Forgotten Sporty Cars: Chrysler Laser

Welcome back to Forgotten Sporty Cars at The Garage! In this space we recall an era where small, economy car-based based vehicles were sold with zippy styling. Whether there was any substance to the sizzle we’ll leave for you to judge.

1984-1986 Chrysler Laser

1984_Chry_Laser_color

Imagine for a moment you are Chrysler in the early 1980’s. The automotive industry has been in a performance car coma for years, but there are flickering signs of life at rivals Ford and Chevy with their Mustang GTs and Camaro Z-28s. Money is tight-the US Government just bailed you out in 1979. So, you work with what you have, which in this case the front wheel drive K-car platform.

In 1984, Chrysler debuted the Dodge Daytona, and its near identical corporate cousin, the Chrysler Laser as a pair of sporty 2+2s. Standard power came from a 2.2L four with 93hp on tap. Greater performance could be obtained from a turbocharged version of the same mill, boasting 142hp. Both engines offered 5-speed manuals or 3/4 speed automatics. The Laser featured some slightly different body work, and had a digital dashboard on its top-line XT trim. My uncle bought a Laser XT Turbo brand new, and would let me sit in it. I recall staring in amazement at the bright digital dash, with its digital numbers and bar graphs, the hi-tech audio and that it talked (Your door is ajar). I was convinced the Laser was the most high-tech car money could buy.

But the Chrysler Laser’s life would be a short one. After 1986, the car was quietly dropped, though the Dodge Daytona continued until 1993. Interestingly, in Canada, on the demise of the Laser, the company started selling Chrysler Daytonas, leaving Dodge out in the cold. In the US, the Laser gave way to the new 1987 Chrysler LeBaron, which was positioned as a sportier car than the version it replaced, negating the need for the Laser. Chrysler wasn’t done with the Laser name yet; in 1989, the name was resurrected as the Plymouth Laser, a rebadged Mitsubishi Eclipse.

1986_Chry_Laser_XT_lft_frnt

Comments

  1. says

    Awesome! I remember the Laser being one of my first real car crushes that wasn’t a muscle car. Got a full color brochure at a car show that I put on my wall way back in junior high school. It really was a good looking car.

  2. says

    A good friend bought had an 88 or 89 Daytona that had been fairly successful in the Canadian Firehawk series. After that it had been converted to a rally car. He used it as a daily driver and for the occasional navi event and some autocross. Way too much power to the front wheels for the type of super tight autocross we have here in Toronto, but it was a fun beast to drive.

  3. michael chechel says

    the laser is an awesome car, it was one of the cars that i really loved when i was a kid, i just recently bought an 84 laser xe that i am going to restore to original condition, the laser is a very good looking car, it looks a lot better and more futuristic and has more technology than most cars on the road today!

    • Jack S. says

      I bought a Laser XE 1984 model in 1985. The price tag on the car in the lot in '84 was $20,200 CA!! That was a TON of money back then. I got a heck of a deal. The guy and his wife, who bought the car originally, she got pregers, and he got layed-off at about the same time!! They were buying the car over 3 yrs so were making BIG payments. I simply took over the payments, all be it over what became a 5 yr term. So I paid $12,500 which is how much they had left owing!! What a sweet car….and go like the wind!!! I even replaced the engine in it after it died!! BTW The engines were known for blowing head gaskets, too much compression they told me. On the 3rd one, I got a racing quality one put in and that solved the problem. Sure wish I still had the car, I envy you greatly. BUT the bill to rebuild your car I don't think I would want. Enjoy it buddy.

      • Dan O. says

        Cool story, Jack. I got my '84 XE in 1986. I fell in love with it the first time I saw it. It was the black one with the leather interior. You're right about the head gaskets. I went through 2 before I eventually sold it. I remember reading somewhere at the time that the turbo was the culprit. Remember how nice that felt when you'd give it the gas and the turbo would kick in? I'm getting all nostalgic here. I hope your project turns out good Michael.

  4. Kev says

    The laser XT was my first car. It ate a lot of parts, but man was it quick! That car looked good, and never left me stranded. Even when I blew out the bottom end, and the turbo blew up, it got me home!! I miss that car…

  5. John says

    My second car was a 1986 Laser XE with the turbo and talking computer. Got it as a senior in high school, it was only 6 years old at the time. If my parents only knew how much "fun" I had with that car! I'll never forget the summer of 1992.

  6. Bob says

    I bought a chysler lazer xe turbo in 1984, while stationed in upstate New York. I had the care for 10 months before I was sent over seas. In 10 months I put 20,000 + miles on that car. I loved driving it and I loved that spacecraft dash. It was awesome fast and just lookewd great. That car has always been missed

  7. Doug says

    My first car was an 86 Laser, Silver 5 speed. Bought it right after I graduated from high school and the car was 5 years old with low ks. I drove that car everywhere and put 11000 ks on it in the first four months. Best mileage I ever had in a vehicle. I replaced it with a 91 Integra which never gave me as good of mileage the Laser did. Hope to see some rebuilds in autoshows as the years go on.

  8. Shawn Nairn says

    I’m 17 and have a 1984 turbo version as one of my first cars right now. In the process of restoring it. Absolutely love driving it. For the right price though anything is for sale ;)

  9. rockin' ric says

    I was looking for a vehicle and went to a car dealer in Tucson, Arizona one night. I test drove a vehicle that I liked and was set on purchasing when after getting out of the car I walked past a car that just drew me towards it. I asked the dealer (salesperson) if that car was for sale and he said that it was left here by a customer just today.
    I asked if he would give me the same deal on the car that I just test drove for the car that I just looked at. I looked in the windows that were down and saw an all leather interior that was a dark and light brown combination. I saw a turbo switch. I saw an am/fm stereo cassette entertainment center with a bass booster switch. I saw an all digital L.E.D. dash board instrumentation. This was a two door hatch back with a spoiler on the back.
    It was that time that I fell in love with a vehicle that I never heard of that was called the Chrysler Laser XE.
    I was the lucky owner of that Laser XE for several years and even transported it from Arizona to Florida in 1993. I had it for several years after until it suffered a cracked block. At that time I was not aware of all of the options that there were in order for me to keep this beauty on the road, thus I was forced to drop it off at a local junk yard. I was devastated.
    Although the Dodge Viper and the Chrysler Sebring Convertible are a part of my top 5 vehicles, the Chrysler Laser XE has been the only one that I have actually had the pleasure of owning and driving. What are my other two you ask? Well, my current Chevrolet Venture and the Pontiac Phoenix, to which I owned for a short time since the previous owner did not disclose all of the vehicles faults.

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