We’ve all been there, if we’re honest with ourselves. All of us have experienced some low ebb in our fortunes and then been ignored or shunned by individuals who had once claimed to be our allies. I’m not specifically making reference to how our negative words and actions can have logically adverse consequences (which is true). I’m speaking more about simply being down and out and discovering the fickle tendencies human beings can have when they don’t want to be associated with a “loser”. The words of musician Jimmie Cox encapsulate this idea in the lyrics of his classic composition “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down And Out”, my favorite rendition of which came from the late, great Nina Simone.
Well, once I lived the life of a millionaire,
Spending my money, I didn’t care.
Taking my friends out for a mighty good time,
Buying bootleg liquor, champagne and wine.
Then I began to fall so low,
Couldn’t find me no friends, had no place to go.
If I ever get my hands on a dollar again,
I’m gonna hold on to it till the eagle grins.
People seem to forget that the second-generation Sebring convertible was a somewhat desirable car when it first arrived for 2001. I remember thinking it was handsomely styled in a way that mostly shed its rental-car image and restored some of its credibility as a car an individual would actually want to own and not just rent while on vacation in Florida. Its debut was only a few years into the existence of newly-merged parent company DaimlerChrysler, at a time when Chrysler as a whole seemed like a hip, innovative entity that was incapable of doing any wrong.
The Sebring’s story has been covered at Curbside elsewhere, but my intent is to provide context of my impression of these Sebrings as being nice cars when new, as the only other reference to this generation in popular culture that I can think of is as the personal transportation of the Michael Scott character from the U.S. version of the television mockumentary sitcom “The Office”.
For those unfamiliar with this show, I’ll briefly sum up Mr. Scott’s persona as being aspirational but highly inept and annoyingly image-focused. That his car was a Sebring convertible seemed to be a direct and obvious damning critique of this Chrysler model as being subpar, simply by association with him. Before I was a regular watcher of that series (and I remain a fan), I remember being a little surprised and saddened by the amount of subtle, implied negative references this poor Chrysler endured, being characterized as a losermobile without even needing words written into the script to directly state this.
I said, nobody knows you
When you’re down and out.
In your pocket, you ain’t got one penny,
And your friends, you didn’t have any.
Just as soon as you get up on your feet again,
Here they all come, they say that they’re your long-lost friends.
Oh, Lord, without a doubt,
Nobody knows you when you’re down and out.
At this point, I don’t have a whole lot of hope that mega-conglomerate Stellantis, the newly created umbrella under which the Chrysler brand now resides, will ever roll out a bunch of new, Chrysler-branded products. But just like the once-maligned Cordoba personal luxury coupe seems to have enjoyed a higher profile lately by those who admit they genuinely like it (self included), I’m sure that there will be people who now make fun of the Sebring convertible who will be openly professing their admiration for it in the future, pretending that they always had.
Let’s not forget that when the ’82 LeBaron convertible, the Sebring’s ancestor, had arrived, Chrysler Corporation was seen as being on the leading edge of reintroducing this bodystyle to U.S.-branded showrooms. And yes, my then-middle aged aunt did own a LeBaron convertible at one point, but I liked her car then, and I would drive that Claret Red J-Body beauty today. Years of writing for Curbside has reinforced in me the importance of simply liking what I like, and saying so, regardless of “popular opinion”. You don’t need somebody else’s permission to admire something that isn’t and wasn’t perfect. Even if you are only just a casual fan of these Sebrings like me, you are not alone.
Edgewater, Chicago, Illinois.
Friday, March 23, 2018.
Click here and here for related reading on other iterations of this generation of Chrysler Sebring.
The car that never really had a retail market.
The first gen Sebring convertible was stylish at least, especially in dark red with the two-tone tan-black leather interior.
This second gen was positively meh and stunk of decontenting. No more two-tone leather! What is this a Plymouth? I can hear Iacocca fan-boys screaming in the dealership.
When these came out GM was still selling the F-Body twins Camaro and Firebird. When those were killed, Ford debuted the retro Thunderbird. Shortly after Thunderbird was killed Ford debuted the retro Mustang. Mitsubishi had the more-stylish sister car, Eclipse convertible available during those years as well. Used Corvette’s and Allante’s were always plentiful and depreciated quickly enough.
In short, there were always better, more fun, and more capable options in the marketplace for only a little more money. Which is why these were what they were, sweepstakes bait and rental car fodder.
I don’t think these will ever be admired. They can’t be modified for an LS-Swap, for example.
They may be remembered fondly as Grandma’s last car. The same way I look at Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera’s or millennials will look at Buick Encore’s in the future. With remembrance and possibly reverence but never lusting to own one again.
