Chrysler LeBaron

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Chrysler LeBaron
Baron 010 cropped.jpg
Overview
Manufacturer Chrysler Corporation
Production 1977–1995 (model years)
Chronology
Successor Chrysler Fifth Avenue for rear-drive M-body version (1983)
Chrysler Cirrus for front-drive sedan (1995)
Chrysler Sebring for front-drive coupe (1995)
Chrysler Sebring convertible for conv. (1996)

The Chrysler LeBaron (or Chrysler Imperial LeBaron) was originally a classic luxury car of the 1930s, the body manufactured by LeBaron, its chassis manufactured by Chrysler, which competed with other luxury cars of the era such as Lincoln and Packard. LeBaron was purchased by Chrysler in 1953 along with its parent Briggs Manufacturing.

The LeBaron has become one of the longest running nameplates in Chrysler history. The first LeBaron models were designated as the top-of-the-line 1957 through 1975 Imperials.

The Chrysler LeBaron was re-introduced in 1977 as Chrysler's lowest priced model, and the name was used on various Chryslers until 1995. Resurrected to add cachet to the Chrysler Division's new mid-sized entry, the "LeBaron" name has since been applied to five different cars built by the Chrysler Division:

The LeBaron background[edit]

Main article: LeBaron Incorporated
1941 Chrysler LeBaron Newport
1941 Chrysler Thunderbolt

LeBaron was one of the many prominent coachbuilders in the 1920s and 1930s to provide bodies for luxury cars. It was founded in Bridgeport, Connecticut in 1920 by Thomas L. Hibbard and Raymond H. Dietrich. It was later purchased by the major manufacturer of bodies for Ford, Chrysler, Hudson, Packard and others Briggs Manufacturing Company of Detroit in 1926 and operated as a Briggs specialist subsidiary.

LeBaron supplied exquisite custom bodies for various car companies such as Chrysler's luxury Imperial line, Duesenberg, and Cadillac. LeBaron's last projects for Chrysler were the Chrysler Newport Phaeton, a super-streamlined dual cowl phaeton with an aluminum body and the remarkable 1941 Chrysler Thunderbolt, a sleek roadster with concealed headlights and a retractable metal hardtop styled by Alex Tremulis, who would later style the legendary Tucker of 1948.[1][2][3][4]

Chrysler purchased Briggs Manufacturing in 1953.[4] Two years after the Chrysler Corporation introduced the Imperial as a separate luxury division, LeBaron was designated the top of the line Imperial models in 1957 through 1975.[1][2][3][4]

1931–1941[edit]

Classic generation
Overview
Production 1930s
Assembly Detroit, Michigan, United States
Bridgeport, Connecticut, United States[1][2][3][4]
Body and chassis
Class Luxury
Body style 2-door coupe
2-door convertible (roadster)
4-door sedan
4-door convertible
Layout FR layout
Platform Chrysler
Related Chrysler
Chrysler Imperial
Powertrain
Engine 385 cu in (6.3L) Straight-8 125HP ("Imperial 8")[5]
and others
Transmission 3-speed manual
4-speed manual

The LeBarons started in the 1930s during the automobile's Classic era and competed directly with the luxury brands of its day such as Lincoln, Cadillac, and Packard.

In the mid-1930s, Chrysler added a radical new "Art Deco" design shape, known as the Airflow Imperials, to the Chrysler line. The high-end CW series were supplied by LeBaron. The design features were considered advanced and perhaps ahead of their time. However, the shape was too radical for buyer's tastes and non-Airflow models outsold Airflows by about 3 to 1.

