When DaimlerChrysler unleashed the Caliber as a Neon replacement for the 2007 model year, the American car-buying world was put on notice that cute transportation appliances would be kicked to the side by the hobnailed boots of a new generation of angry, brutish, truck-influenced transportation appliances. The Caliber sold well enough at first, but eventually blurred into the fleet-car background noise and got shoved aside by the Alfa-derived Dart after 2012. Since I’m always on the lookout for super-rare three-pedal cars while I’m poking around in junkyards, I check out discarded Calibers in the hope of spying such a machine. This work paid off when I spotted this first-model-year ’07 in a Northern California yard last month.
In fact, the 5-speed manual transmission came as standard equipment on the non-R/T Calibers in 2007, but nearly every Caliber buyer opted to get the continuously variable automatic instead. That odd-looking horizontal shifter rod reminds me of the one in the early-1970s Honda 600.
One reason I check out junkyard Calibers is that I’m trying to find a Boston Acoustics “MusicGate” speaker box, an optional rig that went on the inside of the hatch, to use in my next car-parts boombox project. I haven’t managed to find one yet, but I’m not giving up.
This car is a luxurious SXT, the trim level that squeezed between the bare-bones SE and the high-zoot R/T.
When you bought the SXT, you got the pimp-grade Chill Zone™ (a beverage compartment with internal air-conditioner ducts) as standard equipment.
Now this rare Caliber sits among the discarded PT Cruisers and Avengers of the yard’s Chrysler section, on the flight path of the big C-5s heading into Travis Air Force Base.
Dodge’s marketers tried hard to make the Caliber look tough, even murderous, the kind of car that would use an old Polara bumper jack to beat cuddly cartoon characters to death in a spray of flying teeth and blood-spattered fur. If all Calibers had come with manual transmissions, perhaps this macho image would have stuck better than it did.
Silly little fairy!