By on October 28, 2016

1990 Shelby CSX (P), Image: Shelby Automobiles

It was impossible to escape the word “Turbo” in the 1980s.

There were Turbo Aviators and Turbo Hoover vacuums. Turbo was a character on American Gladiators. There was even Turbo chewing gum, which came with a cool mini car poster wrapper. Turbo was a helluva drug in the 1980s, and Chrysler took note.

BMW offered one turbocharged gasoline model. Porsche offered three. But Chrysler? Over a 10 year span, the Pentastar turbocharged its entire car lineup, bringing us some 20 turbocharged models powered by no less than six different variations of the 2.2- and 2.5-liter inline-fours.

What was perhaps most interesting about the Chrysler turbocharged four was that it was never intended to be a performance engine. Instead, Chrysler developed it in the 1970s as a reaction to the oil crises.

Then the ’80s happened.

When turbo became all the rage, Chrysler turned to its engineers and told them to develop a turbocharged engine. It may have been a bit crude compared to European efforts, but Chrysler’s collaboration with Garrett Research resulted in some serious firepower. The greatest development of the 2.2-liter engine produced 224 horsepower in 1991.

Never really known for its refined, well, anything, Chrysler now had some serious speed potential and it sprinkled it on basically every model it could. Here are some of the results.

1986 Dodge Omni Shelby GLH-S (L), Image: Shelby Automobiles

Dodge Omni

Though they bore a fair amount of resemblance to other Chrysler products, the Dodge Omni and Plymouth Horizon twins weren’t based on the popular K platform, but the French Simca-based L platform. These models carried the first variation of the 2.2-liter SOHC Turbo (I), which was nominally rated at 142 horsepower. That may sound relatively modest, but adding the Garrett Research T3 turbocharger to the inline-four produced more power than Chrysler’s 3.0-liter V6 and 318 ci V8 at the time.

Power was later upgraded in 1987 with the GLH-S, which used the Turbo II engine. Sprouting an intercooler increased horsepower to 174 — about a 50 horsepower advantage over a contemporary GTI 16V. It had cool wheels, cooler graphics and the coolest name: Goes Like Hell.

Which would you rather drive? That’s right, the GTI.

1986 Dodge 600 Convertible (K), Image: Chrysler

Chrysler E-Class/New Yorker, Dodge 600, Plymouth Caravelle

The new E-Class platform for 1983 was a lengthened version of the K platform for added luxury. As with the original Omni GLH model, power came from the 142-horsepower Turbo I. The 600’s styling may be forgettable, but Chrysler claimed the drop-top scooted from 0-60 in under 6 seconds. You needed that speed to avoid nauseous bystanders viewing the styling. Production wrapped up on the E-Class with the equally unremarkable late-80s New Yorker Turbo.

1986 Chrysler LeBaron Town & Country (K), Image: Chrysler

Chrysler LeBaron/Town & Country

Wait, this is a different convertible than the one above? The K platform was a pretty popular one for Chrysler, sprouting an astonishing 42 derivatives over its lifespan. As with earlier models, both the LeBaron and LeBaron Town & Country (with its faux wood exterior) got their power from the Turbo I engine, which was probably the only cool thing about them. Of course, if the faux-wood droptop Town & Country was good enough for “John Voight,” maybe it’s good enough for you, too?

1985 Chrysler LeBaron GTS (K), Image: Chrysler

Chrysler LeBaron GTS, Dodge Lancer, Shelby Lancer

The LeBaron and the LeBaron GTS shared exactly three things: a name, the basic K-platform, and a motor. Outside of that, the GTS was more modern, aerodynamic, and a bit more swift.

Utilizing the Turbo I, Chrysler claimed in advertising the GTS outperformed the BMW 528e and Mercedes-Benz 190E. Its sibling, the 1987 Shelby Lancer, was the hot item here, with the intercooled Turbo II offering 175 horsepower “tuned” by the Cobra legend and limited to only one color and 800 examples.

Strangely, the Shelby Lancer then later became the Lancer Shelby in ’88/’89. Though more rare than the ’87, they weren’t officially produced by Shelby Automobiles.

Of course, the market is ablaze with people seeking out clean examples of these cars and not the E28 or W201, right?

