By on April 11, 2016

1985 Dodge Daytona in California Junkyard, © 2016 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

After the near-miraculous success of the K platform dug Chrysler out of the pit of its near-bankruptcy and controversial government bailout (no, not that bailout, the earlier one), Lee Iacocca led the company to produce a bewildering number of vehicles based on the K. Chrysler had some sporty machinery based on the Simca-derived Omnirizon (not to mention some hot rebadged Mitsubishis), but the Dodge Daytona and its Chrysler Laser sibling were the bread-and-butter factory hot rods of the 1980s and a bit beyond.

Here’s an ’85 I spotted at a now-defunct Los Angeles-area yard a while back.

13 - 1985 Dodge Daytona in California Junkyard - ©2016 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

So far in this series, we have admired this ’87 Daytona Shelby Z, this ’88 Daytona Turbo, this ’90 Daytona Turbo, this ’90 Daytona ES Turbo, this ’92 Daytona IROC R/T (yes, there was a Daytona IROC, trivia fans), plus this optioned-up ’85 Chrysler Laser XE.

09 - 1985 Dodge Daytona in California Junkyard - ©2016 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

Turbocharging was a magical thing in the middle 1980s, one of the major factors that enabled the American automotive landscape to emerge from the Malaise Era. Yes, this engine made fewer than 150 turbo-laggy horses, torque steer was horrendous (by current standards), and K-Car build quality made for iffy long-term reliability at best … but the Daytona/Laser Turbo felt pretty quick at the time.

02 - 1985 Dodge Daytona in California Junkyard - ©2016 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

Well, maybe it wasn’t so quick with the slushbox, but the TURBO badging gave the car’s owner bragging rights.

In the car business, product comes first!

This rugged-looking 1980s fella knew that it was Morning In America when he witnessed that new Daytona drive off the billboard.

If you bought the Shelby Turbo Z version, the attractive big-haired 1980s babes would be lured right out of roadside cafes and into your car. Proven scientific fact. You can’t see her pastel-colored leg warmers in this ad, but you know she owned many pairs.

[Images: © 2016 Murilee Martin/The Truth About Cars]

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30 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1985 Dodge Daytona Turbo...”


  • avatar
    -Nate

    Adlen Brothers had been talking about raising up a new post production sound stage there for over a decade .

    ” Dos Pendejos ” Self – Service R.I.P. , I remember when you opened up decades ago , you’ll be fondly missed by the regulars there .

    -Nate

  • avatar
    cwallace

    My dad traded our Celica for a black Chrysler Lazer model back in ’85, I think. It was the fanciest car he’d had to that point, so it came home with every goofy thing Lee’s boys could come up with, including the impressive (but not terribly useful) speech synthesizer. He was middle management’s answer to Knight Rider in that car.

    It was like riding in a turbocharged, cowhide-lined Speak N’ Spell, and we loved it.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    So much overhang lol. Look where the strut towers are relative to the front of the car. JFC

  • avatar
    tonyola

    When I was shopping for a new car back in the fall of 1983, I put the then-brand-new Chrysler Laser Turbo on my short list. I liked the looks (even if the front end looked curiously unfinished) and it seemed to offer a lot of neat features for the money. After hours poring over the brochures, I took one out for a test drive. At that point, my enthusiasm wavered. The engine was rough and coarse, the shifter was notchy, the car was noisy in general, and the interior seemed slapdash. What really killed the deal was when I accidentally stalled the car and a voice rang out “Check oil pressure! Check oil pressure!”. I told the salesman I didn’t want a nanny in my car. He told me I could turn it off but I reminded him that I would still be paying for it. The test drive ended without a sale and it was off to drive other cars (I ended up buying a Honda CRX).

  • avatar
    CaptainObvious

    Ok I give up. I can’t for the life of me remember the small car Chrysler introduced in 85 that Iacocca hints at when he presses the button on that high tech computer.

  • avatar

    I drove up to a camping trip with one of these back in the day. The turbo was set up for “long legs” in the 50-90 area, and you could just pull up boost to pass. For the malaise era, an unusual burst of life from the Home Team. Decent with a 5 speed, even if the cables made it not-exactly-Ferrari-notchy.

    Don’t stay there long…the non intercooled versions of this engine would heat up, detonate, and spark retard would make horsepower go bye – bye. Sprinter, not Marathoner.

    My GLH had the same drivetrain, but the OmniRizon body was stiffer, and had usable back seats.

    Tough engines, though. A friend of my wife, the stereotypical “gas goes here, key goes there” person, who lived in NYC to boot with street parking, got over 200k out of one before the transmission went. I think the oil was changed once every two years…..

  • avatar
    JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

    A co-worker at my first job had one (Turbo, manual). She gave me a ride home in it a few times, once we “raced” a 305 Camaro (I egged her on), and victory was ours! Im not sure it wouldve kept it behind us in an all-out race, but we did make the (well-timed) pass and although he tried, he couldnt keep us from getting around him.

