I will preface this that one of my friends from high school (Thanks Frank), has owned one of these cars for 20 years and his father also has one.
With that said this is one of the most unassuming sports sedans you will ever see. In fact in 1991 it was advertised as “the fastest sedan made in America”. Yes it had more horsepower than the vaulted Ford Taurus SHO.
So it’s coming up on 25 years and with Dodge really going all out with Hellcat Charger and Challenger its important to remember their storied Mopar performance past.
This car was to continue the relationship with Dodge and the great car builder (now deceased), Carroll Shelby but Dodge built the car without him.
You have to look closely to see the differences of this from a regular Dodge Spirit, in 1991 there was the red color available with the red markings on the rims (“snowflake”), and it was powered by a 2.2 turbocharged four cylinder engine making 224 horsepower. It was also available in white, which matching wheels.
That engine used a Garret turbocharger and Lotus made the head on it, it’s that legendary Chrysler turbocharging. One recognizable trait for these cars is on the side moldings it says “R/T”.
This was not Dodge’s first turbocharged 2.2 liter engine, previous models used it including the Omni GLH (which is said to stand for “Goes like hell”), Shadow CSX and Daytona Shelby.
But this car was the first to use the 2.2 engine with four valves per cylinder.
The manual transmission was manufactured by New Venture Gear in upstate New York. Enthusiasts (and there is a whole “turbo Dodge community”), state that this car’s “power gear” is second gear. If you have ever driven a manual you know often you can start from second gear (instead of first), but for that to be your “pop” is impressive.
In the manual transmissions cars I’ve had, I always liked downshifting to third but those cars weren’t turbos either, hence why people love them.
There is a lesser potent turbo version that was manufactured with a 2.5 turbocharged engine but only making 165 horsepower and the big difference was (outside of power), is the R/T only came with a manual transmission and the less powerful 2.5 turbo was an automatic transmission.
Aesthetically the R/T had the color matching wheels, in 1992 the rims changed but were still color coded. No other Spirit had that option, the seats were also unique.
Only 1300 of these cars were made in their two year run making them fairly rare. I often check to see if there are any for sale and there is one for sale in an online auction that has some issues, not sure what the true value of these cars because its rare, very few come to market.
If you use an online price guide it will give you a ridiculously low number but if you follow the collector car business you know many older cars with any slight uniqueness or rarity has skyrocketed in price the last few years. Or at least the asking price has shot up, not sure if the true market value is actually high on so many cars.
There is local car of the lesser 2.5 turbo version (which says “turbo” on the side moldings and not “R/T”), that is on the market (for sale by private owner), for $ 5,000, it’s a low mileage car but not of the potency or rarity of the R/T. It’s a nice car don’t get me wrong but when you get into older cars, especially those that have special details, it’s important to note which level of options that car has and what makes it special.
And the Dodge Spirit R/T is definitely special.
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Filed under: Cars