Battered Sleeper: 1991 Dodge Spirit R/T

Ever look at a tired project and think, “There could be a good car underneath?” My success rate at picking winners and losers isn’t too shameful (yet),but I’m struggling to determine if this rare Dodge Spirit R/T is past the point of saving. The cosmetics are tired but the seller seems to have performed an impressive amount of maintenance – but it could all be negated if this sleeper sedan has been thrashed beyond saving. Check it out here on craigslist in Connecticut with a $3,500 or best offer asking price. 

I do love the iconic “Beep Beep” front license plate decor, reminding us that this Spirit R/T deserves a place in the Mopar hall of fame of high-performance products. But then you also notice the dirty cosmetics and broken grill slats and it begins to get a bit worrisome. The R/T was produced in extremely limited quantities in red or white, and your options for finding spare parts are going to be limited.  Still, with the potential to embarrass far more expensive vehicles always just a clutch-dump away, the R/T’s standard 224 b.h.p is always going to be a temptation no matter the condition.

With cosmetic enhancements like color-keyed wheels and thickly bolstered sports-style seats, the R/T was a sports sedan through and through. The seller of this example is up front about the poor cosmetic condition, and the rear bumper is badly cracked and will need replacement. He has seemingly tackled a long list of maintenance items, including a fresh clutch, ignition components, timing belt and a new coil pack. However, he’s also added a cheesy Cherrybomb muffler, manual boost controller and a very silly blowoff valve. With the potential these cars had for being abused, you’re making a calculated roll of the dice with the tweaked R/T.

I’d want to know more about the rear hit that cracked the bumper, as the trunk lid alignment also appears off. The seller doesn’t appear to be hiding anything major, and that’s a plus – but how are you going to know just how often he cranked up the boost without fortifying the stock internals? That’s not to say this engine couldn’t take it, but you don’t want to buy something that’s been thrashed just because it’s rare. But let’s turn it over to our readers: should this R/T be bought and returned back to its stock condition, or is it past the point of saving? Lodge your thoughts in the comments below.

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Comments

  1. Chance

    It’s a tough one for me. I would really have to think on it. It would be very hard to bring this car back.

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  2. rustylink

    the Spirit has gone to the great beyond…

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  3. Michael thomas

    trailer hitch tells you everything you need to know.

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  4. rmward194

    I’ll say it. Too many doors.

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  5. bob S

    Lovely car. Chrysler was at the top of their game during this era. Wonder why they ever needed a bailout??

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  6. Todd Zuercher

    A worthy competitor for the Taurus SHO at the time.

    Wasn’t this car just listed here a few days ago? Or maybe it was one of the other sites….

    Todd Z.

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  7. Blyndgesser

    With the turbo, these are just the ticket for high altitude hooning.

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  8. Rustytech

    These were no worse than any of the other US manufacturers in these years. They compared well with the Celebrities and Tempo’s. Other than some issues with the upper strut mount, they were dependable, if not inspiring. This one though is beyond what I would consider saving. No collector value here.

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  9. Jay M

    These were lots of fun when built properly and taken care of.
    Sadly not the case with this one.
    That “Bumper-Humper” is more than skin deep, too.
    It’s a $1,500 fun winter beater, and you won’t cry when it gets a dent, if you even notice them…

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  10. Brent C Nipper

    Well I guess what most of you believe to be to far gone compared to myself are completely different IMHO. This would make a great project. It’s all there just some cosmetics. In just the past week my father had a horrible fire at his place. Now he has over 150 Mopars from the 40’s up. Many of my cars got burned up as did his. Unfortunately 1 of them was my 94 spirit non R/T but great body with tons of parts. Now that is to far gone. Remember everyone they aren’t making these cars anymore. The more not bought and taken care of are just sent to the scrappers. How many real muscle cars from the 70’s and before would still be around if we all lived by this standard? I say buy it and love it. Grocery shopper sleeper. Love it more while banging gears and blowing doors off new cars.

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  11. RJ

    Price is way out of line. Pull the drive train for something better I say.

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  12. St. Ramone de V8

    I think transplanting the Turbo III, trans, as well as maybe a few other bits into a Rampage would make a fun parts chaser. May not be too difficult. Either that, or use one of the many mint condition K cars around? Now that’s a sleeper…

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  13. HeadMaster1

    I used to have a 92 Spirit RT (silver), had the much better tranny than the 91. That car was 100% stock and stupid fast for 1992. Used to smoke C4 Vettes all the time while carrying 2 or 3 girls along for the ride. Mustangs and Camaros were easy prey. The speedo went to 150mph, had it buried on Interstate 10 once, probably doing 155-160…….pretty floaty at that speed, but FUN. When I see a trailer hitch on a gas turbocharged car I run away, unless the owner tells/shows me specifically what he towed, like a spare set of wheels/tires to a track event or similar. This one could be brought back easily, new bumper cover and reinforcement from any Spirit, same for the grill. The interior looks good, that would be hard to replace, paint is wasted, but white is cheap……..The price is fair, but be warned, if you crack that cyl head it’s game over……A LOT of Lotus in that head, you won’t be able to find one at a Mopar parts dept……BTW- I bought mine used in 92, it was a Factory demo, the dealer couldn’t move it as nobody that buys a Spirit wanted a 5-speed manual….I looked at it on the lot, test drove it even about 3 times over a 6-month period, and watch the price drop from $16k, to $14k, all the way down to $11,995, and it only had 7,000 miles…….Wish I still had it, but needed to get a truck, traded it for a 95 Ram in 95

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  14. Scotty Scotty Staff

    Nice find, sir! I had a “regular” 1991 Dodge Spirit (2.5, not the 2.2 turbo, unfortunately) and it was one of the best cars that I’ve ever had. I had a fuel pump go out in the gas tank and the AC went. I fixed the AC myself (new condenser, dryer, etc.) and it had 315,000 miles on it when it finally rusted out enough for one of the tie rods to break. I’ve always wanted an R/T, that is one tempting listing.

