Convertible Woodie: 1983 Chrysler LeBaron Town & Country

Remember the movie Planes, Trains & Automobiles? One of these cars was in it. Also, one was part of a George Costanza running gag on Seinfeld. The 1980s Chrysler LeBaron was a K-car derivative, and not only did they make a “Woodie” station wagon, but Lee Iacocca’s boys also came up with a Woodie convertible. This 1983 LeBaron is one of them, saw only 1,520 copies made that year, and has the upscale Mark Cross trim package. Located in Poquoson, Virginia, this car is available here on craigslist for $8,800 or best serious offer. Kudos to our guy Ikey Heyman for sending this tip our way!

The FWD K-Car is credited with being the first automobile that saved Chrysler Corp. in the 1980s (the other was the minivan). While it’s not as fondly remembered as Lee’s first sales bonanza (the Ford Mustang), it resulted in 3.5 million reproductions between 1981-89. They came in several varieties and body styles and would even be used in the taxicab trade. Dodge had the Aries, Plymouth had the Reliant and Chrysler had the LeBaron, the fanciest of the species. In 1983, Chrysler built 77,000 LeBaron’s as coupes, sedans, station wagons and convertibles. Of these, 11,000 were Town & Country (Woodie) wagons and just 1,500 were Town & Country convertibles (also Woodie), so the seller’s car falls into limited production territory. Thanks, Chrysler K Car, for the K-Car history lesson.

This 1983 LeBaron is a two-owner car that is said to have traveled just 23,500 miles in its 37 years.  Until 2014, it was a Texas car, then it went to South Carolina where it acquired the South Carolina license plates it currently wears and is now for sale in Virginia. The body looks straight and solid with no signs of rust, and the fake woodgrain siding looks up to par. That’s a key statement because rehabbing or replacing that material can’t be easy or inexpensive. The dark brown paint is nice and shiny and matches well with the leather interior colors. The convertible top boot is beautiful, but somehow the color is off compared to the seats, so I’m guessing this is a replacement and not the one that came with the car.

The seller’s car was decked out with the optional “Mark Cross” two-tone leather interior with the leather maker’s logos prominently affixed. It also features unique door panel inserts with those same badges. The car was well equipped from the factory with just about every convenience you can imagine. Everything is power this and that, including the top. The wire wheel covers add an additional touch of class to a car that already has tons of it. It even has a trunk rack just like the one where Del Griffith mounted his shower curtain rings travel case to in the movie with Steve Martin (one of my personal favorites). Best line of the movie? “oh, that’ll buff right out.”

Mechanically, the car has Mitsubishi’s 2.6-liter “Silent Shaft” engine, paired with a 3-speed automatic transmission. As a sign of the 1983’s version of the future, the car is equipped with Chrysler’s Electronic Voice Alert System, a computerized voice that warned drivers about various conditions and used phrases like “a door is ajar” or “your engine oil pressure is low”. I wonder if its nickname is Alexa. This clearly is a head-turning kind of car given all the excesses that were built into the styling. You’re not likely to run into another one of these at Cars & Coffee. They don’t turn up for sale that often. Of the small handful currently advertised on the web, none of the Woodies are offered for more than $10,000. So, the seller’s asking price seems to be about right.

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Comments

  1. Brian M. Hayes

    Had one just like this in NC in the 90’s – great car however the “boot” cover was also mismatched in the coloring – the interior faded quickly and so it was a mismatch from day 1

  2. Fahrvergnugen Farhvergnugen Member

    I saw one of these about a year ago in CT and thought it looked much nicer in retrospect than it did subjectively years ago. Had pepperoni wheels and i think it could have been a turbot version. Were they available as such?

    Like 4
    • Steve Clinton

      Hmm, that’s kind of ‘fishy’.

      Like 8
      • Michelle rand

        A whale of a typo! Seriously if I wasn’t in the hunt for a car on B.A.T. I would be calling this guy…..

        Like 2
  3. Maestro1 Member

    It’s a sexy car, easy on gas and Mitsubishi cast iron reliability. If I had the room I’d buy it. Negotiations underway with with an apparent sane landlord for more
    space.

    Like 3
  4. George Louis

    You could get the turbo engine as another choice to the Mitsubishi engine. One thing you have to be aware of, the silent shaft has a hole drilled half way thru it to provide lubrication as the shaft rotates it crosses an oil passage to fill with oil and as it rotates it distributes oil , if the oil hole get plugged you get no lubrication and the result is a massive repair bill. When i was an account Executive for Mopar Parts Division I used to visit Mopar Suppliers to Expedite Parts I used to order the Town and Country Mark Cross Edition Station Wagons with the Turbo Engine. They were great cars.

