I attended high school from the late ’80s through the early ’90s and have recently been thinking about many of those fashions. School’s out for the summer season, and many friends have been posting on social media about their children’s graduations and acceptance into colleges and universities around the country. In my recent essays from within only the past four weeks or so, I’ve made reference to both buying age-appropriate clothing at my current stage of life, as well as having made a trip back to Flint, Michigan, the city in which my life’s story began. All this is to say that if some of my thoughts as expressed at Curbside have tended to have more than a hint of nostalgia to them, these recent experiences have sent my memories into overdrive. It’s fun to look at pictures with peers from when we were younger, especially what we were wearing, and also for many of us guys, what thick, lustrous, and plentiful hair we used to have atop our heads.
1990 Dodge Shadow brochure pages courtesy of www.oldcarbrochures.org.
Rewatching excellent and still-hilarious episodes of the Fox sketch comedy show In Living Color provides a pretty accurate snapshot of at least a few things many of us had in our wardrobes at the time. Included among those items in my own closet and folded neatly were an assortment of mock turtlenecks. I’m admitting to this because I’ve shared much more personal information in my essays without fear of being judged. The mock turtle: the pullover that was halfway between a turtleneck and a crewneck shirt, looking a bit like the latter from a distance, but with more of the informality and breathability of the former. In theory. I remember thinking about what a revelation they felt like when I first discovered them, maybe in the pages of the Sears catalogue. I could easily layer one beneath one of my button-down shirts for extra winter warmth without feeling like I was suffocating in class next to one of the radiators that blasted heat into our 1923-built high school.
I had maybe three mock turtlenecks in rotation at any given point in high school. There would be ones in the staple black and white colors, and then also in a shade like pine green that I would have chosen to try to look “older” and more collegiate. I also had some real turtlenecks, including an old, rib-knit, acrylic number I had purchased from the Salvation Army in the most 1970s shade of burnt orange you can imagine. That was probably one of my favorite items of clothing at the time, but that itchy fabric often had me scratching my neck. The resulting marks weren’t a good look, as much as I tried to convince myself that my classmates might have thought they were hickeys. I wouldn’t have been kidding anyone with that one, not even myself. I was mostly okay with not getting any action, as I had a lot to figure out and little to no help or support with that. Everything happens, or doesn’t happen, for a reason.
If someone had tried to tell me that the new-for-’87 Dodge Shadow (and its Plymouth Sundance twin) was a hatchback, I might have asked him or her to politely shut up and sit back down. I can’t remember the first time I saw one with the hatch open, but I do remember feeling like I had been tricked, and I didn’t like it. Chrysler stylists had given this de facto replacement for the Dodge Omni / Plymouth Horizon a distinctively notchback shape, with a well-defined rear area with what looked like a trunk, albeit one that was a bit stubby. I’m not talking about something that resembles the slight bustle of the first- and second-generation Ford Escort, or even what Chrysler had done with the rear of the larger LeBaron GTS (and related Dodge Lancer). The back of this Shadow looks like the trunk is hinged right below the bottom edge of the rear window, with a lid that opens all the way down to the bumper. Some cars were offering low rear liftover heights by then. But, no. This is a straight-up hatchback.
With the benefit of hindsight, I can appreciate that Chrysler sought to differentiate its subcompact offering from the competition with this aesthetic approach. The two-door Escort of the day looked like a hatchback. The GM J-bodies, like the Chevy Cavalier, were always going to have a more premium look to them, given that they had originally started life with more upscale aspirations to compete with the best imports. Hatchbacks still seem to carry a stigma in the United States for being synonymous with cheapness, versus their counterparts with proper trunks. I respect the hatchback, having owned an ’88 Mustang that was sporty (looking) as well as versatile, capable of moving my belongings from between several different residences, as well as being able to hold my bike with the hatch closed, or even a small banana tree I had bought with my father. Giving the Shadow a hatchback with the profile of a trunk may have given a Dodge salesperson an edge in convincing a potential buyer that this was a higher caliber of small car.
