How Dodge Works

1991, 1992, 1994 Dodge Cars

This model is from 1984.
This model is from 1984.
The now 10-year old Caravan was in bad need of an upgrade in 1991.

Among other new '91 Dodges was an unexpected high-power edition of the workaday Spirit. Also branded R/T, it was strictly a showroom lure, as only some 1400 were built through 1992. Base price was $17,871, a weighty $4000 above the costliest standard Spirit. Under the hood sat a maxed-out 2.2-liter "Trans-4" with a new twin cam cylinder head and other modifications that yielded an amazing (and very peaky) 224 horsepower. Manual five-speed was the only transmission, and Dodge threw in necessary chassis upgrades, including the rear disc brakes newly optional for lesser '91 Spirits. You also got a dechromed exterior in red, white, or black, adorned with a ­subtle deck lid spoiler. Though it looked another torque-steer terror, the Spirit R/T handled with fair finesse, if no less noise than an Omni GLH. And it was undeniably quick, with 0-60 times of well under seven seconds.

There was nothing odd about the new '91 Shadow convertible, which carried on from the ragtop 600. This time, though, Dodge left construction chores to American Sunroof Corpor­ation. Cost concerns dictated a manual top, and the conversion slimmed back-seat space, but the regular "Highline" model started at $12,995, and a sporty ES edition sold for very little more. At the other end of the line, Dodge revived the "America" ploy for three- and five-door Shadows priced from just $7699. Power steering was one of their few standard "luxuries," and the only engine offered was the lowly 93-bhp version of the tried and true 2.2.

Like Chrysler's other '91 minivans, Caravan got a timely and very adept update marked by smoother sheet metal, a new dash (complete with glove box), and optional all-wheel-drive for 3.3-liter V-6 models. Even more laudable was first-time availability of antilock brakes, initially limited to the upper SE and LE trim levels. Also bolstering Caravan's appeal were a standard driver-side airbag as a '91 running change, followed by America's first integrated child safety seat as a 1992 option. A passenger airbag and side-guard door beams arrived for '94, when LE and ES Grand models could be ordered with a torquier 3.8 V-6 making 162 horsepower. All this did nothing but help sales, which improved from about a quarter-million for 1991 to over 300,000 by '94 -- and that was just Caravan. Even after 10 years, America still preferred Highland Park's minivans above all others.

There was little left to do for the Daytona, short of a total redesign. With its humble K-car origins and disco-era looks, it was just too old by the early '90s to stand comparison with a host of newer-design rivals for refinement or quality. Still, Dodge tried to inject some of the Viper's venom, starting with a "High-Torque Turbo I" engine for 1991. Standard for the Shelby and optional in lesser Daytonas, it made only two more horses but a useful 30 extra pound-feet of torque over the previous 2.5 turbo. The raucous VNT 2.2 vanished, but wasn't greatly missed.

A slightly smoother look with exposed headlamps arrived for 1992 Daytonas, as did optional rear disc brakes. Dodge now sponsored the International Race of Champions, so the world's best drivers vied for "top gun" honors in Daytonas instead of Chevy Camaros.

A new top-line IROC model was thus no surprise, though its mild 3.0-liter Mitsubishi V-6 arguably was. More interesting was the IROC R/T, a midyear '92 replacement for the Daytona Shelby packing the 224-bhp "Turbo III" engine from the Spirit R/T. Aside from that and deliberately limited production -- only some 800 or so -- this R/T was much like the regular IROC. But none of this racy stuff could stop Daytona sales from freefalling, and the model was belatedly retired after measly '93 model-year volume of 9677 units.

For more on the all-American Dodge, see:

  • Dodge New Car Reviews and Prices
  • Dodge Used Car Reviews and Prices