1984 Chrysler Laser hatchback coupe

“The competition is good. We had to be better.”

The 1984 Chrysler Laser was intended to be the upscale complement for the Dodge Daytona. Equipment was not notably different from the Daytona, but the Laser had more of a luxury emphasis with a slightly softer suspension.

Two engines were available. The base engine, Chrysler’s 93 bhp 2.2 liter/135 ci inline four, was available with a standard five-speed manual transmission or a three-speed automatic transmission ($439). Mileage with the manual was 22 city/32 highway by the standards of the day (19/29 by today’s standards). Moving to the automatic helped city mileage a bit but dropped highway mileage significantly—23/27.

The more interesting engine was the optional 2.2 liter/135 ci turbocharged inline four cylinder with 142 bhp and the same transmission choices as the base engine. Depending on whether you were adding the turbo to the base Laser or the XE, the extra cost was either $934 or $872. Mileage with the hot setup (turbo and manual) was 20 city/27 highway by the standards of the day (18/25 by 2015 standards) while the 0-60 time was about 8.5 seconds. Moving to the three-speed automatic once again killed highway mileage, making the ratings 20 and 23.

Standard equipment on the base Laser (priced at $8,648 or about $19,700 in today’s dollars) included a leather-wrapped steering wheel, intermittent wipers, and an AM radio with digital clock.

Moving up to Laser XE ($10,546 or about $20,400 in 2015 dollars) added features such as an electronic instrument cluster, tilt steering wheel, driver’s side sport seat, dual power side mirrors, and an AM/FM stereo radio.

Optional equipment included air conditioning ($737), cruise control ($179), rear defroster ($168 base/$143 XE), power windows ($185), power door locks ($125), and AM/FM stereo cassette ($285/$160). With all the trimmings, a Laser XE could fairly easily get to $12,900 or so or about $29,500 in today’s dollars—about what a 2015 Dodge Challenger SXT costs.

The Laser sold decently in its first year, with almost 34,000 base coupes and nearly 26,000 XEs crossing dealer lots. This was actually more than its Dodge Daytona sister car (with a total of almost 50,000 sold).

However, Chrysler must have been disappointed—this was an era where the Chevrolet Camaro, Ford Mustang, and Pontiac Firebird were routinely selling in the hundreds of thousands (the three models combined for 530,000 sold in 1984).

Chrysler would never see these first-year totals again—by 1987 the Laser would be gone, with the Daytona hanging on through the 1993 model year after a few pretty good years in the late 1980s.

DaytonaLaserSales

Lasers rarely show up in the Hemmings Motor News classifieds or on eBay. You see some Daytonas on eBay, but even they are relatively uncommon.

Not surprisingly, allpar.com has an interesting and detailed article on the front-wheel-drive Lasers and Daytonas—it is here. Make mine Black, please.

1984 Ford Mustang SVO hatchback coupe

Yesterday’s Hemmings Daily blog had an entry on the Mustang SVO, titled “Was this America’s most misunderstood sports car?” I’ve updated one of my early posts to reflect both changes in my posting style and substantial improvements in available data.

“Sophisticated performance for the knowledgeable driver.”

With the announcement of the 2015 Mustang and its available EcoBoost turbocharged inline four, my mind turned back to the 1984 to 1986 Mustang SVO.

Created by Ford’s Special Vehicle Operations department, the SVO was an admirable attempt to take a different and more advanced approach to the pony car market. This version of the Fox-body Mustang was built around the Lima turbocharged and fuel injected 2.3 liter/140 ci inline four making 175 bhp paired with a Borg-Warner T5 five-speed manual. By the standards of the day, this combination yielded a reasonable 19 city/26 highway (it would be 17/24 by current standards) and a respectable 7.5 second 0-60 time.

