Turbocharged Mopars of New Jersey

After the Chrysler Corporation escaped bankruptcy in the late Seventies, the company launched its well-known K-cars: front-wheel-drive vehicles that were compact, fuel-efficient and economical to buy and maintain. They were powered by a transverse, 2.2 liter inline four-cylinder engine, a big change from the six- and eight-cylinder engines of previous years. As the company's financial position improved in the early Eighties, it introduced performance enhanced cars powered by the 2.2 liter engine: the newest generation Dodge Chargers and Daytonas, Carroll Shelby-modified Chargers, and the Chrysler Laser. In 1984, the Dodge Daytona 2.2 liter four-cylinder engine got a factory-installed Garrett T3 Turbocharger that upped its performance even more. Several turbo upgrades followed in ensuing years for the K platform cars. As a result Chrysler gets credit for doing more with turbocharged engines than Ford and GM, and with the performance of the Chrysler inline fours competing well against Ford and GM V8's.

(This table names Mopar four-cylinder cars sold in the U.S. with standard or optional turbochargers from 1984 to 2009.)

The 2008 Caliber SRT4 was the most recent production Mopar to get a turbocharger, but the SRT4 package was dropped in 2009. Our reliable commentator on all things Mopar, Webmaster Dave Zatz, promises turbos will be back! He remarked, "It always amazes me what Chrysler did with the 2.2-liter turbos in cheap, high production cars of the 80s and early 90s. Those engines were replaced by less powerful and less fuel efficient Mitsubishi V6s. Evidently car buyers wanted bragging rights via two more cylinders. But the four cylinder turbo returned in the Neon SRT4 (2003-2005), the PT Cruiser GT (2003-2007), and the Caliber SRT4 (2008-2009). It will return in Chrysler's four-cylinder 2.4 Liter “World Engine.” No prediction when, but it’s in the company's five-year plan. Turbochargers will also appear on the Pentastar V6."

Several turbocharged Mopars showed up at the 2010 allpar-Slant Six Club meet in New Brunswick, New Jersey, on Oct. 3rd. They made a fair representation of the turbo models offered by Chrysler over the years. It was an opportunity to get better acquainted with this class of cars, which doesn't get covered in mags like Mopar Muscle. Even the magazine, Turbo & High-Tech Performance, doesn't publish much about Mopars although there is a fan base for them. That leading mag is dominated by the Japanese imports with a smattering of American brands now and then. The Mopars at the Oct. 3rd show and their owners were:

  • ’85 (Late) Dodge Daytona Turbo Z; Bob Holstrom, Park Ridge, New Jersey
  • ’85 Dodge Shelby Charger; Ralph Goebel, Flemington, New Jersey
  • ’88 Dodge Daytona Pacifica; Tom Lang, Bergenfield, New Jersey
  • ’89 Chrysler TC by Maserati; Bill Kiefer, New Hope, Pennsylvania
  • ’89 Chrysler LeBaron Premium Convertible; George Watts, Williamstown, New Jersey
  • ’89 Dodge Aries "R/T"; Nick Fritz, Hamilton, New Jersey
  • 2003 PT Cruiser "High Output" GT; Gordon and Sean Haggans, Queens, New York, and Connecticut

All but the PT Cruiser were judged in a class for 1980-89 cars. Bill Kiefer's Chrysler TC won first place, George Watts' LeBaron convertible took second, and Nick Fritz's Aries won third. Although Dodge never sold the Aries with a factory-equipped turbocharger, one was added among many other modifications by owner Nick and the shop where much of the work was done, Walt's Place in Hamilton, New Jersey.

George Watt's LeBaron is covered in an allpar article going back to the 2008 Slant Six Club show. The pictures of Bill Kiefer's Chrysler TC by Maserati were also snapped at the 2008 show. In the words of George Watts: "The cars still look the same, so nothing's dated."

BOB HOLSTROM (allpar forum name "DCTZ") is the original owner of his 1985 "late" model Daytona Turbo Z shown above. The car has 138,000 miles on its odometer. According to Bob, "There were a few differences between early and late models. The 1984 and early 1985 Dodge Daytona Turbo Z had 'Turbo Z' embossed on the rear bumper. Not on my car. Optional T-tops became available in late 1985. I didn't get them. 1985 is the only year that my colors, two-tone 'Gun Metal Blue Pearl Coat' and 'Radiant Silver,' were available on the Turbo Z."

