Howler Concept: Have Bed Will Travel
Copyright © October 2000,
By Arv Voss, Auto Impressions

Lake Casitas, CA.- Dream cars or Concept cars, as they were once known, are wondrous and magical creations. The reason for their existence is many fold. Not only do they serve as expressive outlets for the designers of things automotive, they serve as showcases for innovative market research and product development. Concept vehicles play an important role in creating excitement in the public arena. They are often suggestive of future trends, and as a result are usually regarded as top trade secrets and kept under wraps until such time as they are unveiled at a major international show or some other significant automotive venue, amidst a seemingly unashamed degree of theatrical hype and hoopla.

In a great many instances, concept vehicles are for exhibition purposes only and may lack varying levels of functional equipment. Some are indeed mere designer shells, with no running gear or powertrain components at all. For the most part, that's not the way the game is played in the Chrysler camp. More often than not, the concept vehicles built by Chrysler (now DaimlerChrysler) are real world examples of automobilia - they actually run and are drivable. Most manufacturers are very guarded about allowing "hands on" examination by anyone outside company ranks, let alone permitting physical operation by non-employee types such as automotive journalists.

The Mopar camp has been the most prolific entity in the building of viable, production-worthy concept cars -- the design staff and management team have demonstrated what is without a doubt, the most progressive attitude and philosophy in promoting behind-the-wheel, seat-time experiences. This represents an unusually bold practice, in that concept cars, whether fully operable or not, are high dollar, often unlimited budget exercises totaling expenditures in the multiple six-figure range. Two million dollars or more is not an uncommon amount for a concept vehicle from the idea stage to a custom "one-off" show car or truck.

In fact, Chrysler recently staged venues in select regions of the country for the purpose of affording area automotive writers the opportunity to gain first hand experiences in operating significant vehicles from their concept stable over a tightly controlled, but demonstrative short road course at the Lake Casitas Park near Ojai, CA

What is it like to crawl behind the wheel of such an exotic and expensive piece of futuristic equipment and to actually drive it around? It is an unparalleled privilege that approaches a level of ecstasy seldom experienced by mere mortals. We focused primarily on Dodge's MAXXcab (already on this site) and the Howler which is based on the Prowler by Plymouth until the marque officially disappears at the end of this model year.

Specifications

Base Price:
$ N/A
Price as Tested:
$ N/A - estimated in mid six figure range

Engine Type and Size:
Jeep® 4.7 liter PowerTech V-8 with electronic fuel injection.
Horsepower (bhp):
250 @ 4,800 rpm
Torque (ft./ lbs.):
300 @ 3,200 rpm Transmission:
Borg Warner T5 engine-mounted 5-speed manual.
Drive Train:
Longitudinally-mounted front engine / Rear-wheel drive.

Suspension:
Front - Anodized cast aluminum unequal-length upper and lower "A" arms, pushrod-rocker arm-operated coil springs over low-pressure gas-charged rebound- adjustable shock absorbers,and stabilizer bar.

Rear - Multiple lateral upper links, lower "A" arm, coil springs over low-pressure gas-charged rebound- adjustable shocks and stabilizer bar.
Brakes:
Power-assisted four-wheel discs with single piston sliding calipers, aluminum hubs rear.
Tires:
Goodyear Eagle GS-D Extended Mobility (EMT) radials with run-flat capability (50 miles @ 55 mph), low pressure sensing system. P225/45HR17-front / P295/40HR20- rear mounted on five-spoke "American Racing-style chromed, cast aluminum wheels.

Wheelbase:
133.3 inches
Length Overall:
166.0 inches
Width:
76.5 inches Curb
Weight:
2,829 lbs.

Fuel Capacity:
Prowler tank is 12 gallons -- Howler tank has been repositioned and assumably enlarged, but specs not given.
EPA Mileage Estimates:
Howler concept not tested for certification.
Drag Coefficient:
Not listed
0 - 60 mph:
Not tested but estimated @ less than 6 seconds.

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 platform.

Chrysler Howler

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.