Junkyard Gem: 1994 Dodge Spirit

Murilee Martin

See Full Image Gallery >>

Under Lee Iacocca's watch, Chrysler began selling the first of the modern new K-Cars for the 1982 model year, and American sales of Ks and K-derived cars and minivans continued all the way through 1995. While these vehicles saved Chrysler from near-certain doom after the agony of a government bailout in 1979, the platform had become pretty outdated by the middle 1990s (though GM didn't hesitate to sell its similar-vintage J-Cars well into our current century). The Spirit replaced its aging Aries cousin starting in 1989, and has become very tough to find today. Here's a late Spirit with the optional Mitsubishi V6 engine, found in a Denver self-service yard recently.

For the 1991 and 1992 model years, the Spirit R/T was the fastest new four-door car you could buy in the United States. With 224 horsepower from a very nervous turbocharged 2.2-liter engine, the Spirit R/T could run the quarter-mile in 14.5 seconds and hit a top speed of 141 mph. Today's Junkyard Gem isn't one of those cars, unfortunately.

The base engine in the 1994 Spirit was a 2.5-liter Chrysler straight-four rated at 100 horsepower, but this car has the optional 142-horse Mitsubishi 6G72 V6 engine. The 6G7 family of engines remains in production to this day, 35 years after the first one went into a Galant, and members of this engine family have powered everything from the Diamante to the Sonata.

On Chrysler vehicles of all-Mitsubishi design from this era, the engines tended to have big Mitsubishi emblems prominently displayed. For a Chrysler-designed car, though, it made more sense to badge the engine as a Chrysler. Note the British spelling of the unit of displacement here; GM and Ford started that trend back in the 1960s, with the "6.5 litre" Pontiac GTO and "7.0 litre" big Fords.

With the big engine plus power windows, decklid luggage rack, and other luxurious (for a Spirit) options, I'm pretty sure this car didn't start life in a fleet. It drove more than 175,000 miles during its time on the road.

The resale value of a 26-year-old Detroit sedan with high miles can't be much, even if the interior still looks nice enough, so any mechanical problem (or just a trade-in) spells doom for cars such as this one.

The gold insets in the aluminum wheels look very stylish.

117 out of 200 Americans preferred the Spirit to the Honda Accord!

The final Spirits drove out of the showrooms in 1995, replaced by the "cloud car" Dodge Stratus.

More From

  • Junkyard Gem: 1969 Chevrolet ChevyVan 108 Camper

    During the 1960s, each of the American Big Three automakers created a forward-control, mid-engined small van design to compete with the big-selling Volkswagen Transporter. With their small footprints and big load-carrying capacity, these vans worked well as RV conversions, and that's what I've found in a northeastern Colorado self-service yard. The Sportvan boasted windows and passenger seating and was marketed as a sort of jouncy, industrial-grade family station wagon.

  • 2020 is the wrong year to launch a car, but Czinger is moving full speed ahead

    Los Angeles-based startup Czinger has remained relatively quiet since it unveiled the 21C, a 3D-printed plug-in hybrid hypercar, in February. Jens Sverdrup, the young brand's chief commercial officer, told Autoblog engineers began testing prototypes on the road and on the track in August 2019.

  • NEVS Sango autonomous shuttle rises from the ashes of Saab

    National Electric Vehicles Sweden (NEVS), the company that purchased Saab's bankrupt carcass in 2012, has introduced an autonomous ride-sharing shuttle named Sango and announced plans to test it in real-world conditions. Saab famously claimed its cars were born from jets, but the Sango looks more like something you'd find in a store that sells small kitchen appliances than on an aircraft carrier sailing across the Atlantic. Its six seats can be moved around and rotated as needed, and the passengers can raise privacy walls if they don't feel like socializing with fellow riders.

  • Suspects in Ghosn's Japanese escape stand trial in Turkey

    Seven suspects went on trial in Turkey on Friday over their alleged involvement in former Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn's dramatic escape from Japan to Lebanon via Istanbul at the end of last year. Ghosn, once a titan of the global auto industry, had been arrested in Japan in late 2018 and charged with underreporting his salary and using company funds for personal purposes, charges he denies. The ousted chairman of the alliance of Renault, Nissan Motor Co and Mitsubishi Motors Corp had been awaiting his trial under house arrest in Japan when he made a dramatic escape in December to Beirut, his childhood home.