Bob continued, "In '86, Dodge came out with its C/S (Carroll Shelby) performance package on the Turbo Z. If I had waited a year I could have had a C/S Turbo Z instead of the Daytona. But you could upgrade a Daytona with performance parts from Direct Connection, Mopar's performance parts division at the time. C/S suspension components parts and an intercooler were available from DC by late 1985. The company had Carroll Shelby in a lot of advertising. I put in some Shelby components, and my car has a big Direct Connection imprint on the rear bumper. My New Jersey license tag says 'DCTZ' for 'Direct Connection Turbo Z.'"

"The Direct Connection intercooler was originally installed on top of the motor. DC sold a hood scoop which I didn't get. The car has been stored for the past several years. In the process of getting it back on the road recently, I moved the intercooler to the front of the radiator, cutting into the front bumper. Photos of the car and the DC intercooler are online at allpar. When I was actively working on it, about the year 2000, DC was also offering a disc brake kit for the rear which I didn't get."

Bob used technical info available on the Internet by turbo experts including the late Gus Mahon and still-active Gary Donovan. "I have many of the Gus Mahon tricks in there, like his Grainger valve and his cut-off riser. I was fortunate to have met Gus before he was killed in a motorcycle accident. He was known for competing successfully in a turbocharged Dodge Minivan against Ford and GM V8's. I bought his G-valve and cut-off riser from him directly. Gary Donovan, is a Chrysler master mechanic with a lot of useful information that he freely shares."

RALPH GOEBEL is the second owner of his '85 Dodge Shelby Charger. The car had about 43,000 miles on the odometer as of October. Ralph purchased the car in 1987 from a seller who was a big guy, six foot five inches, and 250 lbs. After logging 18,000 miles in the two-door, 96-inch-wheelbase sport vehicle, the seller gave up thinking he could ever be a comfortable fit. He put it up for sale in a newspaper ad in 1987 and Ralph took it over.

1985 Dodge Shelby Charger window sticker.

Ralph described what attracted him to the Charger. "I had just graduated from Rutgers," he said. "I needed a new car and I happened to read a comparison between the Mustang, Camaro and Charger in Popular Hot Rodding magazine. The Charger came out ahead in almost every category accept for acceleration. But the other cars were eight cylinders and the Charger was a four, and it wasn't that much slower than the eights. With everyone buying Mustangs or Camaros, I wanted something different. At the time, dealers were no longer taking orders for the '87's so I had to find a used one. I had never driven standard shift and I let the seller take the wheel for my test drive. He went over handling, braking not too heavy on the acceleration. At first, accelerating with the 2.2 Liter Turbo is really just like a four-cylinder. But when the turbo spools up and kicks in, you feel that big jolt. My daily driver is a Subaru turbo. It is a smooth handling car, but without the jolt of the '87 Shelby Charger."

The Charger's original window sticker lists "2.2 Liter Turbocharged" engine. The turbo is the original Garrett AIResearch T3. These units went on all of Chrysler's turbocharged vehicles until the release of the intercooled Turbo II configuration in 1987. At that time a switch was made to "a smaller and lighter Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) TE04H turbocharger." (See Willem L. Weertman's book, Chrysler Engines, 1922-1998 , p. 249.)

"The Garrett had boost up to 8.0 psi," Ralph noted. "I think it was 9 psi for 10 seconds and then 7 psi. As originally configured the engine made 146 horsepower. The car's tachometer tops off at 7000 rpm. I have a manual boost controller now, so my Shelby runs about 14 psi. I added a 1986 Omni GLHS Stage II logic module and they are rated to get about 200 hp out of the 2.2 Liter Four engine."

Ralph converted his engine to a Turbo II with the addition of an Isuzu NPR Intercooler, one-piece manifold, a 1G DSM blow-off value, two-and-a-half-inch intercooler piping, and 3-inch swing valve. He also added a 3-inch exhaust with catalytic converter and muffler. While he took credit for most of the hands-on labor, Ralph cited turbo-mopar.com as his primary technical resource.

There were problems. The turbocharger needed to be rotated to clear the intake manifold; the waste gate arm was too short and had to be lengthened; a hole had to be drilled in the intake manifold to accept a charge temperature sensor. In addition, Ralph had to move the radiator and find a slim-line radiator fan, and replace a radiator hose. He also had to run new wire to the electronic control unit to control the idle speed motor and throttle position sensor. Overall, the conversion cost around $1200.

