The Chrysler LeBaron was introduced in 1977 as Chrysler's lowest priced model, and the name was used on various Chryslers until 1995. The name originates from a 1930s coachworks bought out by Chrysler. Two years after the Corporation introduced the Imperial as a separate luxury division, LeBaron was designated the top of the line Imperial models in 1957 through 1975. Resurrected to add cachet to the Chrysler Division's new mid-sized entry two years later, the "LeBaron" name has since been applied to a total of 5 different cars built by the Chrysler Division:
- The 1977-1981 M-body Mid-size LeBaron sedan, coupé, and wagon
- The 1982-1988 K-body Compact LeBaron sedan, coupé, convertible, and wagon
- The 1985-1989 H-body Mid-size LeBaron GTS hatchback
- The 1987-1995 J-body Personal luxury LeBaron coupé and convertible
- The 1990-1994 AA-body Mid-size LeBaron sedan
Although the LeBaron name had been used before on Imperials, this was the first time the name was used on its own. This first Chrysler LeBaron was a rear-wheel drive M-body, a rebadged Dodge Diplomat with deluxe trim and equipment sold from 1977 to 1981. The LeBaron model name was moved to a new front-wheel drive car for the 1982 model year, when the Chrysler-branded rear-drive M-body was renamed New Yorker Fifth Avenue for the 1983 model year.
LeBarons were available in coupes, sedans and station wagons. A Police version was available in 1981 only. The wagons arrived in 1978. All wagons had the Town & Country wood panelling until a plain base wagon was added in 1980-81. See Town & Country section for more info.
For 1982, the LeBaron moved to the front-wheel drive Chrysler K platform, where it became an upscale version of the Dodge Aries and Plymouth Reliant. It was available in sedan, coupe versions. In 1983, 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 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. A larger LeBaron sedan would arrive for 1990.
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 100hp (75kW). A turbocharged 2.2 L engine producing Template:Convert/146, 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.
- Highline - 1985-1989
- Premium - 1985-1988
- GTS - 1989 (replaced "Premium" after the "GTS" was dropped from the name of the car)
After discontinuing the first generation LeBaron coupé and convertible in 1986, Chrysler released a new LeBaron in 1987, built on the J platform and available as a coupé or convertible. The new LeBaron featured headlights hidden behind retractable metal covers, a waterfall grille, 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 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 instrument panel was redesigned.
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. The coupé was discontinued after 1993, and the convertible in 1995, to make way for the new Chrysler Sebring coupés and convertibles, for 1995 and 1996 respectively.
Trim levels: 1987-1995
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 one trim level remained for 1995.
- GT Turbo
- GTC Turbo
- GT Turbo
- GTC Turbo
- Highline Turbo
- GTC Turbo
- Highline Turbo
- Premium LX
- GTC Turbo
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, the Acclaim was supposed to be the more mainstream version, while the Spirit was the sportier version, and the LeBaron was the luxury version. 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. 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 after the 1994 model year, and was replaced in 1995 by the "Cloud Car" Chrysler Cirrus.
- base - 1990-1992
- LX - 1992
- Landau - 1992-1994
- LE - 1993-1994
The Phantom was the Mexican-market sports version of the LeBaron Coupe. Phantoms were sold with the same options as the Lebarons in the U.S., and sometimes at a higher trim level.
Main versions include:
1988-1990 Luxury Version: 2.2 Turbo I engine, Speaking module, leather seats & interiors, digital dashboard cluster, premium Chrysler sound system. Three-speed automatic transmission.
1991-1993 Luxury Version: 2.5 Turbo I Engine, leather seats & interior, Chrysler Premium sound system or a six-speaker Infinity sound system also available with cassette or compact disk player. Electronically-controlled four-speed automatic transmission.
1992-1993 R/T Special Edition: 2.2 Turbo III DOHC 16-valve engine & Getrag 5V manual transmission. The same engine and transmission were used on the U.S.-market Spirit R/T.
1992-1994 R/T Luxury: 2.5 Turbo II Intercooled SOHC Engine & A413 three-speed automatic transmission. Leather seats, digital dashboard cluster, automatic climate control, roof console with compass & temperature display. Single driver airbag system and ABS. Additionally for 1994, an analog dashboard cluster, passenger-side airbag, and a power sunroof where available.
1994 NHTSA crash test results gave the LeBaron a 4 out of 5 for the front-impact, driver and a 3 out of 5 for the front-impact, passenger tests.
In Pop Culture
In Seinfeld, George decides to purchase an '89 LeBaron because it's previous owner was named John Voight.