Thursday, August 20, 2015

Badge Engineering: Chrysler Cirrus and Its Siblings

Chrysler Corporation, being the smallest of America's "Big Three" automobile manufacturers, usually tried to spread a single basic car body across all of its brands.  I dealt with one instance of that in this post.

A more recent case is Chrysler's JA platform.  JAs were marketed in the 1995-2000 model years as the Chrysler Cirrus and Dodge Stratus.   The low-priced Plymouth Breeze was produced for the 1996-2000 model years.

So far as exteriors are concerned, all three versions were essentially identical aside from grilles and a few minor trim details.  The basic body was attractive when introduced.  I recall seeing what was a pre-production or pre-release Cirrus when visiting Chrysler marketing staff and being pleased to notice the old Chrysler medal insignia on the grille instead of the vapid Pentastar from previous years.

I'm not quite so smitten with the JA design as I was at first.  Something to do with the aft end, I think.  The trunk is high, a practical detail.  But the stylists somehow failed to reduce the visual bulk.  Were I part of their team, as a start to the fix I wouldn't have wrapped the tail lights around to the side in their present form and perhaps not at all.  Then I would have experimented with a stronger rear fender line fold than the shallow roll seen on production JAs.

In the images below, I deal mostly with the grille differences Chrysler stylists used for brand identification.


From the C-pillar forward the Cirrus strongly resembles contemporaneous full-size LH Chryslers, but with perhaps a little less front overhang.

The Cirrus grille.  Compare it to the Dodge and Plymouth alternatives below.

The lower-price Dodge Stratus features Dodge's trademark "gunsight" grille bar pattern.  Note that it shares the low-mounted running lights with the Cirrus, a money-saving feature.

The Plymouth Breeze was the lowest-price JA.  Not seen in this photo are cheap-looking plastic-like identifiers mounted at the rear, though one with the word Plymouth in script can be seen on the front door.  The running lights seem about the same as those on the Cirrus and Stratus, but they are behind the lower grille.  The bumper lacks the inserts found on the other cars, so the Breeze did get a bit of unique tooling here.

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