Today’s Rare Ride is one of the rarest versions of Chrysler’s third-generation LeBaron, in its run up to the final days and the conclusion of the very long-lived K-car platform. Sporty, turbocharged, and done up in black, the LeBaron had a long and winding road to get to its terminus.
Let’s talk about that history a bit.
This isn’t the first time we’ve seen the LeBaron name here at Rare Rides: In 2018 we featured this exceptionally rare LeBaron Town & Country woody wagon from 1978. That wagon eventually turned into the non-LeBaron (but same idea) Town & Country K-car wagon in the Eighties.
LeBaron was an independent coachbuilder once, and started building bodies for Chrysler in the 1930s. When Chrysler created the Imperial brand to compete with the likes of Cadillac, Packard, and Lincoln in 1931, some cars at the top of the range were fitted with luxurious bodies produced by LeBaron. When the Airflow’s overall styling was a flop, Chrysler went conservative and hired away a co-founder at LeBaron to rework the company’s styling. Eventually Chrysler bought out LeBaron entirely in 1953, and by that time the company had absorbed another coachbuilder: Briggs.
The name went dormant for a short while, until LeBaron appeared as the upscale trim of the new Imperial in 1956. The name became its own model in 1977 upon the creation of the M-body (Diplomat) based cars. At that point, it was available as sedan, wagon, and coupe.
LeBaron’s second gen for 1982 through 1988 kept all extant body styles of the first edition, and added on a convertible (available through 1986). After ’86 second-gen LeBaron coupes and convertibles were replaced in a move from the K-body to the new extended J-body. Keep in mind there was another LeBaron at the time as well, the five-door LeBaron GTS on the H-platform. That one was an upscale version of the Dodge Lancer.
The second-gen LeBaron sedan continued on through the ’89 model year before it was replaced with its third generation (1990-1994). That one resided on the AA-body K variant, and was the decked-out version of the Dodge Spirit and Plymouth Acclaim. It’s all a model and trim jumble, but that was just how Chrysler operated in the Eighties.
Complexities over, we’re caught up to relatively present day and the modern iteration of LeBaron. Next time we’ll talk all about the Eighties and turbocharging.