  5. ADM

    Those seats are amazing, so out of place in a cheap, plastic car.

    Like 2
  6. George Louis

    These cars were not cheap for the time and it is one of the nicest interiors one will find.

  7. Bob C.

    That Voice Alert was so irritating.Some Nissans (or Datsuns at the time) had it as well.

    Like 1
    • ADM

      ‘Your door is ajar. No, my door is not a jar. My door is a door.”

      Like 10
  8. ADM

    Best line of the movie? “oh, that’ll buff right out.” Or, Jeff Spicoli, after he absolutely destroyed the ’81 Z-28. “I can fix this.”

    Like 2
    • Bob C.

      A then unknown Forrest Whitaker’s car.

      Like 2
  9. sherwin m sieden

    I think this car may have been owned by John Voight…..Seinfeld!

    Like 4
    • davew833

      I wondered who would be the first to trot out the Seinfeld reference.

      Like 1
      • davew833

        Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

        Like 2
    • stu

      Your right! This is the car…

  10. George Louis

    Your door is not latched/closed securely.

  11. James007

    but did Jon Voight own it?

  12. Chris M.

    Wonder if Cool Joe Machado had one of these Mopars!??

    Like 1
    • CVPanther Member

      Lol…. obsession..

  13. Johnmloghry Johnmloghry Member

    Never again. I bought one of these about 20 years ago. It had the 2.2 L turbo engine with a/t. It was pale yellow. I bought it for my then 16 year old step son. It was a troublesome car. The top mechanism broke and could not be repaired, the turbo went bad causing excessive smoke, replace that twice. Many other things kept breaking, repair one two others break. Finally manage to sell it and got him a 78 Cadillac Seville that was a great car.
    God bless America

    Like 1
  14. canadainmarkseh Member

    One of real problems was the auto chokes were poorly designed. They would stay half Closed causing fuel washing of the cylinders and premature engine wear. It was a chronic problem on the 2.6 and it wouldn’t take long for gasoline diluted oil to kill the engine. The engines weren’t that bad they just needed a better carb. Door handles were another issue forever breaking. Up here in Canada the cold and salty roads would destroy the plastic fake wood and they soon looked like crap. I do like the styling though just to bad they were such POS’s

  15. Jim in FL

    The note about not coming up for sale often made me think. In 2007-2008 I was working on a project in West Palm Beach, and I swear I would see one of these in neighborhood driveways with a for sale sign once a month. They were always clean, low mileage, and in the 3-4K money range. It seemed like that was exactly when all the original aging owners who bought them decided it was time to let them go. I didn’t pull the trigger then, but was looking for one in 2015 and they were all gone.

    A girl I dated had one in the early 90s, Mark Cross turbo edition, no wood grain. It was reliable, and a fun car to have at the time. I’m a little jealous of the person who ends up with this.

    Like 1
  16. Phlathead Phil

    Just a ‘strange’ looking car. Them seats look comfy though, and ya know what they say about seats when it comes to cars.

  17. Jim

    Interesting design having the convertible top boot fold down over the top of the back seats.

  18. David Nelson

    Had 2 K-car convertibles, both 1986 and like new. One a dark red LeBaron with white top and interior – got teased about it being too Mary Kaye, so sold it and bought a Dodge 600ES silver with black top and 2-tone grey int – way more “manly” lol! No problems with either as I never kept any car long enough to have any!!

    Like 1
    • ADM

      My wife and I had a 1987 Dodge 600 4 dr sedan, with the 2.2, non-turbo. We bought it as a “program car,” the fall of ’87, for $7200, with about 4K on it. That car was parked outside, and the silver paint never peeled, or faded, and it never showed any signs of rust, for a CT car. It never needed one repair, besides normal maintenance, and drove well. We had it until the fall of ’95, and 120k, when my wife was hit head-on, that totaled the car. She was OK, and we got an insurance check for about $2500. Not a bad return for eight years and over 115K of economical, trouble-free driving.

      Like 2
  19. George Louis

    To:ADM: Do you know did you ever replace the head gasket and at what mileage? Thanks.

  20. DL

    My friends dad had this exact car when we were in HS. I’m 6’5″ and this was the most uncomfortable car in the word to ride in. The seats hardly move rearward and the back seat is tight to say the least. Nice to look at,horrible to ride in. IMO

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