Other modifications over the standard Mustang included ventilated four-wheel power disc brakes (replacing the Mustang GT’s front disc/rear drum setup), and a Koni suspension system featuring adjustable struts and shocks. 16 × 7 inch aluminum wheels with 225/50VR16 Goodyear NCT tires (a size still readily available) were standard for the first year—Gatorbacks didn’t become available until 1985.

You could have the interior in any color you wanted as long as that was Charcoal, but you did get to choose from the standard cloth or optional leather seats. Standard features included adjustable sport seats with lumbar support and a leather-wrapped tilt steering wheel. Air conditioning ($743), a cassette player ($222), power door locks ($177), and power windows ($198) all remained optional—this was 1984, after all.

The exterior featured an SVO-specific front grille, a hood with a functional scoop, and a “dual wing” spoiler that was also unique to the SVO.

Mustang SVO page from the 1984 Mustang brochure, linked from the Old Car Manual Project’s amazing brochures section.

With a base price of $15,596 (about $38,800 in 2018 dollars or about what a well-equipped 2019 Mustang EcoBoost Premium Fastback goes for), sales did not come close to meeting Ford’s hopes—less than 10,000 buyers took home a Mustang SVO over its three years of production. The reasons for its relative failure where many, but I think the most significant problems were:

  • The average Mustang buyer was happier with a Mustang GT, which, with a base price of $9,578, cost substantially less.
  • The potential buyer of a vehicle with turbocharged and intercooled four, four-wheel disc brakes, and an adjustable suspension wasn’t looking to Ford for this car.

It is interesting to note that Ford was much more successful in the 1990s and 2000s in selling high-end Mustangs. They’ve also done decently with the 2.3 liter (there’s a coincidence!) 310 bhp EcoBoost turbocharged inline four which first became available in 2015.

According to Hagerty’s valuation tools, all the money for a 1984 Mustang SVO in #1/Concours condition is $21,900, with a more normal #3/Good car going for $10,100.

Make my SVO Silver Metallic, please.

Updated February 2019.

1984 Lincoln Continental Mark VII LSC coupe

This was one of my early posts in this blog. I’ve updated it to reflect both changes in my posting style and substantial improvements in available data.

“The ultimate American road car.”

The Lincoln Continental Mark VII was all new for 1984. The standard powertrain for 1984 was a Windsor 140 bhp 4.9 liter/302 ci V8 with throttle-body fuel-injection connected to a four-speed automatic transmission. Despite the LSC’s 3,600 pound weight, 0-60 still came in under 9 seconds. Mileage by the standards of the day was 17 city/22 highway (14/20 by today’s standards). With a 22.3-gallon fuel tank, a Mark VII owner could expect a range of 340 to 390 miles with a 10% reserve.

Standard mechanical equipment on all Mark VIIs included four-wheel disk brakes, four-wheel air ride suspension, and the first composite headlights available in the United States. Inside, a Trip Minder computer, air conditioning, rear window defroster, interval wipers, tilt steering, cruise control, remote release fuel door, power windows, power door locks, power side view mirrors, power six-way driver’s seat, and an AM/FM stereo were all included.

Continental Mark VII LSC pages from the 1984 Lincoln brochure, linked from the Old Car Manual Project’s amazing brochures section.

The new LSC trim level added about $2,000 to the base Mark VII’s non-trivial $21,707 price (making the LSC start at about $54,400 in 2014 dollars). LSC-specific components included a stiffer air suspension, dual exhaust, leather seats, fog lamps, and P215/65R15 Goodyear Eagle GT radial tires (a size still readily available) on forged aluminum 15 x 6-inch wheels. A Traction-Lok limited slip differential was optional for $95.

Ford wanted the LSC to compete with the big BMW (635 CSi) and Mercedes-Benz (500 SEC) coupes, but it seems more likely that most LSC buyers were cross-shopping cars like the Buick Riviera T-Type, the Cadillac Eldorado Touring Coupe, or (horrors!) the Ford Thunderbird Turbo Coupe.

