(first posted 2/19/2013) In the late 1980s, Chrysler looked like it was back on top of its game. The government-guaranteed loans were paid in full, the minivans were selling like there was no tomorrow and everyone in Highland Park was happy. However, the one product that had both saved and helped define Chrysler through the Eighties, the K-Car, was getting a bit long in the tooth. Enter the new-for-1989 AA-Body Dodge Spirit/ Plymouth Acclaim.
While the AA-Body appeared to be a new car, in truth it was merely an evolution of the extended K platform on which the Dodge 600, Plymouth Caravelle (CC here) and Chrysler New Yorker were built. Even though the Aries and Reliant were built through the 1989 model year, these (AA-Bodies) were in effect their replacements.
Though boxy and conservative, they looked pretty good on paper. For example: room for six, a choice of 2.5-liter four, Turbo-four or 3.0-liter Mitsubishi V6 engines and the world’s first electronically-controlled automatic transmission (whose teething problems have been well documented elsewhere). For such a seemingly small car, it had an immense amount of interior room, way more than its 181.2-inch exterior length suggested.
Even though Chrysler also offered the similar Dodge Spirit, the upscale Chrysler LeBaron and Euro- market Saratoga versions of this car, today we will turn our focus to the Acclaim.
The years 1989-1991 saw the Acclaim available in three flavors: the base model, mid-level LE and top-line LX. The biggest difference between the LE and the LX was that the latter had a lower front air dam with integrated fog lamps, plus a little more standard equipment.
By 1992, the LE and LX had been dropped, leaving the Acclaim offered in just one model but with many of the previous options still offered.
Throughout the Acclaim’s model run, visual changes remained minimal. The biggest change, in 1993, involved a new grille that somehow caused the car to look like it was furrowing its brow. Because Chrysler was planning to replace the AAs with the “Cloud” cars around 1995, they didn’t wish to invest much into them; thus, when 1994 Federal standards required all U.S.-market cars to have automatic passive restraints, Chrysler did an odd thing: While giving the front passenger got a motorized shoulder belt, they continued using the traditional belt and airbag (introduced in 1990) on the driver’s side.
While it’s true that Chrysler’s reputation for quality had not fully recovered at this point, these little cars actually proved to be rather well built and even robust. Even here in “The Corner of Nowhere”–aka Northern Lower Michigan–these are still fairly common on the roads, with even the Mitsubishi V6 models soldiering on.
Today’s feature car really caught me by surprise. It’s a base model 1994 Acclaim that I’d seen for sale in someone’s yard back in the summer, after which it disappeared. Fast forward to last week, when I saw it sitting here at my local Chrysler dealership, and in excellent condition overall. That’s all the more remarkable considering that the odometer showed a little over 250,000 miles! And yes, it has the V6.
I wanted to take some better interior shots, but the car had some strange kind of aftermarket alarm system that went off as soon as I opened the door. Because I didn’t want to attract too much attention, I left until it shut off and then went back for the pictures.
Rumor has it that after Chrysler discontinued these cars, they shipped the tooling to China; however, due to budget issues the cars were never assembled and the tooling was scrapped.
These were the last of the boxy Chryslers so dearly loved by Lido, and the last of the many variations on the venerable K-Car. While the JA cars (Cirrus, Stratus and Breeze) that replaced them were light years ahead in terms of styling and overall dynamics, there was a certain honesty about these cars that many–including your humble author, Zackman, and apparently Tina Turner (see TV spot below)– found appealing.
The Spirit/Acclaims never picked up the iconic status that the Aries/Reliants did that they replaced but they were quite competent cars. Most were equipped with the 2.5 I4 but a few, like the one I drove about 12 years ago, had the 3.0V6. A friend of mine had a 1991 Acclaim V6 that his wife drove into the back of a FedEx truck one day. He gave the car to me as payment for some other work. I fixed what needed to be fixed and drove it for about 9 months. A 3.0V6 made these cars fast, faster than you would expect and it was a bit of a pocket rocket.
The Dodge Spirit R/Ts with the Turbo motors are the most desirable of the models but you almost never see them now, if you even saw them then.
Hey guys had to chime in. In 1991 mom purchased a 91 demo with 12k. It was the base model and the exterior was silver with the maroon interior. Had the the standard 2.5 with 3 spd auto and was our first new cars in years. The one thing that stood out was the model name on the trunk. It actually said Dodge Acclaim so either it was misapplied at factory or the dealership. I can tell you that car stood up to Oklahoma winters and myself at 16 years old dogging the mess out of trying to race and fishtailing on icy parking lots. When mom left OKC to move to Tennessee in 98 it had over 100k on odometer and when she sold it in 2002 it was almost at 200k with a slipping transmission. In the time she owned it we had one broken timing belt replaced, a fuel pump that went out in Arkansas, and just regular maintenance.
Man I miss that car because it was ultra reliable especially under moms heavy foot and a teenage boys speed race habits. I agree AA body cars were the Camry Chrysler was striving for during the “Buy American” campaign in late 80’s and early 90’s. Good article.
My wife and I actually considered buying a used Spirit with the V6 in the late 1990s. I went to a dealership owned by a friend of the family and he had one on the lot. He said I could test drive it, but first, why not try the 2-year old Chrysler Cirrus V6 next to it. Needless to say, I didn’t buy the Spirit.
