Heritage: Prowler was a vehicle ahead of its time.
Today’s current SRT® vehicle lineup owes a debt of gratitude to a legendary Chrysler Group nameplate — the Chrysler Prowler. While not officially badged an SRT, the Prowler was crafted under Performance Vehicle Operations (PVO) – the predecessor to SRT. Nonetheless, Prowler is the sire of important strands of DNA that can be traced to the current crop of SRT vehicles, and aspects of its production remain an important ingredient in the modern-day SRT recipe.
After a 1993 debut as a concept car at the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit, the Prowler was well on its way to becoming a reality. Three years later at the same venue, a production version bowed, with the first customer Plymouth Prowler vehicles rolling off the line the following year out of the Conner Avenue Assembly Plant, also in Detroit.
The vehicle continued as a Chrysler product after the discontinuation of the Plymouth brand in 2000. More than 11,000 Prowler vehicles were produced, with the first models offered in Prowler Purple, and the final run of 300, after production ceased in 2002, trimmed in Deep Candy Red.Although the high-end, hot-rod dream car has been out of production for more than a decade, the advanced technology and materials used to bring the Prowler to life live on in current SRT vehicles, according to Prowler engineer Saad Abouzahr.
“For SRT vehicles, we decided to take the weight out of those vehicles and use Prowler technology,” says Abouzahr. “We created our suspension components using aluminum, and SRT vehicles also have unique aluminum hoods. Back when we were building the first SRT vehicles, aluminum technology at the time was still new. For us, it was taking what we learned from the Prowler in terms of lightweight construction and implementing it on the SRT vehicles.
All SRT vehicles today, as a signature, have aluminum hoods and suspension — which can be traced directly to the Prowler. With the Prowler, we had the recipe for these SRT vehicles.
“During the initial development and production of the Prowler in the 1990s, cars were made almost exclusively from steel. “There were very few applications for aluminum,” recalls Abouzahr. “We decided the Prowler was an opportunity for us to actually develop some of this technology on a vehicle. The technology was new – how do you do an all-aluminum frame? We knew a lot about how to join steel, how steel manages energy, but in regards to aluminum, it was all-new.”
“We had to come up with a concept to do a frame; the way it was made was called extrusion in casting, which was an all-new development process for us. When you put aluminum together using a process like arc welding, in some areas of the frame you weaken the material. We developed solutions to address these issues. After building the Prowler frame, we put it in a machining fixture and machined all the critical points, suspension points, body mounts. It was, and still is, the largest machined automotive part in history.”
The use of magnesium instrument panels was also a first on the Prowler. Benefits of using magnesium included the ability to integrate 25 parts into a single casting, at half the weight of the previous structure. This technology was carried into the Viper SRT-10 where over 25 sheet metal stampings were integrated into a single magnesium casting to form what is called the “Toe Box.” This part remains the largest magnesium casting in an automotive application.
“It was a very unique application, the first of its kind in the industry,” says Abouzahr of the implementation of magnesium. “Now, many Chrysler Group vehicles have magnesium instrument panels including the new 2013 SRT Viper. We didn’t know anything about magnesium until we worked on Prowler. A lot of the technology we learned from the Prowler has since spread to high-volume applications.”Magnesium instrument panels, aluminum hoods and aluminum suspensions, vital crash safety design. All are key traits featured on new SRT vehicles that originated on the Prowler.