$2,800 Pre-K-Car: 1978 Chrysler LeBaron

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This great looking 1978 Chrysler LeBaron is a two-door and it’s the body style that really shines for these pre-K-Car LeBarons, in my opinion. This brown beauty is here on craigslist with an asking price of $2,800, a great price! This car is located in the Tri-Cities, Washington area (Richland, Kennewick, and Pasco).

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I think this design was an absolute homerun for Chrysler. This car is a first-generation LeBaron and they were made from 1976 (for the 1977 model year) until 1981. Prior to this era, Chrysler used the LeBaron name for its top trim-level Imperials from 1956 to 1975. The two-door body is the one to have if you’re looking for the ultimate design statement. For 1978 this car really stood out and I think it does even more so now.

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This car is looking better and better with every photo! The seller says that this LeBaron has no rust spots and the body doesn’t show any so they must be underneath if there are any. It even has the original spare and inflation canister in the trunk. This is Chrysler’s M-Body and they were meant to be an upscale version of the Dodge Aspen/Plymouth Volare. These cars had so much going on, design-wise, all of it good, in my opinion. From the super unique grille to the fantastic lines of the rear portion.

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The driver’s floor looks a bit suspect, and there is no headliner, but other than that, this interior is gorgeous. I’d prefer a car with power windows, if you’re going to get a luxury car you may has well have luxury options. The seats look like new and the back seat looks great, too, although I bet it’s a little tight back there, legroom-wise.

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This is Chrysler’s LA (“Light A”, as it was 50 pounds lighter than the “A” engine before it) 318 cubic inch V8 with 140 hp and 245 ft-lb of torque. This engine still has the original Lean Burn system intact, which is explained on Allpar here. This car looks really, really (really!) good to me. If there wouldn’t be $1,200 in shipping costs involved this car would be headed to the Midwest right now. You can’t get much of a car for $2,800 anymore and this is a real car, a car-car, a chrome-bumper car, back before the color-keyed plastic bumpers. NADA lists the “average value” for a 1978 Chrysler LeBaron 2-door as being $2,800, so once you add in shipping you’re way over, not to mention the headliner cost. But, if you’re handy with interiors and can put a headliner in, and you don’t have to pay for shipping, you’ve got a super unique, really nice car for $3,000 or less!

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Comments

  1. Rock On

    Shipping is for wimps. Drive that sucker home!

  2. Jeffro

    Love the car but, for the love of Lee Iacocca! Any color but brown!

  3. Flmikey

    Had one. Same everything. Bullet proof. Someone buy this car now!!!

  4. Dan D

    Too bad it doesn’t have the puffy leather interior….

  5. Nova Scotian

    To me I just see an Aspen …with some flair. But being a solid survivor, it’s worth the money.

  6. sparkster

    Replace the lean burn with a decent efi system and you’ll have a great running 318

  7. Rustytech Member

    I had one of these too, it had 4 doors, metallic red, and it had the Corinthian leather interior also in red. It was one of my favorite cars ever. I put over 140k on it, sold it to my brother for his daughter, she drove it throughout collage. It finally went to the salvage yard 7 years later with over 320k and still running fine, failed inspection for good old PA rust issues, that was in 2001. Brown is not my favorite color either, but you know the saying “when buying used you take what’s available”. This is a nice example, buy it. If you can’t live with it then paint it. I’d leave it alone.

  8. Terry J

    Tri Cites Washington area is hot and dry. If it lived it’s life there it sure could be rust free. Then also would have dried up rubber,upholstery,carpet,vinyl. But solid sheet metal is more important. Always liked these cars. Had a 318 powered wagon once. Solid car. :-) Terry J

    • Keith

      Very true! Having lived in that area I can attest to there being a lot of minimal rust, low mileage classics stashed around those parts.

