I was riding the bus one day, on my way back home. As we passed a central crossroads in my hometown, I caught a glimpse of this undoubtedly K-car, its angles hard to miss. parking in a dirt patch between the houses and the street. “Okey”, me thinks, “So Mr. Shacham has bought another classic. Sure doesn’t fit the rest of his stuff”.
Now I should explain; it was parked in close proximity to where said Shacham used to horde his cars. He since downsized- just, for I was missing one of the Cougars and the Pontiac but could still easily recognize the Mustang, Renault and the other Cougar which were covered, as well as the Scout parked with two wheels on the sidewalk. So you see, getting another classic isn’t beyond this collector. Oh well, as the bus rolled on I said to myself: “I don’t remember Chrysler having a convertible Aries or Reliant” and thought nothing of it. I was never a fan of these downsized cars anyway (even if their importance in saving Chrysler was vastly important), so not too knowledgeable with their history.
But on the next day I had to take the bus again, and as traffic was tightening around the same area (and stepping off to complete the short journey on foot seemed a far better idea), I decided to get off at the next stop- yes, the stop right next to the K-car, which, as I was about to discover, isn’t a Dodge nor a Plymouth- and if we’re to believe, doesn’t even have a normally aspirated engine. Here’s the first look:
In the background you can see the pathway that takes me towards my home and through the street where Mr. Shacham keeps his classics. That Peugeot 3008 Mk. 1 is parked exactly where his International Scout used to park, so naturally I assumed this Chrysler belongs to our collector.
A bit angular, isn’t it? Obviously, I was mistaken/unawares, and this is a LeBaron, almost identical to its lesser siblings. All of these K-cars are proportioned to look much larger than what they are, and best viewed from the side (top photo). Truth be told, I think all of these 1980s American cars are. Have you looked at any midsize G-bodies recently? Put them next to a modern Mazda CX-5 and they shrink; much less a LeBaron of this generation.
But hold on- what’s that on the front fender?
Now that’s got to be worth something, or does it? I don’t know. I guess borrowing the turbo unit from one of the Chrysler Laser/Dodge Daytona of the same era seemed like a good idea, with some PR beneficiaries. The extra cooling inlets atop the hood did not escape me:
The turbo reminded me of the “real” thing, shown in two ads I published before in this post:
Inside it’s Corinthian (?) leather, enhanced by plastic galore. The instrument panel is as angular as the outside, and just look at that stereo head unit and the AC controls. I hope it is still functioning. Wonder if this is one of the “talking” cars, with prefixed audible warnings and info being heard occasionally.
As for the sign; well, you guessed it- it’s for sale, with details such as “collectable” and “private import” added for further interest. I can’t say that is Mr. Shacham’s car, but certainly the owner of this LeBaron has recently imported a classic in order to sell it and make a profit. Whether this is the right car to do it with remains to be seen; on one hand, they never sold any LeBarons in Israel, but they did sell other K-cars (with very small numbers), and certainly there was no turbo whatsoever. On the other hand, in Israel it might be rare as a Dodo but that still doesn’t mean it’s lust-after material. Still, there’s a saying in Israel: “For every bucket there is a rag”, so there might be a happy buyer for this car. Before I move to the back, here’s a 1980s reminder:
One last look at the back of what is really a late 1970s styling. This LeBaron is indeed registered as a Collectible Vehicle, but as I searched through the Israeli DMV database, I was surprised to discover its license was not in order; it last went through the DMV annual test on November 24th, 2019, and was valid to drive on the road until June 30th, 2020. So, essentially the story changes to that of a private importer who, apparently, got shorter and shorter with funds and now has to sell in order to rescue him\herself from ill fate. Certainly not our Mr. Shacham?! Surely not…
More on the 1980s LeBaron Convertible can be learned in this excellent COAL post by 83 LEBARON
Spot on, “rare” doesn’t mean collectible or valuable. A very strange choice to import to try and make money – unless it was someone’s aged uncle or aunt dying and then a crazy idea to import the car since it was free anyway?
For all the criticism of GM’s ’80s products, they did a vastly better job of creating broader distinction in their derivative X-body based cars, than Chrysler did with their upscale K-car platforms. While I thought the ’82 LeBaron and Dodge 400 convertibles were novel ideas, I’d never buy one. In spite of their wire wheels covers, turbo motors, and Mark Cross leather interiors. Otherwise, too much like the original K-cars, in their design.
It took the ’87 LeBaron, for Chrysler to present a suitably upgraded K convertible.
And what a total knockout the K-based J-body ’87 LeBaron was. I was utterly shocked to find out there was a a K car underneath that stunning exterior.
Yes. I do think the ’83 Thunderbird’s aero shape played a big role in the design of the LeBaron and Dodge Shadow. Ford’s aero design in general, being a big influence.
I agree that the ’87 redesign was a huge step forward. OTOH; while I don’t think I’ve ever used “handsome” and “K-Car” together, this one looks better than any other I’ve seen from this generation. It looks a bit shorter than a four-door. If so, the proportions look better. I think the convertible top also helps, as it inserts a bit of angularity and eliminates a bit of the squareness.
I have a 84 LeBaron convertible. Great car. Runs great 38 miles per gallon. Easy to work on. Very underrated car by our county’s car snobs. A trure survivor.
Sadly it’s not the one that was previously owned by Jon Voight. The teeth marks on the pencil proved otherwise.
Loved that episode.
It was owned by John Voight with an H!
In a moment of weakness and induced by a dealer offer of a free raffle entry with every test drive, I took one of these for a spin. I’ve owned other convertibles and read there test reports. Testers always seemed to rag on what they called cowl-shake. Despite the tester’s experience, I can’t say any of my well used convertibles were really objectionable. But then, I didn’t off road my convertibles either. The Chrysler was something else. That cowl shook like a dog shitting razor blades – and on a pretty smooth road. Never looked twice at another one no matter how nice.
There was something jaunty and refreshing about these convertibles that was missing in the rest of the K-car family. The shortness of the body, which made the sedan and coupes look boxy suddenly was more of an asset than a liability. It looked like a 2+2 rather than a full length car.
Later, when the Taurus took the domestic auto world by storm, suddently, everyone began softening up the creases and folds. It just wasn’t the same (the first K-car refresh is a great example), and I could easily go with the sentiment that the LeBaron convertible was the last of the good-looking seventies’ cars.
It was generally accepted that convertibles were the best looking of any car line, and the LeBaron convertible was no exception. It might have been “late 1970’s styling”, but it was as good as any other creased-edge, late 1970’s styling. The convertible top mechanism might have intruded into the rear seat to keep stack-height low, and if it didn’t render it useless, at least quite uncomfortable for those passengers.
But who cared? The 1st generation LeBaron convertible was a winner (cowl shake be damned), and I miss it.
These are the cars that proved that the K-car was a success and that Chrysler had returned to (some semblance of) solvency. You don’t spend money that you don’t have to build a low-volume halo car.
Studebaker Avanti fans might beg to differ!
Bear in mind the K car convertibles weren’t engineered or fully built in house as done in the past, Cars & Concepts(same company who did the 83-93 Mustang Convertibles as well) was contracted to convert manufactured 2 door bodyshells into convertibles, a substantial savings for Chrysler for such a low volume model.
Nonetheless I agree, they effectively messaged to the public that Chrysler was healthy again putting out a car that isn’t all doom and gloom laser focused on fuel conservation and safety.
These cars featured “Mark Cross” leather, instead of Soft, Fine, or Rich Corinthian Leather. (I’ve seen it marketed using multiple adjectives. )