My Car Quest

November 22, 2017

Future Collectable: Chrysler Crossfire

by Wallace Wyss and David Lawrence Silver –

O.K. admit it, the Chrysler Crossfire got by you. It came. It went. Gone forever.

You never see them.

But we are here and now putting forward the contention that it’s the next collectable–the next car to buy.

Fast appreciating? No.

Fun to drive? Yes.

Rare? Yes.

Chrysler Crossfire

Chrysler Crossfire

The Chrysler Crossfire was the progeny of the marriage of Daimler and Chrysler. At first it seemed Daimler was proud of its American spouse, giving them chassis to build cars on for the American market (the Chrysler 300 is still built on an ancient Mercedes chassis design).

But then, for some mysterious reason, Daimler soured on Chrysler and couldn’t wait to dump their American spouse at a loss.

The Chrysler Crossfire was a child of that marriage and we’ve decided that, roughly ten years on, it is worth talking about, worth remembering and worth buying.

One reason it’s worth remembering is that the final product, the production car, retains a lot of the original art deco touches that made the Concept so fresh and exciting. True, Chrysler threw out the split windshield, and the “spine” that reminded you of a Bugatti Atlantic but the Crossfire show car still looked different than anything out there at the time.

Chrysler Crossfire concept

2001 Chrysler Crossfire Concept Vehicle

What makes production Chrysler Crossfires suddenly more collectable than they were is that you can find them on Craigslist.com for $6,000. That is a small fraction of their original price, which was over $30,000.

The car was first introduced as a coupe. Then came the roadster, also soon after came the SRT6 versions of both Coupe and Roadster.

The beauty of the car, besides its nice finish inside and out, is that it was a “purebred” underneath–a Mercedes SLK roadster.
Under the bonnet was a 3.2-liter 90-degree V-6, 18-valve SOHC engine available with a six-speed manual or a five-speed automatic transmission.

Chrysler Crossfire Roadster

Now we consider the roadster to be the more collectable of the two. The coupe is, true, more like the prototype in styling but the convertible is sportier.

Chrysler Crossfire

Unfortunately it is not a hardtop convertible which we believe Mercedes already had in the pipeline but for some reason they considered the hardtop not necessary to sell the open version or didn’t want to steal sales from Mercedes. And there is a faction in car design studios that feels convertibles should have cloth tops. Not saying it’s right, but it’s more traditional.

The Chrysler Crossfire roadster had a bit of a tapered, ‘boat tail’ appearance but not as much as the coupe. The whole design played up the sports car’s mammoth rear wheels.

Both the coupe and the roadster had a gadget worth loving the car for–a retractable spoiler which extends itself on little arms when the car reaches 60 miles per hour. The center high-mounted stop lamp (CHMSL) runs the width of the deployable rear spoiler.

On the roadster, there’s two race-inspired fairings integrated into the top of the tonneau cover to give it a modern look.

One thing I think was a bad decision was the metal surround of the convertible top boot was not chrome but black finished metal, which makes the car look cheap. What’s wrong with a little chrome to doll a car up?

Oddly the car had 19-inch rear wheels and 18-inche in the front. That gave it an aggressive stance, but if you had a flat what if you had the wrong size spare? Actually it gets worse–there was, in fact, no spare, just the air inflation bottle and your auto club card which calls the tow truck.

Chrysler Crossfire

Chrysler Crossfire

Chrysler claimed only one out of every 150,000 people endures a flat, so why bother with having a spare tire to cope with that? Sounds fine until you have a flat. Unfortunately that is the way of the world with many cars now we’re ten years down the road.

Another styling faux pax was the grooves in the hood. Now we can remember, in the Chris Craft speedboats of the 1930s, the wood in the bow had grooves because each is a separate piece but you lost us–tell us again why this is useful in a car?

THE INTERIOR

The Chrysler Crossfire interior looks like a lot of brushed metal, which, sign of the times, get used to it, is plastic. Still it’s a nice satin finished plastic. And with certain colors of leather, was, and is, beautiful.

Seats were done in leather with Chrysler’s signature winged badge embossed into both headrests.

Precise, elegant gauges are traditional white-on-black with a black bezel and satin silver trim ring.

Chrysler Crossfire Interior

GRAND PLAN GOES SOUR

Chrysler Group planned to build 20,000 Crossfires per year, with approximately 15 percent of production destined for markets outside North America.

Fans of the Karmann Ghia will be surprised to find out that the car was built by Karmann, who not only built the Karmann Ghia but some Porsche 356 cars.

