Dodge Daytona and Chrysler Laser
The Dodge Daytona first debuted in 1984, along with the similar Chrysler Laser. The cars were largely based on the Plymouth Reliant and Dodge Aries, and shared their 2.2 liter, four-cylinder engine.
Chrysler called the Laser a “highly personalized, sophisticated, sports car with excellent performance, handling and quality” and cited the Camaro, RX7, Supra, 280ZX, and Trans Am as competitors. Advantages included the luxurious interior, advanced technology, high standard equipment, aerodynamics, and gas mileage. Part of the rationale for selling the Laser and Daytona, incidentally, was bringing in showroom traffic for the cheaper Turismo 2.2, an Omni-based sporty two-door that amusingly might have outraced the standard Laser due to its lower weight. Laser was available as XE and Sport.
The “G body” Laser and Daytona used an extended K-frame; like the “K cars,” they had front wheel drive. The Dodge Daytona would become the first American-made front-drive sports car with a turbocharged engine, when the turbo 2.2 was installed. The 2.2 liter four-cylinder produced a respectable 142 horsepower, about the same as the 318 cubic inch V8 (albeit with less torque) -- quite good for the low weight of the Daytona. Cornering was respectable despite the sold rear axle. Turbo models used equal-length half-shafts to avoid torque steer, and had a number of other suspension enhancements.
Zero to sixty times of 8 to 8.5 seconds rivalled the Nissan 300 ZX Turbo, not to mention the Porsche 944. Gas mileage was estimated at 22 city/42 highway with the standard 2.2 (in both cases, with a stick-shift); the base engine could do 0-60 in ten seconds, quite good for the day.
The Dodge Daytona was a three-door (two plus hatch) four-seater, with a 97” wheel base. Stock performance with the 2.2 was not up to the Daytona’s looks, but the turbocharged cars could walk the talk; few automakers made a fast, affordable sporty car at the time, and even the base 2.2 did fairly well by contemporary standards when connected with the five-speed manual transmission. The car was fairly aerodynamic, with a respectable drag coefficient (cD) of 0.34 when launched.
The Laser was aimed at older drivers who appreciated a plusher vehicle, with more luxury options and a softened ride.
These were some of the first cars from any manufacturer to extensively use computer aided design (CAD) in their development.
To the public, the cars first appeared as the G-24 Super Sports Car in 1982-83. The G-24 had remnants of the body styling from the 1969 Dodge Charger Daytona that swept NASCAR, and from which the Dodge Daytona got its name; the clearest link was the front clip, with its aero-tilted covered headlights. The rear spoiler was, however, several feet shorter than that of the Dodge Charger Daytona.
The 1984 Daytona models had a length of 175 inches (on a 97 inch wheelbase), a width of 69 inches, and a height of 50 inches.
In October 1982, Motor Trend wrote that the 1984 "Chrysler G-24" would have four bucket seats, be a hatchback, and stand on the K-car platform but share no body panels with any other Chrysler product. They noted the fuel-injected 2.2 as the base engine, saying there would be an optional turbo 2.2, but spent more time on the interior, "definitely sportier" than other Chrysler vehicles, with "restyled analog instruments and a few digital items." (Thanks, NDNRacer)
The side louvers were made of ABS plastic, while the rear deck louvers were powder-coated aluminum (Bob O’Neill’s 1986 Turbo Z with T-tops came with the rear louvers, but not the side louvers).
Lotus engineer Michael Royce wrote that, in 1985, Lotus Engineering was asked to create a 16-valve version of the 2.5 liter engine, and to set up a four wheel drive Daytona Turbo:
In the fall of 1986, the [naturally aspirated 16-valve] 2.5L Program was cancelled due to engineering budget constraints. The unusual combination of a long stroke (104 mm) with the 16 valve head fixed the 2.5L's breathing problems, and gave a nice smooth engine that would rev easily up to about 7500 rpm. It gave about the same performance in a vehicle as a Turbo I (~150 hp, also similar to the 3-liter V6).