1990 Chrysler LeBaron Turbo GTC (J), Image: Chrysler

Chrysler Lebaron GTC/TC by Maserati

Chrysler further refined altered the LeBaron with the “new” J platform, a revised version of the K platform, and added all-new convertible and coupe models. Production of the new LeBaron started in 1987, so all turbocharged models had the Turbo II (174 hp, intercooled) engine. The topless model even became the official 1987 Indianapolis Pace Car if you can believe it.

While the Maserati moniker added some arguably undeserved name recognition in the TC model for the European crowd, performance was pretty stout in manual models, which carried a 16 valve DOHC Cosworth-developed version of the 2.2-liter engine rated at 200 horsepower.

In 1989, Chrysler downgraded the TC’s power with the 2.5 SOHC Turbo rated at only 150 horsepower; however, the company also offered a revised GTC Turbo in 1990, which brought power back up to 174 with the Turbo IV through the use of “Variable Nozzle Turbine” technology. You would instantly lose friends if you tried to explain Variable Nozzle Turbines at a party — but it was quite technically impressive in its day.

*crickets*

1991 Dodge Daytona IROC R/T (L), Image: Chrysler

Dodge Daytona, Shelby Charger

As with the LeBaron, the Daytona was a well-established name that the company then used in a dizzying number of variations. Unlike the LeBaron, these coupe variants were based on the Omni’s L platform. There was the normal Daytona, Daytona Turbo, Daytona Turbo Z, Daytona Pacifica, Shelby Z Daytona, and Shelby Charger — all of which used the Turbo I.

In 1989, Dodge moved the Daytona models to the 2.5-liter Turbo I, which was downgraded to 150 horsepower in the Daytona Turbo ES. That might have seemed disappointing, but Chrysler fixed this in 1990 with the Variable Nozzle Turbo IV in the Daytona and Daytona Shelby models.

Still, it was the last run Daytonas that got the big power. Utilizing the ultimate development of the TC motor, Dodge offered the new DOHC 16 valve Turbo III rated at 224 horsepower in the 1991-1993 Daytona IROC R/T. That was impressive power for what was effectively a chassis one generation separated from a horse-drawn wagon. Despite the name IROC, the model shared nothing in common with the real racing IROC Daytonas other than a general resemblance.

1991 Dodge Spirit R/T (AA), Image Source: http://i.wheelsage.org/pictures/d/dodge/spirit_r_t/dodge_spirit_r_t_1.jpeg

Dodge Spirit, Plymouth Acclaim

To replace its aging, front-drive sedans, Chrysler once again turned to a modified version of the K platform. (Surprise!) The new AA platform saw another variant of the LeBaron launched (yes, really), but turbocharging was left to its sibling Spirit and Acclaim models as Chrysler wanted to market the LeBaron as more “upscale” (read: more velour, Landau tops and faux-wire wheels). Both started life with the 2.5-liter SOHC Turbo I with 150 horsepower through 1992, but the Spirit was given an extra boost with the R/T model in 1991. It shared the Turbo III 224 horsepower motor seen in the Daytona IROC R/T, but in a package slightly more modern than the L chassis.

1990 Shelby CSX (P), Image: Shelby Automobiles

Plymouth Sundance, Dodge Shadow, Shelby CSX

To replace the very tired L platform in the late 1980s, Chrysler turned to — you guessed it — the K platform.

Modifying it into the new P platform gave the company a few small hatchback-coupe models. As with other models, starting in 1987, the base 142 hp Turbo I powered the Sundance and Shadow models. Chrysler then turned to Shelby again to produce the Shadow-based CSX variant, which used the 174 hp Turbo II.

In 1990, the CSX moved to the Variable Nozzle Turbo IV and could apparently hit 156 mph flat-out. No, I’m not kidding. If you’re counting, Shelby made this technology work an astonishing 17 years before Porsche and the CSX was also the first production car to wear composite wheels.

1990 Dodge Caravan Turbo (S), Image: Chrysler

Dodge Caravan, Plymouth Voyager

Okay, this is getting a bit out of hand, right?

Well, the company that brought us the minivan at least had the gumption to turbocharge it, too. Since the minivan S platform was, no surprise, based on the K platform, all of Chrysler’s turbo running gear fit right in.

Starting in 1989 and for a three-year period, you could opt to get the 2.5-liter SOHC Turbo I in your Caravan or Voyager. These minivans could even be mated to a five-speed manual transmission, meaning that you had a people hauler capable of just plain hauling. There’s still a fringe community who loves (and drag races) these vans.