  9. Art M.

    I too believe it should be driven to the new owners home. I recently purchased a 1972 Chevelle (Malibu) with 42,800 miles on it, with less than 3K miles added since the previous owner purchased it in 2000. I drove it 720 miles from Missouri to Kentucky. Once home I realized the tires were weather checked (dry rotted) and coming apart. The car made it home fine, but my trip could have easily gone bad, had the tire failed on the road. So, even though I think it should be driven, some preparation should be done prior to such a endeavor.

    • Scotty Gilbertson Staff

      I drive 40,000+ miles a year, Art, and I love driving and am not afraid of driving (well, other than the texting/eating/chatting drivers around me). But, heading across the Rockies in mid-December with a 38-year old, rear-wheel-drive car gives me the heebie-jeebies. You and Rock On make a great point, though. Life is short enough, why not make some memories while we’re here?

  10. Christopher

    One of my favorite cars…and again it might as well be on Mars…too far away.

  11. Howard A Member

    This car is kind of in the same class as the Olds. Just some of the best cars before the auto industry went to heck. Just a nightmare under the hood, as the industry tried ( in vain) to keep the V-8 around, but strangled the heck out of it, making performance on par to 6 cylinders of years before. Collectible? IDK, nice cruisers that performed for years. I think there will be emission issues with this, they were a pain when new. If emissions aren’t an issue ( Cal., NY) I’d strip this motor clean of all of that. (probably wouldn’t run) Still a very nice car.
    Re: driving old cars across country.
    Let me say this, about that. Nothing can duplicate the excitement of driving your treasured, newly purchased classic home. I never shipped any car I bought, and cobbled it together, and someone always followed me home. HOWEVER, I recently returned from some time out east, and coming back with a rusty Sonoma pickup, I had a breakdown ( rusted transmission cooler lines) somewhere in western NY/Pa. and let me tell you, it was no fun. A towing bill can cost a fortune, and emergency repairs ( which I had to do to get it going, as I had no money for a towing bill), well, let’s just say, “Joseph” from Advance Auto in Porter, Ind. was a great help, but still plunked down some cash, and had to do the “Advance Auto parking lot” repair ( I wasn’t alone, a guy was putting a water pump in a Dakota pickup right next to me). Point is, that trip home can turn into a nightmare, and there’s nothing worse than being stranded 600 miles from home. Sometimes nowadays, shipping makes more sense, or get a “U-Haul” car trailer. Plenty of adventures with that, especially this time of year, but you’ll more than likely make it back.

    • Mark S Member

      HI Howard your right to strip it of the emissions stuff but go all the way. Have the heads shaved then install a throttle body injection system on it from a late 90’s to a early 00’s dodge truck using all the sensors that come with a the donor vehicle. Including ignition parts

  12. Joe M

    These cars were a cool design for their time. One of my friends parents growing up used to take us to our track meets in one of these, red with red leather interior. Didn’t realize I’d ever see one of these again, the two door has to be rare.

    As for driving it back; I drove a 1978 LTD II Sport back from Lawton OK, back to PA. I thought I had it covered, I brought some newer tires and replacement wheels with me, and a replacement solenoid and ignition module. So I thought it wouldn’t be too bad with a car with only 77K on it.
    But it was still a worry filled 3 days back to PA. I think next time I will just pay the shipping and see what I have when it arrives.

  13. sparkster

    I bought a black 1999 Camaro SS in Harrisburg, Pa. and drove it back to central California. What a nightmare . I got caught in a huge rainstorm and found out the defrost was not working. No radio. The last owner cut out the cats and ran straight pipes. Had to go to Home Depot and buy earphones the type that you use to jack hammer concrete in order to drive it.. The gas tank when full would send fumes into the car with the windows rolled up. The only good thing was driving it to Bowling Green Kt. and getting a tour of the Corvette factory. 27.4 mpg I averaged from that very fast LS1

  14. Joe M

    @sparkster; my new project is a 1995 Z28, rescued from a trip to the auction, sitting outside for awhile but all there with 100K, remember Polo Green? Got it running, I forgot how quick and light these were.

