In an attempt to replace to the Dodge Charger, the Dodge Omni, the Plymouth Turismo and the Plymouth Horizon respectively, the Chrysler Corporation debuted two new compact vehicles; the Dodge Shadow and the Plymouth Sundance. Around this time Chrysler purchased AMC from Renault in 1987, officially withdrawing Renault from the U.S. and Canada and the Shadow replaced the AMC-based Renault Alliance sedan.
The Dodge Shadow was constructed in Sterling Heights, Michigan and Toluca Mexico (in Mexico the vehicle was sold as the 'Chrysler Shadow'). On August 25, 1986 the initial car rolled off the assembly line. Built on the P-body platform, both 2-door and 4-door models were constructed using a variation of the K-car platform that was based on a blend of the Dodge Daytona's suspension with a shortened version of the Dodge Lancer's body.
Though the Dodge Shadow looked like it had a trunk on the end of it, it was in fact a hatchback. Dodge advertised it as having 'hidden hatchback versatility' and it became a major selling feature for the company that it had a large storage capacity. Introduced to replace the European Horizon, the Peugeot 309 used a similar layout on stretched subcompact platform instead of a cut-down midsize one.
Several Shadow models were modified by Carroll Shelby Enterprises and turned into performance-oriented vehicles such as the Shelby CSX, which was equipped with a turbocharged 2.2 L engine that produced 174 hp. The car was lightweight and had a good engine at a time when government emissions choked engines, and it was capable of acceleration as good or even better than many contemporary muscle and sports cars of the time. A version called the CSX-T was sold to Thrifty without the intercooler and was rated at 150 hp.
In 1991 a convertible version of the Shadow was introduced, the same year Dodge introduced a bare-bone, budget-priced 'America' versions of the coupe and sedan models. The Shadow, along with its Sundance relative, was the lowest-priced car on the market with a standard driver's side airbag. In 1990, this feature was made standard on all U.S. market domestic Chrysler Corporation cars.
For the 1989 model year the Shadow received a few updates that included a new body-color grille and new taillights. Other cosmetic updates included the inset sealed-beam headlamps being discarded in favor in aerodynamic composite units. In 1994 a motorized passenger's side seat belt added to the U.S. market Shadows in an attempt to comply with Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 208's requirement for passive restraints. Unfortunately these seatbelts didn't comply with Canada's safety standards. On March 9, 1994 production ended. The Shadow and Sundance were replaced by the Dodge Neon and Plymouth Neon.
The Dodge Shadow came with the option of several four-cylinder engines, all either of 2.2 or 2.5 L, some of these turbocharged. Naturally aspirated versions were fuel injected except in Mexico. The engines were tuned for torque instead of horsepower, which resulted in numbers that appear to be reversed from the Honda Civic. Later added was a Mitsubishi-built 3.0 L V6, which eventually led to the deletion of the turbo option. All of these versions were available with a five-speed manual transmission. Optional on the 4 cylinder equipped cars was a 3 speed automatic based upon the Chrysler Torqueflite and a 4 speed automatic 41TE was optional on the V6 powered cars. The manual transmission was updated in 1990 to make shifting into reverse easier.
Over the model years, the features varied with some including power mirrors, power windows, power door locks, tilt wheel, cruise control, variable intermittent delay wipes, compass/temperature display, overhead console with map lights, upgraded 'highline' instrument cluster with tachometer, glove box, 'light package' that added lighting in the trunk, under-hood mounted light and rear door dome light switches, rear defroster, remote trunk release, mag wheels, fog lights, convertible top, power drive side seat and infinity sound system. The turbocharger-equipped cars featured a vacuum/boost gauge and message center that monitored four vehicle functions, washer fluid level, door open, etc. Depending on the trim level, four-wheel disc brakes were optional.
In 1990, driver side airbags were made standard which gave the Dodge Shadow a extraordinary crash test rating for a car of its size at the time.
Chrysler offered the Dodge Shadow in a few European markets between April 1988 and 1991. Dubbed Chrysler ES, it was basically the Dodge Shadow ES, just without any 'Shadow' badges. Only available as a 3-door hatchback, the Chrysler ES's standard engine was the fuel injected 2.2L, with an optional turbocharger. The 2.2L was replaced by a more updated 2.5 L unit for 1989. A three-speed automatic was available as an additional-cost option, while the engine was mated to a standard five-speed manual transmission. Unfortunately European sales figures were quite low and sales of the Chrysler ES ended in mid 1991.By Jessica Donaldson