Suspension modifications included Monroe Formula GP struts/shocks; 1987 Shelby CSX wheels with Falken Azenis tires; one-and-a-quarter-inch front sway bar and seven-eighths rear sway bar; Dodge Caravan front brakes, calipers, stainless steel brake lines and rotors; and a Daytona master cylinder. Parts came from Turbos Unleashed (turbo, injectors, exhaust system), FWD Performance, Jegs, Summit Racing, CXR Racing, (intercooler piping and connectors), SiliconIntakes.com (intercooler connectors), and other used-part sources.

TOM LANG bought his Daytona Pacifica in 2004. It currently has 139,000 miles. He had owned an '87 Daytona Turbo that he bought new while serving in the U.S. Air Force. That car got sold when he married and started a family. "I always wanted another Daytona," he said, "and I found this one offered for sale on ebay. It had 130,000 miles on it at the time, wasn't in running condition and had some peeling paint. I got it for $650."

According to the Standard Catalog of Chrysler, Dodge produced 4752 Daytona Pacificas in 1988. The model first came out in 1987 when 7467 Daytona Pacificas were made. Over their two-year run, the Pacificas were marketed as mid-level cars between the base Daytona with 2.5 liter four-cylinder engine (turbocharger optional), and the Daytona Shelby Z with the intercooled 2.2 liter Turbo II engine. The 2.2 Liter Chrysler Four Turbo I was standard in the Daytona Pacifica. Luxury options included plush upholstery, air conditioning, trumpet air horns, heated power mirrors, electronic navigation, leather-wrapped steering wheel and front seats with six-way controls on the driver's ide. Supposedly a thousand Pacificas got T-tops in 1988. So Tom's car is one of a thousand made.

Starting work on the restoration, Tom had to repair the hidden headlights and headlight module, the 12-button navigator, turn signals, and a passenger side door handle. On the engine, he had to replace the head gasket, rubber fuel lines, fuel injection wiring, vacuum lines, power steering pump, motor mounts, alternator, heater control valve. On the body, he replaced window wipers and hatchback hydraulic lifts. 'Then there was the brake job -- four rotors, two rear calipers with shoes, and a system flush -- costing more than the price of the car!" A long list! 'The problem with the fuel injection wiring alone," he said, "took six months to figure out."

Those and other repairs were topped off in 2006 with a Maaco paint job. Dodge factory color, "Black Cherry." "The shop was offering a January special! I was very pleased with their work," he said. In 2006 Tom picked up a second Pacifica, silver with 86,000 miles. After some restoration on the silver Pacifica, he is looking to sell it."

Tom is a regular at car shows around New Jersey and in this photo his son Andrew waves a second place trophy his dad's car won at a 2007 Teaneck Armory event. Pictures of Tom's car appear in the book Dodge Daytona and Chrysler Laser: the Definitive History, 1984-1993, by Greg McCausey. Tom's personal gallery of pictures and more information about his cars are on line at cardomain.com.

The eye-catching standout among Mopar turbo cars present at New Brunswick on Oct. 3rd was BILL KIEFER'S Chrysler "TC by Maserati," a bright, "Exotic Red" two-seat convertible with elegant leather interior. It was voted top in its class by show visitors. Bill has owned the car since 2003. He acquired it after retiring and moving from Philadelphia to New Hope, and deciding he should have a second car, a two-seat convertible.

"I was looking at a Cadillac Allante" Bill explained. "They are two-seaters. The bodies were built in Italy by Pininfarina, the same company that builds Ferraris. I was able to test drive an Allante and I liked the way it handled. I might have gotten one if I had found one in good condition."

But Bill is friends with George Watts, who owns a TC besides the LeBaron GTC he had at the show. "George got me to thinking about the TCs. I drove his TC, liked it, and then found my car on ebay. It had the 2.2 Liter Turbo Four, which I preferred over the Mitsubishi V-6's in later model TCs. The engine is quiet. I only had to clean it up a bit and change fluids. The car had been a birthday gift from a man to his wife, but he died and she rarely drove it. A daughter put a few thousand miles on it before I took it over. It had only 7900 miles on the odometer. I've about doubled that. It usually wins an award whenever I show it."