I have a 2004 Touring Convertible. 130,000 miles, still looks perfect n runs perfect. I wouldn’t own another car. I’ve had it two years, just done routine maintenance on her. I get complements on it all the time. It’s a joy to drive.
That’s awesome – so glad you’re enjoying yours. Seeing these Sebrings in less-than-good condition can be a bit depressing, but when well-kept, I agree that they are great looking machines. Routine maintenance and reasonably careful use can go a long way toward preserving that nice-car feel, so kudos to you.
Eric Clapton does a killer rendition of that tune on “Unplugged”
I’ll admit to being a fan of the first Sebring convertible, it was fresh, looked great, seemed roomy, and Chrysler had it going on back then. Especially in the dark red and dark green with tan interior, it was pretty much that or a Mustang as the convertibles to be seen in (that were still part of a reasonable budget I mean).
By the time this one came out, the party was starting to break up. And the regular Sebring (non-convertible) was pretty much a dog. Still, finding two right behind each other? Not sure I’ve ever seen that besides maybe in the return line at Thrifty/Dollar rent-a-car. 🙂
I bought a 2006 this summer as a fun third car, despite the engine’s reputation. This car is a FAR better car than its unearned reputation. Even at 14, it’s not creaky, rattly, floppy, and drives tautly and smoothly with enthusiasm and verve. It’s not enviable, but it drives much better than I expected, was very reasonably priced, and has a back seat capable of fitting adults and a large trunk. The interior materials are not luxurious and could have been improved but it’s not ugly or repulsive like the 2008 models. These deserve a second look.
Excellent. I imagine there are lots of Sebring ownership stories like yours. You mention being able to fit four adults in relative comfort, as well has having ample trunk space. Both of these things are important qualities (independent of each other) that I see as having set the Sebring convertible apart in the marketplace.
Here in sunny Central Florida, these still roam in large packs. I suppose that the huge number of ex-rental fleet ones are out there, but it seems that a lot of retirees took to these with relish. And my elderly Uncle owned 2 at one time, one here in Florida and one at his home in Indiana, as he was able to purchase them at a good price and it was easier to have the 2 parked at separate locations for use as needed.
And really, the shame is not in liking these cars. The shame is that so many have never really experienced the joy of top-down motoring. Yes, they can be a pain to maintain, to replace tops, to have as a car more for weekends and fun, but when the price of admission is so low, it really would be a good investment, if only as a toy.
I imagine that the value proposition for owning a well-maintained example would be worth investigating one. When I have spent time in SW Florida, I have seen a number of these on the roads, as well. It was there that I had just a little bit of time behind the wheel of my brother’s former convertible years ago (not a Sebring), and I can imagine that in winter afternoons in Florida, when the temperatures are reasonable, top-down driving is really enjoyable.
That one would be able to actually carry two adults in the back seat in relative comfort would add extra incentive to own. “Let’s take my Chrysler.” “Okay.”
Having Michael Scott drive a Sebring was a deft bit of carcasting (is that a word? If not, it needs to be and I just made it up), almost as much so as Walter White driving an Aztek.
My wonderfully impulsive roommate from a decade ago bought a gold Sebring convertible, drove it for a few months, then sold it. It was a nice car to flirt with.
Nina is great and all, but Tim Hardin’s rendition of “Nobody Knows You” is definitive for me…
Tim Hardin’s great, but my favorite version was recorded by Derek and the Dominos. Of course, you have to give credit to Bessie Smith, too.
Also great. When I was researching this song, I discovered there were many, many covers of it. It’s close to 100 years old, having been written in 1923. I can’t imagine any songs written today having that kind of lasting impact, but that’s not to say it couldn’t happen. Truth is truth.
“Carcasting” is brilliant. I had never heard of Tim Hardin before today, but I do like his rendition. According to the internet, he was born in Eugene, Oregon! No lie.
It is a generic blob of a gray thing. It seemed that everyone involved with it wanted to avoid making any mistakes. So they created a car without any character. It appeals to people who want a good deal. The market that thinks all cars are alike, and this one is a good value. Try to describe this car to someone! Go ahead! It is a gray blob with a grille.
Like the soccer-mom stigma attached to the minivan, the Sebring convertible got tagged as something the white-shoes-and-belt crowd would drive, a latter day Herb Tarlek loud sportcoat salesman (from the old WKRP in Cincinnati tv show) Cordoba. Even today, the late, unlamented Buick Cascada seems closest to the spiritual successor of the Sebring convertible.
Which is really too bad. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with the cruiser convertible, the kind that has no sporting pretensions (Mustang, Camaro) but just a nice, comfortable ride for top-down motoring to be seen in when the weather warrants it. Just as the market fell out for the low-priced, domestic 2-door coupe long ago, so went the demographic for the Sebring-style convertible.