The Shadow was never on my personal car shopping list, but looking at this really nice example, which appears to be a recent purchase from a used car lot, reminds me of Chrysler’s resurgence by the end of the ’80s, capping a decade that started with the corporation narrowly avoiding bankruptcy and ended with a full range of products including genuinely exciting machinery like the Dodge Daytona Shelby Z and a very successful and popular range of minivans, a market segment the company helped pioneer in the United States. I paid attention when a convertible Shadow was offered from between 1991 and ’93, and even if I would rather have had a Cavalier among the small convertibles, I liked the Shadow drop-top simply for existing.
The original styling of the ’87 lasted for only the first two model years, but by third-year ’89, there was a slight restyle that introduced a reworked front and rear fascia, including composite headlamps, a revised, body-colored Dodge “cross-hair” grille, and updated taillamps. I felt the restyle was retrograde, making the front look like something that came out of a Mold-A-Rama souvenir machine. I know this example is from at least 1990 as it has a driver’s side airbag. Maybe the monochromatic paint scheme would make it from later than ’90. That’s really all I’ve got. (Shadow experts, please chime in in the comments if you can narrow down the model year further.)
The Shadow was successful for Dodge, selling an average of just under 84,000 for each of the eight years in which it was sold through ’94, with over 671,000 units having found buyers over its production run. There was a slight preference for the five-door over the three-door, with a 54% / 46% split among the closed-roof models over the long run, though the convertible did sell a respectable 29,500 units during its three years on the market.
It appears that one can buy still new mock turtlenecks in 2022. I’m all about mixing vintage and retro pieces in with the other modern clothing I wear, but I’m not quite feeling sartorially nostalgic for the early ’90s just yet. Wrapping up my thoughts about the Shadow’s faux-trunk, modern vehicles feature almost a complete reversal of this idea. Many cars with sloping fastback profiles that look like they would or should have hatchbacks have proper trunk openings, and I’m not just talking about two-doors. For just one example of many, the current Chevy Malibu comes to mind. The sloping rear of that car in profile makes the back window of the Shadow look almost bolt upright. The little P-body Dodge may have sporting the “mock turtle” of hatchbacks. It may not have started any lasting styling trends, but it was distinctive for its size class and sold well. That was more than enough until the Neon was ready.
Rogers Park, Chicago, Illinois.
Sunday, June 26, 2022.
Good morning Joe! Too bad it’s gonna be 90 degrees here in New Jersey today….I really felt like wearing a mock turtleneck today!
Great essay and great comparison. I always thought the Shadow/Sundance twins were neat little cars. They looked very much like their larger twins, the Spirit/Acclaim, but smaller and more compact.
Keep these great essays coming, as I always look forward to reading them at 4am
Thank you so much! I still remember one of the first examples I had seen in person as a new car. It was a brown five-door (which I had thought was a four-door) Plymouth Sundance owned by some of my newspaper customers. I thought it was a nice-looking small car. I didn’t make the connection that it was supposed to replace the L-Body Horizon / Omni.
Ha, “In Living Color” was a great show. My favorite sketch was with the elderly couple that kept trying to kill each other with booby traps set up around the house. In the end they would end up on the table trying to choke each other, and then their kids would walk in and think they were doing something else…”and we stillllll together!”
As for the Shadow/Sundance, it also took me years to realize they were hatchbacks, and it was also via seeing someone with the liftgate open in a parking lot. I wondered what was the point. Doesn’t really look like you get much extra room with these versus a typical trunk. I think Chrysler could’ve at least done the coupe in more of a fastback/hatchback style. Either way, they sold well enough. They were everywhere in the 90’s and early 2000’s, and now they are virtually gone, so nice find.
I own seasons 1 and 2 of In Living Color on DVD, and it’s just fantastic. I don’t remember that sketch, but now I’m going to have to rewatch.
You’re right about these having virtually disappeared overnight past the early 2000s. Even Neons are rare, and this one predates those! I knew I had to photograph it with my phone, or risk it being gone later.
Hmm, you’ve got me thinking about clothes. While I am certain there has never been a faux turtle neck in my wardrobe, I did once have something more abbreviated. It was the neck of a turtle neck only, designed to have the look with the ends resting on your shoulders beneath your shirt. My mother referred to it as a “dickie”. I smirked and she didn’t understand why.
