The Rare Spec: ’78 Chrysler LeBaron 4-Speed

lebaron2

There is a good chance the seller’s effusiveness for this 1978 Chrysler Lebaron here on eBay is justified: it’s equipped with a 4-speed manual, and I can’t remember ever seeing one with three pedals. Not only that, it’s got the T-top roof and rich, Corinthian leather spread across the interior, so let’s be frank: it has the best of everything! Oddly enough, it’s being sold by an Acura dealer that seems to have somewhat of a reputation for selling old muscle cars. The Buy-It-Now is $35,000 for this oddball, but the seller seems to indicate they’ll let it go for less. 

lebaron3

The whole scene inside the car is practically jarring: who would expect to see a humongous shifter sticking out of the console in what was otherwise the epitome of a 70’s personal luxury coupe? I would love to have been a fly on the wall of the original selling dealership that had to bend their brains around the fact that some blue-haired customer wanted their LeBaron outfitted with a manual transmission. Factor in the crank windows and this thing is practically a factory lightweight!

lebaron5

Of course, it’s not that light with those sofa-like rear seats. You could make the argument this LeBaron combines the best of everything: the luxury box is checked with that funkalicious interior; the style box is checked with those factory alloy wheels and removable roof panels; and obviously, the sporting box is checked with that 318 V8 and manual combo. Don’t get me wrong: a Boss Mustang it is not. But it absolutely is a fascinating footnote of the personal luxury coupe era.

lebaron1

The surroundings that this LeBaron occupies are indeed odd, given the seller specializes in new Acura sales. However, it seems like selling muscular Mopars is a side business of his, and he claims all the major systems are functioning as intended on this oddly-equipped land yacht. The seller says, “Obviously just kidding “after mentioning the Buy-It-Now price; the question is, how much is this rare bird really worth? I think if I were a Mopar collector, I’d probably pay too much just for the guaranteed wow factor at shows.

Fast Finds

Comments

  1. Tirefriar

    The selling dealer apparently mixed up “rare” with “desireable”… GLWS, no I really mean good luck because nothing else will fetch even half way close to this price…

    • Jay Calk

      That band around the steering column is a hiding something besides the horn button. It’s not worth to me to find out but I think that shifter is an add on. The wheels aren’t factory stock either. We wouldn’t think an Acura dealer would try to pull one would we?

      • Michael V.

        That band is an aftermarket horn button.

      • Bill McCoskey

        The reason for the replacement horn button is due to the failure of the “Rim-Blow” steering wheel. The thin “wood” strip around the front face of the steering wheel was how one honked the horn. Squeezing the wheel at that point would make the horn sound. These quickly started failing in the hot south west corner of America, often during the warranty period!

      • Luke

        The wheels and shifter are both stock. Please don’t include “we” in your comments. I wouldn’t want you speaking for me with such a lack of knowledge.

      • Chebby

        There appears to be an aftermarket red air horn in front of the radiator, probably activated by that button.

    • Patrick T Rogers

      The wheels on this car ARE a factory offered option for both the Le Baron and the Dodge Diplomat .

  2. Gnrdude

    If that Is indeed a FACTORY Option it may be One of Car.

  3. Blindmarc

    This a very “rare” mopar. But I can’t say that it is a collectible. It will be interesting to see what it goes for, if it’s real.

    • T J

      Glad to hear it is very rare because I have one!! Bought it new in 78 Has shifter and T bar

  4. Blindmarc

    He s high on too much coke, at that price. It will never sell for anything close.

  5. piper62j

    That is one butt ugly shifter from the factory.. A Mopar, top of the line luxury car and a butt ugly shifter.. C’mon dude.. What were you thinking?

    Anyway,,, nice find and a nice car.. Except for the price.. Ugh!!!

    • Rocco

      That is the type of shifters they used with the 3-speed with overdrive trans. Probably not a REAL 4-speed. If I’m right, usually 2nd gear falls on it’s face before going into 3rd(high gear 1:00 to 1:00), then 4th(overdrive probably around .068) does the same. Maybe the purchaser was looking for gas mileage.

  6. A.J.

    I thought it was really cool until I saw the 35k. I’m thinking it might be as much as 12 or 13k to the right guy. But the 35k is insane. Generally a 4 speed is worth a 25 to 30% bump and on a car like this it might be worth a 300% bump, which still doesn’t make it worth a lot.

