Junkyard Gem: 1992 Plymouth Laser

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Chrysler began selling rebadged Japan-built Mitsubishis beginning with the Dodge Colt in 1971, with plenty of Arrows, Champs, Challengers, Ram 50s, Conquests, Raiders, Stealths and Sapporos following those cars across the Pacific. Starting with the 1983 model year, Mitsubishi Motors began selling vehicles with its own badging in the United States, and that caused Chrysler and Mitsubishi to crash into the voluntary import quota that Japanese carmakers imposed on themselves in 1981 as a means of avoiding tougher restrictions threatened by the Reagan Administration. To get around the quota, the two partners created Diamond-Star Motors in Illinois, where Rivians are now built. The very first product to be assembled by DSM was a liftback sports coupe that debuted as a 1990 model under three different names: the Mitsubishi Eclipse, Eagle Talon and Plymouth Laser. Today's Junkyard Gem is one of those cars, found in a Denver car graveyard recently.

The Laser name had been used on Chrysler-badged Dodge Daytonas for the 1984 through 1986 model years, and the name seemed futuristic enough to revive on a Plymouth.

The cheapest of those three DSM siblings in 1992 was the Eclipse, which started with a list price of $10,859 ($24,120 in 2024 dollars). The cheapest Laser had an MSRP of $11,206 ($24,891 after inflation), while the most affordable Talon cost $13,631 ($30,277 in today's money).

The reason the Eclipse and Laser were so much cheaper than the Talon was that the base Talon came with the 2.0-liter Mitsubishi 4G63 engine and its 135 horsepower, while the entry-level Eclipse and Laser were equipped with the 1.8-liter 4G37 and its 92 horses.

This Laser is a base model with few frills, so it has the 1.8 engine.

It also has the five-speed manual transmission. A four-speed automatic was available, for $701 extra ($1,557 now).

Like the Talon and Eclipse, the Laser was available with turbocharging and all-wheel-drive. Those cars were genuinely quick by the standards of the time.

This one probably was purchased as a fun-enough-to-drive commuter that was easy on the gasoline budget, and it put in just over 150,000 miles during its life.

In 1992, federal law required that news cars be equipped with either driver's-side airbags or the universally loathed automatic shoulder belts. This car has the latter.

Someone installed aftermarket multi-bolt-pattern wheels on this car, probably during the early phase of the Fast and Furious Era.

The interior is a bit faded and dusty, but otherwise in fairly decent shape. I don't see many of these cars in junkyards, because they still have a solid enough enthusiast following. Front-drive examples with the base engine aren't as desirable, and that's the most likely reason this car didn't get diverted from its junkyardy fate.

Tina Turner was at the peak of her fame in 1990. I'll always think of her as Auntie Entity.

It's not for wallflowers.

The non-Tina Laser commercials weren't as good.

Beats the 300ZX in a 0-60 race.

The Dodge Stealth came from Japan, but Chrysler pitched it alongside the Normal-built Plymouth Laser.

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