Long ago when my father was entertaining one of these I told him it was a hatchback. He didn’t believe me. Your faux turtleneck analogy is quite appropriate.
A guy at the auto parts store I go to owns a Plymouth Duster version of one of these. He bought it new. Apart from the early 1990s flake-o-matic paint, the car looks great.
“My mother referred to it as a “dickie”.”
In the 70s, the dickie was a regular part of my mother’s wardrobe. I never understood why it got that name – I associated it with either the heavy-duty line of clothing for laborers or, well, what you were thinking of.
I like the idea of a dickie, as in recent years, I’ve rewarmed to turtlenecks and the look of them. I said the idea… in practice, I’d just wear the turtleneck or something else.
A high school friend had this generation of Duster, and I remember reading and respecting that they were decently quick. I liked that Chrysler had repurposed the “Duster” moniker, even if on a car not as sporty looking.
I was never into the Chrysler products of the late 80s to mid-90s as they just seemed like one rental car after another. Uninspiring, and something that seemed nearly ubiquitous. That said, I may have only barely registered at the time that the Shadow and Sundance were hatchbacks…clearly fooled by the mock.
It maybe should have made a difference in my indifference to these cars in that I do love hatchbacks. I have always felt that they were superior to regular trunked (?) sedans and could never understand why American buyers seemed to dislike them so much. Of course, I feel the same way about wagons, and am equally confused about the American public’s dislike for those.
I guess I’m feeling a sense of relief that many other readers took a while to realize these were hatchbacks, as I did! I also like a hatchback done right, and the utility factor is such a plus. In many examples where a hatchback and trunk-back version of the same car are offered, the hatch doesn’t give up much in terms of style. The only real example I can think of that’s the opposite of this is the third-generation Accord. The trunked version definitely looks more premium than the hatchback.
I recall liking these a lot when they were new – they seemed like a nicely updated second act after the successful L bodies. Also, I thought the styling on these was far more attractive than was the case for their larger siblings (Acclaim/Spirit?) which looked kind of dull in comparison.
I kind of knew these were hatches, but even halfway through this piece I was half convinced that they came both ways – trunk and hatch. But I guess not. I guess all of my interest was from a safe distance.
I never much liked turtlenecks, and the mock version (that was moving in the direction of something I didn’t much like anyway) was never in my closet. There are T shirts and shirts with collars, and pretty much nothing in between.
These definitely had a lighter, more jaunty look to them than the AA-bodies – which is in keeping with these being smaller cars less targeted at serving family duty.
Man, thanks for a nostalgic start to a Tuesday, mock turtlenecks, In Living Color, and P-cars! I had one mock turtleneck in HS in the mid 90s, with a Taghuer logo on thr collar, a gift from my watchmaker mom. I loved it. In Living Color, what a show….good times! Like Mr. Shafer, I had a dickie as well, I never wore it and forget how I came to own it.
My dad was nicknamed the K car king when I was in HS, had several at the time, but when he got a base 4 door Shadow it was a game changer with that hatch. He loved that car.
Yes! Thank you! I’ve got my turtlenecks all folded and put away, waiting for fall. Rewatching In Living Color may come sooner than that for me.
The hatchback with a sedan profile concept still lives. Skoda Octavia, quite popular in Europe.
Room for your stuff.
Wow – I think I have seen pictures of the Octavia. Probably here at CC. Definitely looks like it would have a proper trunk.
In the ’80s hatchbacks became synonymous with cheap cars like Chevettes, Escorts, and Omnis, and buyers started to avoid them despite their practicality. I’m happy to report that’s no longer the case, and many of the priciest cars from Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Porsche, Jaguar, Audi, and Tesla are hatchbacks and look like hatchbacks.
many of the priciest cars from Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Porsche, Jaguar, Audi, and Tesla are hatchbacks and look like hatchbacks.
I suspect that is a function of aerodynamic styling, which requires such a slope to the back of the greenhouse there is not any room for a usefully sized trunk lid.
Another great article Joseph, always enjoy your near perfect pop culture references. I bought a new 5-door-hatch Shadow in electric blue, when I was starting out as a graphic designer. The hidden hatch, and very competitive pricing, were two major appeals. Plus, the reputation for good mileage and ruggedness, they had. I kept mine for over 350,000kms (217,000 miles). Drove it to Calgary, from Ottawa, twice. With no major repairs, though I did take good care of it, including always using synthetic oil.
