Turbo Woodie: 1985 Chrysler LeBaron Town & Country

The seller claims this 1985 T&C wagon is a “great barn find”, but it sounds like it’s lived in a regular garage since 2003. They are very excited about the “leather interior, TURBO, very good condition, and LOW MILES!!”.  Sure it’s a glorified K-car, but remember, K-cars saved Chrysler. You can tell by the dowdy dash that it’s not meant to be a performance car. The turbo was installed just to keep it from being painfully slow, as a V6 option was still a few years away. You can find this turbo wagon here on craigslist in Pacific Grove, California. So why am I so excited about this homely little wagon?

In the 1980s, Dodge began putting their new turbo engines in literally everything, from grandma’s sedan to sexy Daytonas and Carroll Shelby’s Charger GLH-S. They even put them in their minivans. Ten years ago I used to lurk around the Turbo Dodge forums because I wanted one of these really badly, and it sounded to me like guys were having a lot of Lego-like fun for hundreds of dollars rather than thousands.

Chrysler set the factory boost very low because they had to sell a car that average Joes and grandmas could drive for a hundred thousand miles without blowing them up. The standard boost was around 5psi with a 7.2 peak. The secret was the stock 2.2 and 2.5 blocks were very stout, and the wick could be easily be turned up quite a bit. I forget the exact specifics now, but I recall you could max the ECU out at 13 psi simply by adding a manual boost valve, achieve around 18-19 psi with a new fuel map and injectors, and if you went hog-wild with bigger turbos and intercoolers, the stock internals could handle up to 25 psi. By that point, you had a hair-trigger engine, but if/when you blew it up there were plenty more at the pick-n-pull for peanuts. With some basic modifications, any turbo Dodge can be stupid quick and silly fun. So what’s not to love about a goofy plastic-wood wagon with fake wire wheels and comfy leather seats that can light up the tires?

This stock 1985 wagon would have a computer-controlled wastegate allowing 9 psi of temporary overboost for 146 horsepower and 168 lb-ft of torque. The addition of intercooling in 1986 created the Turbo II engine producing 175 hp/175 ft-lbs of torque.

The tires are old, but the timing belt, accessory belts, water pump, A/C compressor, front rotors, calipers, brake pads, and brake fluid have all been changed this year. There’s a new headliner and the A/C works great. And just look at those two-tone seats!

I think it would be a lot of fun to turn up the boost and add an intercooler for a quirky sleeper that would be a hoot to drive and get a lot of smiles at Radwood. What do you say… for around $6k, does this one look like fun?

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Comments

  1. Cooter914 Cooter914 Member

    Aaaand it’s gone.

    Like 2
    • Miguel

      Why do you say it is gone? The ad is still there.

      Like 1
    • Steve R

      It’s still for sale, the link is active. The $6,000 asking price might be a bit aggressive.

      Steve R

      Like 2
    • Superdessucke

      It says “this posting has expired” when I click on it.

      Like 2
  2. Superdessucke

    I would definitely turn up the wick with more boost.

    Like 3
  3. Rob Walsh

    The 85 has the better flowing head and the larger early rods but smaller head bolt holes. So go up to 11mm studs and MP gasket and this engine could handle 30 PSI easy. The log motor doesn’t have fuel and intercooling though. Easy bolt in you can add a stage 2 FWDperformance computer for 15 PSI and 2.5″ mandrel exhaust and straight through muffler for a big big jump in power without big work

  4. Al

    I see that this one has an analog speedometer, the one I had was a digital.
    Chrysler replaced it quite often (7 or 8 times) while under warranty.
    When the warranty expired it had the latest speedometer (probably 6 weeks old). I drove it for another 140,000 miles. The speedometer would fail periodically but would resurrect itself about every 5 to 6 miles when that happened.
    The other comment I have, is the rear suspension failed. I tore it out and replaced it. A real pain but doable.

    Like 7
  5. Cliffyc

    Like the one in Ferris Beullers Day Off, only Mom’s,(Cindy Pickett),Le Baron ,was gold . Very Eighties car.

    Like 4
  6. Ike Onick

    My wife saw the ad and mentioned she had always wanted to test drive a Turbo Woodie.. Then she kind of sighed and left the room.Hmmm

    Like 8
  7. Dusty Stalz

    I’ve had a couple of these with the 2.2 turbo. Without much work they could really haul the mail. They were great in the snow too.

    Like 1
  8. chrlsful

    yeah, I too just geta CL ‘expired”.

    Drove a feet of these but w/o the turbos/leather as livery co.after a trip around the parameter USA states in a slant6 wagon (valiant motor/dart body).

    I love the size and the style does not bother me. Actually lookin 4 sompin like this. But more of the ford product: ’83/6 LTD/Marquis, fox bodied. Got 1 or 1 of these? just put the aol behind my handle here…

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