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Remembering the 1992 Dodge Daytona IROC R/T, an Unsung Mopar Hero

Dodge Daytona IROC R/T 21 photos
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The introduction of the Viper had Mopar fanatics buzzing with excitement in the early nineties, and to keep the momentum going, Dodge introduced another interesting sports car in 1992.
No, it was by no means as exciting as the Viper, but considering it was based on a derivative of the plebian K-platform and was much more affordable, the Daytona IROC R/T was a milestone addition that consolidated a performance renaissance in the Mopar camp.

After the curtain dropped on all things muscle in the early 1970s, Chrysler became more aggressive than any other Detroit corporation in downsizing.

Throughout the 1980s, it survived by moving nearly all its passenger cars to the small, FWD, transverse engine K-platform, which meant a stark departure from the recipe it employed during the 1950s and 1960s.

During that decade, Mopar's performance prowess became a distant memory and the only potent models that started to appear in the late 1980s were rebadged Mitsubishis, complete with all-Japanese V6 engines.

However, by the early 1990s, things started to change. Chrysler made a splash with the V10-powered Viper supercar, then beefed up the Daytona, transforming it into a legitimate sports car.

A brief history of the Dodge Daytona

Dodge Daytona IROC R/T
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The iconic nameplate, inspired by the legendary race track located in Florida, was first used in 1969 on the Charger-based NASCAR homologation special, the first of two famed "winged warriors" (the other being the 1970 Plymouth Superbird).

Then, in 1984, Dodge applied it to a new G-platform (a shorter derivative of the K) two-door hatchback that replaced the Mitsubishi Galant-based Challenger - another disappointing use of a legendary nameplate.

The affordable version of the upscale Chrysler Laser, the Dodge Daytona, was met with praise by the automotive press in its first year on the market, mainly due to the availability of turbocharged engines that infused some modern sports car performance into the Dodge lineup.

While the Chrysler Laser didn't survive on the market for too long, the Daytona proved much more successful.

Though it didn't live up to its name in the eyes of muscle car enthusiasts, the hatchback received two major redesigns and, until 1993, when it was finally discontinued, offered a stylish American sports car with engines that improved year after year.

From Shelby to IROC and, finally, IROC R/T

Dodge Daytona IROC R/T
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As standard the Daytona was an affordable, sporty-looking hatchback with fuel-friendly inline-four power, which contributed to good sales figures.

However, as I mentioned earlier, it was available with optional performance-oriented trims that made its sports car aspirations clear.

It all started with the Turbo Z in 1984 and 1986; then, in 1987, the top performance trim became known as Shelby Z since the famed Carroll Shelby was now part of the Mopar camp.

From 1990, when the Daytona replaced the Chevy Camaro as the official International Race of Champions (IROC) competition car, the top performance trims of the lineup were either IROC or Shelby Daytonas (essentially identical, but with different decals).

By 1992, Shelby had ended its collaboration with the Chrysler Corporation, so for the Daytona's final two years on the market, the IROC became the sole performance trim. However, the big news was the addition of the new R/T performance package that gave birth to the most powerful Daytona of them all.

Bowing out in style

Dodge Daytona IROC R/T
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For the 1992 model year, the Daytona lineup received one last styling refresh.

The pop-up headlights, introduced in 1987, were replaced with thin and rounded fixed versions, flanking a redesigned grille, while the rear fascia was also freshened up and donned the new Dodge "ram head" badge.

Chassis-wise, there were no major improvements, as the independent front and semi-independent rear suspension configuration was carried over from the previous years.

The IROC returned as the top performance trim, but the additional R/T performance package made it far more exciting, as it added a suspension overhaul and a new engine.

Lotus engineering meets Mopar hatchback

Dodge Daytona IROC R/T
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As with previous iterations, the IROC's standard engine was a 3.0-liter Mitsubishi 6G72 SOHC (single overhead cam) V6 rated at 141 hp and 167 lb-ft (226 Nm), while the optional performance unit was the lighter 2.5-liter "High Torque" Turbo (aka Turbo I) version of the Chrisler K-engine four-cylinder that made 152 hp and 210 lb-ft (285 Nm).

However, with the addition of the new R/T package, the IROC received another engine borrowed from its Spirit R/T four-door performance sedan sibling.

Dubbed Turbo III, the engine was a 2.2-liter inline-four co-developed by British experts Lotus, who designed its DOHC 16-valve cylinder heads.

Equipped with an intercooled Garrett turbocharger and a direct ignition system, the beefed-up K-engine made no less than 224 hp and 217 lb-ft (294 Nm) of torque, putting the Daytona IROC R/T on par with the FD RX-7 in terms of power.

Even more impressive, the hatchback was capable of sprinting to 60 mph from a standstill in 6.2 seconds and achieving a quarter-mile time in the mid-14-second range.

Insanely rare today

Dodge Daytona IROC R/T
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Though it had nothing but the two monikers in common with the Daytona and R/T Dodges from the muscle car era, the Daytona IROC R/T, was a legitimate early-nineties sports car that could hold its own against rivals from the same segment.

Along with the Viper and the Spirit R/T four-door factory sleeper, it signaled Mopar's return to the performance arena, giving fans another reason to get excited.

Unfortunately, the model wasn't as affordable or as popular as its Japanese rivals, so it wasn't the marketing hit it could've been. D0dge managed to sell 341 IROC R/Ts in 1992 and an additional 212 in 1993, bringing the total production number to 553 units.

Only a small fraction are still around today, but despite their rarity, the value for a pristine example rarely exceeds $10,000.

Extremely chap and all but forgotten today, the 1992 Daytona IROC R/T remains a fascinating and atypical example of an awesome Mopar that had nothing to do with muscle but was all about performance.

Though far less powerful than the muscle cars of past and present, it contributed to the rebirth of the American performance car segment.

For more on this underrated 1990s gem, we recommend watching the YouTube video below by Curious Cars.

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About the author: Vlad Radu
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Vlad's first car was custom coach built: an exotic he made out of wood, cardboard and a borrowed steering wheel at the age of five. Combining his previous experience in writing and car dealership years, his articles focus in depth on special cars of past and present times.
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