The 1990 Chrysler LeBaron GTC Turbo Convertible, Variable Driving Excitement (Part II)


In our last installment of the Chrysler LeBaron story, we covered the model’s inception via a coachbuilder in Detroit, and its development from a trim into its own model line.

Today we cover LeBaron’s last stand.

J-body LeBarons were offered from 1987 through 1993 as coupes, and 1995 as convertibles. The new generation was a big styling upgrade over the smaller, pre-87 version, and went more upscale with its luxury detailing and concealed headlamps. Built in Delaware and Missouri domestically, there was additional production in Toluca, Mexico. Examples sold south of the border were called the Chrysler Phantom. Considered a personal luxury car, the LeBaron stood on its own without a Dodge or Plymouth twin.

LeBaron was powered by one of three different 2.2-liter Turbo engines, in generations I to IV, the III being a Mexican market exclusive. Also available was a 2.5-liter naturally aspirated K-car engine, a 2.5-liter turbo, and the not-so-trusty 3.0-liter 6G72 V6 from Mitsubishi. Transmissions were five-speed manual or three-speed auto for 2.2- and 2.5-liter engines, but the V6 employed entirely different transmissions. There, automatics were three- or four-speed, and three different five-speed manuals were also on offer. Across the line, manuals were provided by Getrag, and the automatics were from the Ultradrive range used on K-cars.

Chrysler updated the LeBaron a couple times during its run, once in 1990 when there was a new interior design, and again in 1993 where the exterior visuals were updated and a passenger airbag added as optional extra. The rarest later LeBaron by far is a GTC coupe with the refreshed front end. Your author has never seen one, ever.

A number of trims were available on LeBaron, and in fact the most were offered in 1990 (six). Sporty versions included the GT and GT Turbo, and topped out at the GTC Turbo. The other three trims were more luxury oriented, and included Highline, Highline Turbo, and Premium.

Features of the GTC included monochromatic trim, discrete GTC badging, and the 2.2-liter turbocharged engine. That engine was the highlight of the GTC Turbo, and was updated to include variable nozzle turbo (VNT) technology in 1990. The engine technology first debuted in 1989 on the very limited run Shelby CSX (after this one). Designed to reduce turbo lag, the Turbo IV had much improved boost at lower RPMs. Much better to drive than standard turbo engines of the time, the IV produced 174 horsepower and 210 lb-ft of torque.

By the ’95 model year, Chrysler was ready to wrap up LeBaron and indeed the K-car chapter entirely. The new Sebring was ready, and would bring many affordable convertible buyers back to Chrysler. Today’s Rare Ride is a clean black over gray GTC convertible from 1990, and one of 132 produced that year. With a manual transmission and 150,000 miles, it asks $4,200 in Arizona.

[Images: Chrysler]

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