The Howler was unveiled at last year's Specialty Equipment Market Association's
(SEMA) annual trade show in Las Vegas, NV. It is a performance roadster
pickup model of the Prowler that addresses all of the issues that were
considered to be negative about the two seat roadster. Howler is the result
of two internal DaimlerChrysler projects -- one project by DaimlerChrysler's
Advanced Packaging studio designer, Christopher Schuttera, dealt with
adding a classic utilitarian hot rod form to the already popular Prowler
design. At the same time, Jon Rundels, a Concept and Specialty Vehicle
executive, was searching for a a way to bring together, Jeep's® all-new
PowerTech V8 engine and Borg-Warner's T5 manual transmission in the Prowler
Perhaps arguably, Prowler's shortcomings included: the lack of a V8 engine; the absence of a pure manual transmission; the homely front bumperettes; and the limited (almost nonexistent) storage space in the trunk, particularly with the top stowed. The Howler nose is clean and void of those obtrusive front bumper fixtures and it steps up to the plate with Jeep's® healthy 4.7 liter PowerTech V-8 mated to a five-speed manual tranny with a 10.5-inch clutch, which is now bolted to the engine up front, rather than separated by a torque tube, located aft. The rear differential is a Dana 44 unit connected to a custom fabricated driveshaft and half-shafts. The cargo or luggage capacity problem has been solved by the smooth, stylized addition of a short pickup bed -- this would effectively eliminate the need for Prowler's $4,000 trailer.
Visually, the Howler resembles the Prowler sans front bumpers, with a lockable hard tonneau-covered bed replacing the sloping rear deck. Howler features not only a soft convertible top with a simple hand operated mechanism that poses no problem in either raising or lowering, but a removable hardtop as well.
The majority of vintage roadsters and roadster pickups don't have fixed windshields or quad projector-beam headlamps. Most don't sport aluminum frames or suspension componentry either, like for instance, aluminum metal matrix composite rear brake rotors. On the other hand, the tilt-steering and "killer" audio systems with CD players are not uncommon items. Heating and air conditioning are highly effective even with the top down should you feel the need to offset the exterior climate.
The Howler tips the scale at 2,829 pounds with aluminum accounting for in the neighborhood of 900 of those pounds. In addition to the frame and suspension, the hood side panels, doors and deck lid are stamped from aluminum alloy.
As with the Prowler, the Howler which is finished in black inside and out, is an exercise in exaggeration - everything about the Howler's design seems to stimulate a sense of technological excess but with a nostalgic flavor. Cycle fenders grace the 17 inch front wheels and tires, and unless really tall in the saddle, you won't be able to appreciate them from the cockpit. The humongous 20 inch rear wheels and tires are neatly shrouded by bobbed-style fenders. The chromed 5-spoke cast alloy wheels are reminiscent of American Racing-style mags. Howler's lines flow equally well with the top up or down, though down is obviously the position of choice from my perspective.
The Howler's road worthiness is phenomenal. It will corner with the best. The throttle is instantly responsive and Howler launches impressively. The manual transmission allows for personal control in selecting the preferred gear for optimum performance. Ride quality is on the firm side but considerably better than most traditional street rods.
The sound system is terrific for blasting out your favorite tunes while cruising local boulevards in style or booking down the open road at speed. Howler sports a 320 watt and seven speaker setup with both audio and cruise control switches on the tilt wheel. I personally enjoyed the sweet V8 exhaust rumble more than the sound system.
Bottom line, piloting the Howler concept revealed a wealth of things to come (perhaps... remember, these are only conceptual expressions) in exciting design executions. Howler is in essence, an experimental example of a future transportation possibility in nostalgic form. Concept vehicles represent an art form to be lovingly cherished and lastingly treasured - particularly those emanating from the DaimlerChrysler works and even more especially, the Howler -- it definitely gets my thumbs up to build.