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

Recommended

93 Comments on “Here Are All the Ways Chrysler Tried To Turbocharge the 1980s...”


  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    You can never defeat turboz K-car.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      You’ll always win with directional alloys or lace alloys. Both are here!

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        Neither can hold a candle to the circle hole alloys that were on the original GLH.

        http://cdn2.3dtuning.com/info/Dodge%20Shelby%20Omni%20GLHS%201986%20sedan/factory/5.jpg

        Best wheels of the ’80s, maybe ever.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          Can’t scroll over to get the link. You mean these?

          http://www.turbododge.com/dodge_pictures/files/3/8/7/2/bbs1.jpg

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            Nope. They were on Shelby Chargers too, so here’s another picture with a shorter URL:

            http://www.conceptcarz.com/images/Dodge/Dodge_Shelby_Charger_BY_05_Cinci_01.jpg

          • 0 avatar
            gozar

            The Pizza Wheels were OK, but the Swiss Cheese Wheels were the best:
            http://www.shelby-dodge.com/wheels1.html

        • 0 avatar
          JimC2

          Bring back the 1970s dog dishes!

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          I must put forth that best ’80s wheels are here.

          https://static.cargurus.com/images/site/2008/04/13/18/50/1985_porsche_928-pic-43520-640×480.jpeg

          OR

          https://assets.blog.hemmings.com/wp-content/uploads//2013/09/10.jpg

          If you prefer American cars.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            Not bad, but not the same as those GLH/Charger wheels. There’s Something About Circles.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            I agree, that’s why I’ve owned more Audis than anything else. I like the emblem.

            I also love these big full moon alloys on the current Beetle.

            http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-YCKIh8kjzTk/VY6Ab1z-GcI/AAAAAAAAsjk/eAN2oGXqQt8/s1600/2015%2BVolkswagen%2BBeetle%2Bsilver.jpg

            Those are so nice.

        • 0 avatar
          never_follow

          Clearly, more holes is more better. Pepperpots (or swiss cheese, apparently?) all the way!

          In googling, I also found these:

          wwwdotkwecarsdotcom/services/kwe-options/the-hdv-pepperpot-wheel/

          The want is very, very strong.

        • 0 avatar

          @dal – thanks for the link. I owned the 84 non turbo version of the Charger pictured at the link – 4 stud wheel as opposed to the 5 stud. Enjoyed driving that car and wouldn’t mind having a “brand new” one to drive again. My brother had an 86 GLH Shelby Charger which was a fun car to drive also. It went fast very easy.

  • avatar
    threeer

    Owned a 1985 Lancer GTS. Loved that thing…turbo lag was a bit, um, pronounced, but for a college kid, it looked the business. I replaced the stock rims with a nicer set of 5-star alloys and plunked waaay too much into a custom-built stereo (crossover and ported box, anybody?). But given what a lot of other kids were driving, it seemed a bit upscale in comparison. Sure, the gearbox (manual) was agricultural at best, but the seats were super-comfy, the gun-metal blue paint slick after a weekend of detailing and when I cranked my stereo, it was sublime.

    And then I drove my sister’s new 1989 CRX Si…

  • avatar
    Dilrod

    This I remember well. My high school fellow gearhead buddy told me all about the Shelby Mustangs, then these things came out. A Shelby Omni? Ewww. How could something like that compare to a classic??

    Then Hot Rod did a feature putting either a Shelby Charger or Daytona (I forget which) against a Shelby Mustang on the track. The Mustang was ahead at the start of the race, but the Mopar machine was able to beat it in the long run. They tried it a second time giving the Mustang a headstart, with the same results.

  • avatar
    indi500fan

    156mph subcompact in 1990…not too shabby…but probably terrifying….

  • avatar
    Opus

    As I recall, Iacocca made a claim in about 1985 that they would soon have a sporty car that could “out-handle and out-accelerate” a Porsche (!) I think the Daytona Shelby (or one of those variants) was supposed to be that car. Can anyone else verify that claim? Did the Daytona come close to “walking the walk”?

    • 0 avatar
      indi500fan

      Like any comparo, it depends on the criteria.
      Put big enough donuts on the thing and the steady state cornering g’s might be better.
      The high boost version of these had plenty of acceleration.
      And of course what Porsche as the benchmark? A 924 wasn’t too formidable.

    • 0 avatar
      bluegoose

      I’m pretty sure it was the 86 GLHS that matched or beat a Porshe 944 and a Ferrari 308 in acceleration. Keep in mind the 944 and the 308 were not that fast by today’s standards. The 86 GLHS also lapped Willow Springs faster than the Mustang GT350 in one comparo.

