Friday, December 9, 2016

The tragic story of a forlorn orphan that just wanted a forever home

I was walking around in a daze on the morning of November 9th this year like much of America when I spotted something even less likely than the election results. Imagine my surprise when a guy out of blue collar PA central casting parked this rig in a diner parking lot:
Hens teeth! Unicorn! These are the terms for a car so rare that you assume you'll never see one in the wild. Both apply to this brick: a 1990-1992 Dodge Monaco ES in Dark Baltic Blue Poly.
This is the totally ignored product of a failed marriage between 2 doomed automakers. Renault designed the car before leaving the U.S. for good in tandem with AMC just as they were being bought out by Chrysler. Sometimes a car just falls through the cracks after a bailout or merger (I'm looking at you Saab). Other times the right car comes along at the wrong time (what's up Edsel?). Occasionally something like this accidentally comes along and the world turns its back. 
The Chrysler Pentastar can be seen on the front fender trim in the above pic. I imagine that piece of trim being impossible to locate if you were ever in an accident.
 The ES was the top trim level, bringing with it a cassette player, air conditioning, better brakes and suspension, and this fancy two-tone paint. None of those comforts helped fill the empty feeling of being the only person you'll ever meet that actually owns a Monaco.
When AMC was on the ropes and coasting on only the Jeep brand it worked in concert with Renault to bring offerings like the Alliance to the States. Chrysler came along to buy out AMC (pretty much for Jeep) and renamed the non-Jeep offerings Eagle. There is even a one year curiosity from this moment when the AMC Eagle continued on as the Eagle Eagle!
 This ride was supposed to be an Eagle Premier, and indeed several were sold as such. When Chrysler read the fine print and saw that it had agreed to buy 260,000 of the Renault V6 engines meant for the Premier they decided to rebadge some as the Dodge Monaco. While the Premier had a 4 cylinder option the Monaco was literally only made to get rid of the V6s and as a result it was the only available engine choice. 
Unfortunately it was a spectacular failure as a mere 21,549 Monacos were produced over the entire 3 year run. This is a terribly low number for a brand-new offering from one of the Big Three automakers. To put it in perspective its sibling the Dodge Dynasty sold 95,000 units in 1990 alone! In the final year of 1992 only 1,960 Monacos were sold. The vice president of the Chrysler Corporation actually stated on the record that this car was unsellable. 
Some claimed that Chrysler didn't know how to properly market the car. Others point to the fact that Chrysler had too many different brands and divisions at once. Regardless it just didn't work out.
Well there you have it; one of the lowest production number vehicles Dodge ever produced. This is supposedly a well built ride meant to compete with the likes of Audi, Acura, and Lexus. Distrust of a retreating Renault pedigree along with the baggage of an AMC heritage while they were dissolving created the perfect storm. The Merkur line from Ford Europe was similar with its Xr4ti and Scorpio offerings, but this was such a fizzle it barely rated a mention. If you see one for sale and have a fetish for rare or forgotten cars by all means grab it, but be warned; finding replacement parts for this is about as close to impossible as it gets.

No comments:

Post a Comment