Many of my contributions to this website are homages to my parents to some extent; after all, they have always encouraged my love of four-wheeled friends. In fact, many of my earliest memories involve local car dealerships, where I would load up on brochures and sit behind the wheels of everything on the showroom floor, leaving my poor father to play the role of blocker against any number of eager salespeople. He was my earliest wingman, ready to jump on the grenade so his little man could get his latest fix.
photo credit: productioncars.com
Dad is, has been, and always will be, a Ford man. My dalliances into GM cars and Mopars puzzles him, but he’s always been a good sport, even if I am somewhat of a heathen in his eyes. His absolute least favorite place to visit was the local Chrysler dealership, where we invariably fell into the clutches of local salesman Pat (last name withheld). Pat came from the school of the hard sell, and there was no such thing as browsing the inventory on his watch. Browbeating was more like it.
One unfortunate evening in roughly 1985, Dad rewarded me for whatever I had done well by taking me to look at Chryslers. I should have misbehaved. Pat waited, crouching in the wings for his poor, unsuspecting potential customers. We didn’t even make it through the front door before being accosted by Pat and shoved into a waiting LeBaron GTS Turbo.
I really had no interest in taking test drives with salesmen at that age. I was eight at the most, and being a bit of a shy little guy, showroom wanderings were more my speed. Old Pat, however, turned onto the main drag and poured on the coals. For the mid-80s, the 146-horsepower “Turbo I” engine had superior acceleration, but was really, really rough. Our family cars back then were always V8s, and their smoothness just accentuated the coarseness of the Chrysler turbo four.
The GTS was, however, optioned with the cool digital dashboard, and I remember liking that feature while watching it climb incrementally toward the red “dash” when Pat got on the gas. Digital instrumentation is hopelessly 80s in retrospect, but at the time, it didn’t seem cheesy at all: it was the future! After all, Corvettes had digital dashes. One of the coolest features on Dad’s ’87 T-Bird was a digital speedometer, which was oddly mixed with analog temperature and gas gauges, but it was better than nothing. Oh yeah, a dashboard like a Casio was high style.
From what I remember, the GTS was also one of the Chryslers that talked to the driver in a synthesized female voice, which was too robotic to be attractive. Modern British GPS voices were still a couple of decades away, and Robocar must have been unimaginably annoying after a few months of ownership. My memory fails me, but I want to say that the LeBaron of our test drive was a manual, which must have been fairly uncommon even in 1985, but was a listed option in the brochure.
Upon our return to the dealership, Pat made it clear that he wasn’t quite through with us yet. Possibly noticing that my dad wasn’t all that thrilled with the LeBaron, he tried to peg him as a sporty car kind of guy, so off we went in a new Chrysler Laser! From what I remember, this one wasn’t a turbo model, and I believe it had an automatic. It must have been forgettable, because all I can remember is looking at it in the parking lot.
photo credit: productioncars.com
When we finally got back to the dealership, I looked forward to collecting my brochures and wandering the showroom, as was my normal policy. My normally preternaturally patient father wrangled me into the car at once, leaving me confused and a bit annoyed. Subtlety and the reading of human emotions weren’t yet a part of my social palette; and although I found Pat more than usually annoying, I couldn’t understand why Dad wouldn’t let me do my thing that day. Today, however, I can look back on that trip to the dealership and realize with certainty that my dad was, like the LeBaron pictured above, an American hero for putting up with the world’s most high pressure salesman on that day, and many others in the future.
My Dad purchased an identical GTS to the one in the first ad, black on black leather with gold pinstripes. Had every option except the infinity stereo and his was a 5 speed. It was the first truck load of GTS’s the dealer had received, and it had just been delivered earlier that afternoon.
The power window broke on the way home when he stopped to pay a toll, and it broke down, and it was snowing.
The car was rear ended on 495 by a Grand Wagoneer a few years after he bought it. It was never the same after that.
He almost traded it in on a black cherry 89 GTS with the turbo II and 5 speed (pretty sharp looking car and super rare) but bought a 89 6000 STE instead.
Talk about a roll down memory lane this AM!
Dads. Gotta love em.
My aunt had one identical to the blue on in the lead picture. I’m not sure of the year, but for some reason, only one memory of it sticks with me to this day.