      • 0 avatar
        DenverMike

        Very impressive but the GT350 was just a stripe kit on the 175 hp 1984 GT. By ’86 the Mustang had 200+ hp, same as the SVO that would’ve smoked it at the track.

        • 0 avatar
          bluegoose

          No. It beat a 1966 Mustang GT 350 by 2 seconds around Willow Springs in a Hot Rod Magazine feature.

        • 0 avatar
          JimC2

          Those 200+ horsepower Mustangs had a funny epilog. When Ford changed the body styling to jelly bean, they also changed the advertised horsepower from 225 to 205. They candidly admitted that the 225 figure was based on cherry picked engines, rather than a random sample from the production line. Mustang fanbois were quite unhappy. Furthermore, IIRC, they said that the newer 205hp engines probably made slightly higher output, on average, than the old ones.

          Don’t forget that the “5.0” 302 V8 was actually 4.9L. It wasn’t a secret that they rounded up because five point oh sounds better, but a lot of fanbois didn’t know this.

          Now don’t get me wrong, the 1980s V8 Mustangs were really great cars with all kinds of bang for the buck. But Ford did play fast and loose with the numbers.

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            I remember the not-so advertised 300 lbs/ft of torque that nothing in its class came close to, in ’87. And in a much lighter notch LX? That’s all I needed to know!

  • avatar
    JimC2

    Don’t forget about the Judas Priest album, Turbo. That was back in the Tipper Gore and offensive lyrics era…

  • avatar
    Drzhivago138

    Turbo LeBaron T&C or Caravan, please.

  • avatar
    Bazza

    I think Diamond Star Motors (DSM) and their 4G63(!)-equipped models deserve a mention here, as it was 50% Chrysler until around 1991.

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      Was going to post the same thing. They left off a lot of other turbo offerings, but I guess panning Japanese products with Big Three badges fits in with the snark of the article.

    • 0 avatar
      Carter Johnson

      Bazza, certainly worth the mention – but the 4G63 and the 1G chassis was pretty much all-Mitsubishi in development, I believe, and wasn’t launched until the 1990 model year, so I left them off. But they were pretty neat cars that produced even more power than the 2.2 or 2.5 Chrysler did.

  • avatar
    RedRocket

    Never owned any of these but drive a few. Test-drove a Sundance 2-door turbo in 1990, liked nothing about it from the chassis clunks and turbo lag to the bad seats and floppy controls inside along with the cheap-looking dash. Drove a Daytona Turbo as well, still wasn’t crazy about the engine but the rest of it wasn’t bad. Never got a chance to try a Dodge Spirit turbo but wish I had – the Spirit was actually a nice car to drive and probably the best of these K-derivatives.

  • avatar
    2manycars

    The turbo craze at Chrysler was at least partly due to them not being able to get enough V6 engines from supplier Mitsubishi to meet demand for more powerful engines. (At the time they did not have their own V6 engine.)

    • 0 avatar
      JimC2

      They were in a tight spot in the late 1970s. Somebody had the foresight and wisdom to design the 2.2 with a strong bottom end. Otherwise their turbo craze would have gone nowhere quick!

    • 0 avatar
      Higheriq

      As they had limited funds to develop a V6. And recall that the original Omnirizons had 1.7L engines supplied by Volkswagen.

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        Wasn’t one of the Engineers from the Slant 6 program involved in the design of the 2.2 shortly before retirement?

        No wonder it had a stout bottom end.

        • 0 avatar
          JimC2

          Yep, that’s the story. The really impressive thing is that the bean counters let the engineers do it right. Laying off half the engineers right as the Aspen-Volare went to market was a big part of what really did in “old Chrysler.” Tough decision when the company wasn’t liquid, but it sent them into a spiral. So that’s why I meant- that a couple years later they actually invested enough money in the 2.2.

          The only bad things you could say about that engine–for its era–was that it shook a lot and the carburetors made it run bad. The headgaskets weren’t known for lasting more than about five years, but keep in mind that this was in an era when the 5/50 warranty was a really really big deal in the car world.

          • 0 avatar

            You’re right about the head gaskets. I went through several of them in the 406K I had mine. I was always told it was due to the aluminum head mated to the steel block – different expansion/contraction rates being the culprit. Any truth to that?

