Note: Not the actual car, but the same colors with pizza wheels
Although I had owned several K-cars in my car flipping activities, in 1989, I acquired my first official K-car through marriage. Not an Aries or Reliant, but a genuine K-sports car called a Dodge Daytona. Equipped with Chrysler’s 2.2L turbocharged 4 cylinder, it was a pretty good performer.
My wife had previously owned a 1983 Olds Cutlass Supreme. She loved the car, but it apparently had a carburetor problem that the dealer could not resolve. Tired of the dealer runaround, and since I was not in the picture at the time as her personal mechanic, she traded it in on a 1984 Daytona. New for 1984, the Daytona was a hatchback, had good cargo space, and was very comfortable. The turbo engine was fuel injected, quick, and got good fuel economy. Since she bought it soon after introduction, the available colors were limited and the car had huge “turbo” decals on the doors. There was no doubt what was under the hood.
When I mentioned “pizza wheels” at the beginning of this post, here is what I was referring to. The folks I knew at Chrysler called them that because they looked like they were a pizza with pepperoni on it. Still attractive to me today, the only downside of these wheels was that the tires were always leaking air. When I asked the folks at Chrysler’s tire lab what the cause was, they said that the tires shift ever so slightly on the wheel when you go over bumps in the road. Each time that happens, some air leaves the tire. The recommendation was that I break the tire from the bead, clean the corrosion off the wheel, and apply some bead sealer, and then reseat the tire. I did that one weekend and it worked well. No more having to constantly add air to the tires. Fortunately, I owned a tire machine at that time so it was not too difficult.
The interior was very comfortable, as the seat had adjustable lumbar support as well as side bolsters. Interestingly, the rear hatch also had sun visors for the rear seat passengers. The rear seat itself was child sized, so one had to wonder why Chrysler bothered with sun visors.
Note: This is not my foot in the picture
The dashboard was K car based, but was much more attractive with racing style gauge faces, full instrumentation, and a turbo boost gauge. It also had a multi-function chronometer that not only told the time, but also served as a timer. When my wife bought the car, she noticed that half of the instrument panel would not illuminate at night. Several visits to the dealer failed to resolve the problem. One weekend when I visited for a date, I offered to take a look at it. Reaching under the instrument panel, I proceeded to wiggle some of the connectors on a hunch. It paid off in that the lights returned and worked like they should have from the beginning.
This car was my introduction to the wonderful world of Chrysler 2.2 head gasket issues. One weekend, I offered to do some routine maintenance on the car. I flushed the cooling system and installed new coolant. While letting the car idle in order to burp the cooling system, I noticed a small leak on the front of the engine near the camshaft sprocket. Turns out it was the head gasket. I had heard many stories from the engineers at Chrysler about head gasket problems in the early days of the K-car development, but supposedly they had solved those issues. NOT. I learned the right way and the wrong way to do the head gasket job on the 2.2. You cannot easily remove the intake and exhaust manifolds with the engine still in the car. You can remove the aluminum head with the manifolds attached as long as you have good arm strength and long arms. The turbo comes along for the ride with the manifolds.
The biggest difficulty comes when you try to remove the spring loaded exhaust pipe bolts at the exhaust manifold. No matter whether you try to do this from the top or the bottom, they are rusted together and will never move. Cue the blue wrench (oxy-acetylene torch). Working carefully from the top, you can cut the bolt off. You just have to make sure that you don’t cut or damage anything else nearby. Timing belt tension is also critical to success. If it is too tight, it will make a whining noise. Too loose, it will either jump time or run as if it has no guts. Just right, and it will run for a long time. I did check the head flatness with all of the other parts attached and it was within spec. If not, then I would have had to remove the turbo and manifolds to get the head machined. When reinstalling the cylinder head, bolt torque is important. These are torque to yield bolts that must be replaced on a mandatory basis. You must also use a torque angle meter after the initial torque. In the end, I did everything right and was successful. Little did I know that I would have to do this job again several years later. This time, though, Chrysler had introduced a multi-layer head gasket to solve the problems with the original design. So that is what I used. When the head bolts loosen over time, they cause the head to scuff the gasket. What I didn’t know at the second head gasket replacement was the Chrysler had issued a service bulletin calling for the installation of larger diameter head bolts. Oh well. After the second head gasket replacement, I never had to do that job again.
I did have to do some body/paint work on the car. The rear spoiler clear coat disintegrated, so I wet sanded it and refinished it with base coat/clear coat. The bottom edges of the doors sprouted rust, so I sanded them, used my favorite all-metal filler shown above, and repainted them. The hood also required a repaint due stone chip damage. Other than these items, the body was durable and showed no rust in the floor boards.