I remember driving into town with her and my two younger cousins with Lionel Ritchie’s “Dancing on the Ceiling” blaring on the tape deck. Good times. 🙂
Now that I think about it, my Grandmother also had a blue turbo/auto that she traded a 83 Chrysler 5th Ave. in on in 86 or 87. What’s the odds of a family having 2 GTS’s at the same time?
I remember two older sisters in my hometown each having a champagne-colored LeBaron of this vintage at the same time. I also remember another pair of OLD sisters who each had a dark brown ’77 Pontiac LeMans. For some reason, those Pontiacs gave little Yanns the willies!
I had an ’85 LeBaron GTS with the 2.2 Turbo that looked exactly, inside and out, as the one in your ad, except mine was silver…say what you want about the coarse engine, with an auto I actually dusted a Corvette (granted, a late 70’s one but when you’re young a win is a win, especially against a ‘Vette).
Of course, when I picked up my friend Rhonda’s uncle in it and offered to take him to the store, I had every intention in scaring the shitake mushrooms out of him-what I hadn’t planned on was doing the same to myself. As we were coming up from behind the store and around the corner in the alley the car started accelerating by itself and I rounded that damned corner at about 50 mph (thankfully it was a somewhat wide alley), then dropped it into neutral and used the brakes to stop it, with Keith screaming in my ear.
I laughed my ass off for a bit while Keith collected himself. We went into the store, Keith did his bit and I got in some shopping while there. When I went back outside Keith had started a walk back home. I told him to quit being a, um, kitty cat and get back in the fornicating car, all the while laughing.
It never did it again, and I never did figure out why it had done it in the first place. But damn, I would love to have another turbo K, never shoulda sold that one.
By the way, my car was optioned weird-leather, digital dash, turbo-but crank windows, manual locks and no Voice Alert™. My ’87 Lancer ES had all of the above (minus leather, and including the “wagon” wheels off my ’85 Chrysler Laser XE-dubbed “inferno”, as evidenced in the last pic).
In the second pic, to the left, is my great grandmother’s 1971 Plymouth Sport Fury, after my stepfather ruined it-it was cherry when he got it, and it was a rotten apple when he was done, sad story.
The Lancer, after the fire….yeah, it’s a crappy pic, but c’mon, it was the ’90s.
A real life Dadmobile .Another car I’ve never seen or heard of before
Ricardo Montalban assured us it was designed to outperform Europe’s best (as to whether it actually did was a different story): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9dYjeKI0tkY
This ad has numbers, anyway
Similar upbringing – my dad liked to take me to dealerships when they had a gift giveaway, free cooler or tote bag for test drive. I distinctly remember testing a late 80s lebaron with the digital dash, I was enthralled. We had a stripper 82 Cavalier. Also remember opening all the hoods in an Olds dealer one day – salesman not impressed. I was too short to reach them to close….
The only dealers I ever got to visit with parents were for service visits, or during car shopping. I eventually started visiting them on my bike by the time I was 13 or so, then by car. In Indiana, dealers have always been closed on Sundays, so that was always a good day to walk around the lot to check out the inventory. Bad day for literature, though.
I remember test driving a Lebaron GTS. I got the opposite from your salesman – a younger guy who was trying out car-sales after several years in the restauraut industry. He was a very pleasant guy and a gearhead besides. I really wanted to buy a car from him, but I just didn’t like the GTS enough.
From my memories as a kid, Chrysler salesmen were vicious. The guy my mom bought her Jeeps from was a shark. One time while getting service done at a different Chrysler dealership, I was sitting ing cars and gathering brochures much like you and a salesman actually came over and yelled at me for taking too many brochures. My mom threw a fit at the service desk for her son being yelled at over taking free brochures. His boss made him come out and apologize and every time we went back there the service supervisor had a thick stack of brochures waiting for me 🙂
This reminds me….
In early 1990 my now 93 year old grandmother bought an Aries. I was 17 and about to graduate high school. When she went to take delivery, I accompanied her. We were shuffled to some room where a salesman of about 30 was located. He was in full Miami Vice uniform, right down to no socks with his dress shoes. He even had a cheesy moustache ( they don’t work on some people, me being one). Anyway he pours on the extended warranty sales pitch. Grandma is unsure so I decide for her. My statement was something like “you trust your product so little as to expect widows to buy the car and a extra warranty? She doesn’t need it as she will never see the mileage before time lapses on the regular warranty. Good day.”