That Cirrus was a good car and if the hood hadn’t started to rust so badly, I would have kept it longer than 2 years. It was a real sleeper for the time.
I remember when these came out in 1989. The future Mrs. JPC owned an 88 Accord that had been dimpled all over in a hailstorm. She considered a new car, and we went to look at one of these. I was excited, as this was the first new Mopar car not plainly built on the K platform in years. Unfortunatelly, I was underwhelmed (and the future Mrs. JPC was REALLY underwhelmed). The car seemed nice enough, but in a conservative old schoolteacher sort of way. It was certainly not going to win over any Accord buyers back then. She eventually decided to keep the dimpled Accord.
On looking over these pictures, I have concluded that this car almost perfectly replicates the 1949-54 Plymouth. Dull, competent, nicely appointed. True, there was the problematic Ultradrive, but you could avoid it with a rock-solid 3 speed auto. If I found a nice one of these now, I would certainly consider it.
This car was probably as close as Chrysler got to a really high quality product in Lido’s era. The cloud cars were so much more appealing, but turned out to be nowhere near as good as these for long term ownership. This car is proof – 250K on the odo (and nearly 20 years old) and it still presents very nicely. A very nice find.
Dad had a Spirit R/T….very quick car, one transmission, 1 head and 6 timing belts in 58K miles… Once the warrenty was up the car was traded. He still talks about it. It would easily pull my cousin’s 88 5.0 mustang after 90mph
Grandma had a Lebaron sedan. 3.0, ultradrive. It had the famous peeling paint issue. It served her well for years, was comfortable and drove nice. I bought it..ultradrive died at 88K miles.
I bought a 95 Spirit last year as a beater. 2.5 and 3 speed torqueflight. It was the same as all the rest. Drove ok, handled ok, could only squeak 27mpg out of it, but no worse than 25. Unfortunately the unibody was rusty and I threw in the towel on buying beaters as everyday drivers…traded it in on a Cruze Eco 6 months after purchase. The sales guy was young enough to not know what a Spirit was, and claimed to have never seen one. I got $500.00 for a trade…mostly a sympathy offer. I saw it for sale 6 months later for $3500.00 at a used car lot. I can only imagine the bondo on the underside of it.
The only thing that bothered me about them was the rubbery chassis on all of them. They didn’t seem to have a very stiff platform, although it never seemed to amount in any rattles…just a flexy feel gove over large bumps.
I assume you’ve seen Daniel Stern’s COALs on his Spirit R/T, which ran after this article? They shed a lot of light on the timing belt issue.
Well, Richard, you know I just HAD to weigh in on this after the call-out!
I researched these cars for a full year before we bought our 1990 Acclaim on the evening of Friday, March 2nd, 1990. A “foreign” car wasn’t even considered, though I did like the Chevy Lumina Eurosport, bright red-orange…
The 1989 models did not have a driver’s air bag and the new models seemed more refined because of having one.
Our Acclaim was gray – “dark ivory” with matching gray interior. Somehow, this seemed to be the perfect color combo for the car. They were trimmed very nice outside with bright trim bordering the wrap-around rub strip, the chrome lower edge of the tail light bar, bright window reveal and grille, plus a nice pinstripe to accent it all. If I had a photo handy, I’d post it, as I considered this car my “baby” and everyone in the family knew it, though wifey drove it after she relinguished control of our also-beloved 1984 E-Class in order to drive the newest car!
I always considered our Acclaim the spiritual successor to mom and dad’s 1950 Plymouth – it was gray, too, and just as reliable. Both cars were kept for ten years! Our Acclaim for 10½ years, total, with my daughter driving (and wrecking it three times) for 2½ years.
Our Acclaim was pretty much a base model – it had the 2.5L Torqueflite(?), tilt, cruise, A/C, AM/FM radio later swapped for a cassette player, manual windows – imagine my jealousy when wifey’s boss showed up with a brand-new fire engine red Dodge Spirit R/T with power windows a year later, not to mention all the other goodies that I couldn’t afford at the time, let alone the Lumina mentioned above – my GM “hate” softened temporarily!
Our two Chrysler products carried us to Cincinnati two years later, in 1992, and many trips between there and St. Louis for years after.
A funny story:
I needed the fan motor replaced and was having some work done on the Acclaim at a local Dodge dealer up the street from where I worked at the time, when I received a distress call from wifey; the E-Class quit in the middle of a major intersection a mile away. The timing belt snapped! Well, I had it towed to the same Dodge dealer and after I got off work, we both sat in the waiting room together with both cars in the shop at the same time!
The Acclaim was finished first, so she went home to take care of the kids who were home by themselves, but that wasn’t a problem, as our son and daughter were fine, plus we had good neighbors with stay-at-home moms. I think I got home around 7 pm.
What a day! We still laugh about that.
Overall, the Acclaim was the best car we ever owned up til that time. Of course, my 2004 Impala was far more reliable – needing only rear rotors in over 8 years, our 2002 CR-V, which is almost 11 and only a couple niggling issues, so we’re on a roll, but our beloved Acclaim will always be fondly remembered and occupy a very soft spot in our hearts.
Thanks, Rich, for a very nice article and for prompting a great memory of a great car!
Zackman, you were better off with the non-R/T and without all the added power options..
My dad’s was loaded (which I now hear it was very rare…I guess even most of the R/T’s were not loaded).