The 4WD G-24 program was cancelled in November 1987, again due to budget constraints, just as we were getting the car to perform and handle as well as the Audi Quattro, the target vehicle. John Miles, from Lotus, was leading the chassis development.
The Dodge Daytona got its second and final major facelift in 1992; the popup headlights were made intro wraparounds, the tail was redone, and ground effects were changed. Antilock brakes became available, and the IROC and IROC R/T models entered their first full year of production after being introduce in February 1991; new features included a clutch interlock or park interlock, new exterior mirrors, and side daylight opening moldings.
The IROC came with the 3 liter V6, and the rare 2.5 liter turbo as an option; but the big gun was still the R/T model, with its 224 horsepower 2.2 liter Turbo III engine, shared only with the Spirit R/T (except in Mexico). This car could do 0-60 in around six seconds; but only around 250-300 were made in 1992 (they had also been made in 1991). The Daytona was also raced in IROC, heavily modified, and using 355 cubic inch Chrysler V8s. Despite the Daytona R/T, which was barely marketed and remains almost unknown outside hard-core Mopar circles, sales dropped to fewer than 11,000 Daytonas. The failure of this sporty car to rack up sales was almost unaccountable, given its strong popularity in 1988 and 1989, and its powerful new engines; had the Daytona R/T been better marketed, it might well have had a better showing.
Burton Bouwkamp, then Director of Body and Chassis Engineering, wrote,
A Product Planning objective for the G-24 model was to handle better than a Porsche 924. I assigned the job of meeting that objective to Scott Harvey, a Chrysler Engineering suspension engineer who had earned a good reputation in rallying in the Michigan area. He won the “Press On Regardless” Rally several times.
Scott achieved the Product Planning objective as measured by comparing professional and amateur driver times on both high speed and low speed courses. The G-24 won as measured by the stop watch - but two rolled Porsche 924s at Chelsea Proving Grounds were more dramatic evidence of our achievement. (Bob Ludwig, Proving Ground Manager, told me that if they “totalled” another, I would have to pay for replacing it out of my Department’s budget.)
During the development program, Scott reported that he had gone as far as he could with the chassis and tires, and that poor lateral seat retention was limiting the driver's ability to corner the G24. Consequently, I transferred Scott to the seat department on special assignment to develop the seat that we needed. Working for/with the seating department manager (Bill Shea) they were successful, but I never saw the end of the program because I was transferred to Tokyo in 1983.
Scott and Bill developed manually inflatable seat bolsters to provide good lateral support while avoiding customer complaints regarding entrance/exit interference from the high cushion and back side bolsters.
Scott Harvey himself remembered:
As far as the seat is concerned, I'm not at all surprised that I was unhappy with the proposed seat. I suspect my contribution was to provide the seating department with a sample of what I considered a good "sports car" seat. I probably took them the drivers seat out of my then current Dodge Colt rally car, a Recaro aftermarket seat. It had good thigh and back lateral support—perhaps slightly extreme for a production car.
The genius of Bill Shea and his staff was to make the bolsters adjustable. With the bolsters inflated the seat had good lateral support, by deflating the bolsters the seat became easier for the driver to get in and out. It was more acceptable to those who were not in need of lateral support for their driving habits and back lateral support.
... I have never had a chance to thank you for providing me with my first Chrysler sponsored rally car after you discovered I was driving a Mercedes sponsored vehicle. It started a long sustained sponsorship from Chrysler for my rally/road race hobby. For many years (until I retired in 1987) I was able to submit a proposal for my annual hobby activity and more often than not, I was provided the vehicle and budget to continue.
Daytona owner Phil Brust added: “It may have been a little tight for larger people since the side bolsters were pronounced. It had two stalks tipped with rubber squeeze bulbs protruding from under the driver's seat on the right side; one controlled back and the other thigh support. There was a button to relieve pressure on both bulbs.”
