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The Eagle Talon and Plymouth Laser: Mitsubishi cars with pentastars

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The Eagle Talon and Plymouth Laser were engineered by Mitsubishi, styled by Chrysler, and built in the United States in the "Diamond Star" plant jointly owned by Chrysler and Mitsubishi. Some Chrysler engineering was involved, but far and away these were Mitsubishis with Eagle and Plymouth logos and names. Introduced with 2,700 pounds and a choice of standard and turbocharged two-liter engines, they pushed 190 horsepower in 1990 and could run 14.4 seconds at 96 mph, about the same as a 1974 360 Valiant four-speed. The iron-block, aluminum-head engine used dual overhead cams and four valves per cylinder; the turbocharger was intercooled with a maximum boost of 11 psi. Power maxed at around 6,000 rpm though the engine could run up to 7,000. The engine had a 60 degree angle with a large intake manifold; dual coil ignition was used with electronic fuel injection. The transmission was fully synchronized and had five speed (for the stick; the automatic made do with four).

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The suspension had independent struts up front and three-link trailing arms in rear, with rack and pinion steering, four wheel disc brakes, and, on turbo cars, P205/55VR16 tires. The turbo cars had heavy duty sway bars, 3/4 inches up front and one inch in rear. All wheel drive was available in the Talon but not the Plymouth.

The controls were cockpit-style, with a wraparound style dashboard that put controls within easy reach; early models had a passive restraint system with a motorized seat belt, as well as a manually attached lap belt. Gauges were placed at eye level, with water and oil temparature, a tachometer, and a turbo boost gauge for those models.

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The second generation Eagle Talon

In the second generation (starting in 1995), the Plymouth Laser no longer available, as the Plymouth Neon took its place; the relatively slow-selling Laser had not been as popular as the Talon, and for good reason. The Laser was not a traditional Plymouth; the budget/value brand was selling mainly the extended K-car family at the time, along with the clearly imported Colt.

The new Talon had a 50% stiffer body, with torsional rigidity improved by 60%; the track was wider and the wheelbase longer to improve handling. Three levels were available, ESi, TSi, and TSi AWD. The TSi had a standard turbocharged engine, now producing 210 horsepower with a five -speed stick or 205 horsepower with a four-speed Mitsubishi automatic. The standard 2.0 liter engine, totally unrelated now to the turbo, was a new Chrysler unit also used on the 1995 and newer Mitsubishi Eclipse; it was a version of the new Neon DOHC engine, and pumped out 140 horsepower through a Chrysler five-speed stick or a four-speed Chrysler automatic. The use of this engine starting in 1995 was the first time an American engine and transmission were supplied in volume to a Japanese automaker. Dave VanRaaphorst (project executive) said, "It speaks volumes that Mitsubishi now considers Chrysler engineered powertrains and electronics - in terms of power, reliability, and efficiency - for use in their own vehicles... The engineers at Chrysler are extremely proud of this reverse flow of technology with Japan."

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The suspension was changed to a fully independent, double wishbone design; as before, turbo models got a specially tuned suspension. Four wheel disc brakes remained standard across the line, wth optional ABS. The interior was totally redesigned, with a new panel that "flows uninterrupted into the doors." The driving position was made more ergonomic while a driver and passenger airbag were made standard. Full instrumentation continued. Standard features included a spoiler, intermittent wipers, and rear wiper/washer; TSi had fog lights, heated power mirrors, body color door handles, dual exhaust, and painted aluminum wheels. Interior TSi features included adjustable headrests, six-speaker cassette stereo, leather wheel and shift knob (manual), and power seats with memory.

1995 specifications:

Track (max) 60
Front headroom 34
Front legroom 43

Horsepower (stick/auto) 210/205 @ 6,000 140 @ 6,000
Torque (lb-ft) 214/220 @ 3,000 130 @ 4,800
EPA mileage 23 / 3122 / 32
Racing the Eagle Talon: Archer Brothers

The successful Archer Brothers racing team won five consecutive SCCA World Challenge titles using Eagle Talons. In 1992, they captured first place in every SCCA event, finishing 1-2 in seven straight races and starting from the pole in all eight outings.

Laser / Talon / Eclipse history

History based on text from Jason Swain. Production numbers from the Standard Catalog of Chrysler.

Plymouth Laser YearEagle Talon
5,284 (partial year)199424,040

* Not including late 1989 production
In the first year of the "Diamond Star" cars, buyers could choose between the 1990 Eagle Talon, Plymouth Laser, and Mitsubishi Eclipse; all were Mitsubishi designs, including the powertrains. The Eagle Talon came with the 2.0 engine, 2.0 turbo (TSi), or 2.0 turbo with all wheel drive (TSi AWD); an automatic was only available on the base Talon. The Laser added a base 1.8 liter engine, but did not have an all wheel drive option; the automatic was optional on either of the non-turbo engines. This would be the best year for Plymouth and a close second-best for Eagle.

Buyers of the 1991 cars could get the automatic transmission with any engine. This was Eagle's best production year; the brand beat Plymouth, but only because its inexpensive brother had lost over 10,000 sales.

The 1992 Talon and Laser adopted new rear tail-lights, moving from a unified full-width design to separate pods. The front ends were updated on all three cars to eliminate popup headlights. There were other minor changes in appearance; and the Laser finally gained the all wheel drive turbo powertrain.

The 1993 Eagle Talon gained the Plymouth's 1.8 liter base engine. Sales continued to slide, particularly for Plymouth; and production of the Laser ended in June 1994. That did not stop the slide over at Eagle.

The 1995 Eagle Talon and Mitsubishi Eclipse were thoroughly re-engineered, creating a second generation. Styling kept cues from the 1990-94 series. Chrysler engines finally made their way into the Mitsubishi designs: the 2.0 dual overhead cam "Neon" engine, producing 140 hp, was standard in the Talon and Eclipse. The turbocharged engine was still a Mitsubishi, and still available with all wheel drive. Production of the Talon only rose slightly, despite the loss of the Plymouth and the updates. The 1996 Talons slid in the market, leading to a restyling for the 1997 cars.

The 1998 Eagle Talon was the last, as the Eagle brand itself was dissolved. The Vision had been dropped at the end of its 1997 model year; so the Eagle Talon was the only Eagle car to be produced in 1998. It was still sold in base, ESi, TSi, and TSi AWD form.

The Diamond Star designs were thoroughly restyled, and became the new Dodge Avenger and Chrysler Sebring Coupe, with similar powertrain options.

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