        • 0 avatar
          Carter Johnson

          Yes, there’s a link to an interview with him in the beginning of the article. Interesting read!

  • avatar
    cargogh

    My ’86 GLH Turbo will always remain a favorite car. Once in Charlotte, in a semi-race that started in a parking garage, my friend beat me in his Shelby GLHS. I wished I had waited until 1987 at that point to for those extra hp. But I was happy I could see out of my 4-door hatch. Never liked the filled in rear sides of the 2 doors.

    • 0 avatar
      brettucks

      I had the GLH also with a ‘boost adjuster’. Never got to try a GLH-S but with the amount of torque steer already present it was kinda scary anyway. I seemed to do fine off the line but it would seem to kinda die out above 80.

      Did you have to crank the wheel a bit between shifts too?

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    It’s a pity we never got a supercharged Previa with a stick. Then we could have had “Egg Vs Breadbox” drag races.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Chrysler LeBaron/Town & Country Convertible, I have lusted after those for many years. It is THE MOST 1980s thing I can think of, it is so 80s that it should be center stage in a Smithsonian exhibit about the decade.

    • 0 avatar
      JimC2

      Those convertibles were a small stroke of genius from Iacocca. NOBODY else was building new convertibles and Chrysler figured out a way to build them inexpensively.

      • 0 avatar
        rudiger

        Ironically, Chrysler’s finance department tried to nix the convertible, saying it would be too expensive to build by an outside conversion outfit (ASC, I think) and wouldn’t sell.

        But Iacocca wanted the car, regardless of the cost. As it turned out, he was right, and the cost to bring it to market would be justified later as volume in-house production eventually made it profitable.

  • avatar
    Higheriq

    Speaking of the Omni GLH-S: “It had cool wheels, cooler graphics and the coolest name: Goes Like Hell.”

    There was the GLH, and then the GLH-S. The GLH-S was actually: Goes Like Hell S’more.

  • avatar
    DaytonaUSA

    The list is missing one car: the 1986 turbocharged Chrysler Executive limo. “Terrifying” doesn’t even begin to describe that car….

  • avatar
    87 Morgan

    Wow! My older brother had a 93′ Iroc Daytona 5 MT red in color. I believe that it was a fairly decent car for him. He did however opt for the N/A V6 in lieu of the turbo 4. I drove it a handful of times and for the most part it was a decent driving machine with, as noted above, quite comfortable seats. I recall some serious torque steer though when you got into it.

    I think one of the major gripes for the V6 was you had to basically yank the motor to swap the plugs that were adjacent to the firewall.

    My brother is a died in the wool MOPAR man. Now sports a red R/T Challenger that he has had for 6 years or so…

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Drove one of the first turbocharged Caravans, for a week. Took about a month for the ringing to stop in my ears, from the engine and road noise.

  • avatar
    bluegoose

    I had a 1986 Shelby Charger with the stage 2 computer and the overhead Direct Connection Intercooler. I didn’t get to drive it much before it rusted to death. However, it was a scary car to drive in both the good and the bad sense. Chrysler was the number 3 so they had to innovate. They ended up coming up with some really crazy combinations of cars. Some worked, and some didn’t. However, they were never boring. I own a Stage 1 PT Cruiser GT 5-speed and I consider it and the SRT-4 as the final ancestors of this FWD Turbo onslaught.

  • avatar
    Flipper35

    That is a very confusing article,especially in the Daytona area.

    “As with the LeBaron, the Daytona was a well-established name that the company then used in a dizzying number of variations. Unlike the LeBaron, these coupe variants were based on the Omni’s L platform. There was the normal Daytona, Daytona Turbo, Daytona Turbo Z, Daytona Pacifica, Shelby Z Daytona, and Shelby Charger — all of which used the Turbo I.

    In 1989, Dodge moved the Daytona models to the 2.5-liter Turbo I, which was downgraded to 150 horsepower in the Daytona Turbo ES. That might have seemed disappointing, but Chrysler fixed this in 1990 with the Variable Nozzle Turbo IV in the Daytona and Daytona Shelby models.”

    • 0 avatar
      Carter Johnson

      Sorry it’s confusing. It’s pretty hard to follow all of the changes year to year.

      • 0 avatar
        la834

        I think the Daytona (and the Chrysler Laser variant that was offered at first) used the K platform, not the L (Omni/Horison). Not that the Daytona and early J-body LeBarons used the same dashboard. You may be confusing it it with the L-body hatchback coupes which went by loads of names – the Plymouth went by Horizon, Horizon TC3, just TC3, Turismo, Turismo Duster, and just Duster. The Dodge used variations of Omni, 024, and Charger including some Shelby versions. And don’t forget the Dodge Rampage and Plymouth Scamp “ute” pickups.

