We stumped you with a Nissan Stanza a few weeks ago in our last Junkyard Quiz. Sorry about that, it was a weird pull for us, so we’ve found one that might be a tad easier for this weekend. OK, so smart guys and gals: Can you tell us what kind of car we found in the junkyard from just a small bit of trim and a fist-sized rust eruption (rust-ruption?) around the rear fender?
Of course, it’s a Dodge Stratus! This first-generation “Cloud car” had suffered through some hefty miles, a rough rattle-can respray, and some Titanic levels of rust.
We don’t think the custom purple-and-gold stripes came from the factory, what with the spray-painted white finish on the rest of the car. It didn’t line up across most body panels since this Stratus looked like it had hit every light pole in Cook County.
Under the hood lurks Chrysler’s 2.4-liter, 16-valve four-cylinder engine. This engine graced a number of Chrysler platforms (and a couple of Russian cars in the late 2000s) and put out an average 150 horsepower in stock trim. Turbocharger versions showed up in the Chrysler PT Cruiser GT and Dodge Neon SRT4 making almost 100 more horsepower. Mexican versions of the Stratus also got a turbocharger.
For the most part, the Stratus and its Cirrus-platform cousins (Chrysler Cirrus, Plymouth Breeze) were forgettable cars. The interiors were nothing special, nor was any other aspect of their (non-)performance. They were, quite simply, mid-size cars. Little more, little less. This one was an automatic, although you could find five-speed Cirrus cars.
However, the most memorable Stratus raced in the North American Touring Car Championship under Super Touring regulations. That meant a 2.0-liter version of the engine that spit out somewhere in the ballpark of 300 horsepower. The NATCC lasted only two seasons. Our old friend Randy Pobst won the driver’s championship in its inaugural 1996 season with a Honda Accord, but factory Dodge driver David Donohue won the second and final title in a Stratus. These come up for sale periodically, like this championship-winning car on Bring A Trailer a couple years ago.
One of those touring car engine blocks lives on in SRT engineer Ken Hardman’s land-speed streamliner. The Chrysler engineer added boost to one of the old NATCC engines with a mystery crankshaft in it. You can read our conversation with Ken right here.
Of course, it can’t be a Junkyard Quiz without mentioning the 24 Hours of Lemons. If a car has reached the junkyard, it probably should at some point turn up in Lemons. So far, only a couple teams have braved the Cirrus platform and this Canadian team—The Ancient and Mystic Society of The No Daniels—has turned up a couple of times, notably about five years apart.
When a wayward connecting rod holed their 2.4-liter’s block at Gingerman Raceway in 2015, they managed to swap in a replacement in about an hour. That was fairly amazing and earned them a Heroic Fix trophy.
Interestingly, parts of a Dodge Stratus have won nine races overall. That’s because the Eyesore Racing FrankenMiata gets its boost from the turbocharger off a Mexican-market Dodge Stratus. For the most part, the system is the same as it was when the team designed it several years ago. You can read more about that setup in these old MotoIQ stories.
Without a turbo and with shipwreck levels of rust, this Stratus will be crushed, drawn, and quartered soon enough. They can’t all be Lemons. See more of this Stratus in the gallery below.