Dodge Dynasty

A short-lived exception to such crushing sensibility was Dodge's GLH, basically the wolfish Shelby Charger in sheepish Omni dress. The initials, attributed to Ol' Shel, meant "Goes Like Hell." It did. The debut '85 was sprightly enough with its 110-bhp engine, but the turbocharged 146-bhp GLH-S of 1986 was a genuine terror, though it suffered terrible torque-steer; one tester observed the accelerator functioned like a "lane-change switch."

Still, like the Shelby Chargers, this Omni was great fun -- crude but invigorating in the best muscle-car tradition. And as only a few thousand were built for 1984-86, the GLH/GLH-S bid fair as future collectibles.

Arriving for 1988 was Dynasty, a sort of latter-day Diplomat on the front-drive C-body platform of that year's new Chrysler New Yorker. The only body style was a square-lined unibody four-door on a 104.3-inch wheelbase, available in standard and uplevel LE trim levels.

Unlike the Chrysler, though, Dynasty's standard engine was the corporate 2.5-liter four with 96 horsepower, a bit weak for the 3000-pound curb weight.

Fortunately, the Daytona's 3.0-liter Mitsubishi V-6 was optional. Changes for '89 were confined to a slightly more-powerful, 150-bhp V-6 option teaming with Chrysler's new Ultradrive automatic, plus optional security system, two-position driver-seat "memory" feature, and all-disc antilock brakes (the last phased in during '88). The 150-bhp Japanese option was ousted by Chrysler's own 3.3 V-6 for 1990, when all Dynastys gained standard drivĀ­er-side airbags.

Billed as a "contemporary family sedan," Dynasty made no gesture toward sport, but it didn't have to. With base prices of $11,500-$12,500, it offered fine value in a roomy, traditional-style car of the sort that still appealed mightily to many people. And numerous they were.

Despite its unpretentious nature, Dynasty became Chrysler Corporation's most-popular car line. Model-year '89 production, for example, was close to 138,000 -- many for rent-a-car companies but a fine showing all the same.

Though Aries was down to two- and four-door Americas for 1989, their heir apparent bowed as the family Dodge for the early '90s. Called Spirit, this notchback sedan was built on the same 103.3-inch-wheelbase A-body platform as Plymouth's new Acclaim, and thus spelled the end for the like-length four-door 600.

The now-expected trio of base, luxury LE, and sporty ES models was offered, the last with a standard 2.5-liter turbo four, the others with the nonturbo version of that engine. Dynasty's 3.0-liter V-6 was optional only for ES, again teamed with Ultradrive.

Spirit styling echoed Aries', but was smoother and more "grown-up." ES was identified by body-color front- and rear-end caps and rocker extensions, plus integral fog lamps. Spirit returned for 1990 with standard driver-side air bag (Chrysler was now pushing hard with this laudable safety feature), no-cost all-disc brakes for ES, and numerous detail improvements.

Considering where it began, Dodge fared remarkably well in the '80s, resuming its traditional performance role within Chrysler Corporation while remaining the firm's only "full-line" nameplate and thus its best-selling one. In another return to tradition, Dodge finished the decade a solid sixth in the industry, compared to a lackluster eighth in 1982.

Dodge then retreated to seventh in volume through 1994, passed by Mercury amid new woes for Chrysler Corporation and a timely shift to more salable new products. Still, sales declined only as far as some 260,000 in 1992 and were back above 342,000 two years later. By 1996, Dodge had replaced every car in its lineup -- and many of its trucks, too.

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