    • Chebby

      He seems to be joking about $35k as a way to get attention, the ad is pretty lighthearted. It’s probably worth 10% of that. But I bet he’d take it if you offered!

  7. Coventry Cat

    Nice car, too much money, and the shifter looks like it should be in a truck.

  8. Will

    When I was a teenager in the 70s I knew a man in his 70s who refused to buy a car with power windows or an automatic transmission. He believed that power windows were going to get him trapped in the car and an automatic was a power robbing “slushbox” that would kill his fuel economy. He blamed the tranny instead of the 460 in his Lincoln for his gas mileage. He wanted a new luxury car but couldn’t find one with manual windows and a stick. He finally got what he wanted with a Granada ESS. Maybe this was bought new by his kin.

  9. jim s

    i love it. only thing that would make this any better would be if it had a slant six. no a/c either but this would still make a great driver. needs brake work, the horn fixed ( or not ), and a PI checking for rust. seller should have put this up on a lift and taken some photos of the underside. great find.

    • greg

      seller now has photos of lebaron on the lift. not that bad

  10. Chris

    Wow. The most over priced car I have ever seen. Amazing.

    • Rocco

      except a rusted out 911 Porsche

  11. Dave

    Bizarre pricing strategy; price it so high you don’t sell it

  12. St. Ramone de V8

    Ugly car, well kept, rare option, interesting. Valuable? Maybe. What I find “interesting ‘” is that one could actually option a car this way, even in 1978. The days of being able to build a car just the way you want seem to be over. Great to see this!

    • Paul B

      One of the ugliest Detrout cars ever but I agree it’s interesting to see this reminder of the days when you could custom order your vehicle’s engineering. I had a ’79 Dodge van also with the four speed. It was a three-speed with overdrive fourth for easy cruising and better fuel mileage.

    • Bill McCoskey

      While unknown to almost everyone, the last year one could special-order a 3-speed manual column shift on a Cadillac [& big Oldsmobile] was 1967. And yes, there were a few stick shift commercial cars [hearse/ambulance] ordered each year thru 1967.

      I remember in 1978 finding a stick shift 1966 Cadillac hearse in a junkyard out in the Dakotas, it had been totaled in the rear, and I so wanted to buy the entire stick shift out of it, as I had a 1966 Cadillac ElDorado and would have loved to do the conversion! But the junkyard was 2,500 miles from home.

      At that time I had a 1955 Packard 400 2-door hardtop with torsion-bar suspension, the big 352 V-8 with the twin 4-bbl carb set up, and 3-speed & OD transmission. I had put in a 1956 Packard “Twin Traction” [Dana limited slip] rear axle with 3.07 gears. I loved to pass other cars at about 65 MPH, shifting from second overdrive, to third gear! [The Warner overdrive allowed for OD in all 3 gears, making it a 6-speed transmission when shifted in a certain manner!]

  13. CJay

    The person that posted this car on ebay has a sense of humor.
    He is apparently as amused by this POS as we are.
    318, 4 speed in a LeBaron who won’t giggle?
    I doubt the reserve is very high and definitely not 35k.

  14. JoeT

    Same shifter I had in a 76 Duster Slant Six, 4 speed car back in the early 80s. From the looks of the rust in the rocker panels, this LeBaron must have spent most of it’s life parked on the Jersey Shore. To me this is more like a $3,500 car than $35K. Maybe this was a cash for clunkers trade-in that somehow escaped the crusher. Warts and all, it’s just odd enough that I like it.

  15. Wayne

    Look up the definition of ugly in a dictionary and I’m sure this will top the list. Either the drivers seat is sunburnt or the dye has worn away

  16. Rick

    Back around ’77 or so I had a ’66 Chrysler Newport 2 dr 383 2bbl w/ factory 3 on the tree, the only one Ive seen, anyhow I pd $250 for it to the farmer from Mansfield in Eastern Washington State (right in the middle of wheat country) that bought it new. Must have had 3.23.gears in the rear because it would do 95 in second, and needless to say it would really smoke the tire if you wanted to. Used it as a daily driver for a year or so, ended up selling it for $375.

  17. SRT8

    35 what? That’s crazy, he must have been hanging with the guy selling the Good Humor truck and they split what they had (and it must be really good stuff) and thought they were sitting on a couple of gold mines. It’s so crazy that I couldn’t even finish the article about the car and I love cars and I really love Mopars so that says a lot.