  • avatar
    JimZ

    “You needed that speed to avoid nauseous bystanders viewing the styling.”

    these kinds of throwaway comments do the article no favors.

    • 0 avatar
      Carter Johnson

      Sorry you didn’t enjoy it Jim.

      • 0 avatar
        JimZ

        it isn’t about me “not enjoying it,” it’s about it not being even remotely accurate. there was nothing nauseating about the cars’ styling in 1983.

        “The Truth About Cars” should be about digging into the underbelly of the industry (and the industries associated with it) like Farago’s GM Death Watch, or Mark exposing the literal corruption of mainstream automotive journalists. “The truth about cars” is not pointless throw-away snark about stuff like this. If I wanted to hear snarky dismissal of things, I’d go back to 7th grade.

        • 0 avatar

          I agree. The article is poorly written. I’m not entirely sure if it’s due to indifferent editing or a poor grasp of the facts–both technical and historical–or what. There’s a stunning lack of context here. It makes me wonder what the source material was.

          • 0 avatar
            Featherston

            Not to pile on, but the adjacent “Chrysler claimed the drop-top scooted from 0-60 in under 6 seconds” almost certainly is incorrect too. Mopar advertising of the day often listed 0-50 times, as 55 mph was the national speed limit. A car doing 0-60 in the 5’s would have been spanking even the fastest cars on the US market (Porsche 928, Ferrari 308, and so forth).

          • 0 avatar
            Carter Johnson

            @Featherston – you may be correct; I’m now (of course) unable to find the advertisement which showed that and may have misread the 50 as a 60 – but the headline was 5.8 seconds.

          • 0 avatar
            Carter Johnson

            @Josh McCullough – a fair amount of the basic information was pulled from Allpar.com, which has some very interesting development material.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    I feel like Thom should be here to talk about his Shelby he had for a little bit! Is Japan awake still?

    Also – I still like that early ’90s LeBaron sedan landau ruched velour edition. I think the styling was very tidy, and yet also contained brougham in a much more satisfying way than previous New Yorker K-Car attempts before or after.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Its about 1:30 AM there

    • 0 avatar

      Any day I log in to TTAC and see a turbo Dodge is a good day.

      My Charger was an ’83 and was a non-turbo. The NA 2.2 is a bit of a slug but quite robust. It was a good little engine.

      Pumping up the pressure with the turbo is what caused the head gasket issues. the one on my Shadow blew at about 80K miles. The good news is that I was able to fix it myself in my parents’ garage with simple hand tools. At around 137K, I sold it to my brother who used it for several years before passing it along to his wife’s sister. She used it for several more years before I lost track of it.

      It’s hard for me to think of these cars as primative. My Shadow was so much more modern than my ’74 250cid three-on-the-tree Nova.

      But time marches on and what I found when I bought my Shelby is that these are just old cars now. No different now than the ’68 383 Roadrunner my buddy and I helped a friend put an alternator back in ’84. Just old unloved cars whose time hasn’t come around yet.

  • avatar
    5280thinair

    I considered the Daytona Turbo back in the day, but the abysmal reliability friends and acquaintances were experiencing with their Omnis and K-cars with similar power trains talked me out of it. One had a K-car where the shift linkage quickly got so sloppy that you couldn’t tell if you’d selected 1st or reverse by feel. You shoved it into gear, slipped the clutch a bit to find which direction the car wanted to go in, and tried again if it didn’t match the direction you’d intended.

    And then there was the Omni where the window cranks and interior door releases all broke off, requiring the owners to crawl out via the rear hatch…

  • avatar
    acmoney

    Aren’t each one of these front-wheel drive? Is there some reason FWD was preferred for turbocharging or is that just a by product of the models that were available?

    • 0 avatar
      Carter Johnson

      Yes, they were all front-drive. That was mostly a result of the chassis available (L and K developments).

    • 0 avatar
      JimC2

      FWD is a bit quicker to build on the production line. The engine, transaxle, and subframe all fit together neatly. The car weighs a bit less overall with most of the machinery concentrated in the front box. The car interior has a smaller “hump” in the floor. The K-cars had real six passenger capability in a compact car (not that you would want to go on a long road trip with all six seats filled). As a total package they were really good bang for the buck. Then starting in about 1983 they adapted the basic platform about seven different ways… smaller, longer, sportier, minivan, again, and again, and again.