The downside to the hidden hatch, was the rear lift over was high. As it was necessary to maintain body rigidity. Also, the rear seat didn’t have a lot of legroom for adults. With the rear seat down, the space was cavernous. Otherwise, a very durable car for those looking for good value.
Thanks, Daniel! You make a great point about the need for proper body rigidity requiring that high rear liftover. I hadn’t thought about that. Otherwise, I’m sure Chrysler engineers could have given these at trunk that went down to the rear bumper.
Love that yours was a durable, long-lasting car. That seems to be the running theme in the comments! Great to read.
My brother-in-law who has owned mostly Subaru took a break with a Dodge Shadow America, their economy-package model. He lost control of it on the first day of ownership, spun it over the centerline on a curvy road just as a Plymouth Volaré was coming the other way. The driver’s door tore off and was dragged along by the attached passive seat belt, leaving him unrestrained. Allstate paid up to have the car fixed. The Shadow was a pleasant car and reasonably peppy with the manual transmission. Chrysler had the K-platform well worked out by then and it was reliable for 130,000 miles until he gave it to a neighbor kid when he bought an XJ Jeep Cherokee with 4.0L straight six. Under juvenile ownership and “maintenance” it lasted another three years until the kid got another Shadow, the “hot” version with the Mitsubishi V6, and used it for parts.
The Shadow, Cherokee and a used Chrysler Concorde were the least rusty cars he has owned (he lives in Pennsylvania where the rust worm is the State invertebrate).
What a bummer about having an accident in basically a day-old car. I always feel bad when I see a new car with a temporary plate out back and some obvious damage. For 130,000 miles, it sounds like your BIL got more than his money’s worth.
I always thought these were very attractive cars, but by the time they came out I think you’d be more likely to see a Saab in California, than one of these, except at the rental lot. As for mock turtlenecks, I’m probably 20 years older than you, Joseph, and I associate them with women’s clothing. But dickies … they were briefly trendy when I was in 5th or 6th grade, 1966 or so, worn under a button down Oxford cloth shirt and with black loafers. And white socks. Preppy, before the term existed. Perennially behind the times, I think I got one or two dickies a few years later in high school. My mom really disapproved as she couldn’t understand such a single-purpose and mostly decorative article of clothing for a boy.
I just like that your mom had an opinion about it. I’m sure my mom wasn’t crazy about some of the things I ended up wearing. Too bad I learned to tune her out much later than I probably should have.
Umm; the only thing I ever wear except in summer are black mock cotton turtlenecks, like the ones Steve Jobs wore (although I doubt he got his at LL Bean). It’s been my uniform for decades, worn solo or underneath a vest or Pendlelton wool shirt. I’m wearing one as I write this, as it’s cool here on the coast in Port Orford. I have a drawer full of them….newer ones for dress-up; older ones for when I’m doing grubby work.
It keeps my life very simple; I order three black medium tall ones from LL Bean every two years or so. Don’t ask about my “uniform” pants. Yes, I’m the polar opposite of Stephanie, clothes-wise, but it means I spend one-thousandths of the time clothes shopping that she does. It’s just very…practical. And cheap. 🙂
^^ This. I’m currently exploring and beta testing several options for a “Life Uniform”. I know it sounds a bit ridiculous, but since the recent lockdowns, working from home and coming back into the office with a permanent “wear what you want as long as it’s not offensive vibe” I’ve been seeking options that I can order several of that are comfortable, long-wearing, versatile and acceptable in most settings. Keeping in mind that I live in Florida, this mostly means shorts and casual shirts. The thing is, I have a pretty extensive wardrobe, much of which I don’t wear often or at all any more. Like Joseph, who’s only a few years younger than I, I’ve come around to that moment in a man’s life when he realizes his clothing needs to be “age appropriate” in fit for comfort as well as lifestyle. The goal is to find a few garments that fit the bill, obtain them over time in reasonable numbers and replace as necessary. The Salvation Army just got a big bag of quite nice things that I concluded I probably won’t wear again. The world has changed so much in the last few years, and my priorities with it, that I feel like a whole new outlook on dressing is called for.
