1998 Pronto Spyder: Alternate-Universe Amidships Amusement
Have you thought about Plymouth recently? Unless you’ve got one in your garage, we’d reckon you probably haven’t. Looking over the bygone marque’s closing portfolio, that’s hardly a surprise; toward the end, there really wasn’t much to talk about when the subject of Chrysler’s budget brand hit the table. Prior to the brand’s closure in 2001, all existing Plymouths were shifted to Chrysler, leaving just the Plymouth Neon to close out the Plymouth brand.
At the time of its demise, the Plymouth brand carried the baggage of a dusty, low-rent alternative to the already cheap Dodge, but that wasn’t for a lack of trying. Chrysler was on a bit of a stylistic bender in the late 1990s and early 2000s; aside from continued existence of the Dodge Viper and the Plymouth Prowler, a series of late-1990s concepts previewed a hip, younger Plymouth brand with future products like the PT Cruiser, small Pronto compact, and the very chic 1998 Pronto Spyder.
Conceptually, it’s best to think of the stillborn Pronto Spyder as DaimlerChrysler’s interpretation of the contemporary Toyota MR2 Spyder and later Opel Speedster. Like those roadsters, the Pronto Spyder concept carried its engine amidships, in this case being the 2.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that later powered the Neon and PT Cruiser SRT-4 variants, rated to a stout 225 horsepower in the Pronto. A five-speed manual transmission shifts the power to the rear wheels, giving the 2,700-pound sports car a punchy 0-60 mph time of 5.5 seconds.
Also notable were the materials chosen for the body; in place of traditional steel, fiberglass, or aluminum, the concept wore an angular body shaped from polyethylene terephthalate—or PET—that is better known as the type of recyclable plastic used for disposable drink bottles and packaging.
Inside, a retro-themed cockpit wore a rich red hue, though don’t inspect it too closely—much of the colored surfaces wore sprayed-on paint. Elsewhere, a turned metal dash, large classic gauges, and a plastic tortoiseshell steering wheel lent the Spyder a classic vibe.
Unfortunately, a lack of structural rigidity, crashworthiness, and other packaging issues stymied any production plans for the Pronto Spyder—Plymouth or otherwise—and consigned the handsome (if not dated) roadster to the dark halls of the now-defunct Chrysler Museum outside of Detroit.
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