  18. Howard A Member

    Proof positive, at that time, you could get a 4 speed in just about anything. I too have seen that shifter before. Pretty standard Chrysler feature. This car is kind of an oxymoron. On one hand, you have this personal luxury car, and it is a nice car, where you should just sit there, and bask in the last of the late ’70’s luxury cars and on the other hand, you have this manual transmission, rowing through the gears all the live long day. ( with the occupants bouncing around on every shift) IDK, the 2 seem to clash. I agree with the others, aside from the 4 speed, it’s really nothing that special.

  19. Kincer Dave Member

    My aunt sold hers last year, my uncle bought it brand new it was triple silver, loaded up, and low miles garage kept and looked show room new and she had it up for sale for a while and only got $1500 and it looked %100 better than this one, manual tranny is not worth $33,500 lol

  20. Kincer Dave Member

    Looks to me that this was the standard transmission for a 318 2brl

  21. Nick Maher

    A MOPAR 440 Super Commando Crate Engine (Big block power and cubic inches in a small block package!) which is a bored and stroked 340 would drop right in there.
    Think of the fun.

  22. Matt

    I had a 76 Cutlass with a 5 speed, 260 v8. A real sled, only seen one more like it. But like all rust belt cars, the frame rotted, RIP.

  23. Vegas vic

    Great find! Sure the 35k is too high, doesn’t detract from late seventies coupe coolness
    Still … The leader is the Thinderbird! That’s a COUPE!

  24. JW454

    By ’78 the transmission would possibly have been a 3 speed with overdrive. A friend’s Ramcharger was.

  25. ed the welder

    the grill reminds me of this …

    • Kincer Dave Member

      Yes that’s it! Upside down face!

  26. PaulG

    Often I read the comments and think “Do most of these folks not read the ad”? The dealer is obviously joking about the 35K, and the $ will likely fall around 3.5K
    Nice find, and really unusual…

  27. Mark S Member

    I remember well what a POS the lean burn system was. It was an attempt to computerize the metering rods in the carb while trying to control engine ignition timing. They always ran to lean no matter what you tried, rough idle and boggy on ecceleration. I remember seeing lots of lean burn systems scrapped in favor of more conventional carbs and distrutors. GM tried it to on there Rochester carbs and it was just as bad. I still have a Qjet sitting on a shelf in my garage with the electronic metering rods just to remind of what a POS they were. As for the body lines of these Mopars I have always liked them. This is a car that I would buy but some mods would have to be made and that ugly yellow would have to go. The sell must have typed in to many zero’s by mistake.

  28. AMCSTEVE

    Is this a joke?

    I remember my buddy’s parents bought a new one in 78. It was really pretty blue color with a white vinyl landau top. They kept it for like ten years till it rusted away but it was really nothing special.
    This one is extra ugly but would be a great sleeper with that 440 in it.

  29. M B

    ACTUALLY, at the time, the Chrysler Lean Burn System was a very good technical advance. It ONLY controlled the ignition timing and had a spec-calibrated carburetor to match. The engines sounded more like a ’60s V-8 that was “right” rather than an emissions-retarded GM engine. AND it worked pretty well for the first couple of years. Problem was, like many new technologies, few people understood it. It could ve diagnosed with a VOM, but Chrysler had their special “box” to check it with, too. It was a good idea AND one which didn’t cost too much to implement. Later, the “Lean Burn” nomenclature was dropped (about 1979) as the emissions standards required leaner carbs anyway. Many of the first few years of Lean Burns had NO need for a catalytic converter to meet fed emissions standards!

    The OD-4speed manual was another earlier advance. A three-speed manual trans with an added internal OD gear. A light-duty transmission, for sure.

    It will take a special person who’d want such a vehicle, unfortunately. Rarity does not always equate to more $$$ if nobody wants one. Still, a pretty neat and interesting car for somebody that’s on the road a lot.

  30. marc s.
  31. John

    I have a late model Mercedes C300 with a six-speed stick. My dealer says it’s the only one he’s al to see.ever seen. It’s neat to see a nice car that requires a driver. Given that this car was built on the old Belvedere chassis, a standard transmission is not that unusual. Now it it were a Hemi…….

  32. dbowma

    Wasn’t that long ago I stumbled across a Granada with a factory 4-speed on eBay. I think it sold for less than 10% of this asking price.

    • Bill McCoskey

      If the Granada was a loaded Ghia version in tan with light brown interior, it was likely a US government car, they ordered a fleet of ’em, not realizing they didn’t have an automatic trans as standard equipment. I remember seeing these Granada Ghia sedans running around the DC area, with the Federal GSA motor pool tags.