Of course, it didn’t help the way Daimler butchered up the last generation version. Sheesh, what a poorly styled car with a rear deck nearly as long as the hood, which was necessitated by the need for a folding hardtop (you could get both a soft and hardtop with those last Sebrings).
All of this. The other convertibles available at its price point were more youth-oriented, flashy, or smaller. I love a Mustang convertible in any form, but I could understand how the Sebring’s tasteful, classy styling would speak to someone who wasn’t necessarily seeking that kind of attention.
The second Sebring convertible (featured) is the definitive one for me. The first ones were a bit too rounded for my liking (though still nice looking). The other thing about the first Sebring convertible is that it followed the J-Body LeBaron, which is still (to my eyes) an incredible looking car in its earliest iterations.
The looks of the last Sebring convertible came as a bit of a shock to me, though I’m sure it has its fans. Again, the basic premise of my essay is that while facts can be right or wrong, an opinion isn’t subject to those measures. Mine is that the featured cars are A-OK with me. 🙂
I think my fellow commentators are being too harsh on this car.
A friend of mine had a Sebring LXI. It was the first car he purchased as a professional. He was 22 at the time. Resplendent in emerald green, with a rich tan interior, it looked far more expensive than it was. The leather seats had a deep graining that would not look out of place on a Jaguar.
I drove it on a few occasions. The 2.7, maligned though it was, provided smooth and adequate power. There was a bit of shudder over harsh bumps, but otherwise, it was a smooth runner, and a pleasant place to spend time, and spend time in it we did, as we took it on several road trips. It wasn’t perfect, but the Sebring did everything that was asked of it at a reasonable price.
My friend kept this car for eight years and it served his purposes well. He had wanted a stylish convertible that would seat four adults comfortably. Was there a better car out there to accommodate his needs at this price point? If ‘room’ is a priority, the next rung up on the convertible food chain would have been the Saab 9-3, which was considerably more expensive, and weighted for cost, probably not superior to the Sebring.
I confess I know nothing about the Sebring, and have an opinion to match.
But I am more than familiar with those who, shall we say, sail off when one’s own boat is very low in the water. (It took me perhaps longer than it should have to realize they were never really alongside in the first place, but that is another issue).
As for Nina Simone, godamn! Only discovered her properly through a kid here learning her stuff for the piano, and it is all of it stunning. It’s also high-class, in the sense that it’s very difficult to reproduce accurately. (Well, the kid is sure struggling to get My Baby Don’t Care just right, and he’s pretty good. Actually, my ears are beginning to wish Baby stopped caring for a day or two, but I’m digressing).
I hadn’t heard this song by her before. Like nearly all of her work, she sings it as if lived, which, in part, it would have been.
You’ve set me off a-thinking, as you often do, Mr D.
Nina Simone is such a fascinating artist to me. She wrote her own rules and basically did what she wanted – and succeeded on those terms. A true icon who defied categorization.
The Sebring convertible wasn’t alone in the marketplace.
That was the heyday of the convertible revival. DaimlerChrysler itself made a better convertible, more rigid in structure and in its Turbo versions, better performing. But being quirky in styling, the PT Cruiser was aimed at a different market.
Mini had a uniquely small sportster convertible and so did Volkswagen.
Other makers were in the same arena. Ford had the Mustang convertible, which didn’t HAVE to be bought in the high-dollar GT version. Toyota offered its Camry Solara but it had about as much flair as plain white Wonder bread and was even rather loaf-shaped and did not have the support of the rental market as did the Sebring and Mustang. GM offered the aging Cavalier, and later the Pontiac Solstice and Saturn Sky.
I had been really excited about the first Sebring – it was a convertible for adults, and one that was really good looking. This update lost its edge. The comparison that pops into my mind is the 1940-41 Lincoln Continental that morphed into the 1942-48 version. The second one still had its attractive parts, but everything else was a little more blunt and a little less graceful.
I would consider one of these for a cheap weekend cruiser, but they have a reputation for being really brittle. The combo of a 2.7 and a Chrysler 4 speed transaxle isn’t something I really want to invest in.
I’ve owned my 2004 Sebring Touring Convertible for 2 years. 130,000 miles, done only minor repairs, has the improved 2.7 6 cylinder engine n still runs like new. The body n paint are close to new looking ( I pamper my cars), I wouldn’t want to drive anything else. It is a joy to drive. I get complements on it every time I drive it. ( Everyday).