THE ENGINE

The 3.2-litre V-6 engine powering Chrysler Crossfire was manufactured at Daimler Chrysler’s V-engine plant in Úntertuerkheim, Germany.

This all-aluminum, SOHC, 18-valve engine weighs just 140 kg and produces 160 kW and 310 Nm of torque. We drove the cars and remember them being light, responsive, smooth-revving and ultra-reliable.

Chrysler Crossfire

The engine was designed to deliver high torque across a broad band of engine speeds. While maximum torque is generated at just 3,000 rpm, over 90 percent of maximum torque is available from 2,600-to-5,300 rpm, and 98 percent is available from 3,000-to-4,500 rpm.

Chrysler bragged at the time the car would go from 0-to-100 km/h (62 mph) in just 6.5 seconds.

THEIR OWN AMG

Now Mercedes has the AMG prefix for highly tuned cars you can buy off the showroom floor. Chrysler’s name for their tweaked cars is SRT so there was an SRT version. The Chrysler Crossfire SRT-6 featured a hand-built 330 hp 3.2-liter supercharged engine, with a more performance-tuned ride and handling.

The only trouble is that SRT version threw out the extendable spoiler that normally hid in the rear deck and put in its place a fixed in place “dumb” spoiler that looked left over from some muscle car of the ‘60s. True it had a lot more square inches and no doubt laid down more downforce, but it wasn’t trick like the extendable spoiler.

Plus the SRT was only available with an automatic instead of the six speed manual. What’s the sense of having an automatic on the performance version?

We looked up the numbers made and while it shows Chrysler fell far short of their total production goal, the number produced is small enough so that you can consider the car rare, and thus, because of their fun quotient in the driving category, potentially collectable.

A really small production number would be like 1400 Gullwing coupes but today “small” is around 10,000 units of a car. This is seven times that but still a small number, especially when you separate out the open cars, and the SRT cars.

The beauty of it is that it has Mercedes Benz engineering and Karmann ain’t no amateur coachbuilder either. There is at least two clubs to join so you know where there’s service and parts, and I don’t think there’s another car at that price that has the fun driving and the rare looks. We are putting it way ahead of the Cadillac Allante, another two seater sold in America but bodied in Europe, and the TC by Maserati, which is a mediocre assemblage of parts.

Chrysler Crossfire

OK we admit it. The car was a flop. Put it down to bad timing. Looking back on its short run from the viewpoint of 2016, we have since seen a re-emergence by the big Detroit Car Companies into the retro high performance market.

The new muscle cars are highly sought after not only by the youth market, but by the group that is now turning 50 who loved their Camaro or Firebird or Mustang back in the day. Retro is in and is the King of Cool on the streets.

Back when the Chrysler Crossfire came out, there had yet to be the high performance retro re-introduction revolution, and the Crossfire was forced to survive on its looks and performance, in a very narrow hi-performance market at the time.

Plus it was sophisticated, not muscle bound like the later retro-inspired muscle cars. And high priced, I mean $32K to $35K was a lot of money for a little two seater back then.

European Styling

The Crossfire mostly appealed to a more sporty set with an appreciation of European Styling. This demographic niche yearned for European Sports-car handling and characteristics instead of stop light to stop light speed, and the America Apple Pie Retro Hi-Po look.

Fact is, sadly, this little jewel was soon lost among all the white noise, most likely. When the Chrysler muscle cars began to sell like crazy, nobody wanted that little Euro-car.

The car was sold in several countries, so in some countries it is going to be extremely rare. Good luck on being able to order body panels in those countries but at least the car’s mechanicals can be serviced at a Mercedes mechanic. And if you join a Crossfire owner’s club you’ll soon hear of crashed cars being stripped of parts and be able to buy body panels if you prang yours (thank God for car clubs, keeping so many cars alive…).

So going by the low price they are now we would home in on the rarest sub-model, and an open car in place of the coupe, thus an SRT roadster. The only trouble is, it only came in automatic and it had that “dumb” rear spoiler.

Let us know what you think in the Comments.

THE AUTHORS: Wallace Wyss is the author of the “Incredible Barn Finds” books from Enthusiast Books (715) 381 9755 and David Lawrence Silver is a collector of rare and exotic cars, based in Willow Springs, California.

 

Chrysler_ ogo

Summary
Future Collectable: Chrysler Crossfire
Article Name
Future Collectable: Chrysler Crossfire
Description
The Chrysler Crossfire was the progeny of the marriage of Daimler and Chrysler and is a future collectable car.
Author

Comments

  1. Agree with Mike, these are very neat cars with much to offer including really interesting styling. they represent an incredible value in the market place, should be quite reliable with reasonable performance. Look under the hood and for all the world it is a Mercedes.

