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In the hit song, “Short Skirt/Long Jacket,” the Sacramento band Cake described their dream girl. When Cake singer John McCrea sung these lyrics, “She is trading her MG for a white, Chrysler LeBaron, I want a girl with a short skirt and a looooooooong jacket,” thousands of Americans knew exactly what he was talking about. That is because the chrysler lebaron remains one of the most beloved cars today.
As one of the Big Three of Detroit automakers (the others are Ford and General Motors), Chrysler has produced a number of classic cars. With its acute understanding of the automotive marketplace, Chrysler worked diligently to create a vehicle that would be one of its lower priced models but still contained the excellent engineering and design that it built its reputation on. In 1977, Chrysler effectively met their specific demands with the introduction of the Chrysler Lebaron. Named after the 1930s coach builder and using the same name that had been used with the Chrysler Imperials up to 1975, the chrysler lebaron was an immediate success.
The first generation of the Chrysler LeBaron was a rear wheel drive that contained an M-body. Featuring deluxe trim and equipment, the Chrysler LeBaron quickly made an impression among car lovers. Containing the same precision and care that has defined Chrysler vehicles, the Chrysler LeBaron offered a great car for a low price. This model of the Chrysler LeBaron would be sold until 1981 when it was reintroduced with a different design. However, this existing design of the Chrysler LeBaron was repackaged as the New Yorker Fifth Avenue model for 1983.
The 1982 Chrysler Lebaron was a drastic redesign. Unlike the M-body style of the first generation of the Chrysler Lebaron, this new version of the chrysler lebaron was based on the Chrysler K platform. Available as a sedan, coupe, or convertible, this new version of the Chrysler LeBaron added the latest technology to the car while still retaining the chrylser lebaron’s reputation for being an excellent car with an affordable price. Considering it was the 1980s, it isn’t surprising to learn that the chrysler lebaron contained the cutting edge technology of the Electronic Voice Alert. While it may seem quaint now, chrysler lebaron drivers couldn’t get enough of the novelty of a computerized voice reminding drivers to “please fasten your seat belt” and warning that “a door is ajar.”
This version of the Chrysler LeBaron was a big success. Considering that many vehicles have a short lifespan, it was a considerable milestone for the Chrysler LeBaron to have reached its tenth birthday. Perhaps to celebrate this event, Chrysler introduced a station wagon version of the Chrysler LeBaron called the Town and Country. The vehicle was a big success due to its limited quantities and the fact that it echoed the original Chrysler Town and Country with its use of stimulated wood paneling.
While the Chrysler LeBaron Town and Country vehicles would be available only from 1983 to 1986, it left a considerable impact on pop culture. In the John Candy and Steve Martin classic 1980s comedy Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, the Chrysler Town & Country K style car is featured prominently. A decade later, another classic comedy, Seinfeld, would have an episode that features the 1986 Chrysler Lebaron Town & Country prominently. In that episode, George buys a 1986 Chrysler LeBaron Town & Country based on the claim that the actor John Voight had owned it previously.
While the second generation of the Chrysler LeBaron was a big success, the people at Chrysler were less than satisfied. Although sales were high, Chrysler and the other American automakers were facing intense competition from Japanese automakers. This led to other car models under the Chrysler name to suffer from the extra competition. Understanding that the Chrysler LeBaron was one of its biggest successes and one of its most trusted names, Chrysler quickly introduced the Chrysler LeBaron GTS in 1985. The chrysler lebaron gts was quiet different from the existing Chrysler LeBaron models, as it was based on the Chrysler H platform. Featuring a 5 door hatchback style, the Chrysler LeBaron GTS was powered by a 2.2 L inline-4 engine. However, for car drivers with the need for speed, there was the option of replacing the engine with a turbocharged 2.2 L engine that could produce up to 146 hp. The Chrysler Lebaron GTS would be produced from 1985 to 1989.
Chrysler would also introduce a new version of the Chrysler LeBaron in 1987 that was based on the J platform. Available as either a coupe or convertible, this version of the Chrysler LeBaron would be the most popular model of the Chrysler LeBaron. Featuring a futuristic look that would explain why the car was marketed as the Chrysler Phantom in Mexico, the new Chrysler LeBaron would be available until 1995. The highly advanced chrysler lebaron featured a waterfall grille, a retractable metal cover that hid the car’s headlights, and Coke bottle-shaped rocker panels. The vehicle was equipped with a trip and fuel economy computer, which ensured that the Chrysler LeBaron was as practical as it was stylish.
While this version of the Chrysler LeBaron would be the last chrysler lebarons available as a coupe or convertible, the car did undergo a slight redesign in 1993. The 1993 to 1995 versions of the Chrysler LeBaron ditched the hidden headlamps look of the 1987-1992 Chrysler LeBaron models due to its dated look. Rather the last versions of the Chrysler LeBaron contained less expensive aerodynamic replaceable-bulb headlamps and new wheel styles. However, the Chrysler LeBaron coupe would be discontinued after 1993 and the convertible would soon meet its end in 1995. They were replaced by the Chrysler Sebring coupes and convertibles.
From 1990 to 1994, Chrysler produced a new line of sedans that were sold in the upmarket mid-size sedan. Designed under the K car platform, these Chrysler LeBaron sedans had a front wheel drive AA platform. Unlike its competitors, the chrysler lebaron sedan differed in its detail and trim. Considered the more luxurious model within the mid-size sedan market, the Chrysler LeBaron sedan came equipped with a driver’s side airbag and a large trunk. The vehicle had space for six passengers and was available in a number of different trims. The top of the line Chrysler LeBaron sedans came with a padded vinyl half-rook and the vehicle was considered a success. However, in 1995 Chrysler replaced the Chrysler LeBaron sedan with the Chrysler Cirrus.
Although the Chrysler LeBaron is no longer available in new models, the car has had a major effect on the American car market. With a platform that lasted nearly twenty years, the Chrysler LeBaron is still remembered very fondly. Featuring the expertise and style that people have come to expect from Chrysler cars, the Chrysler LeBaron had the advantage of being affordable.