I was dissapointed that my Spirit was rotting away. I don’t blame the car, I think it was parked in a dirt driveway for most of its life, and probably never run through a car was during our salty winters.
The Spirit was the American Toyota Camry of the time, decen,t solid transportation for a good price.
1990 saw the release of the widebody Camry here nothing else really stood a chance. I suspect these dungers. wouldnt have sold at all had you got Camrys when we did
The US got the wide body Camry sooner, in 1989.
It didnt arrive anywhere else until 94 NZ was the beta test market.
I’m glad you liked your Acclaim Zackman, but I had to laugh at “Dark Ivory.” What were the Mopar color-naming people thinking? Did they also have Dark White or Medium Black?
I am guessing it was a gunmetal-gray color.
They offered Dark Ivory (a medium metallic gray), White, Black, Black Cherry, Cranberry – a dark red which looked flat, otherwise I would have gotten it, and Taupe – an awful beige-type color. It rendered the car virtually invisible! I don’t recall any type of blue or green that year.
In my very-biased opinion, as I said above, gray was the perfect color and it held up well!
I couldn’t locate a color chart on the internet, so that’s strictly from memory.
Dodge offered a color or two different.
1990 Chrysler color chart:
What’s even more ridiculous than “dark ivory” were some of the colors that Ford offered in the 70’s, like “medium bright blue.” How the heck can a color be both medium and bright???
I stand corrected: “Dark Quartz Gray” was the color, not ivory! Memory failed me, but it’s been 13 years since we traded it for a 1997 Cavalier for my daugther!
I have to confess that I have been wanting to find one of these to do a piece on ever since I read of your love for these, so I am glad you liked it!
A colleague had one of these, in this color. Somebody plowed into hers 10 years ago and that was the end of it. Even though she’s not a car person, she still occasionally laments the loss of her Acclaim, which she liked better than the 2000 Accord that replaced it (which she still drives).
I’ve always liked these, because I don’t think any other American car struck such an obvious (and, all things considered, successful) compromise between the aesthetics of the ’80s and ’90s.
Eg: the boxy body, but with rounded edges and minimal chrome, an eggcrate grille, but neat composite headlamp assemblies, and plastic wheelcovers that looked like softer, friendlier versions of the previous decade’s fake wires.
In all, it was the perfect generic ’90s American car. IIRC it was cast as the bad guy’s ride in ‘Hackers’ (which, as a mid-’90s teen, I thought a very cool movie) for probably this very reason.
These cars have received little or no acclaim (groan) but were an underground hit of sorts. They are still everywhere in the mid-Atlantic region almost 20 years after the last one was produced, which is a testament to their durability. Although I have never driven one, I was a passenger in one as a taxi in upstate New York, and I was surprised at the volume of back seat space in such a small car and by its general air of competence. It is much like the Olds Cutlass Ciera, or the Dart and Valiant in previous decades — a boring but competent and durable car that will survive as basic transportation for many years. The Spirit R/T version was certainly not boring, and I would love to find one of those.
These cars were always quite common when I was a little kid. Despite being extremely conservative in terms of styling, there was always something intriguing about them. Maybe it was the near-verticle rear window. Anyway the 1989-92 Acclaim is my favorite of the AA’s, especially in LX form with bright lower-body cladding, luggage rack, lace-spoke alloys, and bucket seats. It’s interesting how early 90’s Plymouths could be had just as luxurious as Chryslers, minus the Broughamtastic touches. Acclaims, LeBarons, and Spirits are pretty rare sights, at least in my neck of the woods. Although I can’t say that the Cloud Cars are any more common.
I drove V6 Dodge Spirits for the first 10 years of my driving career. My first car was a ’90 Spirit in “Black Cherry” with a matching red interior. I sold it in 2002 with 180k on it and I saw it around for years after that. I swear I saw it again about a year ago. My second car was a lower mileage gray ’94 Spirit which met its untimely end in an ice storm in 2007. I still might be driving it today if it was still alive. I miss that car so much! It was fast for its time and super easy to work on. The 3.0 V6s were super reliable for me, although they did eventually develop slightly leaky front seals. If I remember correctly the 2.5s had a tendency to blow head gaskets.
In Old-Lady-Ville Victoria, these things were chock-a-block and they weren’t bad cars at all, except for the transmissions. The Mitsubishi V-6 was hardly a paragon of reliability, either, known for failed lifters, oil leaks and head gaskets. This being relative, of course, but they certainly better then the GM and Ford stuff of the era. The best combination was the 2.5 litre with the 3 speed automatic.
Alas, like most American iron of the era in these parts, the Acclaim is long gone
I was a bit disappointed when these cars came out, I didn’t like the way they aped the styling of the N-body GMs, at least they did in my view. Also, when these cars were released, the H-body Mopar died (Lancer, LeBaron five doors), which were my hands-down favorite of all of the EEKs.
I worked for a multi-brand dealer back in the early 90’s, in fact, I spent most of my time working across the street from a Chevy/Plymouth dealership, and working there, too. (All three dealerships were run by the same company.) But almost all of it on the Chevy side. I drove a number of these cars when new, and the upmarket ones were rather nice. It seems to me that they have held up well considering some of the things that could have happened to them.