  2. I saw one of these just two days ago. I spent just a little time looking more closely at it. I just cannot get beyond the strakes on the hood. They do not appeal to me at all. I am sure that they are critical in shoring up the long panel and keeping it from “oil canning”, but they still look bad.
    What surprises me about this article is that Karmann was involved. Here we are “back” at another Chrysler collaboration — I only recently learned about the earlier effort that resulted in the Karmann Ghia that VW ended up with. Now that’s a long relationship.
    But.. back to my dislike for the hood strakes, when the original Karmann Ghia was produced by VW, that horrible droopy nose got shored up and lifted to the brighter “perkier” nose we came to love. Seems that there has to be some kind of carbon fiber hood “out there” that would lose those strakes for the Crossfire…

  3. While I agree these are good values now in the used car marketplace, Jim is correct that they are reliable and offer interesting styling as well.

    However – so too was the Cadillac Allante (still is), Buick Reatta, and Ford Thunderbird (recent edition). But these “personal luxury” cars were designed with the same goal at delivery as still desired by buyers today – a personal car that offers luxury appointments at a reasonable price. This does not intersect with “collectible” even though the other traits might align with collectible cars of the past.

    A Crossfire will always generate interest among car people who will want to drive and enjoy their cars as statements of luxury and uniqueness. But the pricing on these will never be significantly above the price of a newer offering that serves the same purpose. Just as many muscle cars are now flat on value as “collectible” due to new Mustang, Camaro, and Dodge products offering twice as much power and (safer) performance as the old versions.

    Crossfires offer an interesting history and unique visual characteristics. Desirable Yes, but collectible? Not now, and likely not for decades to come, as long as car companies offer similar vehicles with more features.

  4. Wallace Wyss says:

    When manual shifts are no longer offered, that will help its popularity. But when you talk of modern cars, let’s say a 2017 MX-5 or Fiat 124 at $25K to $30,000 vs, a Crossfire at $6000 I would be hard pressed to decide

  5. Glenn Krasner says:

    These were under-appreciated at the time and still are. When you see them on the road, you cannot help but love their unique, yet impressive styling and Mercedes guts. Americans did not know what to make of them, and they were priced high for what many incorrectly thought was an American model. I have always thought they were collectible based on the low numbers produced. I have never seen the convertible version in person – they must be really rare!

    • Actually, the Limited Roadster was the MOST produced model, in particular the 2005 model year.
      NOTE: The SRT6 model is an automatic because the then available 6 speed manual could not handle the torque.

  6. I’m on my third Crossfire convertible. Not only a wonderful and fun sports car, but the buy of the CENTURY right now! It should be noted that the car comes with a really good group of owners – the local Crossfire bunch gets together, on average, once every two months in the Atlanta, Georgia, USA area. 🙂

  7. Charles Colombani says:

    I love taking my SRT-6 out and shaming Mustang, Camaro and Corvette owners at the track. Very easy 400WHP and reliable to boot. There’s a strong online community that will go out of their way to help people out. There’s a reason most owners have more than one in their lifetime. We currently own 3 as toys.

  8. Mark Vargas says:

    I own a 2005 Roadster and love it. I will soon be buying a red manual coupe and a SRT. I sure wish the SRT was a manual. I am not interested in the collector’s value because I want to DRIVE.

  9. Winston laxamana says:

    I heard a lot of negatives … but once i owned it … its one of the smoothest and fast accelerating cars i have driven … currently own an 05 coupe automatic … its fast … kicked it to 130 miles per hour no issues … its a very good car as far as my experiemce …

  10. Crossfires are not for everyone, but those that do love them should make room in their life for the joy of owning and driving such a delightful car. We currently own 2 roadsters and two coupes, ranging from bone stock to a performance modified beast that can spin the tires on the shift to third (aftermarket paddle shifters as well as the stock automatic can be shifted at will). We drive them for the pure enjoyment; they are not garage queens. I don’t see them as an investment but If I choose to sell they will not hurt me with heavy depreciation. It is said that only about 1000 roadsters and 2300 coupe SRT 6s were produced, with many gone 11 years out.

  11. Inge Harry says:

    I have owned a limited coup…..fun, a Special Edition roaster…….more fun, and now the SRT-6…..unbeatable. They are fast, very fast, take the curves like no other car, they hug the road, the peddle shift is faster than the manual, the car has view problems and a whole world of friends to call for help. The front look could be more prominent but the rear is a pleasure to view. When you race a Ferrari and the guy just can’t understand why he cannot leave you in the dust…….oh, it really makes your day. Every time I sit in it, there is a moment of pure pleasure of the power under my seat.