    The car was a very nice blue with grey interior. It was pleasing enough, but Ive never found myself looking for one or even remotely considering it.

  • avatar
    indi500fan

    Through all the financial ups and downs and organizational tearup, the folks at Chrysler powertrain have always managed to use whatever resources were on hand and cook up something useful. This was another good example.

  • avatar
    cgjeep

    My mom had this engine (and auto) in her 88 Lebaron GTS convertible. The turbo lag was so bad that if were going about 30MPH you could floor it while hitting the eject button on the tape deck, the boost would hit as the tape was coming out and send the tape to the back seat. It also made nice noises on the overrun for the time. I was in high school at the time.

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    I bought a clean ’85 Daytona turbo in the early ’90s with a blown engine. Spun a crank bearing from running it out of oil. I rebuilt it myself so I was in it for less than $500 total. It was an automatic, so no love. So a dude I worked with wanted my ratty ’85 Colt Vista wagon for his new baby on the way, but had no cash. He did have a clean, low mileage SVO Mustang I’d been eyeballing, so I offered up the Daytona to sweeten the deal.

    Luckily his wife hated the SVO and he didn’t think much of it. I drove it and told him the turbo wasn’t building boost. So we made the trade and it was just a missing actuator clip to the waste gate.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    The “elapsed chronograph” timer is hilarious. Guess the owner could time how long it took to get through the drive-thru at Burger King.

  • avatar
    dividebytube

    In my GM hometown there were a few rare Chrysler and Ford fans, the former just lusting after these turbo Daytonas. Ah those 80s dreams.

  • avatar

    Yes folks, it’s true.

    Twenty years before Chevrolet used the slogan, Dodge was “An American Revolution.”

  • avatar
    kmars2009

    Sorry Murilee, this is an ’86 Daytona. It was the first year for the 3rd brake light.
    I had this exact car brand new off the showroom floor. I was 20 and it was my first brand new car. I was going to get a Shelby Charger, but the Daytona had a better ride. When I told the salesman I wanted the one on the showroom floor, he replied “yea right”. I said get it ready, my Dad will be here shortly to sign the papers with me. My Dad showed up, and away I went.
    I had that car for 2 years, then traded up for the ’89 Daytona ES. It was the first ’89 off the truck in August of ’88.
    They were okay cars with decent mileage. Eventually, I switched to a VW GTI. Now THAT was a great car.
    I guess I had to learn eventually, when in your 20’s. German cars are much better than Chryslers.

    • 0 avatar
      Superdessucke

      Great eye! This one indeed has a ’86 factory rear spoiler with the HSL, so it’s probably an ’86, unless someone replaced the spoiler at some point. But in light of the fact that the paint of the spoiler matches the body, I doubt it.

  • avatar
    TMA1

    That one commercial looks like it was filmed on the set of Blade Runner. But why buy a Daytona when flying cars are available?

  • avatar
    Big Wheel

    Man, I thought Ed Hardy made some ugly t-shirts, but seat covers too?! My eyes, my eyes!

  • avatar
    April S

    I was at my local mom and pop Chrysler Dodge Plymouth dealer when their first Laser rolled off the transporter. Black with black leather interior. Compared to the mostly vanilla cars they sold it was like something from the future.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    There is a shocking number of these still running out in the wild. Just one example. This one in JYF on TTAC today appears to have either been driven in, in a light accident and the owner never picked up, towed away for tickets/illegal parking and they couldn’t pay the fines, etc. etc. etc.

    Here is a runner for sale

    http://philadelphia.craigslist.org/cto/5480429293.html

  • avatar
    cimarron typeR

    Holy moly guys, 22 comments and none mentioning the fact that one of these starred on Hunter? btw what was Fred Dryer’s partners name?

  • avatar
    Big Al From 'Murica

    Aaaaaaand….CRAP. Send it to the crusher!

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    From the same platform. An 1988 Dodge Shadow Shelby CSX for a mere $2900. Not a bad deal.

    http://www.ebay.com/itm/Dodge-Shadow-Sport-/222079713412?forcerrptr=true&hash=item33b4fb8084:g:xXMAAOSw8RJXCAAx&item=222079713412

  • avatar
    Superdessucke

    Test drove a new one with my dad in ’84, though I think it was the Laser turbo version. I remember how new it smelled and how futuristic some of its features were. It was a pretty cool car, though I liked the Monte Carlo SS, which we also drove, much better.

    At the time, didn’t seem course, probably because our standards back then were much, much lower. And yes, 150 HP in 1984 was badass! It looks like a pile of dated crusty trash now but back then, these were well-liked and popular.

    Anyway, he didn’t buy the Laser, or the Monte SS, instead deciding to cheap out and buy a used crappy Nova in the end. But I remember these cars fondly.

    FWIW, those “turbine” wheels are factory but pretty rare on the Daytona Turbos. They were offered in ’85-86 and were also standard on the Lancer and Lebaron GTS turbo models, where they were much more commonly seen. Most Daytona Turbos had the upgraded “bowling ball” wheels or the “Turbo Z” package with its special wheels.

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