I always liked the look of the LSC—I think the stylists combined “traditional” Mark traits such as the rear spare tire hump with Ford’s new aerodynamic direction very effectively. At the time, people complained about the somewhat limited interior room and the quite small trunk for such a large car. The period of the big coupe was beginning to fade, but the LSC was indeed an interesting approach.

According to Hagerty’s valuation tools, all the money for a 1984 Continental Mark VII LSC in #1/Concours condition is $9,100, with a more “normal” #3/Good condition LSC fetching $4,200. Lincoln Mark VIIs show up in the Hemmings Motor News classifieds reasonably regularly—as I write this in July 2014,  there’s a Sandstone 1988 LSC with 55,000 miles listed for $8,000.

Make mine Platinum Clearcoat Metallic, please.

1984 Buick Riviera T TYPE coupe

This entry was one of my first posts on this blog. I’ve updated it to reflect both changes in my posting style and substantial improvements in available data. In hindsight, it turns out that it was also my initial inspiration for the Riviera Project I am currently working on.

“… the thrill of turbocharged performance and responsive handling.”

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For 1984, the T TYPE (their spelling) version of Buick’s Riviera gained sequential fuel injection, yielding a respectable 190 bhp from the evergreen LD5 3.8 liter/231 ci turbo V6. Performance figures for the later Riviera T TYPEs are hard to come by, but I’m betting that 0-60 mph came in between 9 and 10 seconds.

Fuel mileage for the big coupe was decent by the standards of the day: 14 city/21 highway (13/20 by today’s standards). With the 21.2-gallon gas tank, range was about 310 to 335 miles with a 10% fuel reserve. A T TYPE continued to be the only way to get your Riviera coupe turbocharged, though you could get a “civilian” Riviera convertible with the turbocharger.

The $17,050 T TYPE (about $43,600 in 2020 dollars or a little more than what a well-equipped 2020 Buick Regal GS goes for) came with a blacked-out grille, amber parking light and turn signal lenses, black mirrors, and P205/75R15 tires (a size still readily available) on 15-inch styled aluminum wheels. Additional instrumentation for the T TYPE included a turbo boost gauge and an LED tachometer. The 1984 T TYPE also included the Gran Touring Package, which featured stiffer springs, recalibrated shock absorbers, and larger diameter anti-sway bars front and rear.

Standard exterior and mechanical features on all 1984 Rivieras included a four-speed automatic transmission, power steering, power brakes, and power antenna. Inside, every Riviera had air conditioning, power door locks, and power windows.

An extensive list of options included electronic climate control ($150), rear window defogger ($140), and Twilight Sentinel ($60). Options available for every Riviera except the convertible included the Delco/Bose Music System ($895) and the Astroroof ($1,195).

Sales weren’t great—with only 1,153 made, T TYPEs accounted for only about 2% of the robust overall Riviera sales. T TYPE sales would continue to dip in the last year for the “big” sixth-generation Riviera—there were only 1,069 made in 1985. My theory is that there weren’t a ton of folks searching for a big (206 inches long and 3,660 pounds) performance-oriented (but not really high performance) coupe in the mid-1980s, and there was competition from vehicles like the brand new Lincoln Mark VII LSC.

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Riviera page from 1984 Buick brochure, linked from the Old Car Manual Project's amazing brochures section.
Riviera page from 1984 Buick brochure, linked from the Old Car Manual Project’s amazing brochures section.

Unlike many other cars from the 1980s, folks are saving the sixth generation Rivieras. For example, there’s robust discussion and support on the AACA’s Buick Riviera page. According to Hagerty’s valuation tools, all the money for a 1984 Riviera T TYPE in #1/Concours condition is $18,100, with a far more normal #3/Good condition going for $5,100. T TYPEs also come up for sale every once in a while in the Hemming’s Motor News classifieds or on eBay Motors—when I updated this blog entry in May 2020, there was a black 1983 available on Hemming’s for $8,950.