  12. Robert Davis says:

    THANKS for using the photo of my very own Sapphire Silver Blue SRT6 coupe (sitting in front of my house) for your article! FYI – I own THREE SRT6s. Two roadsters and that coupe pictured in the article. The SRT6 coupe is available for sale!

  13. I have had a coupe for past 10 years and still love it. Coupe probably a better bet for our English weather.
    Had no mechanical problems but tyres/wheels have given a few headaches.
    As said, a few new BMWs and other quality cars have sat beside me at the lights with their drivers having a superior face. However, they soon changed their look when the lights changed. Great fun to drive.

  14. Dave Gingrich says:

    My 05 Crossfire SRT Roadster has shamed many other “sportier” cars including Porsches and BMW’s. Mine is supercharged and quite fun to drive. A real bargain, if you can find a good one.

  15. ben duijvestijn says:

    the prototype crossfire looks much better

  16. I just bought a chrysler crossfire limited roaster 2005 can someone tell me how much horsepower it has

  17. David Zahner says:

    i have a 2007 red blaze pearl paint convertible with the factory 13 spoke allow stock wheels . everywhere i go people ask me about the car . i bought it new and kept it in the garage i drive a van for work therefore have only put 46,000 miles on it and those are just having fun and playing miles it is a blast to drive and answering people’s questions about the car . my stepdaughter really wants it and i am seriously thinking about giving it to her soon . anyway all the crossfire drivers out there keep driving and having fun no other car like them .

  18. David Zahner says:

    yes 215 3.2 liter

  19. I love my 2004 crossfire….was going to buy a used corvette ….but seems everyone has one…very few have the crossfire….I always get told how beautiful it is….nice car for back country roads ….the large continental extreme contact tires and the wishbone suspension on the crossfire hold the road like glue…the ride is very quiet for a two seat sports couple with 18 inch front and wide 19 inch rear tires. The v six mercedes is no rocket but does move the car quickly 0-60 IN 6.2 SECONDS is no slouch…….. the car is 95% Mercedes Benz ….slk frame ,engine, and tranny….good job mercedes….

  20. I bought my wife a 2005 crossfire limited black exterior cedar and grey interior. We have managed to accumulate 40,000 on the car in just 12 years. It is our fun car as we are now in our 70’s and retired. The choice when I bought the car was between the relaunched Thunderbird or the Crossfire. After driving and research of both, looks, performance there was no question CROSSFIRE for sure. We love the car and heads turn everywhere we go, I think had they come out with roadster the same year as the coupe the sales and acceptance would have been greater. As far as the price if you remember that Datsun Z car and Ford T-Bird both had a relaunch and there was a waiting at the dealership to purchase them, they were in the 35 to 40k price range caused by supply and demand. In closing I do not think Chrysler properly promoted that you were actually buying a Mercedes SLK with a redesigned skin. I think the Crossfire also got tagged as the poor mans Mercedes in later years…WE LOVE OUR CROSSFIRE!!!

  21. lee rogers says:

    Had my crossfire roadster almost a year, bought for occasional use, its now my daily driver i like driving it so much, its fun to drive, that v6 motor is a delight, and i really like the look the car has, especially with the roof down, the rarity is a bonus, nice having something thats different, i think there an absolute bargain for what you get, they may well become a sought after and collectable car one day, but i for one intend driving and enjoying my crossfire for a good while yet

  22. I’ve had my srt coupe for about a month now and love driving this car. So far I’ve put 3000 miles on it. Yes it’s my daily drive. My son who is 20 is now considering getting one. He is debating over the srt or a 2011 Corvette. I’ve heard some people say it is an “old man’s” car, but I beg to differ. Chrysler/ Dodge has always had unique designs a little ahead of the times and I think that is one of the reasons it didn’t catch on.

  23. One correction on the commentary though, the original did NOT have a split windshield but rather a single windshield wiper that parked in the middle giving the illusion of a split windshield.

    • Terry Fulkerson says:

      My wife and I always like the styling. We were looking for a 6 cylinder 2 seater American car. I liked the Pontiac Solstice and My wife the Gm Sky but both were only 4 cylinders. Low and behold. Ford laid me off in 2008, a first for me. What should I do I thought. Well let’s go on vacation to Branson I told my wife. Oh and by the way let’s buy a 2005 (yellow) Crossfire off ebay. I just happened to be at the Branson exit. Boom! 10 days later we were driving that baby home from a nice vacation. Still only has 28000 miles on it and runs great.

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