  33. Joe

    I always thought the late 70s’ LeBarons’ were a really good looking car, especially the coupes. My second car was a 78 Sedan and to this day it was still one of the most comfortable cars I ever had. .

  34. ROTAG999

    Fugly

  35. Nek

    The LeBaron of that style is basically a Dodge Aspen and know new from factory could buy that 4 spd OD as had a 77 with it …Super Six (2 brl carb) and appx 2.90 economy gears.
    Highway officer claimed the cruiser was last speed tested at 132 MPH and on floor was not gaining on me till I slowed down..told was going fast much too fast..never admitted to a top speed so still got a ticket for 10 over.
    Overall was a fun car but never said I had good taste in cars.

  36. Bryan

    The wheels are indeed factory…I had them on my old 78 Cordoba. This car is based on the Aspen/Volare (featuring transverse torsion bars) and is not related to the B-body Belvedere. The 1979 Dodge Magnum and Chrysler Cordoba were the last B-bodies.

    I prefer the Diplomat to the LeBaron in these years; the front end is more attractive.

  37. Junkfixer

    This is a ’78 LeBaron Coupe with the Medallion pkg. This pkg was available with or without A/C and choice of 3spd O/D (std) or A904 auto. This pkg got you the T-Tops, AM/FM/tape, rear defrost, lipstick-on-a-pig whls, among other trinkets.

    According to the production data that I have, approx 6% of ’78 LeBaron Medallion Coupes went out the door with the 3spd O/D. It’s really not that rare – odd, but not really rare.

  38. Jubjub

    M body and those wheels are totally correct as others have said.

    I had a ’79 Diplomat Coupe, black on black with a red cloth interior, slant six and this same four speed. It was also a no air or radio car. I put a funky Mopar/Grant? Steering wheel in it and some cop car hub caps and left the rest alone. Some a–hole bought and later derbied it.

  39. Utes

    Price-wise me thinks smokin’ yet ANOTHER doobie may be in order here….

    http://www.nadaguides.com/Classic-Cars/1978/Chrysler/Lebaron/2-Door-Coupe/Values

  40. A.J.

    The 35k in the eBay was is a joke. Or a marketing ploy. Probably a pretty good ploy given the amount of traffic it has generated.

    I think it is an interesting car for 6500 assuming it doesn’t need too much. A 360/4 would be more interesting but it might blow up that transmission.

  41. Keith

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. Ohhhhh boy. So, this was kicking around on CL about a year an a half ago by a private seller. I know cos I thought about checking it out for the oddity of it having a stick shift and T-Tops. IIRC it was around $5k. Now it’s $35k? Good luck Crack Smoker. People like this are the absolute scumbaggery of the classic car “industry”.

    • Keith

      Ok yes now I’m the scumbag for not scrolling all the way down his listing. touche, seller.

  42. Elliott Member

    My 70 Charger had been totalled in an accident, and I had a salesman try to talk me into one of these (IMO, an old man’s car) by telling me how “cool” it looked and how “sharp” it was!! Needless to say, NO SALE!! :-) But now, I would drive this just for the oddity of it, and maybe because now I am an old man!! LOL!!

  43. Greg

    I see a few have said this, but to reiterate please read the sellers ad. The $35k buy it now is a JOKE, and in my opinion a pretty good one. The seller clearly states that they’re “OBVIOUSLY KIDDING” about the $35k buy it now price. Also if you read the ad it has more light hearted jokes about how much of a “freak” of a car this 78 Lebaron manual is. I give kudos for them not passing this oddball up like so many probably have. Who’s the real car guy? The guy complaining about this car or the guy who goes out and buys this “freak” of a car? I also tip my hat off to the creative and attention getting pricing that has so many up in arms and talking about this Chrysler!

  44. Greg

    The seller added photos of the “Freak” Lebaron on a lift to his ebay listing a few days ago. Doesn’t look to bad.

  45. Chebby

    A better move would be to buy the nicest ’78 LeBaron you can find, in mint condition in a good color, and swap a real 4-speed into it.

  46. jaymes

    rusted out muscle car, undesirable manual trans to boot,glws

  47. Jer

    Yugos are rare too but have you tried selling one?

Leave A Comment

RULES: No profanity, politics, or personal attacks.

Become a member to add images to your comments.

*

Notify me of new comments via email. Or subscribe without commenting.