Many of my rather rare submissions these days are a result of my near daily long walks around Eugene. Today’s walk was rather meta: I walked to the mall to buy new shoes, as my currents are quite worn. Unfortunately, I was in a hurry and neglected to grab one of my Canon point-and-shoots from the studio, but fortunately I had my newish phone to capture this increasingly rare specimen.
My only-ever seat time in a K-car was when my dad and I were searching for my first car in the mid 90s, and we test drove a Plymouth sedan from Paul’s Automotive, in Coos Bay, Oregon. The car seemed nice enough overall but had a nasty shake above 40 mph. We took it to Dad’s trusty mechanic Ken, who promptly shook his head and told us to walk. (Said much the same about a first-gen Excel.)
Knowing very little about most cars, I actually thought the paneling was real wood. Even touched it to make sure. Fortunately, Paul is rather knowledgeable about cars *cough* and informed me that the paneling is plastic, but that Chrysler went to great trouble to make sure it fades from the sun just like real wood. Better living through chemistry. And he told me that these have become rare here, and he’s never found one yet. (For anyone rather new to CC, Paul and I both live in Eugene, Oregon.) But Perry Shoar did find one in Indiana, and his full write-up is here.
K-cars were all over the place in their time, but not so much these days. Particularly these Woodies. I’ll rely on the CC-Commentariat to provide more details regarding production numbers and so forth. Meanwhile, since I left my new shoes at the studio, I’m going to take a walk in these:
Kinda cool in a bizarre way.
Yet when you think about it with the 80s in mind one is apt to ask: What was on their mind?
The Town & Country convertibles were even more puzzling than the wagons.
The 80’s woody convertibles were a tribute to the Wood paneled Chrysler Town and Country cars of 1946-50. They came in sedan, hardtop coupe, and droptop. Last of these was 1950 coupes. After, the T&C name was used for wagons/vans.
If they were good enough for Jon Voight, they were good enough for me.
These T&C Wagons were actually considered somewhat of a hot item back in the day. Ferris Bueller’s mom drove one.
When Iacocca and Co couldn’t keep his Imperial running, Frank Sinatra supposedly tooled around in a T&C wagon.
I was hoping someone would mention Ferris Bueller… Interesting contrast next to the Dad’s Audi 5000
What a great car for a student. Roomy, economical, turbo, Daytona wheels. The patina on the di noc, and the timeless name really set it apart.
I remember being really impressed in the early 80s with the job Chrysler was doing in making fake wood paneling that looked like it could possibly have been real wood. Of course, it didn’t age all that well (not that anybody else’s fake wood did either).
I see hood louvers, which spells Turbo! Chrysler was one of the few back then who used their Turbo sort of like other companies used more cylinders or cubic inches. But, when you have no V6, you use your Turbo in station wagons.
I know there’s a guy out there with a modified TURBO Caravan but the Town & Country turbo is always the one I wanted to turn into a sleeper.
This looks a lot like a T&C that a classmate’s mom had in first grade. I was only a tiny thing, but I distinctly remember the wood paneling and thought the thick birch (?) framing around the darker paneling looked huge on such a small car. We moved to another town but would occasionally drive past their house on trips to the beach. After several years, it ended up parked in the family’s side yard, gathering a thick patina of moss and green algae that covered the windows but complemented the navy blue paint :-p
I see no CHMSL, and the grille is the non-“aero” style, so I believe this is an ’84? When did the T&C become a minivan?
“When did the T&C become a minivan?” I believe it was 1990, the final year on the first generation extended minivan platform.
1990 was the first year for the Minivan Town and Country and good luck finding a non-white one.
T&C wagons were built in this form for the entire period LeBarons were built off the K-body, from 1982-88. After 1981, the K-bodies were Chrysler Corporation’s last remaining station wagons, with ’88 the final year for all of them. (The basic K-cars, the Plymouth Reliant and Dodge Aries, were built from 1981-89, but there were no Reliant or Aries wagons in ’89.) I believe that the T&C name took a year off in ’89, then re-appeared in ’90 on the new upscale Chrysler-branded version of the minivan.
According to the Encyclopedia of American Cars, the K-bodied T&C’s best years were 1983 and 1984, when production was around the 10K-11K range. Sales tailed off over time and production was down to just 2,136 in 1988.
“What was on their mind?”
Well, wood trim wagons had been around for decades into the 80’s. This idea was not just whipped up out of thin air in 1982. Chrysler was just offering a continuation of what had been on the market since first station wagons.
Up until minivans, wagons were common family/work haulers. They didn’t go out of style overnight at stroke of midnight, New Years 1980 as some assume. 😉
Fake woodgrain, vinyl tops, & Continental Kits: America’s contribution to automotive style.
And 55 Chevys, 63 Rivieras, 41 Lincolns, and 49 Town and Countrys
” They should to be able to buff this out , no problem ” , quote by Del ( John Candy) in ” Planes Trains and Automobiles “. But that was a 2 door Chrysler K car with the similar fake wood as this one .
You’re going the wrong way!!!!
I like the way they went peg-happy in “attaching” the “ash” reinforcements to the wood beneath. In my unreliable and incomplete memory, this sort of goes back to the early Ford Country Squires, which had lots of polished/stainless pegs on the “ash” frame.
Fading like real wood: Yes, quite.
In the mid 80s, on a visit to my aunt and uncle who were then living in a retirement community in Florida, I discovered one of these in their garage next to my uncle’s Model A roadster. My aunt and uncle’s T&C was a butterscotch color with matching interior, purchased when their Buick Roadmaster wagon blew it’s engine. Oddly, I didn’t know my uncle, a long time Ford owner had a Buick or a Chrysler. But they were both purchased because a wagon was needed for very long trips and Ford no longer made a “traditional” station wagon.
An abysmal, cobbled together machine. I was living in AZ when these things hit the streets and the sun bleached out those faux wood panels quicker than you could say “tequila!”
Is that really true that Chrysler intentionally designed the Dinoc to fade like real wood? Sounds like a myth to me. I do remember from the 80’s that Chryslers had the most real looking fake wood. I think they just got lucky with the fading. Heck if you were going to put that much effort into engineering the vinyl, why not make it to NOT fade.
This car looks like it has aged well otherwise. The chrome looks in great shape. The car would look a lot better with whitewalls, in my opinion!
I like these, just like the woody convertibles. These are a pretty handy size and the non turbos got pretty good mileage. Chrysler built a lot of turbos. You get a turbo, you get a turbo, you get a turbo- just like Oprah!
Turbo Woody? There’s a naughty joke in there somewhere… 😉
I like these little “Kleenex” boxes. The snowflake wheels from the later Dodge Spirit really seem to brighten this car up. Well done.
Nice find! With some tweeks, this could be a nice little sleeper.