After 140,000 miles, a new issue surfaced that would eventually cause us to sell the car. My wife was driving it from school one afternoon and it just quit running. Several tries to restart it were unsuccessful, so she call me to come and get her. Before I arrived, however, the car started so by the time I arrived there was nothing to do but follow her home. Several months later, we were going to visit my parents and the car quit again on a busy road. Started right away with no hint of what was wrong. I checked the car over and found nothing. At that point, my wife decided that my car would be her primary transportation and that I could drive the Daytona until I figured out what was going on. The car failed to start on several more occasions, with varying amounts of time between failure and when it would start again. Since I only lived three miles from work, I figured that I could always walk home if I couldn’t get it to restart. I figured that since I liked the car, I would eventually pull the engine and do a complete rebuild. Not so fast.
On the last occasion, we were both in the car when it stalled again. My wife tapped me on the shoulder and said “It’s time to get rid of this car.” Who’s to argue? A couple of days later, I cleaned the car out and gave it a good polish. Then I gave her the title and told her to sign it. Why she asked. Because I’m not coming home with this car today. There were a couple of BHPH used car lots near work, so I started at the first one and was determined to work my way down the line until I found a taker. At the second lot, the owner said he was interested but wanted his mechanic to look it over. Of course, when I went to start the car, it wouldn’t. Then it did. The lot owner had a look on his face that told me he knew what was wrong. His mechanic looked the car over, successfully started it several more times, and declared that it was fine. The lot owner made me an offer for the car and I accepted. I don’t think the car was on his lot more that two days before he sold it. The failure mode was the Hall effect pickup in the distributor. I would later learn that its failure was common and would rank right up there with the infamous ballast resistor. We stopped at the local Pontiac dealer on the way home and checked out the new for 1992 Pontiac Bonneville. Of course, I wasn’t going to get the new car, rather, I would get my car back from my wife. Is there any other way this works?
A year later, I did see the car on a local freeway doing just fine. How did I know it was my old car? Must have been the TURBO decal on the door.
All in all, the Daytona was a very good car and gave us 140,000 miles of service. Plus, it gave me lessons learned (head gaskets, hall effect pickup) that I would eventually apply to my car flipping activities. It would also not be my last K-car based vehicle.
Your sunvisors for the front passengers for sun glare out the rear window. It comes directly from the car this one copies: the Porsche 928. Stylistically I mean.
Right you are about the 928.
That’s actually a 924. Here’s a 928:
aHA! I knew there was something not quite aligned between what I had in mind and what my composite picture showed. Thanks.
In the very 1st picture, I see that you have a VW loving family across the street from you, only 2? We have a Toyota loving family down the block from us, parents and 3 kids, 5 Toyotas of varying ages, they could do their own COAL.
I had the four door variant of this car, a Dodge Lancer ES turbo. I had the same seats as the turbo Daytona, which apparently were a Japanese copy of Lear-Sigler seats. Very supportive, very comfortable. Overall, the car was very good for me and ran us to 160K before the kids got too big to fold into the back seats any longer.
I also have a 2.2 turbo head gasket story, albeit mine is a little different. On mine, the coolant supply line (rubber hose) to the turbo developed a pinhole leak. My wife drove the car at the time, it wasn’t until it overheated we realized that there was an issue. We were able to get it fixed under the 7/70 warranty. Imagine the surprise on the service manager’s face when I told him that we were the original owners of the car. I think he thought for sure he was going to get a nice, juicy out of warranty repair out of me. He got the factory rate for the work. Too bad… for him!
These cars were a decent size, handled well with the higher level suspensions (mine was Level 3), fairly utilitarian with the hatch. Too bad we can’t get something like this now without spending $80K for the hatchback Audis, and etc…
2018 Buick Regal – Starts around $25k for the hatch!
Well done sorting this car’s issues before the internet’s content made it so much easier. The more I read about K-cars the more I get the hankering for one.
I fixed 12 alloy wheels, all on my wife’s cars. When her Contour needed new tires I had the old ones taken off, then I sanded and primered and painted the areas for the beads and the seats for the valve stems. Then I had the new tires mounted.
Her 2010 Focus had new tires on badly corroded rims. I bought another set of badly corroded rims and refinished them. We put snow tires on those and in spring I had the all seasons taken off and refinished that set of rims. It’s a lot of work but this set looks like new from any distance. All 8 wheels have new tire pressure sensors.
