Today’s cutting-edge car designs focus on things like electric power, and semi-autonomous driving. But look back a few decades and you’ll find Detroit struggling to reach a different set of aspirations. This is the 1984-1986 Chrysler Laser, a car tasked with the lofty goal of being... a somewhat practical sporty coupe.
I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that the Chrysler Laser is a forgotten car. It doesn’t even have its own english Wikipedia page. It’s just a subcategory under its twin brother, the Dodge Daytona.
And that makes sense. We understand that Dodge is the sporty one in the Mopar world, and these vehicles were marketed as sports cars. Two-door design. Racy vents and louvers and wings. An aero-friendly rear hatchback. That would be enough for Dodge now, which is the one that gets the Challenger and all of its Demonic incarnations.
But back in the ’80s Chrysler was somewhat desperate.
It had spent its time in the 1970s, responding to the oil crises of ’73 and ’79, uh, hanging out? Making fondue? Whatever. Once the ’80s rolled around, it did come out with a genuine import-fighter car. But like, one car. It only really had money to make one basic automotive skeleton, known as the K-Car, and spent the rest of the decade making various versions of it.
The first cars of 1981 were dowdy sedans, but we got limos, convertibles, minivans, and in 1984, sports cars in the form of the Dodge Daytona and its twin the Chrysler Laser, basically different only in the badges put on at the factory.
This Laser is not to be confused with the similar-looking Chrysler Conquest that replaced it, by the way, which was a rebadged Mitsubishi Starion. Or the Plymouth Laser that came after that, which was a rebadged Mitsubishi Eclipse.
Front-wheel drive, with a digital dash, manual transmission, and quintessentially ’80s styling, you could get these with Chrysler’s 2.2-liter turbo four, putting out initially around 140-odd horsepower and pulling about 2,600 pounds.
But it wasn’t as muscly as something like a Camaro, nor was it as daring as something like a Toyota Celica Supra or a 300ZX. The Laser didn’t really make sense.
But I’m a big dummy and I have a personal connection to these cars and I love them. Watch today’s episode of Know This Car at the top of the post and bask in the ultimate forgotten ’80s hero. Or, you know, not quite a hero.