(first posted 2/12/2016)
Did you think every obscure special edition and forgotten limited-run Mopar model had been covered in Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 of this series? Not true! Presented for your perusal are six special Dodges.
Ram SRT-10 Nightrunner
Years produced: 2006
Total production: 400
Could this look more like an archetypal drug dealer’s truck? They even called it the Nightrunner! Dodge (and now Ram) have offered myriad limited editions over the years but, despite the unsavory connotations of its appearance, the Nightrunner may well be the most aggressive both in appearance and in performance.
All Nightrunners were painted Brilliant Black metallic with Dark Nickel Pearl 22-inch wheels. The grille featured black chrome inserts and the headlights were darkened for menacing effect. Each Nightrunner had a numbered dash plaque and a black center stack inside. A regular Nightrunner with the “humble” 5.7 Hemi V8 was also available, with 2000 units produced; these were distinguished from the SRT-10 through the use of smaller (but still sizeable) 20-inch rims.
But if you wanted the most badass Ram you could get, you had to go with the SRT-10 Nightrunner. Packing the Viper’s 8.3L (505 cubic inch) V10, the SRT-10 pumped out a fiery 510 hp and 535 ft-lbs. Gas mileage? Much like a Rolls-Royce buyer never asks about the price tag, an SRT-10 buyer should never ask about fuel economy. For those of us who are concerned about such things, the SRT-10 was rated at 8/11 mpg. Perhaps it was better rated in gallons per mile.
The SRT-10 Nightrunner was available as either a regular cab or a quad cab. The former came with a Tremec T-56 six-speed manual, while the latter was available only with a four-speed automatic borrowed from the Ram HD. 0-60 was accomplished in just under 5 seconds with the regular cab, and 5.6 seconds with the quad cab.
Total production of all 2004-06 SRT-10 Rams was under 10,000 units, but the Nightrunner was limited to just 400 units. No Ram since the SRT-10 has come close to matching its power and no Ram since the SRT-10 Nightrunner has looked anywhere near as menacing.
Years produced: 2005
Total production: 8698
After talking about the SRT-10, any so-called “performance” Ram is going to be just a tad underwhelming. And looking at the 2005 Ram Daytona, you can’t help but shake your head at the package Dodge came up with.
It’s not that the idea of a sporty Ram was crazy – hello, look at the SRT-10 – but rather, the Daytona was trying far too hard to tap into Dodge’s rich muscle car heritage. Notice the words “muscle car”: instead of crafting a homage to the L’il Red Express or Warlock trucks, Dodge decided to style a special edition Ram after the 1969 Charger Daytona, giant rear wing included.
That rear wing was 11 inches tall and was complemented by flat-black graphics on the bed sides. Other additions included a hood scoop, body-colored grille and 20-inch chrome-clad aluminum wheels. However, there were no changes to the engine, the 5.7 Hemi V8 with 345 hp and 375 ft-lbs of torque, mated to a five-speed automatic.
The Ram Daytona was available in either quad cab or crew cab and only in Go ManGo or the less whimsically named Silver Metallic. Really, no clever name like QuickSilver or Problem Silver or Sil-very Fast?
Ultimately, everybody has different tastes and Dodge did an admirable job catering to a wide variety with its myriad special editions over the years. The Daytona was just a rather puzzling truck, although we should be grateful it didn’t come with an aerodynamic nose cone.
Dart Hang Ten
Years produced: 1974-75
Total production: ~700
Looking at the exterior of the limited edition Hang Ten, there’s not much to excite the senses. Subtle (by 1970s standards) decals were applied to a white Dart Sport body. The theme, as the name implied, was surfing and the decals included a little stick-figure man riding a wave. Although the color white hadn’t yet come to dominate the most popular car colors list, the Hang Ten still had a relatively subdued exterior treatment especially at a time when white special edition vehicles were common(see: Spirit of America Chevys). Inside, however, things took a turn for the wild.
Orange shag carpeting. No three words can call to mind the 1970s better, except for perhaps “polyester leisure suit”. The dash and center console were also painted a red/orange color to match, while the seats were white like the exterior but with multicolored, striped, woven inserts. The stripes also continued on the door panels. The overall effect almost made a Pierre Cardin Javelin look subtle. But the interior was as practical as it was bold, with all Hang Tens featuring a fold-down rear seat.
Photos courtesy of CarDomain user Rick Rage
The Hang Ten package came in only one color/trim combination and cost $254 and was available with any of the Dart Sport’s engine lineup. The Slant Six was standard, but 318 and 360 cubic-inch V8s were optional. Rallye wheels, air-conditioning and even a vinyl top (white, natch) were available options. The Dart may have been getting old but the Hang Ten was a fresh and funky special edition. Or should I say a gnarly, primo special edition?
Daytona IROC R/T
Years produced: 1992-93
Total production: 341
The powerful Spirit R/T had managed to outgun the Taurus SHO and undercut it price, all while doing the sleeper Q-Ship schtick the SHO was known for. But all good things must come to an end, and the Spirit R/T’s end was after its sophomore season and a total production of 1,399 units. However, Chrysler was still squeezing the last few drops of life out of the basic K-Car platform and saw to it that the boosted 2.2 Turbo III engine found one more home before the turbocharged era (and the K-Car era) ended at Chrysler.