Make mine the extra-cost ($210) Medium Sand Gray Firemist, please. I love those Buick color names and believe everyone should have at least one Firemist.

First posted in June 2014, updated in May 2020.

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1984 Honda Civic CRX hatchback coupe

“Are you using the right car for your gasoline?”

Even for the 1980s, the 1984 Honda Civic CRX two-seater was absolutely tiny, with a length of a little over 12 feet and a weight of around 1,800 pounds. The CRX debuted as a new model included with the introduction of the all-new third generation Civic line.

There were two engine choices for the CRX in 1984. The CRX HF (High Fuel economy) got a 1.3 liter/82 ci inline four with a three-barrel carburetor and all of 60 bhp—but this got you 46 city/52 highway by the standards of the day (still 38/47 by today’s standards). It also got you a 0-60 time of about 12 seconds.

Moving up to the DX got you the EW1 76 bhp 1.5 liter/91 ci inline four with a three-barrel carburetor—enough to reduce the 0-60 time to a little over 10 seconds and still get 32 city/38 highway by the eighties standards (28/35 by the current standard).

A five-speed manual was standard, but you could get a three-speed automatic with the DX—though I’m not at all sure why you’d want one. All CRXs included a front air dam, rear spoiler, flush-mounted glass, vented front disc brakes, and front and rear stabilizer bars.

The first generation CRX found its markets and sold quite well, with over 48,000 in 1984 and a total of 218,000 over four years. In 1985, the fuel injected 91 bhp Si would come along—but that is a topic for another blog post.

I see early CRX’s occasionally, but they’ve become rarer and rarer on the roads in the northeast. I have yet to see one at an auto show, but I’d love to.

Make my 1984 CRX a DX in blue (with the standard metallic gray lower rocker panels), please.

Updated February 2019.

1984 Nissan/Datsun 300ZX hatchback coupe

“Every move you make, every turn that you make confirms you are in the most technologically advanced Z car ever made.”

This Nissan/Datsun 300ZX is not the one with all the glamor—that 300ZX was the one that followed in the 1990s. For 1984, Nissan moved from the inline 6 of the 280ZX to a 3.0 liter/181 ci V6 with fuel injection, available either naturally aspirated (160 bhp) or turbocharged (200 bhp). The styling was completely and controversially revised for the first time in the history of the Z car—a massive revision akin to that of the Chevrolet Corvette for the same year. Base price was $15,800 for the base coupe and $18,200 for the turbo.

The 300ZX to have in 1984 was undoubtedly the 50th Anniversary Edition (released to celebrate Nissan’s half-century) which was an absolutely loaded turbocharged model with a Light Pewter Metallic and Thunder Black color scheme. All Anniversary Editions came equipped with in-car 3-way electronically adjustable shocks, Bodysonic bass speakers in the seats (individually adjustable for driver and passenger from the console), mirror-finished t-tops, leather seats, sixteen-inch aluminum wheels, and flared front and rear fenders. Other equipment included a digital dash with MPG and compass readouts and steering wheel controls for the cruise control and the radio.

The only option available on the Anniversary Edition was the choice of a five-speed manual transmission or a four-speed automatic transmission.

1984 Nissan/Datsun 300ZX 50th Anniversary Edition, courtesy of Mercennarius at the wikipedia project.

5,148 out of the 75,351 (!) 1984 300ZXs produced for the US market were Anniversary Editions at a non-trivial list price of $26,000 (about $58,800 in 2014 dollars).

According to Hagerty’s valuation tools, all the money for a base 1984 300ZX in #1/Concours condition is $18,100, with a far more typical #3/Good car going for $6,600. Values for the Anniversary Edition are about $2,500 additional in any condition. 300ZXs make regular appearances in the Hemming’s Motor News classifieds and on eBay Motors, though you have to be careful to check under both Datsun and Nissan. As I write this in November 2013, there’s a 50th Anniversary Edition with 86,000 miles for sale in Hemmings for $9,000.

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