CC Capsule: 1986 Chrysler LeBaron – Going Home?

Oftentimes finding something to say about a particular car is rather simple as thoughts usually spring forth with wild abandon; harnessing them into a coherent assemblage is the challenge.  Such is the case with this Chrysler; thoughts spring forth, but can they find any type of cohesion?

Perhaps they can.  I found this Chrysler in the parking lot of a grocery store I have visited more times than I can remember – and this parking lot has seen a whole passel of Chrysler K-cars of every variety over the years.

The building in front of which this LeBaron was parked was built in 1978 and began business as a National Foods retailer under the banner of Del-Farm; it quickly gained notoriety of sorts as from its first day it was the only grocery store in the region to have electronic scanning devices to read all those lines printed on the side of every can of green beans, mushroom soup, and creamed corn.  This technological step might seem trivial but was major for the era and place.  Nobody at the time knew those weird lines as UPC codes; all I knew was the computer reading the prices was viewed with great suspicion by anyone over 50 or so.  Many were convinced computers were a fad and there was no way it could know the price of everything; it was only going to succeed in gouging people, wasn’t it?

Gouging does seem appropriate for this Chrysler.  For being a gussied up Reliant / Aries, Chrysler was able to charge about half-again as much as they could for a Dodge Aries dressed in the same skin.  All the gingerbread and other dubious accoutrements did not cost Chrysler a pile of money.  Perhaps having this LeBaron over a Reliant is comparable to buying the name brand cola as opposed to the store brand that comes in the same two liter container.  Not unlike soda, the perception of possessing that extra something is hard to quantify when both have equal amounts of high fructose corn syrup.

Del-Farm closed in 1999 to make way for a lower grade of grocery store.  That area of town had deteriorated and a different sort of clientele was now frequenting the place.  My mother ceased shopping there around 1991 after she witnessed a local police officer pepper spraying an unruly person caught shoplifting.

Odds are this Chrysler has taken a different type of owner (or, likely, owners) over its life.  Ever the economical to operate semi- (or pseudo) luxury car, simple math would lead one to believe the original owner doesn’t still own this LeBaron thirty-one years later.  It seems as likely as this remnant of a store from a different era becoming the next Whole Foods.

For 1986, this Chrysler was also a remnant of a different era.  Vinyl roofs and the likely pillow-tufted interior were a distinct reflection of a lustful 1970s broughamance, not unlike the building where I found this Chrysler.

Despite the disco era finery, this LeBaron was proving itself to be cognizant of the future.  Chrysler was quickly incorporating fuel injection on it’s four-cylinder engines during the 1980s with outputs per unit of displacement surpassing nearly anything it produced during the 1970s.  Had this particular LeBaron been born with a turbocharger, the specific output would have been even mightier; who would have guessed during the early days of the Carter Administration a 2.2 liter four from only a decade later could produce as much or more horsepower than the legendary 318 (a 5.2 liter mill for those of metric thoughts)?

This LeBaron was definitely aware of the future, a future which would see many changes.  The intervening years have taken the Chrysler Corporation through a tumultuous series of owners with the company making a decided path toward eliminating sedans from their lineup.  How times do change.

When this baby-blue Chrysler entered the world your humble author was a mere teenager whose responsibilities were few and in which life was relatively simple.  In the intervening decades, responsibilities have grown exponentially and life is anything but simple.  So it was with a distinct smile that I was able to capture this modest LeBaron, a reminder of my former simplicity in life and captured at a location that is a minor yet critical player of my past.

There is a tedious old saying about how one can’t go home again.  There is certainly merit to that anecdote but it’s still delightful to capture a few glimpses of times past, possessing a familiar yet rapidly disappearing model of car in a place that is close to home as is possible.

Found February 3, 2018

Corner of Sprigg and William Streets

Cape Girardeau, Missouri 

Untangling of the K-Car assortment can be found here.