Other than the R/T version of the Spirit, though, I just can’t get excited over these cars. It must be the perpetual six year old in me, because these things (equipped correctly) are anvils and will run forever. And me, being cheap, should really appreciate that. Here in rust country, I still see these things running around, although now that they’re almost all 20 years old, I see less of them all of the time.
Before long, they will be all gone and we’ll (collectively) scratch our heads and wonder where they went…
There was a bit of overlap with the AA Acclaim and the H-body Mopars. I have an ’89 Chrysler brochure that shows the LeBaron GTS.
I remember my dad test driving a black on black 89 GTS Premium. It was a pretty sharp and rare car. Gold cross lace wheels like on the Acclaime, gold pin stripes, no chrome and 5 speed with the turbo II intercooled 2.2
I’ve only seen one other and it was black cherry.
The Chrysler Zone Rep I dealt with for a problem on my Lancer had a LeBaron GTS Premium Coupe, IIRC. That was a sharp little car, with the 2.2 (or was it 2.5?) turbo, five speed, leather, sunroof, premium stereo and the cross lace wheels.
He let me drive it to lunch and he was not shy about letting other people play with his toy! If I wasn’t already well into payments on the Lancer (and an infant daughter at the time), I think I could have been persuaded to buy one of those.
You know Tom, you’re right. It wasn’t too long after the H-body Mopars were killed off. I guess the other thing I’m lamenting was the idea of the mid-sized hatchback body style that I love but is only occasionally revived by different manufacturers.
Even as a kid I found it odd that the Lancer/LeBaron GTS was replaced with these cars, as they still looked good. A loaded up GTS or Lancer ES is still a good looking car (provided one can still be found).
However, the Spirit/Acclaim really caught my young eye in 1989.
What can I say, even as a young kid, I had rather conservative tastes 😛
Thank you for answering my question. One of these (same color) nearly turned into me this morning on the highway (its engine screaming). I wondered if it actually was a ‘modern’ K-car or if anything were different. I figured CC would know, and here it is. I’ll read the full post when I’m off work!
My father in law had one, a 93, I think. One of the daughters gave it to him with a lot of miles on it. I drove it quite a bit taking him and “Mom” to doctor appointments. When he passed in 2002, the car was given to a grandson. He blew the engine in a short period of time. It had 130K or so.
A neighbor down the street has one. I’ve never really talked to him, but last week, I noticed he has another Acclaim in his yard, in addition to the one he’s been driving. His wife drives a nice Dodge Avenger and a new little Ford, a Fiesta?
From personal experience, “Dad’s” Acclaim was good transportation. Just don’t drive it like a race car.
I had a ’94 Dodge Spirit with the 3.0. It was an auto, loaded with nice options and unfortunately, once the transmission went, that was it for it. My father searched high and low but could barely locate a replacement transmission for it.
Nice car, peppy but nothing really special.
I’m surprised that we’ve gotten this many comments, and yet no one has mentioned that Tina Turner was a rather bizarre choice as a spokesmodel for this particular car. She has a certain status as a gay diva, which makes me wonder to whom this ad was targeted.
But the money shot seems to be when they show her stretching out her legs in the back seat, giving the appearance of limousine-like proportions. It would work better if it weren’t so well known that Tina’s not particularly tall, at 5’4″ (163 cm). But as others have pointed out in comments on previous posts: In both car ads and adult films, using smaller than average people is the oldest trick in the book.
Hmmm….I’d never heard of that “status” of Tina. Oh well…
I found out that she did several commercials for Plymouth, including one I found when I found this one, for a Voyager.
If you look carefully, the front seats in the Acclaim in the commercial are shoved pretty far forward.
Nevertheless, the car had a lot more room than one would expect.
“Room for six.”
Really? Only one time did I ever sit three-across in an Acclaim, and we had our elbows in each others’ laps. (To be fair: I was in the car with a family of overgrown Norwegians.)
We used to pack 6 in my Spirit pretty regularly when I was in high school. But 6 teenage girls is probably different than 6 of anyone else.
A dark green, gold trim, ’93 Spirit is the ‘star’ of movie ‘Frozen River’. It’s even on the poster.
Melissa Leo plays a low income woman who drives people across the frozen St. Lawrence river between NY state and Canada. To her, the Spirit is her most prized possession, and useful since “it has a dash trunk release button”.
The one time I had a white Spirit as a rental I surprisingly got pulled over on the Mass Pike for doing 91… 91 without much effort… the officer nicely gave me a stern lecture. Said he could demand an ATM visit for $350 fine… then got a more important call and was off scot-free…IIRC… I appreciate that one. It was a Solid ride. Much nicer than a Chevy Corsica or Ford Tempo which were it’s main domestic competition at the time, again iirc…
A second time I was a passenger in a Blue Acclaim That was again VERY FAST on the accelleration…VROOOMMM!!! for such a grandfather car. Why did Plymouth always seem so stodgy?
I always wondered why didn’t they just keep the Reliant and Aries names for these cars, they couldn’t have sold any worse, they would have probably done better with the near decade name recognition that the K-cars had. I always thought of these as a K-car in a crisp tailored suit, by the time these came out, Chrysler was getting much better at making almost decent looking cars out of the K-car platform, to me the styling on these was inspired by the 1985 GM N-cars.
I rode in a friend’s Acclaim once back in College… I wish I could remember what year it was. It had a driver’s side airbag with standard seatbelt, and on the passenger side had a motorized shoulder belt. What a bizarre combination.
