No Reserve: 1983 Chrysler LeBaron Town & Country

As the 1980s dawned, Chrysler found itself in a state of financial embarrassment. More accurately, the company was teetering on the edge of bankruptcy. The reality was that the American motor industry faced the unthinkable prospect of “the big three” being reduced to a mere two. Thankfully, the K-car platform came along and managed to save the company’s bacon. Chrysler produced numerous models based on this platform, and one of the more interesting was the LeBaron Town & Country Convertible. This 1983 example is a tidy survivor, and it could represent an affordable foot in the door for someone searching for a classic car on a budget. It is located in Trenton, Illinois, and has been listed for sale here on eBay. Bidding is sitting at $2,774 in a No Reserve auction.

The Town & Country Convertible was an interesting and bold exercise by Chrysler. While it wasn’t intended to sell in huge numbers, it did bring customers into their showrooms. Cars & Concepts Inc. of Brighton, Michigan, was contracted to remove the roof from a K-car and engineer it into a structurally sound convertible. They did this with success, and the vehicle appeared at dealerships during the 1983 model year. This was an era when air conditioning, the sunroof, and the T-Top were growing in popularity. The concept of a 4-seat convertible grabbed the public’s imagination, and buyers were willing to pay a 25% premium over a standard LeBaron for one without a roof. In keeping with Lee Iacocca’s ability to sell a car by adding tinsel and sparkle, the Town & Country Convertible featured faux woodgrain on the exterior. This was provided in a combination of simulated versions of white ash and marine teak. This car features that original finish, and it has survived in remarkable condition. It doesn’t appear to have any significant flaws, while the Cream paint only sports a few minor nicks and chips. That paint has a story of its own to tell. The original owner purchased the LeBaron for his wife, and it was wearing Bronze paint. This wasn’t the wife’s preferred color, so when a Cream car couldn’t be found, the owner had this car repainted by the dealership. You can see evidence of the original color in the engine bay. The seller emphasizes the fact that this is a vehicle with zero rust. The Beige convertible top is free from rips and tears, and there is no sign of cloudiness on the rear window. The plastic and trim look good, and the luggage rack is an interesting touch.

Lifting the hood of the Chrysler reveals the 2.6-liter 4-cylinder engine, which sends its 93hp to the front wheels via a 3-speed automatic transmission. That sort of combination was never going to provide lightning performance, and a ¼ mile ET of 20 seconds comes as no surprise. However, Chrysler designed the K-Car with a focus on economy rather than outright performance. This LeBaron spent many years on display in a dealership and has been in storage for around a decade. It does run and drive, but it will need a thorough inspection before it could be considered to be roadworthy. The owner has flushed the fuel system and replaced the carburetor, but he says that the front brake calipers are sticky.

The interior presentation of the LeBaron isn’t quite as good as I expected, but the buyer could potentially revive it without spending bags of cash. The Mark Cross leather on the seats is dry and cracked, and I think that it would require the attention of a professional to return it to its best. This could be achieved with conditioner and dye rather than needing to replace the leather. The carpet appears to be dirty and possibly faded in spots. However, the fading might only be a trick of the light. There is no doubt that it would benefit from a deep clean. That sentiment is valid for the rest of the interior trim, which could be tackled in a home workshop. As well as the leather upholstery, the LeBaron features power operation for the windows, locks, front seats, top, and trunk. Throw in air conditioning, cruise, a tilt wheel, and life inside the Town & Country should be pretty comfortable.

Exact production totals are vague, but it is believed that around 1,520 buyers chose to park a LeBaron Town & Country Convertible in their driveway in 1983. They are not a “big ticket” item in the world of classic cars, although they are capable of occasionally springing a surprise in the market. Pristine examples have recently been selling for around the $6,000 mark. This is despite NADA offering a guide price of $3,050 for High Retail. That NADA price is probably about where I would expect this one to land. If it went for anything less, then that would definitely make it an affordable option well worth considering.

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Comments

  1. Rex Kahrs Member

    We’ve talked about Chrysler’s history on this site, and I’m always amazed how in the late 50s there were SO many divisions and SO many different models, resulting in production numbers on some models under 10,000 units.

    I’ve asked many times how the company could be profitable in tooling up a particular model, yet only selling a paltry 10-or 20,000 units. I marvel at the fact that the ’63-’65 Rivieras only sold about 40K units per model year, but of course GM had the Chevrolet division which was selling millions of vehicles per year, and could absorb a flagship model like the early Rivs.

    So why did Chrysler, with good engineering and a solid build quality through the 60s an 70s, end up near bankruptcy by 1980? I just ask this to gain insight. My Dad was a Ford guy, and we had several of them that were good cars; my stepdad was a Chrysler guy, and we had several of them that were good cars; I’ve owned everything American and plenty of foreign cars, with the Renault being the lone dog.

    • Jake

      I would argue that solid build quality was nonexistent at Chrysler by the mid 1970s with the introduction of the Aspen/Volare (infamous for recalls and rust). Combine that with the early-1970s recession and oil embargo, Chrysler was left flat-footed selling relatively unreliable, gas-guzzling large cars where everyone else used their resources to start downsizing. In all, a perfect storm of bad corporate decisions and a bad economy drove them to the brink of bankruptcy.

