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 weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll leave for you to judge.
1984-1986 Chrysler Laser
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.