Earlier this week, Paul Niedermeyer had written about a same-year E-Body Chrysler New Yorker – a model with which I used to confuse our featured LeBaron. The E was a big K (“Special K”?), but this vintage of LeBaron was pure “K”, all the way. The Chrysler nameplate had once been attached exclusively to large, full-sized cars in the U.S. Eventually, though, distillation of traditional broughaminess into smaller packages became a Chrysler forte. This started with the midsized ’75 Cordoba, which marketing materials and print ads referred to as “the new, small Chrysler”, and was further solidified with the rear-wheel-drive ’77 M-Body LeBaron.
By the time the smaller, FWD, K-based LeBaron appeared for ’82, it reminded me of one of those little mini-wine bottles that could be purchased in a four-pack. “How about a little Riunite?” How delightfully 80’s! After Chrysler discontinued the elegant, rear-drive Cordoba after ’83 (with part 2 of my earlier ’81 Cordoba post to follow soon), it would be another four model years before it would return to the personal luxury fold with a truly stunning LeBaron coupe and convertible. The new LeBaron would again be K-based, and would be designated as a J-Body (as had been the second-generation Cordoba) – but would appear a bit more substantial and thus restore some of the sparkle to its name.
Our featured car helped to hold down the “LeBaron” name in the interim, being one of about 40,000 four-doors produced for the model year, starting at just over $10,000 ($22,000 / adjusted). The four-door sedan was the most popular in the LeBaron lineup for ’86, accounting for better than 40% of just over 91,000 total produced that year over four bodystyles which also included a two-door sedan, a convertible, and a wagon.
As far as my own personal tastes, I’m more of a Cordoba-tini (chilled on the rocks, not up on blocks) or Bloody Mary (made with V8) kind of guy, but a little wine can be refreshing every now and then. More Riunite than Boone’s Farm, the K-based LeBaron was deemed of just enough size and substance for its name by parent Chrysler amid the American cultural excesses of the mid-1980’s. More than a few buyers agreed. Which gets me thinking…what would be the automotive equivalent of Boone’s Farm? Happy Friday, readers.
Downtown, The Loop, Chicago, Illinois.
Monday, May 14, 2012.
- A comprehensive piece on these cars from JPCavanaugh: Curbside Classic: 1986 Chrysler LeBaron – Have a Cup of CAFE; and
- An account of personal experience from David Saunders: Cars Of A Lifetime: 1986 Chrysler LeBaron – Mini Brougham.