Typical front wheel drive handling problems (torque steer, understeer) were countered with better than average success for the time. The stiffer suspension assemblies in the C/S and Shelby editions were a large improvement (at the expense of ride). If you can locate these as parts cars, they are a real find. [Added by webmaster] Bob O'Neill wrote: "Energy Suspensions offer urethane bushings for the Daytona as well as other cars. These are very low cost."
The rigid rear axle means that at higher speeds the rear end will tend to become light and hard to control (about 61/39 weight distribution depending on engine). The Dodge Daytona frame was never updated but owners can increase its rigidity. Steering is quite good, and the later version of the steering was used in the development of the Prowler.
- Launching Dodge Daytona and Chrysler Laser: press kit
- Adding rear shoulder belts to early Daytonas
- Suspension changes for racing cars on road courses and circle tracks,
- FWD car handling modifications,
- Dodge Daytona performance upgrades and repair tips
In 1991, nearly all Chrysler front wheel drive vehicles, and minivans, had major front suspension tuning changes to improve ride, cornering, and overall feel. The following changes were made:
- The roll center was raised by 3 inches, reducing body roll
- Caster was increased by 3° on passenger cars (less on minivans) to improve steering feel and to improve the lateral force provided by the outside tire when cornering, by reducing positive camber
- Steering geometry was revised to reduce toe change during suspension movement, which increased steering response and high-speed stability
- Steering geometry was also changed to allow the inside wheel to turn more sharply than the outside wheel during cornering
- Power steering valving was revised to be “tighter” — to increase responses to small movements
- The steering intermediate shaft and coupling were changed to eliminate torsional flexing
- Steering ratios changed from 14:1 to 16:1 on AA bodies, Shadow/Sundance, and Daytona
These changes involved changing the strut towers, front suspension cross-member, lower control arms, struts, steering knuckles, and the sway bar. The hub unit and half-shaft boots were also changed for better longevity.
Movies and TV
The Wraith featured Dodge Daytonas; the Blair Witch Project featured a Daytona; and Frank Sinatra passed a Corvette at over 120 mph using a Daytona or Laser in Cannonball Run, though some shots showed him in a Corvette (the director was sloppy). Tom Powell wrote that, on Hunter (TV), DeeDee McCall drives several Dodge Daytonas, which were modified through the series. In later years she had a red Daytona Shelby Z with t-tops and black rims (not factory); and one car has the Shelby Z body, with Turbo Z seats and door panels; it was probably made by Chrysler before the final changes. In later episodes, the car is correctly badged and optioned.
The V6 models typically command a higher price. The IROC R/T (with 2.2 Turbo III) and Turbo IV (VNT) models are both rare; the R/T Turbo III can be hard to live with. The base IROC model is nothing but a sticker package.
Relevant Allpar links
This section will be integrated into the page eventually.
Laser: 1985 Turbo
ES/Sport Daytona: 1990 w/Sport Package
IROC Daytona: 92 Iroc (Red)
IROC R/T Daytona:91 Red Iroc R/T
C/S, Shelby, Shelby Z, and Turbo Z Daytona:
- (1)"Dodge Daytona Turbo Z", by Don Sherman, Car and Driver, 9/83
- (2)"Dodge's sporty new coupe...", Popular Mechanics, 7/93
- "G-24 Super Sports Car", Popular Mechanics, Pg. 65, 2/83
- "Chrysler G-24 Turbo", Road & Track, 12/82
- "Dodge Daytona rewrites performance-car theory", Popular Science, 7/93
- "Dodge Daytona ES; The back-road brawler becomes a boulevard cruiser", by Nicholas Bissoon-Dath, Car and Driver, Pg 123-127, 8/90
- "Dodge Daytona Shelby," Road & Track, 41:pg 82-86
- "Dodge Daytona with the Shelby Touch", Design News, 10/5/87, pg 78-9
- "Dodge Daytona IROC R/T, A Rough and Tumble Thumper", by Daniel Charles Ross, Motor Trend, 2/93, Pg. 62-5, 67-68
- Mopar Performance 1997 Catalog, Catalog No. P4876297