CC Capsule: 1991 Dodge Shadow ES – White on White


The Dodge Shadow and Plymouth Sundance were low-buck transportation. When new, they sold for well under $10,000, at a time when the average new car’s sticker had just gone north of those then-foreboding five figures. Then, as now, cheap cars tended to get used up and then discarded, especially due to the minimal maintenance provided by their second, third or fourth owner. Which makes it truly remarkable that this Dodge Shadow ES made it to 2014 with just a couple of bumper scuffs and a tiny bit of rust on the left rear fender.


When new, these were pleasing cars within their class. In 1989, I was in the market for a brand-new, sub-$10,000 car, and test drove the Ford Escort, Ford Tempo, Chevy Cavalier and the identical Plymouth Sundance. The Escort was still in its rude and crude first generation, and the Escort-based Tempo was no better. I didn’t like the Cavalier’s low, low driving position and how the body flexed over bumps.


I liked the Sundance best by a mile. It felt a little narrow inside, but the weird flat, shallow dashboard lent the impression, especially to the front passenger,of enormous depth. The upright seating made for a commanding view of the road. The 2.2-liter four provided adequate power and, as I recall, was quicker from a stop than the others. You could get an even torquier 2.5 four if you wanted it. And I really liked that the hatchback wore notchback styling. I ended up buying a Chevy Beretta, as it was roomier and better appointed even in basic trim, and I was able to negotiate its price below that magic five-figure mark. A friend of mine bought a Sundance that same year, and I rode in it often over the next five years. I could have been almost as happy in one of those, and would have saved more than a thousand bucks.


This Shadow was pretty stylin’ for its time, with its body-color wheels, rear deck spoiler and black trim. It’s a clean design that still looks good today, especially with all its bits still present. Kudos to its driver for taking it out on a snowy day.

Full Shadow/Sundance CC here.