      The RWD Diplomat kept going until the late 1980s (solid cars but just old fashioned and not competitive numbers for space, performance, or fuel economy). But other than those, Chrysler didn’t bring a new *car* to market driving the rear wheels until about 1990 with the Mitsubishi clones (Dodge Stealth and Eagle Talon were both FWD cars with 4WD optional).

      So yeah, it was a byproduct of what models were available, but they put a lot of thought into planning their product lines and they had to plan for money being really tight.

  • avatar
    IBx1

    Fun fact, there’s 13 LeBarons in this article! I love reading up on history like this since I wasn’t born until ’91 and never looked into how everyone survived the malaise era.

  • avatar
    whitworth

    I actually think Chrysler did a good job with the styling in that era and found a good niche to occupy.

  • avatar
    r129

    The Daytona and Charger were two completely different models. The Daytona (and similar Chrysler Laser) were on the G platform, which was derived from the K platform. The Charger (and similar Plymouth Turismo/Duster) were on the L platform, and started life as the Dodge Omni 024 and Plymouth Horizon TC3 before being restyled and renamed.

    The Dodge 600 story is even more confusing. The Dodge 600 debuted as a sedan on the E platform, similar to the Chrysler E-Class (later Plymouth Caravelle) and Chrysler New Yorker. There was also a Dodge 400, which was similar to the Chrysler LeBaron, and was on the K platform. Later, the Dodge 400 sedan was dropped, and the coupe & convertible were renamed 600 and marketed alongside the larger sedan. That should address the “Wait, this is a different convertible…” comment. No, it’s not really different, nor is it an E-body.

  • avatar
    never_follow

    I’m starting to look forward to the Friday “History of weird, somewhat loveable cars”, keep it up!

    The first car I can remember being in was a Maroon Lebaron when I was but a wee car seat filler. It was a dire shitbox, and was replaced with an (AWESOME!) Buick Regal. I can’t remember much of it, but my parents did not speak fondly of it at all. I’m going to guess it was non-turbo, but who knows.

  • avatar
    geozinger

    Holy Snarkbot, Batman! Can we turn it up to 11 and see what happens?

    I have no way of knowing if the author actually had one or experienced the times in which these cars were being sold, but they were a good alternative for a lot of folks. I had a 1987 Dodge Lancer ES turbo for 11 years, it served us very well. Several of my other friends had similar turbo Mopars and generally got good service out of them, too.

    While you may not like them for whatever perceived deficiency you imagine from the K chassis, they were good cars that got the job done.

    • 0 avatar
      Carter Johnson

      @geozinger – I did not personally own one, but my parents friends were a period Pentastar dealer, and a good high school friend had a Sundance Turbo I spent many a ride in. I actually think a few of them were pretty neat and noted that. However, I also think a few of them were not particularly neat, and I noted that too. Of course, it’s just my opinion and some Friday entertainment.

    • 0 avatar
      geozinger

      “Which would you rather drive? That’s right, the GTI.”
      The GTI was a fair amount more expensive too. Remember these were the days of 10-14% interest rates (depending which year we’re talking about. The West German Deutsche Mark to US Dollar exchange rate was horrible. You could get into an Omni GLH with better financing.

      “You needed that speed to avoid nauseous bystanders viewing the styling.”
      Really? Most everything in the early-mid 1980’s was styled with a T-square. If anything the original convertibles were quite average styled for the times. I rather thought the Dodge 600 turbo (the Kleenex box with an attitude) was rather nice looking for a “sheer” styled car. Like so many other at the time.

      “While the Maserati moniker added some arguably undeserved name recognition in the TC model for the European crowd…”
      What? The TC by Maserati was panned at it’s release and has been ever since. I think the only reason why US Mopar fans even acknowledge the car is because it had a beast of a turbo’d Trenton motor with a head by Lotus. The autotragic cars were stuck with a Turbo I. I don’t believe there are any European fans of that car. What was Lee thinking?

      Dodge Caravan, Plymouth Voyager. Okay, this is getting a bit out of hand, right?
      No, not really. Chrysler at the time did not have it’s own V6 and they needed the higher output motor for the customers who demanded “moar powr”. If you really want to knock Mopar for this development, the real issue was towing was prohibited with the turbo motors. At least if you wanted to retain the warranty.