Raymond Dietrich, co-founder and former stylist at LeBaron, was hired in 1932 to be Chrysler's in-house stylist. Dietrich restyled the Airflow line and Chryslers moved to more mainstream styles. As a result of the poor Airflow sales, Chrysler design actually became quite conservative for the next two decades. Auto manufacturers continued to build up their in-house styling departments and bodyworks, with the result that LeBaron became less important to most of its customers for design ideas and bodies. Toward the late 1930s, LeBaron/Briggs built more bodies for Chrysler and fewer bodies for Ford. Chrysler became their biggest customer, with additional bodies built for Packard, Hudson, and Graham-Paige. During the late 1930s and early 1940s, the LeBaron name and division became less important for Briggs, although it remained a division of Briggs until the Chrysler buy-out in 1953.[3][4]

LeBaron's last projects for Chrysler were two concept cars: the Chrysler Newport Phaeton, a super-streamlined dual cowl phaeton with an aluminum body and the remarkable 1941 Chrysler Thunderbolt,[6] a sleek roadster with concealed headlights and a retractable metal hardtop styled by Alex Tremulis, who went on to later style part of the legendary Tucker of 1948. Only 6 of each were made.[1][3]

1957–1975[edit]

Imperial generation
72 Imperial LeBaron.jpg
Overview
Production 1957–1975
Assembly Detroit, Michigan, United States
Body and chassis
Class Luxury / Full-size
Body style 2-door coupe
2-door convertible
4-door sedan
Layout FR layout
Platform Perimeter Frame
Unibody
Related Imperial
Chrysler
Chrysler Imperial
Powertrain
Engine 392 cu in (6.4L) V8
413 cu in (6.8L) V8
440 cu in (7.2L) V8
Transmission 3-speed automatic
For an extended section of Imperial LeBaron models sold under its own Imperial marque (1957-1975) see also Imperial (automobile)

The Chrysler Corporation introduced the Imperial as a separate luxury make and division in 1955. LeBaron was designated the top of the line Imperial models in 1957 through 1975.[1][2][3][4] These cars were Imperials and did not bear the Chrysler name.

The Imperial LeBarons were made to compete directly with competitor's luxury brands such as Lincoln, Cadillac, and Packard, just as they had since the 1930s. The last model was made in June 1975, a victim of dwindling sales and the 1973 oil embargo.

1977–1981[edit]

First generation
1980 Chrysler LeBaron wagon.jpg
Overview
Production 1977–1981
Assembly St. Louis, Missouri (Saint Louis Assembly), United States
Newark, Delaware (Newark Assembly), United States
Valencia, Venezuela,
Toluca, Mexico (Toluca Car Assembly)[7]
Body and chassis
Class Mid-size
Body style 2-door coupe
4-door sedan
4-door wagon
Layout FR layout
Platform M-body
Related Chrysler Town and Country
Dodge Diplomat
Plymouth Gran Fury
Powertrain
Engine 225 in³ Slant-6
318 in³ LA V8
360 in³ LA V8
Transmission 3-speed A727 automatic
3-speed A904 automatic
1977–1979 Chrysler LeBaron sedan
1977–1979 Chrysler LeBaron sedan

Although the LeBaron name had been used before on Imperials, this was the first time the name was used on its own. The cars used the Dodge Aspen platform, but with a different body shell known as the M-body, and their primary purpose was as a more upmarket version of the Aspen/Volare. Initial 1977 models comprised coupes and sedans, with a Town & Country station wagon appearing for 1978 (using the nameplate formerly carried by full-sized C-body Chrysler wagons). Engines consisted of the 225-cid Slant Six, the 318 V8, and the 360 V8. Most were equipped with the 3-speed Torqueflite automatic transmission, but a four-speed manual gearbox was offered with the two smaller engines until 1981.

1981 LeBaron 5th Avenue Limited Edition; one of 654 produced

In 1980, the LeBaron was reskinned to gain more crisp sheet metal, gaining a waterfall grille, new headlight fascias, and more angular taillamps. The rear roofline was also made shorter and steeper. The 2-door coupe received new smooth rear sheetmetal, that replaced the old curved rear panels. On the inside, enhancements were made to the interior to make it more luxurious. For 1981, a limited edition "Fifth Avenue" package was available; only 654 LeBarons were produced with this package. Also a police package was offered for that year. Station wagons remained unchanged from the doors back.