If looks could kill I would have been dead. On the other hand, Grandma bought me a nice lunch.
cool window wiper on the rear
I always wanted one of these cars, as well as the coupe, which I ended up with (’89 GTC). I still think they look good, but I haven’t seen them in many years.
My only memorable turbo car experience was a 1985 Buick Regal T-type brought home by my Dad’s best friend (Don) who was a used car salesman at the local Buick/Pontiac/Chevy GM shop. Dad, Don, myself, and Don’s son climbed in the car and blasted down the back roads of Putnam County. We teen boys got a kick out of seeing the speedometer hit “88” and then start flashing like it was the Back to the Future Delorean.
“You’re door is a jar” Yeesh.
I never really thought about it before, but I don’t remember ever going to the dealership with Dad when he bought his cars when I was young. And in the 60’s, I think he always bought new. I missed out on that experience. I got my fill of dealerships later in life, when I wound up working at quite a few. That was, for the most part, a whole lot less fun. Actually, now that I think about it when I was 18 I went with him. We looked at Mazda, we didn’t trust the rotary engine (good call). I think we also looked at VW’s but wound up getting a totally stripped 74 Duster. Slant 6, 3 on tree, no PS or radio. I installed a radio and soon after a floor shifter. It had the rubber mats, totally flat thin vinyl seat and was puke green on green. They had another strippo that was red with black interior, I tried to convince him that was a better color combination but he liked the green, Looked like a Forest Service car. And the thinnest, cheapest blackwall tires I ever saw. They lasted about 10k miles. But I think he paid about $2500.00 brand new, and aside from the column shifter linkage it gave him no trouble and he put a lot of miles on it quickly.(Traveling Salesman).
Going to work with my Dad on saturdays used to be the highlight of my week as a kid I could examine the new cars in the showroom in minute detail, no Fords or Chryslers though strictly Vauxhalls, Chevrolets and later Holdens.
Your father has a awesome amount of patience and obviously would do anything for his children. I truly admire that.
My parents have been and still are the best…they’re very good role models.
This car was my second brief positive exposure to a Mopar Super K. An older cousin has just completed college and bought one of these at graduation. I rode with him to see the office where he worked. It all seemed so grown up with me being in my early college days and surrounded by big GM iron.
It was peppy, roomy, reasonably designed and decently styled, if a bit bland and safe in hindsight.
At the time both the Chrysler and Dodge versions of this H body seemed oddly placed and slightly redundant to cars such as the Dodge 600 and Plymouth Caravelle that also rode on a 103 inch wheelbase. Chrysler was definitely in the thick of K variants. In hindsight, some courage of convictions by the marketing planners would have made this the new Fury only – sitting at the top of the Plymouth line (with the Gran Fury remaining as the M body) – the first Plymouth specific sheet metal since the demise of the ’77 Gran Fury. The Caravelle should have stayed the Chrysler E-Class (which probably should have been named the Newport).
Another idea would have been to replace the Reliant, Aries and base LeBaron sedans with this basic concept, even if the hatch were redesigned as a sedan. The basic K body was entering its 5th year in 1985, not exactly the freshest metal on the market.
At the least, the LeBaron GTS would have been better named the 300, slotted between the discontinued for ’85 E-Class (Newport) and the New Yorker.
If all this is a bit confusing, its because the CP and Dodge showrooms were getting pretty crowded with Ks, Super Ks and Super Duper Ks.
Interesting note: The LeBaron GTS and Lancer were known as H bodies, where other 103 inch wheelbase cars were E’s. I guess Chrysler wanted us to think they had more variety than their variants of the basic K projected to the public.
My dad had one of these, gray with a red interior. Mostly what I remember was that it didn’t run in the rain, a problem which persisted despite repeated attempts to fix it. It got to the point where we could look at the weather forecast and know if he’d be coming home from work in a tow truck. Eventually, he gave up on it a bought a Camry. As I recall, he made sure it was a sunny day when he took it down to the dealership to trade it in.
