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Hagerty Employee

The 1991-1992 Dodge Spirit R/T is a gateway to K-car appreciation

Today’s Dodge Charger has a large following thanks to V-8 powertrains worthy of its Mustang counterparts, but how many Pentastar V-6 Chargers sell from the Hemi’s halo effect? Especially considering what the Dodge Viper did for the brand, the trickle-down effect of a flagship is a very real phenomenon. But what about another spicy offering that likely boosted sales of Dodge’s bread and butter Spirit sedan?


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K car and appreciation are two things that just do not fit together. 


Forgettable cars from a forgettable era of Chrysler. 


FWD cars like this and from the other brands are why most are driving CUV, SUV and trucks today.  


People never liked or wanted these smaller cars. Even when they got them right most were not big sellers compared to the trucks and other larger models being moved. 


If you compare the side of a SUV today it is the same size of many of the larger sedans years ago. My Acadia is similar in side to a 55 Chevy for example. 


I also have a Malibu. It is a nice car and suits my sons needs but even with a large trunk you can't fit much thought the opening. You can't get more than 4 adults in it and while a good car it just feels cramped. 


The 80's-90's  cars along with people discovering utility of the mini van and SUV created the CUV. 

Community Manager

Plenty and I mean plenty of people wanted the FWD Hondas, Toyotas and I bet some variants of the K-car too.  I know people went bananas for the original Ford Taurus, and I still lust after a 1986-88 Sable for my collection.  So I beg to differ. 🙂 

Pit Crew

I bought a mid-80's Omni GLH turbo new.  Wow did that thing have turbo lag.  But once it spooled up, hang on.  This article reminds me of that car.  Endearing is the word that comes to mind.  


I really enjoy your research into the more arcane areas of automotive history.  "While the initial product’s merits are perhaps open to interpretation..."  is an excellent phrase.

Community Manager

It's the best way to say I admire what Chrysler accomplished on the budget provided to them. Thank you for your kind words. 🙂 


My family had two opposite ends of the K-car spectrum.  My grandmother had a mint green on mint green '81 Aries (the only options being a 1-speaker AM radio and automatic transmission) and my great-aunt a fully-loaded '91 Plymouth Acclaim LX with the 3.0L V6, Infinity stereo and power-everything.  The Aries was pretty reliable but despite a pampered, garage-stored life and only 50,000 km (30k miles) over 22 years, the floors still rotted through (like every K-car) and it randomly caught fire one sad day ending its life (no body hurt fortunately).  The Acclaim also lived a pampered life with the stereo-typical "little old lady only driven to church on Sunday's" but still managed to eat a head-gasket, a transmission and a number of electrical problems that caused it to leave her stranded on several occasions.  Nobody in the family drives FCA vehicles to this day because of that car.  But there is no doubt that the K-car saved Chrysler, and while not everyone is thankful for that, K-cars where cheap, simple cars that could be fixed easily.  But you got what you paid for as the competing models from Toyota and Honda where more expensive but vastly superior vehicles in every way.


My '87 Shelby GLHS was a great car. It was quirky, lots of torque steer, and turbo lag, but most turbo cars built then were like that. The only issue I had was the ignition module failed at around 60K miles, but it was 15 years old at that time. There were a few other minor things, but nothing major and and the engine and trans never required any work. I bought it used for $7000 at 12K miles kept it over 20 years and put 80K miles on it. I live in Michigan and stored it in the winter. I sold it for $6K. Not a bad residual. 


These were cool in their day.  In the wild, though, I only recall seeing one certain sighting.  Being a coupe, not a sedan person, though, I favored cars like the Laser and Daytona.

Community Manager

I think the Dodge Daytona IROC R/T would be more up your alley (same powertrain in the coupe). 

New Driver

I had many kcars.Couldn't beat the gas mileage.Had an Acclaim.Rode like a cadillac.Had a plymouth expo(omni) 5 speed fuel injected 2.2 brand new in 89.That little car would fly.

Pit Crew

Had a 91 Spirit as a company car.  Wasn't awful, rode and drove decent for the day.  Didn't have it long enough to learn how poor their reliability was.

Advanced Driver

The K-car is one of the great unsung heroes in the car industry. Everyone knows about them, so that is something. Simple, basic transportation is often overshadowed by impractical (but powerful and/or gorgeous) cars. The K-car was Chryslers Model T or Model A... but the K platform lasted so much longer in one form or the other than the well known A.  few mass market, basic cars are well known and loved...  The K is more well known than loved, which isn't really fair, but the T and A were the same until the 60s, and neither would be so well known if it hadn't been for hot rodders. Those two were loved because they were so many peoples first driving experience as well.

Community Manager

Very well said. There's a lot to like about a car that saves a company and puts a lot of people on the road for not much cash. 

Pit Crew

I really liked the 80s Dodge turbo cars. I bought a brand new Dodge Shadow turbo ES. A fun little quick car. Too bad it got totalled. That thing really handled great. I would buy another one today if I could.


So, in my reality a new crate motor is not an option for my 84 Lebaron convertible K-Car with Mitsubishi motor. Any thoughts on what would be a reasonably easy conversion for some increased horsepower?

Community Manager

What's your definition of reasonably easy?  Aside from a Chrysler 2.2 turbo powertrain swap, everything else will likely require some fabrication both under the hood and inside the car to manage the electronics and maybe even to work with your gearbox. 


Brings to mind my 1986 Chrysler Laser Turbo.  160K trouble free miles, fun to drive, and the rear hatch would swallow an entire mountain bike fully assembled.

New Driver

I find it utterly frustrating that people, who should know better, Continue to spread disinformation such as this in this article: "to ensure Americans knew what flowers blossomed from THEIR BAILOUT MONEY".
There was no BAILOUT that cost Americans any money! There was a LOAN GUARANTY, and Chrysler paid the banks, that extended the LOAN, every penny!