These were thick amongst my social circle when they were current. No other convertible had rear seat room like these, so they were passable as a daily. They really were somewhat classy for the time, and fairly competent for a convertible, especially if they had the Twillfast top material on the high end JXi / LXi trims. They also had a reasonable trunk. It seemed it was unique in that there wasn’t a real direct competitor for it, and it appealed to many because of that. But it was a Chrysler, so they depreciated fast, and ended up on a lot of used car lots with questionable reputations.
I like that you mentioned the ample trunk. One design element I really liked about the first and second Sebring convertibles is that they completely bucked the long hood / short deck look. Completely. Even beyond Chrysler’s “Cab Forward” look from that time.
Along with Buick’s last Riviera, the Sebring looked (to me) to have a trunk that was as long as its hood – in a way that was really attractive. We just didn’t see this on any other cars. The Sebring *coupe*, which was unrelated to the convertible, had a more traditionally short deck, which made it blend in more with other cars also on sale at the time.
The convertible, though, with its long rear deck, seemed a bit unconventionally attractive in that regard, and that was one of the reasons I liked its look.
This is a car that I associate heavily with a friend of ours who owned one. And his story is one of perseverance, strength and optimism — so regardless of the Sebring’s shortcomings, I always think positively of these cars.
Our friend, Charles, was a retired pilot, who in his retirement pursued other passions, music being one of them. For many years, he played alongside my wife in a concert band, which is how we knew him. Charles had been an active and robust person until a sudden illness left him partially paralyzed in his early 60s. That would be crushing to most people, but I never saw or heard Charles complain.
He bought the Sebring because he could easily get a walker or wheelchair behind the front seat (courtesy of the long doors), and figured since he needed to buy a car with easy accessibility for him, he might as well buy a convertible, and he always wanted one anyway. I think driving this car with the top down acted like a salve to the troubles caused by his disability. And he drove that Sebring fast, and had fun with it.
He was a wonderful person with terrific stories, and with a sense of duty and stoicism from a bygone era. And he enjoyed that Sebring; he drove it fast and had fun with it. It fit him well, and even though Charles passed away several years ago, I always think of him — not of Florida rental cars — when I see Sebrings on the road.
I really like that you have a positive association between these cars and your friend, and also the reasons you said he liked his. As I flip back to the couple of pictures I shot of these two, and even without a direct profile shot, I can imagine the long doors and extra cabin space being what made this car so liveable not only for him, but for others who purchased them.
Since these passed from the scene, what convertibles are the mainstay of the rental car business? Mustangs? Buick Cascada?
Chrysler hasn’t a car on which they could build a convertible now…though a 300 two door convertible would be nice, probably wouldn’t sell enough to justify the tooling costs.
I believe at one time there was a manual transmission available.
I have a 2005 convertible touring and I love it .had it for 4 yrs and never had a problem .shes fun to drive with or with out the top down
When I came across the music clip, I scanned back to the byline – JD, of course!
It says something that there is so much comment on the music Joseph chose to illustrate the piece, relative to the amount of comment on the car.
Had a 2001 lxi, loved the style, really loved that generation’s grille and lights, loved the dark green and tan, Drove great!
I hated the repairs !
Gave it up when it started overheating, 3k to replace the engine, on a 2k car, nope!
Drove it to the junkyard, top down, sad to see it go, so very glad to have enjoyed it!
I briefly owned one of these. There was nothing inherently wrong with the driving experience of this car, but it really was not in any way whatsoever fun. That is to say it was absolutely boring and it’s only redeeming characteristic was the ability to put the top down.
We had a ’01 Limited, dark blue with cream colored leather, chrome wheels. Beautiful vehicle that was comfortable, quick enough, and got 30ish mpg on the highway with the 2.7L V6. We stored it during the Wisconsin winters and it was a great looking awesome vehicle. We finally sold it when my wife didn’t want a convertible anymore and I still miss that car. Very underrated as were the 200’s & Sebrings after ’09 when Chrysler finally cleaned up the interiors.
My 2002 Chrysler Sebring Convertible is a joy to have and i wouldnt trade it in for non of these new cars. If this car makes me a loser than im the happiest loser there is, because i love it. It matches my vibe and flowy attitude and often i feel like a Rebel when im cruising down Imperial hwy. Oh and many ppl give me compliments and so pretty hot guys in newer cars than mines always stopping me in traffic asking for my number. Low on gas and maintained wonderfully.
I have really enjoyed reading from the CC readership about their positive experiences with, impressions of, etc. these Sebrings. Thanks for sharing them, and for those of you who own, continue to treat yours with respect and proper maintenance, because I want to see them on the road for as long as I can.
Interesting… Here in Austria those have a very different image as reasonable alternatives to the far more expensive (and not necessarily more reliable) German offerings; good ones usually go for about €5K or more and seem to hold their value well.