Was this common? I am guessing that SRS systems must have been mandated by this time, and Plymouth used the passenger side motor-mouse seatbelt temporarily as they developed a passenger side airbag.
That car would have been either a 1994 or 1995 model. As I related in the story, the Feds were mandating dual front passive restraints for all passenger cars by then, and Chrysler didn’t want to redesign the dash because the replacements for these cars were coming in 1995, so they used this combo as a quick and easy way around the requirement.
Oops! I read the article a little too fast, and could have found that answer! The seatbelt situation was so odd to me, I scrolled right down to the bottom and commented 🙂
Hey, did they make a LeBaron version of this as well?
My mom brought her Voyager in for service, and got one of these as a loaner. It was a gold on gold LeBaron with a gold landau roof. It had those pillow-tufted seats. It was like riding inside a bedazzled kleenex box 🙂
Indeed they did!
When I was seventeen, I tried like everything to talk my dad into letting me buy a gold LeBaron of this vintage. Beige velour pillow cushion interior, Infinity stereo, V6, I was in L-O-V-E!!!
But alas, dad didn’t want another Mopar in the driveway, so it never came to pass…
I wonder if the ALS hadn’t taken my father out two summers ago, if my six-month affair with a well-used PT Cruiser last year would have…
Well, it was definitely a cush ride… I remember thinking it was a lot fancier than our stripper Voyager van with roll-up windows. I always thought the softer lines of the LeBaron looked a lot more modern than the Q-Tip cruiser Dynasty and New Yorker.
These were decent cars. I had exposure to various Acclaims/Spirits as loaner cars at my local Dodge dealer. Every time I’d take my (now ex-)wife’s minivan in for the latest A604-induced disaster, they’d send me off in one of the Acclaim/Spirit loaners. They were all 2.5/3-speed automatics. Nothing exciting to look at but more than adequate performance, great room, decent handling, and a dashboard containing a full complement of by-gawd readable gauges. My favorite of the bunch was a white w/gold trim 1993 Acclaim (w/trunk rack…). This one had the lowest miles of the bunch and was also the quickest. Fairly durable cars, too–my ex had an aunt, uncle &and 3 cousins who would be kindly describes as ‘portly’, They had a 1989/90-ish Acclaim that managed to hold up to their considerable payload. It was pretty amazing that they all could fit in there, but they did. The car never missed a beat &and the 2.5 litre 4-banger never herniated itself. (these are the same family members that caused a catastrophic load-levelling compressor failure in my ex-father-in-law’s 1992 New Yorker after piling in for a trip somewhere). I had a 1991 Lebaron sedan (low-mileage old people survivor-mobile) for a couple of years. Same basic car, but it just wasn’t the same honest, no-frills vibe the Acclaim/Spirit had. (no problems wioth the 3.0 V-6 and A604 in this one, though-goes to show you that you consistently change the coolant and use the proper ATF3/4 instead of mud puddle water and it will last…) The Acclaims/Spirits still show up consistently on Craigslist here in Tacoma. You definitely could do worse….
Right after moving to Seattle in 1991, the grandparents came to visit. Their rental was a lavender colored Acclaim. Never seen that color before or since. Don’t even see it on the color chips, so I’m going to guess it was “Diamond Blue”? That car was incredibly comfortable. Amazing that the combo of a 4 cylinder and 3-speed automatic was pleasant in comparison to the family Subaru Loyale with the same configuration. Should have bought one somewhere along the line.
Had a grey 91 Acclaim as a company car for 4 years- 4 cyl (2.5?) 3 spd .
Traded in an 88 Tempo and was amazed how much better a car it was. Actually handled OK, and had some pickup. Would do 100 mph with ease, but so would the Tempo so that was a wash. My company had Dodge Spirits too, they were equipped woth buckets and consoles. Mine had the bench. It was grey on grey, and utterly invisible.
Since it wasnt mine, I beat on it unmercifully. I mean it! Car never complained, just ran every day. Nothing broke, nothing failed, nothing fell apart.
Drove it about 75k and traded it in on the next company car, a 95 Stratus. Same story all over again. I never gave those Chryslers enough credit.
I have longed for the day when Chrysler would revive this car, perhaps applying some modern contours, restyling the front grille, but retaining that classic profile of the rear window. Of course, I know that the Acclaim will never come back. I would buy this car again and again. The interior is so roomy and comfortable, the visibility is outstanding (due to the design and geometry of the windows -makes changing lanes a breeze), the dashboard not so busy and distracting as the cars out there today. On the highway, once this car is cruising, the ride is so smooth – with excellent excelleration. Many a mechanic has called it a good runner…one just this week told me of someone who got 300K on one.
I just bought one of these…a 1992…this is it in the picture…with the 2.5 3spd auto..it has 115,000 km (about 70,000 miles for the Americans) it is beautiful…well maintained, had the usual kinks worked out by the previous owner (of 20 years) and we’re hoping that it is as bulletproof as I’ve found in my research. I think it is and will be a curbside classic!
It should serve you well. I bought my ’90 (pictured below) at about the same time you bought your ’92, same engine/transmission with more than 174,000 mi (about 280,000 km). All I had to do was replace the belts & brake pads and it runs like a champ. I don’t know what happened to the original wheel covers but I hope to find replacements soon. The generic ones on there do the job but don’t really go with the car. The original owner was an older lady who passed it down to her daughter, who sold it to me because she was joining the military. Since I bought it I added 6,000 mi. with no problems. I’m fully confident this car will continue to provide great service and I hope your Acclaim does the same for you. Best of luck and enjoy it!