TC's were limited-edition cars intended for luxury buyers. 'TC' is said to stand for Touring Coupe, or Turbo Convertible! The cars came with a removable hardtop in addition to a manually operated soft top. They were built in a joint venture between Chrysler and the famous European performance car and racing enterprise, Officine Alfieri Maserati SpA of Italy. The initiative by the two companies began in 1984 with an agreement between Lee Iacocca and Maserati's chief executive, Alejandro de Tomaso. But production was long delayed and the run lasted only three years,from 1989 to 1991.

TC history is covered in detail on allpar. Briefly, about 7300 were made, short of a 10,000-car best sales projection. Apparently conflicts between the American designers and Italian builders caused delays and poor quality. Besides, the TC, built on a 93.3-inch wheelbase, resembled the four-seat Chrysler LeBaron GTC convertible (100.3-inch wheelbase), and the GTC was available at a lower price. In 1989 the TC's were priced at $30,000 with no options except for choice of body color. Bill Kiefer's car is number 2399 off the assembly line. Interestingly, the Chryser TC also resembles Maserati's own 1989-90 two-seat Spyder convertible.

Despite production problems, twenty-plus years after the TC came out it does seem like a rare and attractive vehicle that anyone might like to own, with its built-in-Italy doorplate, sporty two-seater lines, its plush leather interior and turbocharged power. For 1989-90, TC's with five-speed transmission got a 200 horsepower turbocharged 2.2 Liter Four with intercooler, port injection and a 16-valve DOHC cam (Chrysler block assembly, finished by Maserati). Cars with Chrysler's factory 2.2 Liter Four Turbo II engine got automatic transmission. In 1991, final TC's were sold only with a 3.0 Liter Mitsubishi V-6 and automatic transmission.

"I'm sure the TC is easier to work on than an Allante or the Mitsu V-6," Bill Kiefer reflected. "My TC needed a few minor repairs, nothing serious. I have been able to do maintenance and repairs myself. George will give me a hand if needed. I also help George with work on his cars. We actually replaced a head gasket and an a/c compressor and plumbing on one of them. I clean the convertible top once a year. Otherwise there are just the normal car washes. The leather seats get cleaned and conditioned a few times a year. Only problem, my dog doesn't like riding in the car with the top down, or I think I'd use it more often in convertible weather!"

NICK FRITZ'S '89 Aries stood out among the other turbo cars at the meet because it's a homemade hot rod, put together with imagination and ingenuity. Nick's father, a great dad for sure, bought the car for him paying $450 at a yard sale in Freehold, New Jersey in 2005. "It was parked towards the back of the driveway," Nick said. " . . . covered with dust. My father walks over to take a look and underneath the dust, the paint was like new."

The Dodge originally came with the base Mopar 2.2 Liter fuel-injected, SOHC, four-cylinder engine. It had 102,000 miles on the odometer and needed a new battery. It was completely stock and original, Nick said. "It was the stereotypical 'grandma car,' complete with stick-on safety reflectors, deer whistlers, American flag stickers. The complete opposite of 'cool.' I was embarrassed to drive it. Even my father admitted it took some getting used to."

It wasn't long before Nick thought it was going to be this car or no car. So he made it into wheels to be proud of. He related how he, ". . . ran wild with it in high school. I added 15-inch Sport Edition rims. I made the mesh grille out of a fireplace screen. I sawzall-ed the original 20-year-old exhaust (It wasn't even rusted!) and replaced it with a glass-pack muffler. Skulls became my interior theme: shift knob, rearview mirror, light-up skull in the cigarette lighter. I made decals in my vocational technology class and covered every inch of the car's glass with Dodge logos, R/T, Aries, flames, Mopar logos, anti-Honda badges. My friends had to know I was cool."

On one trip to the Mopar races at Englishtown Raceway, Nick bought some R/T badges for a '70 Challenger. "And the Aries R/T was born!" he said proudly.

turbo exhaustThen Nick even began to enjoy the Aries. "It is light, fun to drive, insanely cushy and comfortable, even if it is 'uncool' and out of place wherever I go. It got to me that there is a certain sense of humor about it. I put in an O-oga horn and P/A system with animal noises and police sirens. But I also began to take it seriously, saving my money, doing hard research. Finally I decided to put in a turbocharger -- make it the ultimate sleeper Aries."