I’ve always liked these cars and thought that Chrsyler was just ahead of their time. These cars would run competitive with most V8 Camaros and return better fuel economy. It’s kind of unusual that Chyrsler used the turbo version in the entire range of their cars, even minivans! This engine was developed to a high state of tune. The final four valve, intercooled editions were pretty impressive. If development had continued on the chassis and body, I wonder if they might still be around/ Who would have thought that the “EcoBoost” line would take traction?
Nice recollection of an interesting car. These Daytona/Laser cars really caught my eye when they entered traffic—not least because Deedee McCall drove one in the “Hunter” TV show.
The turbo motor really was a big improvement over the carbureted wheezer in lesser K-mobiles, wasn’t it. Hall effect sensor, yup, that particular failure hit my grandfather’s ’83 Aries at least once, and my neighbour’s ’85(?) Town & Country. The intermittent nature of it made it very difficult to diagnose.
About the wheels: these in your pic are the “Swiss Cheese” wheels: many holes of different size all across the face of the wheel. The “Pizza” wheels have 16 same-size (about 1-3/4″ or so) holes in a circle, with a rough-cast ring around each that looks like the texture of pepperoni.
Fortunately for us all, the web archive holds an intact copy of Dempsey Bowling’s canonical (or damn-near) FWD Mopar wheel spotter’s guide—couldn’t find any pics of the rare “Broccoli” wheel or the even rarer “Blueberry Cobbler” wheel, though.
Thanks for the correction. My sources at Chrysler Engineering told me they were pizza wheels. Not much internet research available in 1989-90.
Sweet ride! I really dig these Daytonas, especially the ’84-’86 models with actual grilles and headlights. They had the look of these cars right the first time, both styling updates were a step backwards, IMHO. ‘Newer’ doesn’t necessarily mean ‘better’ styling. Although the holy grail Daytona would be the IROC R/T with the Turbo IV engine rocking Lotus designed cylinder heads. Those things were good for 225 hp, 0-60 in sub 6 seconds, and 1/4 mile times in the 13-14 second range depending on your sources.
Finding a clean well sorted 1986 Turbo II manual trans version of this car is definitely on my bucket list.
I personally liked the hidden-headlight Daytonas. However, the return to fixed headlights on the 1992 models was something of a mistake.
I liked all of the variants of the Daytonas. I wouldn’t kick any of them out of the garage.
But I would definitely rock an IROC R/T…
“I wouldn’t kick any of them out of the garage. ”
This! Theyre cheap enough that even if its a base motor with slushbox, swapping out the junk for something serious isn’t unreasonable. I think the car was attractive throughout its full run, but its just those 4 eyed Turbo Z’s…SEXXY!!!!
I lusted over the Chrysler Laser version of these coupes when they first came out in late 1983, figuring that I’d try to spring for a Turbo 5-speed. Hell, I might have even gotten the electronic instrument panel (how ’80s is that?). I pored over the brochures for hours. Then I test drove one with the salesman riding along. It was spirited but the engine was coarse and the shifter was notchy. Not very promising. What sealed the car’s fate was when I accidentally stalled the engine and an electronic voice rang out “Check oil pressure! Check oil pressure!”. I told the salesman that i did not like the nanny. He said that I could turn it off but i replied that I’d still be paying for the damn thing. It was back to the dealership and my Laser dreams were forgotten – perhaps for the best given these cars’ service history.
One thing that always bugged me about the Laser/Daytona was the bland and generic looking front on an otherwise quite stylish coupe. I wonder if the money ran out before the nose was properly finished.
See, I disagree. That car is a shining example of why that early look nails it. The sealed beams and the upper grill are timeless. The later versions are more ‘bland’ and look dated as hell with the popup lamps or googly aero lamps. JMHO, but the car you pictured is about my ideal ‘Tona, assuming its a turbo/manual.
Stylistically I never thought of the 928, when I viewed these. They always reminded me of a further refined derivative of the earlier 024/TC3, Rampage, and Charger/Turismo. A certain amount of Chrysler styling homogeneity was setting in already by this time.
When I a freshman in high school one of the older kids had not a Daytona but the earlier Plymouth Turismo. That car was memorable because the owner had painted “2.2” behind the front fenders in the style of the Mustang’s 5.0 badges. Of course everyone at the time thought it was a joke, that’s less that half a Mustang GT after all! And that is probably how it was intended. But knowing what I know now if it had been the Turbo version it probably could have given a Mustang a run for its money. That car most likely wasn’t a turbo, though.