I wanted to like this car. I was the hoped for demographic – recent college grad, the kind of person that might go Accord shopping. The interior does look impressively spacious and I have a buy American streak. Looks like a sale, right?
The styling is generic car, a K car with the edges sanded off. The name was not my favorite, and seemed suspiciously similar to “Accord”. Too cutesy on the part of the marketers for me. But, it was better than “Reliant”, which always said “Appliance” to me.
Just another Mopar where they were no longer proud enough of the name use it again on a second generation. And Acclaim gave way to the Breeze, which blew off the face of the earth along with Plymouth.
Me too. I was engaged and went out car shopping with the future Mrs. JPC. This was the first new mid-sized Mopar sedan in YEARS. She was trying to decide between keep or trade her hail-damaged 88 Accord. I tried to be enthusiastic, but she nailed it when she said “It looks like something from the 70s.” And on the inside, it really did.
Something about that sitting in that backseat seams kind of Studebaker. The door and C pillar.
I agree. The Accord/Acclaim name similarity is quite obvious, to the point of being insulting.
Do you suppose her sister Dodge Spirit’s name was taken as part of the booty from the AMC buyout? And what about her other sister Chrysler LeBaron? Any marketing ties with LeSabre perhaps?
Yes, Chrysler recycled a few of AMC’s lineup names…
Dodge Spirit = AMC Spirit
Eagle Talon, Eagle Premiere,Eagle Vision, etc = AMC Eagle
Chrysler Concorde = AMC Concord
Chrysler revived the “Spirit” name dropped by AMC after 1983 for use on one of its A platform cars, (the Dodge Spirit) from 1989–1995.
Man , the “Breeze” was a “chintzy thing”!
My dad had an 89 Dodge spirit ES and a 92 Dodge spirit ES as company cars. Both cars were artic white with white painted alloy wheels, gray cloth interior, 5 spd manuals and 2.5l turbo engines. They were good cars for their time. He put about 100k-120k on each before moving on. The first one developed a severe leak at the rear main that meant he used 2-3 quarts of oil a day and he had already ordered the next car. The second one had no issues from what I remember.
We’d load up that car with 5 people, 3 kids across the back, and drove from denver to Chicago once and Denver to Dallas to New orleans the other time.
decent cars, rather boy racerish with the monochrome wheels and paint, but thankfully neither car had the garish red stripe in the bumpers like the spirit R/T.
These always seemed like the modern day Valiant/Scamp to me when they were new. I liked them for what they were. The demographic was usually the little blue haired lady puttering around town to the market or church. I remember my Dad renting one in Florida in late 1991. He loved it! He said it handled great, was good on gas and was very comfortable. I do see quite a few of these still on the road, a testament to the good quality that went into building these cars.
A friend of mine bought an Acclaim in 2003 for $900. He got two years out of it as a daily driver and it was a great car for him. It had the indestructible 2.5 litre/TorqueFlite combo and the body was in great shape. The original high mileage and daily use took its toll but it did the job with no complaints while he had it.
How many miles were on your friend’s Acclaim? What made him get rid of it? I’m just curious because I’ve had my ’90 2.5L/TorqueFlite almost 5 years and it just passed 177K. Thanks to faithful maintenance from both the previous owner and myself, it’s still an excellent daily driver and I currently have no plans to get rid of it.
I’ve had a few of these cars, I was driving about 60,000-75,000+ miles a year from 1996 to 2003, so I was burning through cheap, repairable, reliable cars pretty quickly, and I stumbled on the AA-bodies. These Acclaims and Spirits were really good in so many ways, but bad in a few important ways.
I started buying these when the Chevy Celebrities that were in my price range were too rusty to be bothered with. These cars were durable. They didn’t rust like most other cars in upstate New York, they would get flakey rust on the bottom of the front doors (the rears always stayed immaculate) and usually a small bit of rot on the rockers back by the dogleg, but that was it. The interiors wore VERY well. The seats had plastic piping that might as well been made of iron and the dash warped a little, but never cracked. The materials never looked any worse, even after a couple hundred thousand miles, and they were adequately comfortable. If you had the right color, the paint held up well too. (My first one was Silver, it never peeled or faded)
In my opinion build quality of these cars was better than the lesser Japanese marques of the time. A friends Nissan Stanza felt like a tin can compared to a Spirit or Acclaim. The doors always opened and closed with a heavy thud, the doorchime was a pleasant ding instead of a screeching tone or buzzer. The cars felt substantial, unlike the k-cars they replaced. The back seats folded down, which made loading them with my tools and supplies much easier than the Celebrities and Corsicas cars I was driving before or the Cieras and Luminas and I drove after. They were big for such little cars. There was no package shelf in them, all the space in front of the rear window was dedicated to the passenger compartment.
The drivetrains on them were rugged. I had one V6 and three 4 cylinders. I had heard to stay away from the A604 ultradrive, so all my cars were a413 equipped. Aside from the occasional stuck governor, and a smoked reverse band on the V6 car, they never gave me any trouble. The 3.0 V6 was the more reliable of the engines for me. The problems I had with it were ones that could be ignored. The lifters ticked, it burned oil, but it always ran smooth and quiet going down the road, which is what I’m doing 90% of the time, so I just topped it off with oil and the occasional can of CD-2.