Paul, I guess I’m glad I didn’t write more about mock turtlenecks! Haha I guess I kept it mostly benign, but this is all coming from a guy who regularly wears polyester, even to the office! I didn’t today, but later this week, there’s no telling.
Polyester is extremely popular where I live, among a wide age range. If you’re talking about Patagonia recycled polyester outdoor wear, that is.
My car has a sedan profile but the boot/trunklid and rear window open as one it will swallow amazingly large items and weight doesnt affect it the self leveling suspension does exactly that.
Kiwibryce, what kind of car is it again? I know you’ve mentioned it before, but now I’m curious again.
In 1987, my mom was looking for a new car and the Sundance popped up. She was excited, it was her first new car, and she ordered to her liking. Not a bad size, hatch was axnice touch. I liked the H bodies that preceeded it, if only for more room. She opted for the turbo 4 & automatic, was a good driver but was still the 3 speed. It later became Dads car for the rural route some years later when the next new car came.
I looked real serious on an early 90’s Shadow with the VVT (variable venturi turbo), but it had a life less than the original turbos, the vanes would lock up. I settled for a LeBaron GTS, turbo & 5 speed. Had a recall for the O2 sensor, which seized& broke off, got a reman turbo, oil psi came up a lot.
The turbo you’re thinking of was the VNT, variable-nozzle turbo. I think you might’ve crossed that up with the hellspawned Ford VV (variable-venturi) carburetor.
If the Shadow is a faux notchback, then my first car (an early-80s Audi Coupe) was a fake hatchback.
The Coupe was really a fastback, but its overall design – along with the popularity of hatchbacks during that era – led most people to assume it was a hatch. It wasn’t. The picture below shows what one looks like with the trunk lid open… like many fastbacks, it had a decent-sized trunk, but a relatively small opening to get stuff in there.
I like things that aren’t quite what they seem, so I enjoyed that quirky feature of my Audi, and the faux notchback feature was one of the few things I really did like about the Shadow/Sundance. At least it was different from the typical car of its day.
I only recently learned that the Shadow/Sundance had a hatch, and now I learn that the Quattro wasn’t a hatchback.
(Never touched one in real life)
The Audi trunklid reminds me of the Olds Aeroback non-hatch.
Awwww, yeah! The Audi Coupe – another late discovery for me of a car that looked like a hatchback but had a proper trunk. I still like these and remember reading about yours.
I’m on my third one of these. I was originally rather unimpressed with them but after my wife got the first one through an inheritance I really discovered their inherent goodness. Despite its diminutive size the front passenger compartment has plenty of room for a six footer and with the back seat down there is an impressive amount of stowage space. Even when I’m not carrying anything I like to leave the back seat down and pretend it’s a little hot (luke warm) hatch. It’s not a rocket ship but with the six cylinder it’ll do a fwd burnout and slot into any spot at the bottom of an entrance ramp. People used to tell me it looked like a mini fox body Mustang (back when kids knew what a fox body Mustang was). There are some caveats to long term ownership, namely body leaks which often don’t get discovered until corrosion damage is terminal. After the first two though I think I’ve learned all the lessons and should be able to make this one last forever. (I’d better as they’re getting quite thin on the roads around these parts.)
David, I have really enjoyed reading in the comments about people’s really positive experiences with these cars. I had never read anything really bad about them, but there seems to be quite the quiet fandom, even for the non-Shelby CSX cars, and I’m here for it.
I had never quite made the vague visual connection between these and the Fox Mustang sedan, but now I sort of see it. I always thought it was great that Chrysler packed a V6 into these little cars!
My wife will be thrilled to see her 1994 Dodge Shadow ES on display for you all. This one is powered by the 3.0L Mitsubishi V6 and has the 5 speed manual gearbox to power her out in front of most cars at the traffic light. She lets me drive it from time to time and even with 166,811 miles on the clock, it performs as well as the day I bought it for her.
That red one appears to be an ES as well with the single hood bulge. I suspect strongly that it has been repainted.
My wife loves it for grocery shopping, these days you can easily get $300. worth in the back if you fold the rear seat back down.