The LeBaron model name was moved to the new front-wheel drive K-platform for the 1982 model year. The former M-body LeBaron sedan became the Chrysler New Yorker; it could still be equipped with the Fifth Avenue package. The M-body wagons and coupes were discontinued after 1981. Chrysler's M-body sedan was ultimately renamed Fifth Avenue for 1983 and it was produced through 1989 little changed from the 1980,vintage LeBaron sedan.

See Town & Country and Fifth Avenue sections for more info.

1982–1988[edit]

Second generation
'82-'84 Chrysler LeBaron Sedan.jpg
Overview
Production 1982–1988
Assembly Newark, Delaware, United States (Newark Assembly)
St. Louis, Missouri, United States (Saint Louis Assembly,
Toluca, Mexico (Toluca Car Assembly)
Body and chassis
Class Compact
Body style 2-door convertible
2-door coupe
4-door sedan
4-door wagon
Layout Transverse front-engine, front-wheel drive
Platform K-body
Related Chrysler Town & Country
Dodge 400
Dodge Aries
Plymouth Reliant
Powertrain
Engine 2.2 L K I4
2.2 L Turbo I I4
2.5 L K I4
2.6 L Mitsubishi G54B I4
Transmission 5-speed Getrag A525 manual
3-speed A413 automatic
3-speed A470 automatic
Dimensions
Wheelbase 100.3 in (2,548 mm)
Length 179.2 in (4,552 mm)
Width 68 in (1,727 mm)
Height 52.9 in (1,344 mm)
1983–1984 Chrysler LeBaron convertible

For 1982, the LeBaron moved to the front-wheel drive Chrysler K platform, where it was the upscale brand's lowest priced offering. It was available in sedan, coupe versions. In 1982, it was released in a convertible version, bringing to the market the first open-topped domestic vehicle since the 1976 Cadillac Eldorado. A station wagon version called the Town and Country was added as well. A special Town and Country convertible was also made from 1983 to 1986 in limited quantities (1,105 total), which like the wagon featured simulated wood paneling that made it resemble the original 1940s Town and Country.

Despite being mechanically identical to the Aries and Reliant, its fascias looked much more like those of the larger E-body sedans. This generation featured Chrysler's Electronic Voice Alert, a computerized voice which admonished drivers with phrases.

1986 Chrysler LeBaron Coupe
1985 Chrysler LeBaron Convertible

The LeBaron was facelifted for 1986 receiving rounder front and rear ends to improve aerodynamics. Coupes and convertibles were dropped for 1987, being replaced by the all-new J-body LeBaron released that year. The sedan and wagon continued with minor change until 1988. A larger LeBaron sedan based on the Dodge Spirit and Plymouth Acclaim would arrive for the 1990 model year.

1985–1989 LeBaron GTS[edit]

LeBaron GTS/LeBaron
Chrysler LeBaron sedan -- 09-15-2011.jpg
Overview
Production 1985–1989
Assembly Sterling Heights, Michigan, United States
Body and chassis
Class Mid-size
Body style 5-door hatchback
Layout Transverse front-engine, front-wheel drive
Platform H-body
Related Dodge Lancer
Shelby Lancer
Powertrain
Engine 2.2 L K I4
2.2 L Turbo I I4
2.2 L Turbo II I4
2.5 L K I4
Transmission 5-speed Getrag A520 manual
5-speed Getrag A555 manual
3-speed A413 automatic
Dimensions
Wheelbase 103.1 in (2,619 mm)
Length 180.4 in (4,582 mm)
Width 68.3 in (1,735 mm)
Height 53 in (1,346 mm)