The 4 cylinders needed timing belts and head gaskets, which was annoying because those were the kind of problems that would strand you. I also seemed to have a hard time with the hall-effect sensor under the distributor. It would cause the car to stall, but simply wiggling the harness going into it would bring the car back to life. It seemed like I had several of these fail. The grille was attached to the hood, so there was not much protecting the a/c and rad, but they weren’t hard to replace either. I hit a deer with my first one, and I was back on the road with a junkyard hood and a $40 radiator from Wheels.
The other problem with these cars has more to do with their k-car underpinnings. They rode strange. The front end would kind of pogo bounce over undulations on the highway while the rear would just float ponderously behind you. (most of our interstates here are concrete slabs with a couple inches of asphalt on top, which gives that rhythmic “thuh-thunk, thuh-thunk” as you cruise at 75 mph.) The suspension on the AA’s allowed the car to bob back and forth, which you could get used to, but it always felt like you weren’t in complete control of the car.
This only got worse as they got more miles on them. The mac struts would transmit everything through the body of the car as they aged, the front ends would just get loose and shudder over bumps, and the engine mounts would get down right sloppy, so hitting the gas or letting the car upshift on deceleration would make the steering wheel jump around in your hands. What you ended up with was a car that wasn’t really worth fixing, but wouldn’t die either. Cam-Cords from that era still felt bolted together well after 200,000 miles, but you couldn’t buy one used for $1000-$1500 bucks back then.
These AA cars were a pleasure to work on, any shade tree could keep them running. To diagnose a check engine light, all you had to do was cycle the key 3 times, and it would flash the code to you! The factory stereos in these sounded tinny. They had 4 small speakers mounted in the doors, but they were behind a grille, so you didn’t have to remove the whole panel to replace the speaker so it was pretty simple to swap them out. I had a Kenwood deck and a set of 5 1/4 speakers that lived in all 4 of my Spir-laims. Over all, I have fond memories of these cars.
I currently own a 1991 Spirit R/T and its a blast to drive. 5 speed turbo, 4 wheel disc with anti lock.
My dad bought a 1990 Acclaim V6 in 91 as a demo car. Fully dressed, 15 or 16″ BBS honeycomb style wheels. We both had heavy feet and went thru 2 transmissions in 285,000 miles. Rear wheel bearings were an issue but the brakes I think we replaced 2 times total. In 1994 we drove it from Central NJ to Orlando Fl packed with 4 people and a trunk full of luggage. We stopped for gas 3 times and I was driving at 90-95 for about 80% of the way. My buddy Larry had a 5.7 IROC Z Camaro and I routinely kicked his behind from light to light. I drove this car after my father gave it to me and it was the best car I had ever owned. Maintenance was as close to zero as possible. One day she just failed to start. She had the ol Chrysler Crank for about 2 years, but never failed me. I got rear ended by a Corvette in a snow storm and thankfully the trailer hitch that was on it kept it from any damage. Not so good for the Vette.
I had the rare LX package. Mine was a 1990 Acclaim LX with the 3.0L. It was a bad oil burner so I sold it to someone and immediately purchased a clean 1988 Chrysler Fifth Avenue. The 318 is much happier than the 3.0L.
I have been the happy owner of a Plymouth Acclaim since 1996, when I picked up a 1992 Acclaim (with V-6) at a big used car sale outside of Washington, DC. My father had driven a 1990 Acclaim LX. I liked it primarily because of the V-6, and that the keyboard I used in a band, fit nicely in the trunk.
It originally struck my interest because it had a V-6, low mileage (24K), a transferable 7 year/70K warranty, and did NOT have remote trunk release, an important feature NOT to have when you keep it on the street in the city. Didn’t think a lot of it at the time, but as other cars came to resemble jelly beans, I have renewed appreciation for it’s boxy,classy styling. The tan/gold/mauve color isn’t particularly fetching, but it hides dirt almost to a fault. The V-6 gives it plenty of pick-up, great for quick starts in traffic, and plenty of gusto on the highway. It has gone on many trips to WV, and has no trouble climbing (or going back down) mountains.
That spacious rear bench seat? Accomodates two keyboards(with oversized cases)stand, other accoutrements, and even a suitcase or two. My big amp fits right in the trunk, which the lid (as opposed to the “hatch” on newer ones) easy to load/unload.
I’m an old-Mopar guy, and the Acclaim has been the “daily driver” to back up my ’67 Imperial LeBaron, and ’79 Dodge Diplomat Wagon. In 1999 I moved into a building w/garage, so it has had a sheltered life since then. Paint is a little oxidized by now, but it looks only a few years old. It now has 110K miles on it, and still runs smooth/quiet, with great reliability. Always starts right up after sitting in the garage for weeks on end, even in the winter . Plenty of maintenance over the years, but the only truly costly item was the transmission replacement. That was 9 years ago at around 90K, and it has shifted smoothly ever since. The combination of V-6 and front wheel drive require disassembling what seemed like the whole car. Replaced motor mounts, and a few other things at the same time. Otherwise, repairs haven’t been extraordinary for 19 years of ownership / 90K of driving.