    • David P. Reeves

      My guess would be their perchant for stretching out drivetrains as much as possible. They seemed to perfect an engine and then use it for 10-15 years. There’s certainly nothing wrong with that at all, and its honorable in a way. But by the mid 1970s (post 1973 fuel crisis) they were using engines designed in 1960 or 1965 and trying to tune them up to the increasing fuel and emission regulations. Beginning in about 1975-1976, the build quality was down along with fuel economy, which led to decreased sales with the growing tide of Japanese visitors. Less money gave them less of a budget to design new things for the new requirements, leading to more desperate attempts to bring their tried and true drivetrains to the new code. Lean-Burn carbs along with shoddy build quality and the double digit inflation of the Carter economy led to Chrysler being in serious trouble by the late 1970s, necessitating a federal loan and then the newly available Lee Iacocca.

    • JohnfromSC

      Rex, great question. Around ’73 or so the finance people at Mopar gained the upper hand over engineering and their singular goal was to boost earnings and stock price. Chrylser Corp previously had been known for its excellent engineering but now the emphasis was on wringing out cost to grow profit margins. So by ’76, proven, rock solid items like slant 6 engines started suffering from problems unseen in their past. Some issuea arose because of directives to use inferior materials, others because of reductions in quality control. Loyal Chyrco buyers were being burned with cars that were dogs, so sales plummeted and voila, 1980. I know personally as my first car, 72 slant six Dart Swinger got totalled by somebody and I unfortunately replaced it with a new 76 slant six Dodge “Asspain”.

      Like 2
      • ACZ

        The road to ruin for many a car company. Bean counters ruin the business.

  2. Keith

    A K-Car is a K-Car is a K-Car…….Junk.

    Like 2
  3. Sherminator

    “You’re going the wrong way!” I cannot believe you left out this car’s biggest cinematic moment, from “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles.”

    Like 6
    • ACZ

      Didn’t the one in the movie die in Illinois?

      Like 1
    • djjerme

      But surprisingly the radio still works!

      Like 1
  4. jaymon1962

    Is that John Voight’s car?

    Like 15
    • Eric B

      Only way to know for sure is if there’s a pencil with his teeth marks on it

      Like 5
    • PRA4SNW PRA4SNW Member

      This is the only reason I looked at this car – to see how long it would take for the first Seinfeld comment to appear.

      As for the car, these are so cheap and plentiful enough to wait for a much better one to come around.

    • ACZ

      No, Red Green’s.

      Like 1
  5. Mike Adams

    Okay, I’m a MoPar guy, but still…

    “The Town & Country Convertible was an interesting and bold exercise by Chrysler.”

    Only if by “interesting and bold” you mean “butt ugly.”

    Like 2
    • ACZ

      Chrysler has that. Then there’s the Aztec for GM. Most Fords and just about every Toyota ever made.

  6. Eric B

    Yeah yeah, jon voight, is this car safe for highway travel, yada, yada, yada ; )

    Ahhh from a bygone era when people knew how to write comedy for hilarious actors. Isn’t much to laugh at these days

    Like 4
  7. Lou Rugani

    There’s a potentially fatal flaw in the K fuel pumps; the diaphragms break and allow gasoline into the crankcase, quickly and quietly diluting the oil and destroying the engine. Install electric pumps.

    Like 3
  8. Keith

    Putting simulated wood paneling on the sides of a K-Car is like putting lip-stick on a pig…..It’s still a K-Car.

    Like 1
  9. Del Griffith Member

    Amazing to see the trolls come out in force, on such a harmless piece of affordable ’80’s collectability.

    Not everyone can afford a muscle car, or exotic, so many of us shop and buy what might be affordable. These cars fall into that category. The hobby needs to support all enthusiasts, of all tastes and budgets. Just sayin’….

    Like 1
  10. Stilbo
  11. Maestro1 Member

    I had a friend with a Dodge 600 Convertible, no wood nonsense, essentially the same car. With a Turbo. It wasn’t a hell of a lot but he liked it. Later LeBaron Convertibles with v-6s and much better design are much better than these. But this car is a cute driver.

  12. Geoff

    This car is presented in Car Shows with an interior in that kinda shape? Perhaps the Tour de Lemons..

  13. SirJW

    My dad has only owned convertibles he had the Dodge version of this car and it was the most boring car he ever owned. Luckily he moved on to a 911.

  14. Jimmy Novak

    I had a pretty white ’86 convertible, very reminiscent of an early Ford Mustang. Mine fell victim to the fuel pump flaw. The dilution turned the motor oil into lemon juice.

  15. Earl

    So new it’s still in the box!

    Had to say it…

  16. Ron L.

    Hoovie had one of these and ended up burying it then digging it back up a year later.

    Like 1
  17. Claudio

    Here , i was having breakfast and reading the ads and i nearly choked when i read –
    Really , has the author ever driven , riden in this FUGLY jalopy ?
    Yes , i just wrote fugly again , my new pen friend will certainly reply that i am a hater for this …
    They were horrible drivers in any possible way
    Talk about cowl shimmy , these would shame Shakira !
    Yes , the malaise era created by the big 3 because of their greed!
    How was this pos any better than a Yugo ?

    Like 1
  18. Claudio

    Here , i was having breakfast and reading the ads and i nearly choked when i read –
    Really , has the author ever driven , riden in this FUGLY jalopy ?
    Yes , i just wrote fugly again , my new pen friend will certainly reply that i am a hater for this …
    They were horrible drivers in any possible way
    Talk about cowl shimmy , these would shame Shakira !
    Yes , the malaise era created by the big 3 because of their greed!
    How was this pos any better than a Yugo ? , Lada ?

  19. Chip

    I owned one in the day. Sticking brake calipers were the bane of my ownership. The 2.6 engine was way more reliable than the 2.2.

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