For the third and final installment of this series, we will look at some of the most expensive cars sold by the Chrysler Corporation. For much of its history, Chrysler had neither the resources nor the brand clout to sell any truly expensive cars like the Cadillac Eldorado Brougham or Continental Mark II. As a result, we’re going to have to set the bar a little lower than for Ford or GM, with almost all the adjusted prices under $100,000.
Still, what Chrysler lacked in raw dollars, they made up for with some of the most creative vehicles in this entire series.
1982 Imperial – $21,417 ($60,300)
Lee Iacocca struck gold in 1968 when he created the Lincoln Continental Mark III by slapping a Rolls Royce grille and a fake spare tire hump on a Thunderbird and doubling the price. Could his Midas touch work again in 1981 by turning the lowly Chrysler Cordoba into a luxury flagship to help Chrysler shrug off its sagging loan guarantee bailout image? Not so much.
The Imperial was launched in 1981 and included several then-innovative features, such as a digital dashboard, 24-months of free scheduled maintenance, and electronic fuel injection. It even had a high-profile spokesman in the form of Iacocca’s buddy Frank Sinatra, who agreed to promote the car free of charge, for which Iacocca rewarded him with the first Imperial off the line. Unfortunately, the EFI system would prove to be problematic and unreliable, stranding many owners (reportedly including ‘ol Blue Eyes himself) with frequent breakdowns. Chrysler was eventually forced to offer free carburetor retrofits to every Imperial owner.
The inaugural 1981 model sported a base price of $19,140, which was increased to $21,417 for 1982 in an effort to cut losses. To boost sales, the MSRP was cut to $19,117 in 1983, along with some minor decontenting (such as replacing the Cartier crystal hood ornament with a plastic one). For the purposes of this article, the 1982 model is the most expensive, with an adjusted price of just $60,300. A similarly optioned Cadillac Seville or Lincoln Continental could also crack the $20,000 mark in 1982, so this isn’t a particularly noteworthy price for them. But $20,000 was a stretch for a Chrysler (or even an Imperial) in 1982, especially for a car that was essentially a re-bodied Cordoba, which sold alongside the Imperial for about half as much.
2004 Dodge Ram SRT-10 – $45,000 ($64,723 Adjusted)
While a cast iron version of the Dodge V10 engine was available in a variety of heavy-duty trucks, the 2004-2006 Dodge Ram SRT-10 was the only way to get the genuine article aluminum block Viper V10 engine in a light-duty truck. As we shall see, this was also the cheapest way to get a vehicle powered by the Viper’s V10 engine.
2001 Plymouth Prowler – $44,225 ($67,886 Adjusted)
The 1930s hot rod inspired Plymouth Prowler is a car that to this day I still can’t believe actually got made. While the Prowler is not to my particular cup of tea, I’m glad that it exists, as they still bring a smile to my face every time I see one.
The Prowler launched in 1997 with a base price of $38,300, but the most expensive version in absolute dollars was the penultimate 2001 model, with a base price of $44,225 ($67,886 adjusted).
1991 Chrysler TC by Maserati – $37,000 ($73,809 Adjusted)
Ah, the TC, Chrysler’s attempt to fool all of the people all of the time by sprinkling some Italian fairy dust on what essentially was a LeBaron convertible. Unfortunately, as Cadillac would find out with the Allante, slapping a few Italian bits on an American car doesn’t magically turn it into a genuine Italian car. Paul has already mic-dropped the TC, so I don’t really have much more to add.
At least the TC has the dubious honor of being the most expensive variant of Chrysler’s ubiquitous K platform. The TC went on sale in 1989 for $33,000 increasing by $2,000 every year it was on sale (higher than the rate of inflation), making the final 1991 version, with an MSRP of $37,000, the most expensive model in 2021 dollars ($73,809).
2015 Dodge Viper GTS – $107,995 ($123,796 Adjusted)
The Dodge Viper made a huge splash in 1991 when it first debuted as a concept car, and then as a production model. The Viper is also the only Mopar model to crack the $100K barrier in either adjusted or original dollars.
At $53,000 ($103,731 adjusted), the original 1991 Viper was one of the most expensive domestic cars for sale at the time, more expensive than even a contemporary Corvette. The Viper was just as notable for what you didn’t get at that price (air conditioning, ABS, airbags, or even glass side windows) as for what you did (a 400hp 8.0L V10 engine).
Adjusted for inflation, that initial 1991 Viper was actually the cheapest Viper. The Viper’s base price would grow in excess of inflation during most of its 26-year run as it added capabilities, features, and additional models, like the GTS coupe. Of all the Viper models Dodge has sold, the 2015 GTS is the most expensive in adjusted dollars, with a base price of $107,995 ($123,796 adjusted).