      At various times, Mopar had a 5yr/50,000 mile and later a 7yr/70,000 warranty on the powertrain. No one else offered that. Chrysler gets slammed for multiple variants on the K car, but few people mention the multiple variants of the Ford Fox platform or the GM X-, A- and N- bodies. I will grant you that Chrysler took it pretty far, but they were trying to survive in some of the worst economic times up until the Great Recession. I give them a lot of credit for the cars they produced.

      I hate to sound like the “get off my lawn” kind of guy, but I feel you’re missing some important information here. You know, otherwise, I liked the post. I don’t normally see all of those cars together. I know/knew a lot of people who had these models (or similar ones) and it brought back some good memories.

      • 0 avatar
        JimC2

        I agree with you on all points. Chrysler did quite well that decade, considering how they started it off.

      • 0 avatar
        Carter Johnson

        @geozinger, Cosworth did the headwork on the TC. Agreed on the GTi being a fair bit more expensive, but generally speaking it was better constructed, too. Otherwise, glad you enjoyed seeing the cars together – that was the point of it!

  • avatar
    Wolfcastle

    Couple of points:

    – I’d love to see more articles like this written by someone who liked some of the cars they are describing.

    – On the Mustang comment the aero-look 1987 models were rated at 225. The rating was never revised as more equipment and emissions controls changed up through 1993. It wasn’t cherry-picking so much as an optimistic lack of updates.

    – The Starion/Conquest twins in 1987-88-89 guise ran the Mitsu 2.6 with the turbo so were slightly different than most of the cars discussed here. Cite: My parents bought one in 1988 and still have it. It’s in my garage right now and I’ve driven it in the last few weeks. I still see one on the road a few times a year around here (DFW)

    – Those 90’s 224hp Daytonas were unexpectedly, stupidly fast for the time. Check a few of the magazine reviews from the day and there’s an attitude of “where the heck did this come from?”. Same with the Spirit R/T which seemed like it would be a fun sleeper car except most of them came out in a red or white monochrome paint scheme including the wheels and a tiny little spoiler. Enough to give it away to people who noticed that kind of thing.

    – LeBarons: Always thought it was a nicely shaped car, another take on “sleek” different from the Taurus. About the only other common U.S. convertibles at the time were Mustangs and Camaros. I swear I only stopped seeing them on the roads within the last ten years.

    – Finally, how could we have an article about this particular batch of cars and not mention the awesome greatness of the digital dash! Pretty much all of these sported it for a few years as an option at least!

    • 0 avatar
      JimC2

      The door is a jar

    • 0 avatar
      Carter Johnson

      @Wolfcastle – I do like some of the cars that I wrote about. The GLH-S was pretty cool for what it was, as were the Daytonas you mentioned, and the CSX. And on the digital dash – I have one myself! But it’s the Audi variety. I still remember sitting in one of the Chryslers when it was new and hearing it talk to me. I was pretty unimpressed, since it sounded like my Speak-and-Spell had, but it was an interesting novelty.

  • avatar
    theoldguard

    1980’s Chrysler turbos were a definite step up after cars hit bottom in 70’s. I had Omni GLH and it was a good car—-for the time. 140hp doesn’t sound like much, but Omni weighed 2500 pounds. 140hp isn’t bad compared to 165hp Corvette.

  • avatar
    scott25

    My father in law has a Dodge 600 convertible with the 2.2 turbo, which just got pulled out of the garage and onto the road this summer (after 12 years laying dormant)…interesting to drive to say the least. I never, ever, get tired of hearing that turbo spool up and kick in at about 60% throttle.

Read all comments

Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Recent Comments

  • Rocket: I like the wool blend seat option, and I hope other manufacturers follow suit. I hate that they felt the need...
  • probert: They didn’t so much discontinue the sports car, as Lotus simply stopped making that body model, and...
  • jack4x: I bet they have better margins on the 7.3L than the Powerstroke, so they would love to see...
  • Zoomers_StandingOnGenius_Shoulders: That’s a joke, and you’re a joke. They cleaned up and toned down the...
  • Lou_BC: @redgolf – here is a link of approved cleaners. https://www.nea.gov.sg/our-...

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Who We Are

  • Timothy Cain
  • Matthew Guy
  • Ronnie Schreiber
  • Bozi Tatarevic
  • Chris Tonn
  • Corey Lewis
  • Mark Baruth