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1984 Dodge Daytona and Chrysler Laser: the launch

oopsiesChrysler was on a roll as a 1984 approached, expanding the use of its new K-car platform and architecture in the same way it had proliferated its rear wheel drive cars, all based on torsion-bar front suspensions and similar rear suspensions and powertrains. American buyers flocked to the new cars, which provided adequate acceleration due to their light bodies, better build quality due to higher assembly standards, and interior space that was often similar to the much bigger, older cars.

For 1984, numerous cars were launched, and the company seemed to have no idea which would be winners. The minivans were underplayed, perhaps, while the Executive and Limousine were given more coverage than they merited; but there was no question about the pride Chrysler had in their new G-24 cars, which benchmarked and beat Porsches in handling — though, oddly, the company actually spent more time in their press release talking about the imported/Mitsubishi-sourced Colt Deluxe. The Colt would achieve some notoriety and fans, but Daytona outstripped it, and was an actual Chrysler accomplishment.

dodge daytona image

The relevant parts of Chrysler’s launch release:

G-24Chrysler Corporation has “cornered the market” with new and innovative car and truck products that are leading the industry into a new era of design and performance, according to Chrysler Chairman Lee lacocca.

At a special new product briefing that featured sedan, performance, convertible and station wagon “Corners,” each with several vehicles, lacocca said, "We're ahead of the competition on value, on style, on comfort, and on fuel efficiency. We're responsive to the market, and ready to fill the niches the other guys can't even find.” ...

Chrysler's performance history is legend. The Hemi engines of the 1960s are world famous, and in fact, still power a great many of the front running rear-wheel-drive cars on the nation’s race tracks and drag strips.

In 1981, Chrysler offered front wheel drive state of the art performance when it introduced the Dodge Charger 2.2 powered by a 2.2 liter engine coupled to a four speed transaxle. The Charger 2.2 with special paint trim and hood cowl scoop proved that the American car buyer is still interested in cars that handle and perform. ... For 1984, Chrysler Corporation will introduce two new performance cars, the Dodge Daytona and the Chrysler Laser. They will be equipped with a four-cylinder multi-point fuel injected turbocharged 2.2 liter engine and will be built on a 96.6 wheelbase.


Annual Report preview

The Annual Report previewed the various cars, pointing out “the first American-built, front-wheel-drive sports cars, the Dodge Daytona and Chrysler Laser... Featuring Chrysler’s standard 2.2 liter engine with fuel injection and optional turbocharging, the aerodynamic Laser and Daytona prove that high performance and fuel economy can be built into the same automobile. High technology is built into these cars, too, with a computer controlled engine and, on some models, a fully electronic instrument cluster, an electronic navigator, and a 22-function electronic monitoring system. These advanced sports cars are being marketed aggressively to younger buyers.”

1983 annual report

Early Dodge Daytona / Chrysler Laser advertising

Advertising was not neglected, by a long shot... thanks to J.P. Joans and his Chrysler Literature Facebook group for the following scans. The Daytona ads described the car’s features, though they required a lot of reading; of note were the generous gas mileage estimates, using the EPA’s optimistic standards of the time, of up to 24 city, 43 highway mpg. The Laser ad went directly against the competition, albeit on cherry-picked terms, showing the Daytona beating the formidable Nissan 300ZX in the slalom, the heavy Pontiac Trans Am in braking, and the Camaro Z-28 in 0-50 times (the text was more impressive than the images, showing more cars beaten; a popular car magazine later tested Daytona against both current and classic GM and Ford muscle cars, showing it to be a real contender).

daytona ads

laser ad

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