The 1985 LeBaron GTS was a somewhat different car than the standard LeBaron and was based on the Chrysler H platform. As a 5-door hatchback still derived from the K-car, the GTS (and the similar Dodge Lancer) was more of a performance vehicle, than the softer-tuned K-car LeBaron sedan. In base configuration, the car was powered by Chrysler's 2.2 liter inline-4 engine, later replaced by a 2.5 L TBI version generating 100 hp (75 kW). A turbocharged 2.2 L engine producing 146 hp (109 kW), was also available. The GTS moniker was dropped for 1989, the final year of this vehicle's production, after the K-based LeBaron sedan was discontinued. The last Chrysler LeBaron GTS rolled off the assembly line on April 7, 1989

Trim levels[edit]

  • Highline - 1985–1989
  • Premium - 1985–1988
  • GTS - 1989 (replaced "Premium" after the "GTS" was dropped from the name of the car)
  • "Pacifica" 1986 (replaced by Shelby Lancer in 1987) Limited 500 run

European market - the Chrysler GTS[edit]

After some years of absence, Chrysler officially started offering some models under its own brand on the European market from April 1988 on. One of them was the "Chrysler GTS", which in fact was a rebadged version of the Dodge Lancer ES. Sales figures were extremely moderate.

1987–1995 coupé/convertible[edit]

Third generation (coupe/convertible)
1992 Chrysler LeBaron GTC.jpg
Overview
Also called Chrysler Phantom (Mexico)
Production 1987–1995
Assembly Newark, Delaware, United States (Newark Assembly)
St. Louis, Missouri, United States(Saint Louis Assembly)
Toluca, Mexico (Toluca Car Assembly)
Body and chassis
Class Personal luxury
Body style 2-door convertible
2-door coupe (produced until 1993)
Layout Transverse front-engine, front-wheel drive
Platform J-body
Powertrain
Engine 2.2 L Turbo I I4
2.2 L Turbo II I4
2.2 L Turbo III (only for Mexican market) I4
2.5 L K I4
2.5 L Turbo I4
3.0 L Mitsubishi 6G72 V6
Transmission 2.2 and 2.5 L engines

5-speed Getrag A520 manual
5-speed Getrag A523 manual
3-speed A413 automatic

3.0 L V6 engine

5-speed Getrag A543 manual
5-speed Getrag A555 manual
5-speed Getrag ass. A568 manual
3-speed A670 automatic
4-speed A604 automatic
Dimensions
Wheelbase 100.5 in (2,553 mm) (1992–95 coupe)
100.6 in (2,555 mm) (1992–95 convertible)
100.3 in (2,548 mm) (1987–1991 coupe)
100.4 in (2,550 mm) (1987–1991 convertible)
Length 184.8 in (4,694 mm)
Width 69.2 in (1,758 mm) (1992–95)
68.5 in (1,740 mm) (1987–1991)
Height 51.2 in (1,300 mm) (1992–95)
50.9 in (1,293 mm) (1987–1991)
1987–1992 LeBaron Coupe (headlight covers open)

After discontinuing the first generation LeBaron coupé and convertible in 1986, Chrysler released a new LeBaron in 1987, built on the J platform (a K platform derivative) and available as a coupé or convertible. The all-new LeBaron looked modern and aerodynamic compared to its boxy predecessor. It featured headlights hidden behind retractable metal covers, a waterfall grille, steeply raked windshield, full-width taillight lenses (though only the edges actually lit up), and curved (Coke bottle) style rocker panels. In Mexico, these models were marketed as the Chrysler Phantom.

Available engines were the stock 2.2 liter and 2.5 liter, naturally aspirated or turbocharged, and for the 1990 model year a 3.0 liter Mitsubishi V6 became available, although the Mexican Chrysler Phantom R/T DOHC 16V also offered the same 2.2 liter turbo engine as used in the US market Dodge Spirit R/T.