To this day I am still fond of and relate to the tagline “The competition is good. We had to be better.” I can’t think of anything before or since that so best conveys were Chrysler is coming from. You know, in that GM and Ford are both bigger and also better financed.
And I know I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again, that LeBaron GTS (and it’s near twin, the Dodge Lancer) still look good to me today. Would still like to own and drive a clean, well-cared for example. But, I do still own a loaded Laser XT.
These should have been a better seller for Chrysler than they were, they were only around for a few years. I haven’t seen a living one in yeeeeeeears……
I actually ran across one last year, in that pinkish-beige with maroon interior. Haven’t seen one since.
I noticed at the time, that a number of the K-Car derived Chryslers of the 80s had a noticeably wider front track than rear track. it’s quite visible in the first pic. The front tire and wheel appears desirably somewhat flush with the fender. While the rear wheel/tire seem recessed. It was a styling pet peeve I had with these at the time.
I thought they looked awesome otherwise, when they were introduced in 1985. That is, until the ’86 Taurus made them look old school.
I had totally forgotten about this generation of LeBaron (and Lancer). Late ’80s awesomesauce.
This is a very handsome car. To my eyes, it does not look dated at all.
I had a 1988 without turbo, and for what i remember it wasn’t a bad car, nice enough to deive, roomy, and in the year i owned it never gave any trouble. The looks however, i never got used to…….
I remember the TV commercials for this car, featuring the popular George M. Cohan song from the World War I era, “Over There, over there…send the word, send the word over there. That the Yanks are coming, the Yanks are coming…and we won’t come back til it’s over, over there.”
It was a nice-looking car at the time, too.
Fun story. My Dad had a handsome silver ’85 GTS, with five-speed and “cheese wheel” handling package, base motor, crank windows, etc. It worked out fine for him but the Sable that followed seemed like a huge step up.
I agree with Dave B – these should have replaced something, and had their own name, rather than just being added to Lido’s Dept. of Redundancy Department.
Haven’t seen one of these in years. My friend at the time had a poop brown 1985 with the base 2.2 when we were in high school. It was 3 years old at the time with only 20K miles. The factory paint was already peeling on the hood(good ol Chrysler clear coat) the 2.2 was a dog, leaked oil, developed a pick knock around 60k miles and puked it’s head gasket at 70K stranding us at the mall. After numerous electrical glitches he traded that car on an Acura Integra coupe with around 50K miles that not long after puked it’s trans axle, had the tin worn on it’s rear quarters in there tell tail spots, the A/C and blower motor quit on one 98 degree afternoon and the power steering belt always squealed no matter what we did to try and fix it including several new belts, tensioners etc. Ah the memories!
Id like to have one of these as a 2nd car. The 5 door liftback bodystyle offers a Euro flavored style (as long as you get the sealed beams and the crosshair grille models) and a Turbo II 5 speed would offer great economy with pocket rocket performance. Ive seen a few of these turn up…one had less than 50K on the clock up near Olympia but it was an automatic…no thanks.
Back in the mid 90s my parents’ neighbor had a Dodge Lancer. It had the turbo 2.2 (not sure if it was intercooled or not) and a manual trans…silver with red interior as I remember. When Pat finally got rid of that car, he had racked up 250K on the clock and this was mostly around town. His wife finally nagged him to sell it (replaced with a Taurus if I remember right) but that car always stuck in my head as something I wish I could’ve appreciated at the time. in my 20s if it had 4 door handles ANYWHERE on the body, it could just F off right then and there. I still feel that way about sedans, but sporty liftback 5 doors are ok these days. I do remember how that car sounded as it rounded the corner: The high pitched ‘woosh’ of that turbo spooling up and the throbbing bellow of a large-ish 4 banger said ‘drive the living shit out of me!”.
You also have a pic of a car that’s on my bucket list: ’84-’86 Daytona/Laser. True, its meant to represent the castrated version your dad test drove (slushbox and no turbo) but that black vent gives this away as a turbo car. An intercooled G body with manual trans is a car that I WILL OWN…someday! Having had a PT Cruiser GT with HO turbo and manual trans, I know what a boosted Mopar will do. Different animal than V8 and RWD Mopar muscle, but every bit as addicting!
Great post about a great car…sadly too few exist these days.