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  15. AMCFAN

    Too far gone? You have to find them. This is a unique performance car needs to be saved.

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  16. Howard A Member

    You see these all the time at monster truck shows,,,,
    http://monsterblog.lzsportsource.com/images/news/081906/usa2.jpg

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    • RX-7TURBOII

      Uh…Howard,

      That’s actually a dodge shadow…sorry.

      Close through! A for effort.

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  17. leiniedude

    Winter is almost over, but I guess you could save it until next winter.

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  18. edh

    I remember sitting in one of these in the showroom when they were new, it felt like the interior was made of low grade cardboard and outside metal seemed thin. It certainly seemed to embody the spirit of Dodge.

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  19. Todd

    That is a pretty complete car. If the underside isn’t rusted away, it would be worth saving for sure. Body parts can be found from other cars, and the engine components are still available (including the head). It is definitely a car you restore / refresh, because you like the car, and not because you’re trying to get rich at Mecum.

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  20. The Chucker

    A former co-worker of mine had the twin to this…he purchased it new. Although he drove it often, he took good care of it. If I recall correctly, these had the “Lotus” head, which gave them quite a bit of extra grunt.

    PS, my co-worker essentially gave away the car following it being a flood victim in 2008. The floor got wet, but looking back, it was one of those “shoulda coulda woulda” moments.

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  21. AMCSTEVE

    I see opportunity all over for the thumbs buttons

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  22. Terry

    I kinda like it .then again I like a lot of cars.not worth 3 grand .500$.like the other guy said 2 many doors.2door would look ok.

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  23. Csxrt

    I had one 15 years ago. Biggest mistake of my life. Parts were impossible to find then, the lotus head was guaranteed to crack, welding only produces more cracks because the quality of the head was terrible, the intermediate shaft that drives the oil pump often fails droping the oil pressure to zero and killing the engine. The boost controller and BOV are not cheesy, unless it’s a whistle type BOV, they gain you more power but the cherry bomb is definitely cheese filled. I boosted mine to 20 psi with other mods but the factory BOV won’t hold past 12 psi. At 20 psi it sounds like you are popping a basketball every time you shift. I scrapped the head and replaced it with a 2.4L twin cam from a 96 stratus. Cheeper, more availablity but the oil lines need to be replumbed, as a tool and die maker for Chrysler at the time this was an easy project. The engine was then placed in a lighter Shelby CSX because the RT was not mint and I didn’t want to spend time and crazy money chacing cosmetics parts.

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  24. Larry

    Rare doesn’t always mean desirable. Cherry bomb muffler. Trailer hitch. Beat to death. I love Chryslers, but come on, you’re making it tough.

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  25. Tom Driscoll

    I’d prefer a Shadow anyday

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  26. AutoArcheologist Member

    Is it savable? Yes. Is it a real sleeper? Yes. Would you make money if you saved this vehicle? Probably not… Why probably… Look at some of the vehicles grabbing fairly good dollars that just a few years ago weren’t thought of as anything… One really never knows…
    If I had a bunch of extra money, I might even make an offer.. but… I would need to have a LOT of extra money to that… enough that dropping $2000 wouldn’t mean anything… and well, $2000 means quite a bit these days.
    I know the area where this car is and I’d have to say that I agree, as well as based on the photos, that this car has been driven hard and put a way wet.

    Kudos to the seller however for a fairly good listing, especially for CL and for using all of the available 24 photos slots.

    Did anyone notice what looks like a Newport (?) parked in front of this car?

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  27. Bob C.

    These were the hellcat of the early 90s.

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  28. julian gould

    Why do I keep thinking that this is a Volvo 700 saloon in disguise?

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  29. Victor

    It’s a piece of clapped out junk.

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  30. David Boling

    It might have been driven hard and put away wet but so was the rustangs and craparows to. This was the fastest 4 door sedan made in the USA in it’s day. I believe all parts body wise are the same as a regular spirit. I have built several 2.2 and 2.5 to over 500hp and 1 naturally aspirated 2.0 and one srt4 over 500hp. This car is well worth the effort. If I wasn’t in a truck build right now I would be very interested. 500hp easily with 30mpg keeping out of boost. Maybe even more with that dohc head. So it has 4 doors. Just makes the sleeper appeal even better. You don’t know James Reed and his world record 5sp omni at 8sec or my buddy ohio Rob with a 9 sec street legal 4cyl shelby charger.

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    • John

      where do you find an ecm

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  31. Keith

    There was one of these here for sale about 2 months ago, parked on a nice suburban side street with a “for sale” sign in the window, in PRISTINE condition (amazing for NJ) for $2k. Called the guy, left a message, by the time he got back to me that evening it was sold. Cool car, this one is over priced though.

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  32. Kevin Reid

    These things were too far gone when thay were sitting on dealers showroom floors. Go find yourself a Vega

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