Curbside Classic: 1999 Plymouth Breeze – Breeze In, Breeze Out

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A nice breeze, at least in meteorological sense, is lacking during these brutal summer heat waves. Fortunately, there seem to be a fair amount of Plymouth Breezes out and about, soaking up the sun and satisfying my Curbside Classic fever.

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I spotted this excellent gold Breeze a few weeks back. It was near-flawless and still glistening, at least until the arrival of an impending thunderstorm overhead. With some original wheel covers, it would look good as new!

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This black Breeze was a little more sun-burnt, with faded, peeling paint and a bit of rust–but it did have all four original wheel covers.

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This design was new for 1999, the Breeze’s last full model year. I was surprised Chrysler shelled out the money to stamp the Plymouth logo in the center.

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Introduced as a 1996 model, the Plymouth Breeze was the third JA car; its Chrysler Cirrus and Dodge Stratus siblings had bowed as ‘95s. Much like the preceding R-body Gran Fury, M-body Gran Fury and E-body Caravelle, the Breeze seemed an afterthought. Because of their names, the JA trio are often referred to as the Cloud Cars. I always wondered why the Breeze wasn’t called the Plymouth Cumulus but in any case, I think Breeze sounds better.

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The Breeze/Cirrus/Stratus were fairly significant cars for Chrysler as its first realistic competitors to Accord and Camry. They were direct replacements for the AA-body Acclaim/LeBaron/Spirit, whose discontinuation signified the much-overdue end of the K-car era. Introduced at the height of Chrysler’s mid-‘90s renaissance, the JAs naturally bore no resemblance to the Iacocca-dictated boxes of yore.

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They instead used the cab-forward architecture pioneered by the 1993 LH sedans. Consequently, the smaller JAs looked far less radical than the LHs, and their more conventional look remained contemporary even years after production ended. To my mind, the Cloud Cars represent the pinnacle of cab-forward design at Chrysler.

1996 Breeze interior

The interior was spacious and airy, with a curvaceous dash that was a breath of fresh air compared with the sharp-angled Acclaim’s. Lost, however, were some of the Acclaim’s more interesting interior color schemes: No more blue or burgundy; instead, buyers would have to make do with the available gray, tan or black. Those who did want a bit more flair could find solace in the “rhythm” cloth found in the Breeze Expresso, which added specks of bright color to otherwise dull grayness.

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Although the latecomer to the trio, I doubt the Breeze’s belated introduction caused much disorder for Chrysler-Plymouth dealers. The Cirrus was available in less-plush LX trim, and the Plymouth Acclaim was still around for early ’95 as production came to an end.

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The Breeze wasn’t available with many of the options that could be had with a Cirrus or Stratus, including a V6 engine, leather seats and alloy wheels. Nonetheless, Breezes came decently equipped and could easily be optioned to meet the standards of most midsize sedan buyers. The 1999 and later models gained a host of previously extra-cost features as standard, including power windows and a power-adjustable driver’s seat.

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A good family friend in Virginia Beach owned a leather-equipped Stratus V6 (in the same gold color as our featured Breeze) for some time. I recall riding around in it for a lengthy amount of time during one particular visit. It was a very comfortable highway cruiser, with excellent visibility from inside its spacious cabin. Also, the leather felt real, unlike that of the fast-approaching Daimler-era cars.

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The design of the first-generation Cloud Cars has always been attractive to me, with a particular elegance that their fleet-queen successors failed to replicate.

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Cost-cutting measures were all too obvious in the 2001-2006 JAs. Not only did material and build quality suffer, but the cars just looked cheap. And they felt that way too: When I was in fifth grade, my mom got a base Sebring sedan as a loaner when her Jeep was having collision work done at the dealership.

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Even at 10 years old and hardly the interior-quality snob I am today, I knew the thing was a piece of junk. Despite being a new car, the heater would only work at full blast. The week we had that Sebring was an endless cycle of heat on, heat off, windows down and repeat. Keep in mind this was during snowy February in Massachusetts.

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One point I forgot to mention was that the Sebring name had made its way onto Chrysler’s midsize sedans in addition to the related convertible and unrelated coupe. Dodge’s sedan was still called Stratus, as was the replacement coupe for the Avenger–but what about the Breeze?

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Breeze production wound down quickly after Daimler-Chrysler’s 1999 announcement that they would discontinue the Plymouth brand in 2001. The last Breeze rolled off the assembly line in January 2000, making its run of ’00 models much shorter than that of the other Cloud Cars. Chrysler-branded cars continued their downmarket trend to cover the gap, and the vintage-1928 Plymouth brand was gone…like a Breeze.