I don’t drive much living with living in town, but when I do, it’s to something where I HAVE to get there, on-time too. THe Acclaim has always come through for me. It has delivered me to many band engagements, errands, and any time I don’t want to use my nicer vintage Mopars.
The new(er) Dodge Dart is tempting, but compared to the Acclaim seems like a cheaply built appliance with claustrophobic interior and terrible visibility. I listen carefully when driving, change oil (and periodic maintenance) faithfully, and hope to keep it a while longer, when it too can be a “curbside classic.”
Actually having a remote trunk release on the AA cars are very safe. Unlike cars that have a “valet” lock on the trunk release housing or in the glove box, the AA cars have the trunk release lock out switch attached to the latch in the trunk. So if you lock out the trunk release switch, a thief cannot break the lock or the glove box to gain access to the trunk switch, they would have to break into the trunk itself to open it.
I have owned a 1993 Acclaim for 11 years now. Picked it up after my first wife and I split. Best $400 I’ve ever spent. I made five or six trips between Arkansas and Iowa when I decided to move (yep, used just the Acclaim to pack stuff in…it holds a LOT!). Set the cruise control and just drive. To my surprise the Acclaim is actually a fun car to drive. While it may not have the looks of a sports car it can have a bit of get-up-and-go under the hood. These cars have a lot of potential when given the opportunity.
Mine is a base model, light blue but in desperate need of a new paint job. I have the L4 engine, no turbo, but mine has the 4-speed auto. Nothing else fancy or special. All plain Jane stuff elsewhere. I don’t even have the tachometer like other have. Until recently, other than routine maintenance, nothing has had to be done to it. Had to replace inner, outer tie rods, ball joints (yea, the whole control arm assembly was the only way to get those), and I have to replace all struts and shock but the darn thing refuses to give up. I have plans to just rebuild the car the best I can.
I’ve learned a LOT about repairing this car. I’m not parting with it for anything. It’s a good car. The only thing I can share with other Acclaim/Spirit owners should it happen to them is when the car just stalls and refuses to start, like it’s not getting fuel. I had to change the distributor in mine because the hall effect sensor had went out. And when that goes out the computer shuts down all fuel supply. So, if your Acclaim ever stalls and won’t start change the distributor with a new one that has a new sensor on it. It’s the only way I’ve ever found a replacement sensor.
It probably doesn’t matter any more, three-plus years after your comment, but…no, there weren’t any Acclaims (or any other pre-’95 Mopars) with a 4-cylinder engine and 4-speed automatic. The 4-cylinder cars got the 3-speed automatic only, no matter where in the world we might be talking about. Also, that hall effect sensor is readily available by itself as a replacement part; no need to buy a whole distributor. Same with the ball joints; no need to buy the whole control arm assembly.
More about those Tina Turner commercials here.
In Carl Hiaasen’s black comic south Florida novel Stormy Weather, set in Miami after Hurricane Andrew, the Edie Marsh character drives a ’94 Acclaim. I highly recommend the book and won’t give any spoilers, but near the end of the book another character tells her the Acclaim doesn’t project the desired image for what she’s trying to do.
The Ultradrive was not the world’s first electronically controlled transmission. It was preceded by a sizable margin by the Toyota Electronic Automatic Transmission (EAT), first offered around 1971 on the T80 Corona, and later by the 1981 ECT, which Toyota claimed was the world’s first “microcomputer-controlled” automatic. The EAT wasn’t sold in North America, so far as I know, but if we’re talking world’s first, well…
We had a lot of these cars in our fleet. They were pretty reliable except for peeling paint. The light blue and teal green were the worst and Chrysler did nothing for us. Another nail in the coffin.
These were great looking cars. Everything looks put together well, while not being flashy. Smoothed edges without being boxy, and without being a bubble or jellybean.
Basically a Gen 2 K car. Completely new body design, but looks like a refined version of the Reliant. Similar to how they did the early 90s minivans.
My brother’s “89 Aclaim” was white/blue , like the leading pics. The inside had bucket seats, auto on the floor. it was a “6 cylinder”. He had /has a garage, the car stayed quite nice.
My mom’s “90” was black out/red in.
Was a “4 cylinder”. lasted her till 2001. The black paint was dissolving away by then.
The car had about 58k on the odometer; got turned over to my nephew. He knew someone who could paint it, got some “mechanicals” done.
Car looked, ran spectacular. He wrecked it about 5 months later.
These were very solid cars. You still see them around – how many other non-Japanese cars do you still see around from 1992?
I had thought perhaps Chrysler could have turned Plymouth into kinda the “American Volvo” – solid, well-built, reliable cars with absolutely no style at all (excepting for hipsters who wanted them for their anti-style). Just keep refining and refining and refining while keeping the cost down. They had the advantage of a flexible platform – they could have brought back the K-car wagon! Imagine people buying an American car for it’s quality and dependability! In some sense it was these latter qualities that sold people on the “M” Fifth-Avenue – it was by no means stylish, but it was solid, dependable, and comfortable – a known quantity.
Sadly, Chrysler couldn’t see this tactic as an option, so instead Plymouth died.
What amazes me is that there were some 2.5 million K cars and AA body cars made and today few are seen anywhere given those numbers. Whereas Mustang made almost 1.17 million and they are all over the place relatively speaking although most stay in hiding. I don’t think K cars stay hiding.