Using a name that was once an Imperial model, the Chrysler LeBaron started out as a twin to the Dodge Diplomat, were both upscale twins to the Dodge Aspen and Plymouth Volare and were no doubt inspired by the sales success of the Cadillac Seville introduced a year earlier. The LeBaron was Chrysler's first "intermediate" car and at first was an M-body just like the Diplomat, even though it shared the exact same chassis and running gear as the "compact" F-body Aspen and Volare. The LeBaron nameplate would end up on no less than three different Chrysler models throughout its tenure (some at the same time), it seemed that just about any Chrysler car in the 1980s was either some sort of LeBaron or New Yorker variation, but this page will discuss three generations of the LeBaron and include links to other LeBaron models to minimize any confusion. The LeBaron name would be placed on a version of the K-car in 1982, to be redesigned again in 1989 and would be replaced by the Sebring in 1995.

1st Generation (1977-1981)[edit | edit source]

Chrysler LeBaron
Production 1977 - 1981
Class Intermediate
Body Style 2-Door Coupe
4-Door Sedan
5-Door Wagon
Length 204.6"
Width 72.4"
Height 55.1"
Wheelbase: 108.7 in
112.7 in
Weight 3200 - 3500 lb
Transmissions 4-Speed Manual, RWD
3-Speed Automatic, RWD
Engines 3.7L (225 cid) I6 (1977-1981)
5.2L (318 cid) V8 (1977-1981)
5.9L (360 cid) V8 (1977-1980)
Power 90-155 hp
Similar Dodge Diplomat
Platform M

The first generation LeBaron was built on a 112.7" wheelbase, and, like its Diplomat twin, was available in a 2-door coupe (which had a 108.7" wheelbase), a 4-door sedan and a 5-door wagon, known as the "Town & Country". The LeBaron's styling differed from the Diplomat's with a different nose that contained the parking lamps above the headlights, and larger taillights. Town & Country wagons could have a "woody" treatment with its faux-wood paneling on the sides, harking back to the Chrysler woodys of the 1940s with its wood treatments along the doors and bodyside moldings - some liked it, others detested it - but it was at least distinctive. Standard engine was the stalwart 90 hp 3.7L (225 cid) "Slant-6", with the 140 hp 5.2L (318 cid) and 150 hp 5.9L (360 cid) V8s as options. Virtually all LeBarons would have the 3-speed automatic transmission.

1978 LeBarons would have a slightly revised grille and other minor trim changes, but would remain otherwise largely unchanged. The Slant-6 engine gained a 2-barrel carburetor this year, upping its hp to 110. The largest styling change on the 1979 models would be for the coupe, which sported a new upright formal rear quarter window. All other models remained mostly unchanged except for another slightly revised grille. The LeBaron would undergo a minor restyle for 1980 (as would the Diplomat), but dimensions would remain largely the same. The standard Slant-6 lost its 2-barrel carburetor and reverted back to a 1-barrel, with a hp drop back down to 90. The 318 and 360 V8s remained options. Styling remained exactly the same for 1981, the largest change was that the 360 V8 was no longer available, leaving the 318 as the only optional powerplant.

The LeBaron would be changed over to the new front-wheel-drive K-car chassis in 1982, but the previous rear-drive body would live on to become the New Yorker with a few styling differences. It would later become known as the Fifth Avenue.

See the Dodge Diplomat entry for more detailed information on the first generation Chrysler LeBaron.

2nd Generation (1982-1988)[edit | edit source]

Chrysler LeBaron
Production: 1982-1988
Class: Compact
Body Style: 2-Door Coupe, 2-Door Convertible, 4-Door Sedan, 5-Door Wagon
Length: 178.6"
Width: 68"
Height: 52.5"
Wheelbase: 100.1"
Weight: 2600-2900 lbs
Transmissions: 4-Speed Manual FWD
5-Speed Manual, FWD
3-Speed Automatic, FWD
Engines: 2.2L (135 cid) I4 (1982-1988)
2.2L (135 cid) Turbo I4 (1984-1988)
2.6L (156 cid) I4 (1982-1985)
2.5L (153 cid) I4 (1986-1988)
Power: 84-146 hp
Similar: Dodge Aries
Dodge 400
Plymouth Reliant
Platform: K

Although its former twin the Diplomat carried on with very little change, the LeBaron would part company with the Diplomat in 1982 and become an upscale K-car twin to the new Dodge 400, which was of course based on the Dodge Aries and Plymouth Reliant that were introduced in 1981. 1982 LeBarons were dimensionally identical to the Aries and Reliant, and would share their drivetrains as well, starting with the 84 hp 2.2L (135 cid) I4, with the Mitsubishi-built 94 hp 2.6L (156 cid) I4 as an option. A 4-speed manual transmission was standard with a 3-speed automatic as an option for the 2.2 and standard with the 2.6. Bodystyles included a 2-door coupe, 4-door sedan and 5-door wagon, still known as the Town & Country and still with its controversial "woody" treatment. A convertible bodystyle was added also, having the distinction of being the first American car, along with the Dodge 400, since the 1976 Cadillac Eldorado to be available as convertibles (the "woody" treatment was also available on the convertibles as well). 1983 models would be largely unchanged from 1982. A turbo 2.2L (135 cid) I4 would become available in 1984, even on the wagon models. New larger taillights would also appear that year. No changes for 1985, but 1986 LeBarons would have a slightly restyled nose and tail (except the wagons, which retained the same rear styling as before), and would keep the same body through the 1988 model year with very little change. The 2.6 would be dropped after 1985 in favor of a new 100 hp 2.5L (153 cid) I4. An all-new LeBaron would debut in 1989, still based on a modified K-car platform.

See the Dodge Aries entry for more detailed information on the second generation Chrysler LeBaron.

In 1985, the LeBaron GTS debuted, which was another K-car spinoff that was a twin to the Dodge Lancer. See more about the GTS on the Chrysler LeBaron GTS page.

In 1987, an all-new LeBaron Coupe and convertible model would debut (the previous coupe was discontinued). This bodystyle was based on the K-car, but it would not be offered as a Dodge or Plymouth model. See more about the LeBaron coupe on the LeBaron Coupe page.

A 1986 LeBaron convertible with the "woody" treatment was prominently featured in the 1987 hit movie Planes, Trains and Automobiles, starring Steve Martin and John Candy.

3rd Generation (1989-1994)[edit | edit source]

Chrysler LeBaron
Production 1989-1994
Class Compact
Body Style 4-Door Sedan
Length 181.2"
Width 68.1"
Height 53.5"
Wheelbase 103.5"
Weight 2800 - 3100 lb
Transmissions 5-Speed Manual, FWD
3-Speed Automatic, FWD
4-Speed Automatic, FWD
Engines 2.5L (153 cid) I4 (1989-1994)
2.5L (153 cid) Turbo I4 (1989-1992)
3.0L (181 cid) V6 (1989-1994)
Power 96-150 hp
Similar Dodge Spirit
Plymouth Acclaim
Platform K

The final LeBaron was now an upscale model of the Dodge Spirit and Plymouth Acclaim, save for some unique styling differences. The LeBaron sedan would be dropped completely after 1994, to be replaced by the all-new Cirrus.

See the Dodge Spirit entry for more detailed information on the third generation Chrysler LeBaron.

See Also[edit | edit source]

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