Curbside Classic: 1994 Chrysler LeBaron Landau – Defiance Is Best Served With A Heavy Hand Of Brougham

Ahh the K-car. So much can be said about it as a whole and its various derivatives, and quite honestly, so much has already been said about it here at this publication, ranging from admiration to utter disgust. Ultimately, after some 15 years of production and mutation, Chrysler did quickly phase out every last K-car derivative to make way for its modern Cab Forward styled cars. One of the very last K-cars, this final generation LeBaron sedan has been detailed here before, though not entirely in its ultimate Landau form. The last of its kind in so many ways, among them, the 1994 LeBaron Landau holds the distinction of being the last Chrysler equipped with a factory vinyl roof, and the last American car featuring button-tufted loose pillow style seats.

The basic design of the car was about as textbook K-car as one could get in the early-1990s. Extreme notchback roofline, slabbed sides, substantial front and rear overhangs, relatively narrow width, and a lot of shared parts inside and out.

Alas, the front fenders on the officially designated AA-body sedans (Chrysler LeBaron, Dodge Spirit,  Plymouth Acclaim, and export-market Chrysler Saratoga) had a slight curvature to them, but compared to most contemporary midsize sedans the Chryslers were decidedly boxy and out of step with current “aero” design trends.

For its final top-line Chrysler-branded K-car sedan, the automaker was determined to go out with a bang, bringing all the show stopping qualities that came to define the Brougham and Malaise eras, as well as the very K-car itself. Padded vinyl landau roof with opera windows? Check! 14-inch wire wheel covers? You bet! Crystal Pentastar stand-up hood ornament and bright chrome waterfall grille? Oh absolutely! Chrome exterior mirrors, chrome fender flares, full-width taillights, two-tone dual pin striping, and bright grooved lower bodyside cladding with argent accents? Obviously!

A textbook Brougham in nearly every respect, Chrysler wasn’t as quick to slap the name “Brougham” on every top trim model as GM and Ford, instead naming this model after the very style of vinyl roof it bestowed, as if to highlight just how exclusive it was on a midsize, mid-1990s sedan. Adding to its distinctiveness, the LeBaron’s Landau roof was of the rear 1/4 variety, the style preferred by Chrysler since the late-1970s.

If the namesake Landau padded vinyl roof wasn’t distinction enough, the LeBaron Landau’s most buzz worthy quality was its seats. Simply opening one of its four doors (and looking past the exposed attachment screws of the vinyl roof on the inside of the rear doors’ tops) unveiled inviting seating that would not be out of place in Nana’s formal living room.

Featuring bench seats adorned with button-tufted loose “floating” cushions upholstered in either Kimberly Velvet or the finest of Highland Park’s leather with vinyl trim, the LeBaron Landau boasted six-passenger comfort — so long as the rear middle passenger could squeeze their body between the loose pillow cushions and the front middle passenger could do the same whilst possibly sitting staggered and be jabbed in the buttocks with the passenger seatbelt buckle. For those with the outrageous demands for perforated leather bucket seats, they would have to wait another whole year for the 1995 Cirrus.

Beyond its seats, the LeBaron Landau treated its occupants with a few Chrysler exclusives to ensure he or she didn’t suspect they were in a Dodge or Plymouth, no matter how spirited or acclaimed they may have been. Rich artificial burl walnut accents trimmed its instrument panel and accented its door panels, while the top of its dash was adorned with faux French stitching engrained right into the plastic. A higher level of standard and available equipment was expected as part of upgrading to the flagship of midsize K-car sedans.

Humor aside, one could be quick to call out Chrysler for slathering on all the tacky gingerbread of the bygone Brougham era with this LeBaron Landau. That criticism may be just, but wouldn’t it have been worse if Chrysler had tried to market this K-car LeBaron as a premium European-inspired luxury sports sedan, with aero accents, monochromatic trim, and sporty buckets affixed to the boxy K-car body, à la Cadillac Cimarron?

Chrysler actually committed this very crime somewhat, in the European market no less with the Saratoga, but that’s another story for another day. In the U.S., at least Chrysler recognized the lesser of two evils and that it could easily eek out a few more stodgy buyers with the LeBaron Landau than it could import buyers with a Euroesque sporty premium LeBaron. As the Chrysler brand’s final K-car sedan, the LeBaron Landau was a fitting tribute to the K-car, Lee Iacocca, the Brougham Era, and all they embodied.

Featured white LeBaron photos generously provided by CC contributor, Will Jackson

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