The LeBaron was equipped with a trip & fuel economy computer and full instrumentation. For 1990, the LeBaron's interior was refreshed, featuring an all new dashboard, gauge cluster, door panels, and center console design. All of the new components were designed to be smoother and more flowing than the comparatively blocky 1987-89 interior style, making it more in tune with the "aero" revolution of the early 1990s.

1992 LeBaron coupes and convertibles could be ordered with a new "sport package", which featured a monochrome appearance including body-colored grille, accent stripe, and decklid logo. The package also included 14-inch "lace" style wheelcovers and a black strip below the taillights in place of chrome, with special blacked-out window moldings on coupe models.[8]

Racing[edit]

Several ARCA (one tier down from NASCAR cup racing) teams built LeBaron based race cars (supported by a revitalized Chrysler Direct Connection performance parts division) and ran them from 1988 to 1994. The cars were very competitive and won several races during those years.

1993 restyle[edit]

1993–1995 Chrysler LeBaron convertible

In 1993, the LeBaron's exterior was slightly restyled. The hidden headlamps of the 1987-1992 models were deleted in favour of less costly aerodynamic replaceable-bulb headlamps, new wheel styles were made available, and all models got the amber rear turn signals introduced on the deluxe 1992 models. New for 1994, was the "Bright LX" decor package. It included a "bright" chrome grille, "bright" chrome badging, and "bright" chrome molding inserts, as opposed to being body-colored on the GTC. Available engines were naturally aspirated 2.5 L and turbocharged 2.2 and 2.5 L versions of Chrysler's I4, and the 3.0 L Mitsubishi V6 making a 141 hp (105 kW) in this application. The coupé was discontinued after 1993, and the convertible after 1995, to make way for the new Chrysler Sebring coupés and convertibles, for 1995 and 1996 respectively.

Trim levels: 1987–1995[edit]

Throughout its lifetime, the LeBaron convertible/coupé was available in many trim levels. For its first year, the LeBaron was available in Highline and Premium, typical Chrysler trims at the time. The number of trims grew, peaking in 1990, with six available. After that, the number decreased until just two trim levels remained for 1995.

1989 interior
1994 interior (aftermarket radio)
  • 1987
    • Highline
    • Premium
  • 1988
    • Highline
    • Premium
    • GT
  • 1989
    • GT Turbo
    • GTC Turbo
    • Highline
    • Premium
  • 1990
    • GT
    • GT Turbo
    • GTC Turbo
    • Highline
    • Highline Turbo
    • Premium
  • 1991
    • GTC
    • GTC Turbo
    • Highline
    • Highline Turbo
    • Premium LX
  • 1992
    • base
    • Turbo
    • GTC
    • GTC Turbo
    • LX
  • 1993
    • base
    • GTC
    • LX
  • 1994
    • GTC
    • Bright LX
  • 1995
    • GTC
    • LX

1990–1994 sedan[edit]

Third generation (sedan)
Chrysler LeBaron sedan.jpg
Overview
Also called Chrysler New Yorker (Mexico)
Production 1990–1994
Assembly Newark, Delaware, United States(Newark Assembly)
Toluca, Mexico (Toluca Car Assembly)
Valencia, Venezuela
Body and chassis
Class Mid-size
Body style 4-door sedan
Layout Transverse front-engine, front-wheel drive
Platform AA-body
Related Dodge Spirit
Plymouth Acclaim
Chrysler Saratoga (Export only)
Powertrain
Engine 2.5 L Chrysler I4
3.0 L Mitsubishi 6G72 V6
Transmission 2.5 l engines

5-speed Getrag A523 manual
3-speed A413 automatic

3 Litres engines

5-speed Getrag A543 manual
5-speed Getrag A555 manual
5-speed Getrag ass. A568 manual
3-speed A670 automatic
4-speed A604 automatic
Dimensions
Wheelbase 103.5 in (2,629 mm)
Length 182.7 in (4,641 mm)
Width 68.1 in (1,730 mm)
Height 53.7 in (1,364 mm)
Curb weight 2,971 lb (1,348 kg)

