It’s Kurbside Klassic Konvertible Saturday! We’re going to have lots of opportunities here at CC to indulge all our pet grudges, peeves and PTSD memories about the ungainly boxes and all their endless variants that Lee Iaccoca kept spinning out of his K-car Imaginarium. But hold on, not just yet! Because (true confession time) there is one version of the original Kar that I find almost bearable, the convertible. It’s been quite a while since I’ve seen one, but then Konvertible day hit: I ran into this Dodge 600ES and a similar vintage Le Baron on the same walk ten minutes apart. We’ll save the stubby Chrysler for another time, but in the meantime, lets dig into this rather rare find.
The first Konvertibles hit in mid ’82, and in Dodge’s case, it was their first open car since the ‘71 Challenger. Dubbed the 400, it was initially only a coupe and convertible “personal luxury” variant, paralleling Chrysler’s Le Baron. The Konvertibles were made by an outside contractor, but their success induced Chrysler to bring them in-house. Americans were ready to rediscover the joys of top-down motoring, and government roll-over regs threatening convertibles were not on the Reagan agenda.
The 400 and Le Baron began a tradition of Chryco rag-top production that has gone unchecked to this day, thanks largely in part to rental fleets in sunny vacation destinations. But the change in roof line, from the K-car coupes’ excessively boxy C-pillar, to the softly-flowing soft top, somehow transforms this car. Ok; I’m not going to get all mushy here over a K, but it has decent proportions, in that boxy way that was starting to look dated by the mid-eighties.
What makes this car more interesting than the average ex-rental Konvertible is that it’s an ES, meaning the mighty 2.2 turbo, and the fact that its a 1986, the only year for this particular front end styling on the 600. It’s target nose marks the beginning of Dodge’s theme to this day. Also, this car marks the end of the Dodge Konvertibles for a few years, until the Shadow lost its top in 1991. So is this a Kollectible?
The 2.2 received artificial respiration a couple of years earlier, when it was obvious that Americans were ready to take off the no-performance hair shirt of the early eighties. Lacking a V6 engine, Chrysler punted heavily with turbos for what seemed like an eternity. I’m sure some of you will share experiences of the bliss of early-turbo technology,especially when mated to the three-speed automatic and installed in the long-wheelbase Caravan. Joy!
Lido’s pride cranked out some 146 horsepower in 1986 for the 600ES, but the higher output versions in the right little car like the GLH could be a barrel of crude fun. And we’ll follow the K-cars’ evolution forwards and backwards from here. This just marks the starting point for lots of Kurbside Klassics.