What a nice, nice-looking car. This picture looks like it could have been taken around the year 2000. You and your wife have kept it in great shape. This is giving me flashbacks to when these were somewhat common and could be seen in condition like this. That was a loooooong time ago. Long may hers live!
great article Joseph. I knew of the faux notchback on these cars; I thought it was a neat feature. I also thought that the styling on these cars resembled a better-thought out Fox Body Mustang.
Thanks, Alan. Yours is the second mention of the Fox Mustang in the comments, so I’m thinking others must have thought there was a visual similarity, as well. I would be curious to know what the difference was in terms of the interior space. As the former owner of an ’88 LX hatchback with the 2.3L four-cylinder engine and a 5-speed, there is zero question which was the faster / slower car between the Mustang and a Chrysler P-car! LOL
RE turtlenecks, mock and otherwise: I tried them about two decades ago when I had to upgrade my wardrobe from College Thrift Store to Full Time Office Job. Loved them at first, but within two or three wash cycles the neck looked like a cat was using it to scratch on. My (freshly shaven) stubble was just too bristly so I had to give them up. Am I the only one?
The non-knit turtlenecks definitely had a tendency for the necks to stretch. Not a good look. I also have large cranium, which exacerbated this problem. The ones I wear these days are knit versus just cut out of cloth. You’re not alone.
I had an ’89 Sundance RS turbo, which I loved. I’d consider that the year to have, any older wouldn’t have the 2.5 and any newer might suffer from some decontenting. I can quite easily find pics of 2 door ones that look just like mine, but mine did have 4. The seats were very comfortable in front, pretty awful in back for adults, but the interior was pretty rich. The dash was soft touch, the door panels were upholstered and carpeted, and the velour pinstripe upholstery looked fun. Mine was equipped basically how I’d have ordered it: loaded with a manual. It had the pictured pop up sunroof, delay wiper, cruise, power windows, locks, mirrors, and driver seat. It had the premium logic control Dolby tape stereo, too. The factory speakers totaled too small for really good audio, but woke up with some bass added. 2.5 Turbo I, 5 speed Getrag box with reverse to the left of first with a pull up ring, I think that was said to be “525.” The only front wheel drive car I’ve ever owned with equal length halfshafts. It really was a fun car to drive, but it only averaged about 18 mpg, which is similar to cars I’ve owned with much larger engines. I’ve heard the 2.2 might’ve had a more playful power curve, but the 2.5 idled smooth and pulled like a freight train. A long pull through 3rd gear was very satisfying. As shown and mentioned, the room in back with the seats down was really excellent, and I carried quite a lot of stuff in it on more than one occasion. It really was like a little luxury car, which is very contrary to the equipment level of most of them.
Exterior picture of a similar car, but mine had 4 doors. I had the luggage rack, which did rescue a cordless phone that’d been carelessly left on the roof once.
Since we’re running mind-movies of building the ultimate, If I were to drive one of these, I’d want at least a ’91 (airbag), with an ’87-’88 front end (standard-size headlamps easily upgradeable to worthy ones) and export taillights, shown in the attached pic, or at least the domestic ’87-’88 items (tail and brake lights big and bright enough to be functional; the ’89-up items aren’t). Engine and trans? Donno, probably 3.0/5-speed. Not as whizbang as the various turbo 2.2 and 2.5 motors, but a whole lot more tractable and day-to-day dependable.
But I’d much (much!) rather have a Spirit/Acclaim/Saratoga.
You’re right about the 3.0L Dan, it is a longer lasting engine, even though I do like my 2.2 & 2.5 Turbo intercooler cars. They are more ‘fun’ to drive. So far I have replaced the plastic tank radiator and I guess some spark plugs as well. Still on the original brakes, I do look at them from time to time, there’s still more left. It has had it’s regular oil changes at least every 3 or 4 years. The wife doesn’t drive too much lately, I just filled the tank yesterday, it will easily last until next year.
The Shadow/Sundance were kind of an odd bridge between the Neon and Caliber. And wasn’t the 3.0L engine in the Shadow ES and Sundance Duster? IIRC, they were latter-day versions of the Road Runner, i.e., cheap and fast in a straight line but, as FWD cars, there was lots of torque-steer and a light foot was needed on the throttle. In industry parlance, these types of cheap, speedy cars without a lot of refinement were usually known as ‘kid cars’.