  15. Dave Wright

    The only new car I ever bought for myself was a 1978 Lebanon 4 door. Lovely car, dark grey metallic with black roof and black leather interior. I “Had” to buy is because my wife was mad I was buying selling and replacing her car sometimes multiple times a week. We were in Germany, I went down to the AAFES new car dealer and paid cash for it just to have come peace. It came with the cats in the trunk because unleaded fuel was not available in Germany yet. They never made it on to the car…..it was a good car, worked well on the Autobahns, when my folks came to visit we toured Europe with it for a month. When we came back I shipped the car early so it was waiting for us in New Jersey…..We drove to Washington State in something like 40 hrs. Never had any trouble in 150,000 miles. Looked great the day I sold it. My dad drove a similar bodied New Yorker (?) version for many years, another nice high quality car. I have never understood the bad rap these cars get.

    • Howard A Member

      Hi Dave, I had heard most of the problems came from the “Lean Burn” electronics. It was the dawn of the “sensor” and drove many nuts because of their erratic operation.

      • Dave Wright

        I have heard that too…….mine was never a problem. My dad owned a shop and if he had trouble he would have just fixed it but I never heard that he did.

      • Dave Wright

        The only problem I remember with mine was while we were still in Germany, I was shooting at a fox out of the drivers seat with a newly tuned Colt 1911………the damn thing chain fired and the last round went through the corner of the windshield. A nice 1/2 inch hole a couple of inches below the top of the glass. I turned it in to the insurance and off course, there were no windshields in Germany. They gave me 600.00 what it would have cost with shipping to get one there. I put some strong tape over both sides of the hole and shipped it home where we replaced the windshield for a little over 100.00. The only time I ever made anything on insurance……….

      • Frank Andolina

        This was my 3rd car and the best looking one I ever owned but the transmission had to be replaced twice under warranty which at the time was only 12 mos. due to Chrysler’s financial woes. When the transmission went a 3rd time after warranty so went the car. Too bad because I loved driving it.

  16. Bryan

    The trunk’s boat tail design element on these LeBaron and Diplomat coupes was really distinctive. If I could find a T-top coupe with leather I would buy it!

  17. Bryan

    The Dodge Diplomat of these years featured a very attractive (if conventional) front end. The optional forged aluminum wheels also add to the appeal of the car!

  18. Chebby

    When you’re a swingin’ single guy who deep down wants a police car….the ’78 LeBaron!

  19. Bob C.

    My dad had a 1979 four door. Same brown color with tan roof and tan leather seats. Same lean burn 318 with a very high geared rear end. After that went he had a lower ratio installed and it drove much better.

  20. russell spreeman

    I had a 4 door version with power everything and leather, bought it from a boneyard years ago. What a nice car. Excellent seats, quiet, rode great, only a slant 6 but moved OK. If the subframe hadn’t rusted I’d have kept it longer. OTOH I had a 1980 Dodge Mirada which was one of the very worst vehicles I or anyone else have ever owned. And I also had a 1980 Dodge Diplomat – same basic car, only lower-line – and my wife and I never cared for it much.Just not the same class, it felt like a Chevelle or something.

  21. Bill

    I had a 1979 two door. Blue with a slant six. Bought it from my Dad, who bought it new. I loved that car: long hood, quiet, smooth ride. Had to replace the carb, but it was otherwise troublefree and I drove it for years. The Chrysler variant was definitely an upgrade in terms of sound proofing and luxury. We had an Aspen wagon for our other car. The picture is from 1985 with my Norwegian Elkhound “Muffet.”

  22. Dave Brown

    I bought a brand new 1977 1/2 Chrysler LeBaron. I was 22 and this was my disco-mobile. It was dark grey with a silver top two-door. I put wide whitewalls on it. I really thought I was cool until the leanburn system kept failing and the dealership could do nothing for it. I would be going down the highway at 55, the speed limit at the time, and the engine would just quit. The power steering was no longer power and the power brakes became slightly better than worthless. My disco-mobile was crap and I still owed for it. This was before lemon laws. The only good thing about it was the Imperial hood emblem!

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