What vehicle do you think of when you hear the terms “Street Rod” or “Hot Rod”? Many will think of an older car that was modified with additional power, flashy paint, and other custom touches. How about a modern hot rod? Interpretations on this question would be all over the map. The term has been used while describing the Prowler and in many respects it fits. When a large car manufacturer thinks outside the box, the term “factory hot rod” seems appropriate.
As the 1997 Prowler reached the dealer showrooms, it turned the world of conventional corporate car design upside down. The pointy nose, the open front wheels, the chopped windshield and the low slung soft top make it instantly recognizable as the Prowler. Yet, the overall look recalls the 1932 Ford roadster. How cool is that?! The name is just as intriguing as the car. Merriam-Webster defines prowl as “to move about or wander stealthily in or as if in search of prey”. While this car does look mean enough to be in search of prey, it is anything but stealthy. If you want to stay under the radar, may I suggest a beige Camry? The Prowler will earn you double takes, high fives, and thumbs up anywhere in the world.
Some critics called the Prowler retro-styled, but it’s not a remake of an original. It has its own name and its own modern exterior style. In fact, the styling was the original brain child of now famous Chip Foose. Foose’s later incarnation of the idea was the Hemisfear concept super car. Speaking of hemispheres, this car would be an absolute grand slam with Chrysler’s own Hemi V8 under the hood. Unfortunately, Prowler’s narrow nose can barely hold a V6 and the whole lightweight design direction of the vehicle begs for a smaller and lightweight drive-train. As great as all of this sounds, the corporate cost cutting were apparent in the original 1997 model that had an iron lump of a V6 that produced a less than stellar 214 hp. However, the Prowler does have several distinct performance features under its sleeve. After all, it was built by the same people that brought you the original Viper. In 1999, it was upgraded with an all aluminum V6 with a nice power bump to 253 hp and a small overall weight reduction.
The whole thing rests on an aluminum frame with fully independent front and rear suspension. The weight is kept to a minimum where possible (near 2,800 lbs) and the motor sends its power to the rear mounted auto-manual transmission. While, the rear placed transmission is good for weight distribution, this car was never offered with an honest manual and that is another small ding in its armor. No matter the power-train shortcomings – this car is highly desirable and always will be.
When was the last time you saw a Prowler going down the street? You would remember if you saw one. It’s not a common occurrence. All together there were just 11,702 Prowlers produced over the five year run (Plymouth took a break in 1998). Refer to the bottom of this page for a detailed numbers breakdown. It’s interesting to note that there were just 457 cars built in 1997 and 1,436 in the final year. The rarest colors were: Chrysler High Voltage Blue, Woodward, Black-Tie, and Chrysler Orange. All Prowlers had the same standard features, but there is one option that can make a Prowler stand out in the crowd. This was a factory certified and color matched Prowler trailer that looks identical to the car’s rear end. There were just 1,367 trailers produced. Why doesn’t every car have a factory trailer option like this?
There is little argument that this car was a collectible the minute it rolled off the factory floor. At this time, the market value on the Prowler has a direct correlation to its mileage and not influenced that much by its color, year of production, or any other feature. There is no shortage of ultra low mile Prowlers out there. You can usually find a couple examples for sale with fewer than 100 miles on the clock. You can buy a bottom of the barrel Prowler with around 50,000 miles in the $25K range. By the way, bottom of the barrel Prowler refers only to its mileage. All Prowlers seem to be meticulously maintained and cared for. Low miles cars are going for around $40K. It’s clear that this is a collectible car that is already showing its value.
Andre Smirnov is a Software Engineer by trade and a life-long automotive enthusiast. On the weekends – you may find him at a car show, an auction, watching a race, or tinkering in the garage. When not working or spending time with the family – he often scours the internet and other media for various automotive, mechanical, and computer related information.