Nope, Im pretty sure Plymouths never got turbos. There were some prototypes that toyed with the idea, including one with ‘Cuda’ themed decos, but it never came to be. All bets are off thought, if your buddy got to swapping stuff around under the hood. A Shelby Charger would have DEFINITELY been a match for a contemporary mustang or camaro…much more than their fans like to admit.
I didn’t really know the guy who owned it, so I have no idea if he modified anything under the hood. It’s just a car I remember seeing in the school parking lot at marching band practice and such.
In the unlikely case that he did add a turbo, though, I could see that being a funny take on the “sleeper” car concept. Advertise its 2.2 liter displacement, but don’t mention the turbo, then look at the shocked look on people’s faces when it can keep up with a stock Mustang or Camaro.
Ah the Hall Effect Sensor issue. My 1987 Lebaron suffered through that issue. It was an easy enough fix but it took a while to track down the issue.
My 1995 Deville had that same issue and it was such a pain in the ass to repair(the 4.9l v8 can be a pain to work on sometimes) and the hall effect sensor was one of those pain in the ass things. But at least the car told me what was wrong with the diagnostic system
I had the 1987 J body LeBaron coupe that had the same interior as yours and I actually got the clock/trip computer unit from a 1985 Daytona. This was the upgraded one with 10 buttons and showed the date.
In fact, the head gasket issue was never really solved on the K car motors. Eventually, they will all go. Same for the distributor: it fails like clockwork about the mileage you state. In fact, in a car of the era, such an intermittent cut out is almost always ignition. The thing is old, so just replace the entire unit.
These were not bad cars, really. The interiors were way better than anything Ford or GM offered at the time, and they didn’t cost the farm to operate. I recall in their final iterations they sold for dirt cheap.
Mom had an ’86 Chrysler Laser turbo with electronic gauges and a T-top. I loved that car. I got my license and was able to drive it around for a month before the turbo started having problems, and my parents traded it in for a newer Taurus.
I miss the era of fun fastback hatches.
There is one just like that at an apartment complex near my house. Same color, same wheels. It is in very good condition with no obvious rust. Amazing for being in Michigan. On the other hand, it never seems to move and has a healthy (unhealthy?) layer of dust.
I had a tremendous crush on these when they came out. I went to test drive a Chrysler Laser in 1985 but got a jerk salesman who was not going to let me drive one unless I would commit that I was “ready to buy a car today.” I was preparing for my first-ever new car and was still in the early stage of figuring out what I wanted. So I did not drive a Laser that day. Or any other day, as things turned out.
The first car I ever bought with my own money was a 1984 Chrysler Laser Turbo. It was Garnet Red, and was the “base” model without the electronic dash or the pizza wheels (both of which were available on the upscale XT trim). It had the same dash as the Daytona in the article, with the turbo boost gauge and the clock/timer. Mine even had an aftermarket stereo head unit like the one pictured!
It was fast, comfortable, good-looking and quite unreliable. Electrical gremlins, driveline issues, finish problems (my spoiler had to be repainted, too); it was a great car on paper but not the best for a daily driver that had to get me where I was going.
These cars had about 10 years of life in Atlanta and then, like all the other K cars, suddenly vanished one day. 140K miles is a LOT out of a turbo K car, or any ’80’s car. The Fuel Injection added to the turbo cars really helped longevity but also proper care and maintenance; in those days synthetic oil was very very rare, so a lot of turbos coked up when dino oil was used and the turbo wasn’t allowed to cool down and BLAM! Massive, expensive turbo failure.
@Jose: Chrysler used the turbo in all their cars, including minivans, because that was all they had. Chrysler got the Mitsubishi 3.0 v6 starting in 1987, I believe, but Chrysler didn’t have its own v6 available until the early 90’s. It is amazing what the K platform got folded and spindled into, from this sporty car into the luxury New Yorker Fifth Avenue and the Minivan. Lee made an excellent bet on the K and also made sure that the quality was right as compared with the disastrous Aspen/Volare of a few years earlier. He let it run too long though.
These cars generate the same numbers as a contemporary Camaro/Mustang, but they aren’t really all that sporty compared with a RWD car. There’s a reason RWD for sporty cars hasn’t disappeared, and this is a prime one.
The Chrysler turbos were better than many others in that they incorporated a water cooling system around the turbo’s main bearing which kept the oil cooler and prevented the kind of coking that happened with most other designs. Chrysler was quite proud of that design at the time.
And nowadays we know that if you run anything besides full synthetic in a turbo, youre just ASKING for a cooked bearing. Dino juice just doesn’t cut it.
I remember reading about one of these that the engineers dropped a Lamborghini engine into as an experiment – as Chrysler owned Lamborghini at the time. I wonder what ever happened to it.