Car of the Month, August 2013:
Hemi Andersen’s 1985 Chrysler Laser

1985 Chrysler Laser Turbo II intercooled car setup

Hemi Andersen is a now-retired expert mechanic with substantial Mopar expertise; he worked on and performance-tuned both vintage metal and modern front wheel drive cars.

I had an 1981 Aries that converted to a 2.5 liter turbo engine with an intercooler from a Chrysler TC. Years ago I went to a drag strip and raced the Aries against my friend’s 1991 Spirit R/T. He beat me by a fender length in the quarter mile. That car is long gone but the engine lives on, in part and in spirit, in my 1985 Chrysler Laser, which is even faster.

This car is quick! Powered by that 2.5 liter turbocharged, intercooled Mopar engine with a Getrag 5-speed transaxle, it’s a fun car to drive and still capable of 30+ mpg on the road. It also has 16-inch wheels and Daytona IROC 4-wheel disc brakes.

The car started out with a 2.2 throttle-body injection engine with the usual 5-speed transaxle. I built the 2.5 from a 2.2 common block Chrysler TC engine block, using normally-aspirated 2.5 pistons and a 2.5 cast crank. The intake is the 2-piece, longer runner type from an old Daytona. The turbo is the stock Nippon unit rather than the Garrett. The Getrag 5-speed trans and all intercooler parts are from a Chrysler TC.

Normally the boost is regulated at 4 to 5 lb, which is plenty for the higher compression engine, and I might add, my foot. I had the boost turned all the way up one day and got nailed by the CHP for 92 mph at the bottom of an on-ramp. I was racing some guy. The boost control is more for me than the engine!

The car belonged to a friend who was forced to clean up his front and side yard. He had a Dodge Omni Rampage, two Omni GLHS cars, and the Laser, which had been his daily driver. He really loved his Laser and before the scrap man got there, he virtually begged me to come to his house and save it. It had the normal 2.2 head gasket problem.

At the time I was driving the pace car at a small dirt racetrack in Mohave Valley Arizona. I thought I’d take the Laser there and run it in the FWD class, but after replacing the head gasket and timing belt, I drove it home from California to Arizona and got 35 mpg on the trip. That was the end of my idea for the track and hello to a new commuter car. I was driving 313 miles back and forth to my shop from my home.

The car was really just a rusty junker, but a little paint and another hood and it would look better. I decided on a cheap paint job, so I bought a gallon of latex house paint and some rollers and tape. I took the outside door handles from a white Chrysler TC to Ace Hardware and they matched the color perfectly.

You need a lot of prep time in order to do a good job. I roller painted the whole car white and then added the blue accent trim as I saw appropriate. People find it hard to believe, but the picture proves it was a good job. It has lasted since 2005 and is easy to maintain, just wash it. It never needs polishing. The photo is from this past May [2013].

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