, and off the strip or track, my (not-so) lowly Spirit has it beat.
 

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Ahh heck I'll share mine too. Back in 2010 my girlfriend (now fiance) needed a solid replacement for her tired '88 Horizon. Searched for weeks for a vehicle less than a grand that would be good enough for me to feel comfortable to let her take it the 4 hrs from PA to WVU to school. Looked at a lot of older Neons, Shadows/Sundances, and even a Caravelle K-car. Wanted something a little bigger that had ABS, decent amount of power (3L), and SRS. Ended up stumbling across a 1992 Acclaim V6 with 119,000 miles in Harrisburg that the guy had given to him by his mother, after his father's passing. Went to look at it, test drove it, bought it the same day. Originally wanted $800, got him down to $650, also throwing in a set of snow tires. Drove it for awhile before handing it off to her. Needed a battery and muffler. Has been basically bulletproof, with the exception of the shift cable that broke. Awesome in the snow, gets approximately 25-28 mpg on a regular basis (with me driving), and now has 141,000 on it. Needs a paint job that I will be prepping her for in the near future. Very solid car overall, both of us love it.
 

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After having our Spirit for almost 12 years, I can only agree with all the great points and stories about the Spirit/Acclaim you folks have offered here. I have no idea how long we would have kept it if it hadn't been written off. As they age, it take less and less to do that no matter how well you look after them. Another perspective is that after my accident I vowed not to buy a replacement that did not have stability control and a full set of airbags. And along the way, somehow the idea of a hybrid crept into the mix...
 

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Precious memories of my 89 Turbo Acclaim coming back after reading this. We traded it after a LOT of drag racing and daily driving for a 99 Breeze. Did not get much for it but if I had it to do over again, I would have kept it and restored it. 254K on it when we traded it. I miss it. I am looking for a good turboDaytona with t tops for the next three years and then to give to my son.
 

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DO NOT FEED THE TROLLS!
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It wasn't a K-car, but I was fairly attached to my Stratus. My mistake was trying to do so much myself when I really should have just paid for some of the work, the head gasket had been changed under recall and they didn't do it right so the car had minor issues from the day I bought it.

I had put a header on it in reassembling, so a shop had to modify the downpipe. Turns out I had made an error that basically meant the whole thing had to be redone, again. In the weeks it took to get the car back I went through anguish in part from the time and effort I had expended on the car, to a grim resolution, to actually buying another car. I gave the Stratus to a friend of mine that also worked at a repair shop, figuring that he would be better equipped to handle the ills, plus the newest thing in his stable was from '72, so the fuel economy, if nothing else, would be a welcome improvement. He's managed to make something of it, and has been commuting with it for several months now. I was so frustrated that I was ready to crush it into a cube at one point, now it's in its second life in someone else's caring hands.

When the Acclaim finally does reach end of life, you'll undoubtedly be sad about it, as it's a vehicle that you've done well with, but in the end, you'll get over the sadness and be able to look back on what a good car it was.
 

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It's been almost a month since I got it back together and have been driving it daily, and aside from a leaky seal on the radiator plug (resulting in randomly dumping a quart of coolant on the ground, followed by weeks of dryness and no signs of a leak), it's been smooth sailing again.

As much as I love my car, there is one feature above all of the rest that I will dearly miss when it eventually is time to get a new car: The split-bench seat in the front. I know that not all of the Acclaims had this, but when I'm looking for a new car if I see a bench that car will be the one I buy. Need to take your buddy to pick up his girlfriend and her 4 friends after her car died? No problem, I got 6 seatbelts, which means I can easily seat everyone, squeeze on in. Girlfriend a little tired on the way home from wherever? These armrests flip out of the way, go ahead and take a nap. From camping adventures to "help your friend move before his girlfriend comes home" days to things that we can't mention in this forum, if you need more room up front for any reason, it's always just a flip away. You simply do not get that from the bucket seats.
 

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That is one reason that I like my Club Cab Dakota - seating for 6, unobstructed front seating.
 

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The radiator drain plug should be available cheap. I'd take care of that quick. One thing these cars don't tolerate well is overheating. Well, I guess that can be said for all modern cars that have aluminum in the engine. :)
 

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I took the plug out, removed the decrepit gasket, and reinstalled the plug, and the level has been steady since. I watch the temp gauge like a hawk since a few years back I had another mystery coolant problem that I could not find. It turned out that the clamp on the rubber/metal tube that goes into the bottom of the thermostat housing was cracked, and stopped sealing under pressure while driving, I overheated several times (thinking it was just the gauge because the coolant level stayed the same) before I finally found it on accident. Oddly enough, the car held up for two more years of almost all 60/70mph driving until the head gasket blew (last month).
 

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Great thread, and thanks for posting it! had many spirits over the years, and wish I still had them all. Love my Daytona now though...same powertrain as the Spirits, and cool styling to boot. Drive her everyday!
 

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Russ90Daytona said:
Great thread, and thanks for posting it! had many spirits over the years, and wish I still had them all. Love my Daytona now though...same powertrain as the Spirits, and cool styling to boot. Drive her everyday!
Hey now... who's saying the Spirit's styling isn't cool? :excited:
 

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I am so attached to my 93 Acclaim that I am going to have a very difficult time when I finally have to let it go. Mostly no major problems with this car that was not caused by lack of proper maintenance - meaning, not changing belts in a timely manner or getting things fixed when the first signs of trouble show up (like front axle or rotors, etc.). I had to have the rear sway bar replaced years ago and that was the most expensive repair. I have never had a problem starting this car up even in bitter subzero weather. I like the fact that there is so much interior space. I hate that cockpit feel of newer cars.

I had a really fun experience recently on the road. A motorist driving an Acclaim came up from behind in the fast lane, spotted my Acclaim, did a double take - then he started beeping to get my attention, waved at me. I beeped back and waved. It was very cool how we sort of hailed each other and without a spoken word knew we had this common sentiment about our cars that have lasted this long, still on the road and having fun driving.
 
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