The IROC R/T was, in essence, a last hurrah for the Daytona. The double overhead cam Turbo III engine had been developed with Lotus, who designed the heads. With an intercooler, balance shafts and a new, slicker-shifting 5-speed Getrag manual transmission, the IROC R/T was a true performance flagship for the Daytona range and pumped out 224 hp and 217 ft-lbs of torque. That was over double the horsepower of the base Daytona four and, while those figures don’t sound as impressive today, the Daytona weighed approximately 3,000 pounds which allowed for a 0-60 time of 6 seconds.
The Daytona had received a questionable facelift for 1992 and was still looking rather tired. However, long product cycles were nothing unusual in the Daytona’s segment: the rival Mustang had debuted in ’79, the Camaro in ’82. The IROC R/T had more horsepower than the Mustang’s 5.0 V8 but it also had a considerably higher price. In 1993, the flagship Daytona listed for $19k, while the sleek, new ’93 Camaro was around $2k less and a Mustang LX 5.0 hatch around $2k less than that. But the Daytona was a very different animal, being front-wheel-drive and turbocharged. The Daytona sold about a third as well as the Mustang and Camaro, while total production of the IROC R/T was also less than a quarter of the Spirit R/T’s numbers despite an identical two-year run. At least Dodge’s venerable sport coupe went out with a bang.
Years produced: 2005
Total production: 1175
Just because the SRT-4 had 6 fewer cylinders than an SRT-10 Viper or Ram, didn’t mean it wasn’t ferocious. The ACR was a $1,195 option package on the already powerful Neon-based SRT-4 compact sport sedan. It was even louder and stiffer-riding, but this factory competition package was both a Neon on steroids and yet some of the most fun you could have in a compact sedan.
The ACR package (American Club Racing) was an exciting grab-bag of performance additions. Wider tires, lowered ride height, adjustable Toxico dampers, a thicker rear stabilizer bar and Viper-style racing seats were but a few of the goodies in the keenly-priced option package. The turbocharged 2.4 four-cylinder engine was unchanged, with 230 hp and 250 ft-lbs of torque. With just 2,900 pounds of sedan to haul around, 0-60 was done in a rapid 5.6 seconds. The only transmission was a 5-speed manual.
Photos courtesy of Justin Bondurant
Like the Daytona IROC R/T, the SRT-4 ACR (another jumble of acronyms) was a grand finale for its line. It was noisy, crashed over bumps, torque steered, droned on the highway… but it was a helluva lot of fun for around $20k.
Years produced: 1990-92
Total production: 20,406
Shag carpeting. Giant rear wings. V10 engines. The 1990 Monaco can’t begin to match its featured companions in excitement or visual drama, but it certainly meets the criteria of being a forgotten limited-run model. The dormant Monaco nameplate was dusted off to sell more units of the slow-selling Eagle Premier inherited from Renault and American Motors Corporation. Despite the extensive Dodge dealer network, the Monaco was one of the few mid-size sedans that managed to be outsold by the Eagle Premier.
Chrysler hadn’t just inherited the competent Premier, it had also inherited a contract to purchase a set number of Renault V6 engines. And while 40-45k Premiers were produced annually in its first two years on sale – mind you, this was around a third of Mercury Sable volume but not awful for a new, unknown brand – those figures sunk for 1990. Chrysler manufactured just 15,368 Premiers that year and they had a contract to honor. The AMC 2.5 inline four was hurriedly dumped – nobody was really buying it anyway – and Chrysler made a last-ditch effort to shift more units of the unloved Franco-American sedan. With a crosshair grille and new taillights, the Monaco was born.
It actually outsold the Premier in 1991, but only to the tune of under 2,000 units. In 1990 and 1992, it managed a mere third of Premier sales despite being priced and equipped comparably. Why did the Monaco flop so badly? The below-average reliability ratings and quirky switchgear may have been to blame, but Chrysler certainly didn’t help the car by giving it so much showroom competition. The Dodge Spirit had a roomy enough interior to be classified as a mid-size and the larger Dynasty undercut the Monaco on price by around $1,000.
But even if buyers had managed to learn of the Monaco’s existence (no easy feat, considering Chrysler’s scant advertising) and even if they were unaware of the Monaco’s Renault origins, their very first impression would have been sitting in a rather cheap interior and trying to make sense of the finicky air-conditioning controls bafflingly placed on a steering column wing. As Motor Trend so succinctly put it, “This kind of ergonomic insight is one of the reasons Renault is the force it is in America today.” Ouch.
Once on the road, there was sufficient power from the 150 hp/171 ft-lbs 3.0 V6 that had caused Chrysler so many headaches. The only transmission was a console-mounted four-speed automatic and 0-60 was around 10 seconds, comparable to the Mercury Sable 3.0 and Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme. The ride was wonderfully compliant and although body roll was marked, overall roadholding was quite good.
Photo courtesy of CarDomain user “AMC Ambassador”
Chrysler had inherited a rather competent mid-size sedan but chose to foist it on a no-name, dead-end marque (Eagle, a missed opportunity) and on another division that had more than enough sedans to sell. One must wonder if the car would have sold better as a Plymouth. After all, the Gran Fury died in 1989 and left the Spirit-based Acclaim as the brand’s largest sedan. With some advertising and a quick rework of the controls, Chrysler could have fulfilled that engine contract a lot better.
Dodge City was fun, but now it’s time to get the hell outta there. Which was your favorite?
Mopar special edition coverage will conclude with a selection of Chryslers and one last Plymouth.