Admit it. The Chrysler Crossfire has slipped your mind. Days, no weeks — months, a year, two, three — have gone by, and no Chrysler Crossfire, a car to which you once probably devoted a thought here and there. How could something once present in your consciousness just go away like that?
It's not like it's been gone that long. The Chrysler Crossfire has only been off the market since 2008. Yet, experts say, on any given day more people think about Bob Dole driving a Cadillac Catera than they do about the Chrysler Crossfire.
Of course, this is less likely to be true if you live in Michigan. In Michigan, you see everything all the time. Wait on a street corner in Michigan for a couple of hours and you'll see a Pontiac Astre. The Pontiac Astre was Pontiac's version of the Chevy Vega. You didn't remember that? Obviously, you don't live in Michigan, where the last remaining Pontiac Astres in the universe live in blissful ignorance of their extinction elsewhere. And where only a real shithead would tell them about that.
Right now, somewhere in Michigan, an Oldsmobile Alero just went by and nobody even noticed.
The line between forgotten classic and just plain forgotten is pretty clear. I know car guys younger than 25 who could rattle off the entire product cycle of the Chrysler-Maserati TC. But the Chrysler Crossfire? Not even a blip. Maybe in a few years they will, but for right now the Crossfire is in limbo, thanks to the 22-year rule. That is, a car has to be at least 22 years old before bringing it up in conversation with car nerds will change the energy of the room.
Try it. Next time you and your car nerd friends are hanging out on someone's patio, drinking an IPA brewed in some other car-nerd's basement, mention the Oldsmobile Achieva. Schmuck, the Achieva is only 21 years old at best. Had you said Buick Reatta, you could have sat back in smug satisfaction as the car-nerd fireworks went off. Instead, the conversation switched to LeMons cars.
But what about the Chrysler Crossfire? Was it any good? I know I've driven it, I think I even wrote about it, but I can barely remember it.
Here's what I have, strictly from memory: It had a Mercedes platform, wasn't that it? An SLK? Or an SL? No, it'd be too small. An SLK. C-class based. And it had a V6, and there was an SRT version with a supercharger that some people liked. And it was a little cramped inside and it had that narrow hatchback, and (oh!) there was a weird roadster version. That's all I've got.
Clearly, the Crossfire was a hopeful collaboration, but ultimate disappointment of strained Daimler-Chrysler tensions. It appeared first as a show car in 2001 before launching into production in 2004, the base model powered by Mercedes' 18v, 3.2-liter SOHC V6. The design language was visionary, but largely awkward and divisive. It did have its fans, though, who appreciated its grand-touring ride quality and Benzish anointment.
The Crossfire sold pretty briskly — at just under $40 grand a pop — in 2003 and 2004, peaking in its first year at around 36,000 units, but sales fell off so sharply that by 2006, you could get one on Overstock.com for less than an espresso machine. And that's only partly a joke — they were offered on the big O for $8,900 off MSRP.
The SRT version was actually pretty kickass. It had a stiffened suspension, lots of rubber and a 330-horsepower Kompressor V6 similar to that in the SLK320, but resentfully detuned by Stuttgart to the de-tune of 20 horsepowers. Still, there was quite a lot of Mercedes in there for the money. It's been described, somewhat charitably, as a bargain SLK AMG, assembled by Karmann in Osnabrück, Germany, which is a real place.
And now that you've thought of it, the Chrysler Crossfire can, and will, slink back into your deep memory well until around 2029, when your kids will bug you, over homemade IPAs, about what the weird cars of the 2000s were really like.