What was expected to be a two-week installation turned into a year of the car being off the road. "Endless complications," Nick admitted. He credited his mechanic with understanding the problems and getting the car back on the road, "better than ever." The engine is a replacement from a 1988 Chrysler LeBaron. Modifications include a 2.2 Liter Turbo II conversion based on a Garrett 42mm Quick Spool Turbocharger. Other components include a Turbos Unleashed brand (TU) polished aluminium intercooler; GReddy Type RS blow-off valve; rebuilt original Mopar A413 automatic transmission; wiring harness from a 1989 Plymouth Voyager 2.5 Turbo Minivan; LeBaron Turbo II performance control module; Shelby Daytona 1.5-inch lowering springs; TU exhaust components; and, custom painted 17-inch SRT4 Neon wheels.

Results of the build? "As for performance, I don't have exact figures, but the car is definitely doing over 200 horsepower, running 13 pounds of boost. It gets between 15 and 20 miles per gallon. I haven't run it at Englishtown yet, but that may happen soon."

SEAN and GORDON HAGGANS' highly modified 2003 PT Cruiser GT wearing many badges was the latest-model Mopar turbo car at the meet. On it's decklid was its 2.4 L. Turbo "High Output" GT" badge, signifying the performance Cruiser model that Chrysler brought out in 2003, one of many variations on the PT theme. Front quarter badge said the car is "Hurst Equipped." If that didn't ring your bell, another badge said the car runs juiced on a "Mopar Stage 1" turbo upgrade kit. The Haggans's nickname for the car "The Blue Goose," is lettered on its rear fascia and a front bumper plate.

Owners of the "Electric Blue" car are Sean and Gordon (father of Sean) Haggans of Connecticut and Queens, New York. "When we took the car over from the seller in Rochester, New York," Sean said, "my dad named it Blue Goose because we thought the front end had some bird-like features, and when you put your foot down, it flies!"

In 2006, Sean was in the market for a car to replace his daily driver, a high-mileage 1992 Plymouth Duster with mechanical problems. He decided he wanted a PT Cruiser because they reminded him of the cars his grandfather used to drive. He found the Blue Goose on the Internet and landed it for $14k, half of its original sticker price of $28k.

Not many months later, the car was rear-ended by an SUV causing $7k in damage. That was Sean's cue to "upgrade by collision," he said. "I wondered: what would Carroll Shelby do? Improve performance no doubt! So I ordered the Mopar Stage 1 Turbo Kit, new plugs and wires, a performance blow-off valve, a Hurst shifter, Eibach sway bars, Tokiko struts. Outside, the rear end got a PTeazer custom rollpan and aftermarket LED lights. Up front, I swapped in a fiberglass Suncoast Creations ram air hood."

The Stage 1 kit comes with a replacement performance control module and 577 cc/min fuel injectors. It is rated to boost power in the 2.4 liter engine from 215 hp and 245 lb-ft of torque to 240 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque. The Suncoast Hood channels air to a modified filter box while heat is released through meshed openings at the back of the hood. "Some days you can watch the heat rise out of them," Sean noted.

A Borla dual exhaust system was a final touch until the car's original clutch failed under increased horsepower and torque. Following that incident, Sean added a SPEC Stage 2 Kevlar Racing Clutch. He estimated costs of all modifications so far at around $8500. The car reaches 60 mph in 6 seconds, mid 14s in the quarter mile. More goodies are planned including gauges, a full engine detailing, a ported manifold and competition pedals.

So, "less" can be "more" as regards the power output of four-cylinder engines. Running on turbo technology, they can perform favorably against -- or better than -- vehicles with non-turbo six- and eight-cylinder engines. Chrysler's unfocused turbo initiative over a period of about 25 years (1984-2009) lost momentum too soon. Hopefully the company will be back in the game soon, as Dave Zatz predicted. In the meantime, General Motors and Ford have brought numerous turbo cars to the market, now emphasizing gas mileage.

We make no guarantees regarding validity, accuracy, or applicability of information, predictions, or advice. Please read the terms of use and privacy policy. Copyright © 1994-2000, David Zatz; copyright © 2001-2016, Allpar LLC (except as noted, and press/publicity materials); all rights reserved. Dodge, Jeep, Chrysler, Ram, and Mopar are trademarks of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.


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