The last LeBaron sedan was built on the front wheel drive AA platform, another K derivative, as an upmarket mid-size sedan. It differed from the Dodge Spirit and Plymouth Acclaim, as well as the European Chrysler Saratoga mostly in detail and trim choices. Theoretically, as historically was the case in this era whenever Chrysler, Dodge, and Plymouth shared direct model variants, the Acclaim was supposed to be the more mainstream version, while the Spirit was the sportier version, and the LeBaron was the luxury version, reflecting the Chrysler brand's flagship status. In reality, however, there was considerable overlap amongst the three in available trim, equipment and features. The top-line LeBaron Landau model offered a padded vinyl half-roof with smaller "formal" backlight.

1994 Chrysler LeBaron LE

All LeBaron sedans came with a standard driver's side airbag, could seat up to six passengers, and had a relatively large trunk. In 1993 the LeBaron sedan received new rear lights, which incorporated the reversing lamps previously located in the bumper fascia.

The LeBaron sedan was discontinued on May 18, 1994 along with the Dodge Spirit and Plymouth Acclaim. It was replaced in 1995 by the "Cloud Car" Chrysler Cirrus.

Safety[edit]

In 1994, the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration rated the LeBaron[which?] a 4 out of 5 for driver side and a 3 out of 5 for passenger side frontal impact occupant protection.[citation needed]

Trim levels[edit]

  • base - 1990–1992
  • LX - 1992
  • Landau - 1992–1994
  • LE - 1993–1994

Mexican market[edit]

M and K-platform cars were assembled in the Toluca, Mexico facility. The M-platform LeBaron was sold in Mexico from the 1978 to the 1982 model years. The K-car LeBaron was also produced in Toluca and was sold for the 1983-86 model years. There were no K-platform convertibles, at least none right from the factory.

Chrysler Phantom was the Mexican-market version of the J-Body LeBaron Coupe. There were no convertibles of the J-body 2-door for the Mexican market. Phantoms were sold with the same options as the LeBarons in the U.S., and frequently at a higher trim level. Chrysler Phantoms were marketed from 1987 to 1994, with an R/T version (similar to the American LeBaron GTC) starting in 1992.

The Mexican A-A-body Chrysler Lebaron 4-door sedan was called the New Yorker (with Landau roof) as well as LeBaron (sans Landau roof).

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e "Chrysler LeBaron History". Webspace.webring.com. Archived from the original on 2010-12-06. Retrieved 2010-10-04. 
  2. ^ a b c d "1985 Chrysler LeBaron Images, Information and History (LeBaron Town & Country, LeBaron Mark Cross Convertible, T&C, LeBaron GTS, LS Sedan)". Conceptcarz.com. Archived from the original on 2010-12-06. Retrieved 2010-10-04. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f "Coachbult.com - LeBaron - Le Baron - LeBaron Carrossiers - LeBaron Inc. - LeBaron-Detroit". Coachbuilt.com. Archived from the original on 2010-12-06. Retrieved 2010-10-04. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f "Briggs Body Company, Brggs Mfg, Co., Walter O. Briggs, LeBaron, Briggs Detroit, John Tjaarda, Coachbult.com". Coachbuilt.com. Archived from the original on 2010-12-06. Retrieved 2010-10-04. 
  5. ^ "1931 Chrysler Imperial Close Coupled Sedan". Imperialclub.com. 1930-07-14. Archived from the original on 2010-12-06. Retrieved 2010-10-04. 
  6. ^ "Special Built Cars Hint Tomorrow's Designs" Popular Mechanics, January 1941
  7. ^ "1978 Chrysler LeBaron (VE)". Dkarros.com. Archived from the original on 2010-12-06. Retrieved 2010-10-04. 
  8. ^ 1992 Chrysler LeBaron Factory Sales Brouchure

Sources[edit]

External links[edit]