In that regard, I think the follow-up Caliber SRT4 drove in about the same manner.
It may seem like an ‘odd’ bridge, because the Shadow/Sundance was marketed between the Omni/Horizon and the Neon.
I had a K-derivative (Spirit R/T) with most of double the engine output of a 3.0 V6, and with sudden-onset torque, and it didn’t have much torque steer.
My wife and I had a blue ’87 5 door Plymouth Sundance that we bought used from a Chrysler Plymouth dealer. I have to say that car was one of the worst we ever bought (right after my’ 74 Fiat 128). We bought an extended warranty for some reason and we got our money’ s worth from it. We ended up replacing the brakepads and rotors, the A/C compressor and the head gasket twice. After the 2nd head gasket, we traded it in on a Honda Accord. When the car ran, it was a decent car and I actually liked the ‘hidden’ hatch as it offered more flexibility than if the rear seats folded down but left the rear parcel shelf at the rear window, especially loading large or bulky items in and out.
Anyway, the Accord was a much better car in every way.
Having been a Chrysler Dealership Master Mechanic at that time, let me diagnose your situation.
You bought a USED car. No doubt with some miles on it. Depending on the mileage and the previous drivers ‘driving habit’, the brake pads could have been worn down, but as I wrote about about my wife’s Shadow, we are still driving a 28 year old car on the original brake pads. So, that is not the fault of the car, nor the fact that you were sold new rotors. Unless the rotors were excessively scored by driving with pads that had NO lining left, the original rotors would still have been usable with new brake pads installed.
As for the head gasket, it is obvious to me, since I did engine and transmission repair, that the first job was not properly done. I remember seeing a line mechanic replacing a head gasket on one of these 4 cylinder engines by merely removing the 10 head bolts and lifting up the head just a few inches, pulling out the old head gasket just like you would pull a thin slice of baloney out from between 2 slices of buttered bread. Then he merely slid the new head gasket in the same way and bolted the head down, likely with the same used, but stretched, head bolts. As the mechanic use to say, “Most of the time he doesn’t have a come-back, so why even clean the head and block surfaces, they only pay so little to do these jobs under warranty”. So, that isn’t the fault of the car either. Frankly, I got tired of hearing the customers “BITCH” about poor service, so I opened my own Chrysler Product ONLY shop and repaired cars for the last 24 years of my working career. I certainly had hundreds of loyal customers when they found my shop! A Happy ending for ALL.
Perfect answer. Don’t know how often I’ve seen a new user name at CC, trash any number of car models. When it is clear, it is a used car that has likely been neglected, and abused to death. And their blanket statement about any given car, is supposed to be credibly accepted as reflective of that car? I don’t think so. More a reflection on the person making the questionable statement.
Just getting back to looking at this posting again. I did not mean to come off as whiner and complainer. I have been an avid reader of Curbside Classic for a number o years but don’t post very often.
Yes, the car was used and that fact that it probably sat on a dealer lot for a while explains the brakes and the pitted rotors. We had a number of smaller issues like trim pieces coming loose, lights needing to be replaced, the hatch needing to be realigned to close properly. The smaller stuff I fixed or replaced myself but the bigger items I had the dealer do the work. It is certainly possible that we just got a bad car and that may be why it was traded in to the dealer. It can happen to any vehicle manufacturer.
I am not saying that Chrysler products are bad, just that this particular car was. A coworker had a slightly newer Shadow and had no problems with it at all.
The first brand new car I ever purchased was the 1990 Dodge Shadow 3 door hatchback right off the showroom floor 33 years ago. It’s a white Spring Special package 2.5L non turbo automatic cutie that still gets great gas mileage and is loads of fun to drive. The little pop in or pop out shelf in the back window really makes it look like a trunk not the hatchback that it is when peering in any of its windows. I’m the one and only owner of this little gem and it’s never been in an accident in all its 33 years. I have searched the web for years and can’t find another one in the same year and engine but if I could find one I’d buy it too! Thanks for remembering these fun machines in your posts!