Dan Trent: Plymouth Prowler – unlike anything else on the road

07th February 2017
dan_trent_headshot.jpg Dan Trent

Palm Springs is a funny old place. A couple of hours out of LA, it's part-hedonistic party town and part-god's waiting room for wealthy Californians to live out their dotage playing golf. How to put this tactfully… when they're done with their golf their possessions often end up in the many thrift shops in the town where lovers of retro trinkets and furniture can pick up real bargains. 


Same applies to their cars. McCormick's Auctions in the centre of town is an essential visit and offers up some jaw-dropping machinery, from muscle cars to aircraft carrier sized Cadillacs. Last time I was there they had a beige Rinspeed flatnose 911, complete with Testarossa body kit that couldn't have been more 80s if it tried. It was, of course, awful, but spectacularly so.

Anyway, I've just been back to McCormick's and maybe it was the desert sunshine doing odd things to my tyre-kicking senses or just the jet lag but I found myself oddly drawn to this Plymouth Prowler. Complete with trailer. Back at the hotel I proudly Tweeted pictures of it to the folks back home to general incredulity. Over a beer in the hotel, I did some reading up. Things didn't get much better.           

"A flaccid little jerk of a car that threatened much but delivered little," concludes the entry to Time's '50 worst cars of all time'. Criticisms included the knock-off hot-rod looks combined with distinctly tepid 214bhp 3.5-litre V6 in place of the muscular Hemi V8 most expected. That and the automatic gearbox, total lack of boot space (explains, if not excuses, the trailer I guess) and flaky build add up to a car that seems a standing joke among serious car nuts. 


What a joyless bunch. I'm not expecting a car that looks like the Prowler to be the last word in dynamic prowess. But it looks a right laugh. And, you know what, there are those who actually rate them more generously. A Car and Driver review is much more generous, praising the lack of weight, the handling balance with the transaxle-mounted gearbox and the ability to exercise a degree of control over the AutoStick transmission. Fancy pushrod suspension is pretty cool too and if the handling is a little raw out of the box I'm sure some fancy springs and dampers and a bit of set-up expertise could make it a satisfying steer.

I know, it's a bit daft looking. And a shameless corporate rip-off of the proud renegade hot-rod scene. But it is genuinely mad looking for a car built by a mainstream manufacturer and, at the very least, more appealing than a PT Cruiser. Although an auction house it did have a price sticker in the window of $32,500, plus 5% buyer's fee. With the sun going to my head I wondered if "call it $30,000 and you can keep the trailer" might be worth a punt. I didn't. But that hasn't stopped me seeing if there are any for sale back home. And guess what, there's one just up the road in Harrogate with the later 253bhp motor for similar money. Will it make as much sense in a genteel Yorkshire spa town as it does in sun-drenched Palm Springs? I may have to pop over and kick tyres to find out…

  • Dan Trent

  • plymouth

  • Prowler

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