By on January 25, 2011


Thick faux-wood trim on a Chrysler wagon as late as 1986? Hey, it’s 2011 and you can still get Super 8 movie film!

I can’t decide whether this is the most hideous station wagon ever made or one of the greatest. Chrysler had gone entirely front-wheel-drive by ’86, and their minivan was already delivering multiple tire-iron-to-the-kidneys blows to station wagon sales… yet they still honored the 5,500-pound wagons they’d built 15 years before.

The K platform made for shockingly spacious interiors; this wagon rivaled some of the monstrous battlecruiser wagons of years past for interior space.

Turbocharged and fuel-injected! Too bad they never made a Shelby-ized LeBaron Town & Country. This car listed at $11,998 with the turbo package, about the same as an ’86 VW Quantum wagon and $1,500 less than an ’86 Volvo 245 Turbo wagon or an ’86 Olds Custom Cruiser.

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61 Comments on “Rich, Wind-Tunnel-Defying Simu-Wood™ Trim Adds Style To Reagan-Era Chrysler Town & Country...”


  • avatar
    dswilly

    Hideous.  In my opinion the only car that ever looked good with Faux-wood is the Jeep grand Cherokee.

  • avatar
    Contrarian

    Yiou needed snapshots of the cargo area, with and without the back seat down…

    Lovely vehicle, and that plastiwood really is durable.

  • avatar
    Mark MacInnis

    Essentially a squashed-down mini-van.  While not bad, this is neither the greatest wagon nor the worst.  It is better by far than the egregious family trucksters of the 1970′s, who sucked dino-juice like they were gonna outlaw it tomorrow and wallowed on the road like a beached Beluga….but these lacked any modicum of the refinement of a true drivers car, like the European wagons of the day.   Too much compromise to be considered a “great” anything.

    That said, the engineering of how the vinyl was attached and trimmed to the vehicle was pretty robust for the time….must have been a nightmare for body shops.

  • avatar

    Shame – still looked in rather decent shape. Killed by super low K-car values.
     
    There is still one on the road here but with alloy wheels
     
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/daveseven/4119108100/
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/daveseven/4118337937/
     
    here is an earlier one
     
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/daveseven/4241762110/

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      “rather decent”? This wagon is shockingly straight and surprisingly clean and intact, inside and out, for a 25 year old. It seems more like a car you would go to a pick and pull to find parts for rather than pull parts from.  Despite the fake wood, it’s a shame to see a rare midsize (by today’s standards) wagon with such great visibility and utility at the end of the line in such great condition. It was obviously well kept for a long time, and probably the mechanicals were nickel and diming (okay $500 & $1000) the owner, but with less than 100k, it could have remained serviceable by someone mechanically inclined.

  • avatar
    windswords

    The wood is a matter of taste, but the basic design is very solid. A K-car wagon is spacious, utilitarian, good on gas, easy to work on and cheap to maintain. The turbo is icing on the cake. If you like being close to your friends and family, it will seat 6 plus 2 young’ns in the back pop up seat.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    The K-Cars were the about the best thing about the eighties’ US OEMs in spite of the now-unacceptable level of quality. We had an original 1981 Reliant 2 dr., stick shift, absolutely stripped, beige on beige and drove it for 7 years. Packed grandma and the kids in and went everywhere! That thing ran rings around almost everything else on the road at the time, like driving a sports car! Fun in the snow, too! Purchased new. We also bought a used 1984 E-Class, two-tone gunmetal blue hood and narrow stipe of blue down the beltline. The rest was silver. The classiest car I have ever owned. We loved that thing. Incredible amounts of interior room and packed the two kids and all our stuff for a vacation to Colorado in 1989. We owned that car for almost 8 years! I, for one, like the “wood” trim on a wagon, even if these were a bit over-done. We also owned the last-gen K-plaform cars – a 1990 gray Acclaim purchased new. Owned it 10½ years! Best car I ever owned up to that time. Also a 1993 green Spirit – that was the bad one, bought used, rebuilt wreck. Probably ’cause it was green. Didn’t have a lemon law at the time. Had it 3 years. Owned a 1992 LeBaron convertible, red, of course. Very sharp car. Owned it 8½ years, bought used in 1999. Of course I was a big fan of Chrysler at that time. Back to Chevy now.

    • 0 avatar
      windswords

      1992 LeBaron – last year of the hideaway headlights. The 93′s looked tacky with the fixed lights. Might have been the last year for the turbo 4 but I’m not sure. The Acclaim/Spirit were true descendants of the original K-cars.

    • 0 avatar
      Zackman

      windswords: Right you are. My LeBaron’s headlight doors always worked, too. The rear side window on the passenger side went out, but that was an easy fix. Three bolts and the whole fixture came out. Those things failed due to cheap materials, but I cribbed mine together, got a junkyard motor and it always worked. My LeBaron, bought used from an individual was bright red as god intended, charcoal interior with white seats and door inserts, a black top with white boot cover. It was a base model, but I took as much pride in that thing as I did my avatar! Ironically, I looked at one of these on the showroom floor in exactly the same configuration as the one I owned and said at the time “I’m gonna get one of these, someday!” I did! Drove it ’til the engine went ka-blooey in Sept. 2007! Sold it. Figured I put enough time and money into it. It had 101,000 miles on it when I bought it! That was one beautiful car.

    • 0 avatar
      geozinger

      I know a guy who has one of the 1994′s in his garage. I know they don’t drive it much. It might make a nice cruise night vehicle someday… Hmmm…

    • 0 avatar
      windswords

      Zackman,
      The rear windows stopped working because there was no drain hole for the rain water and the window regulators would seize up. There was a recall to drill drain holes and it was done for my 1990 at a dealership – but by then the windows had stopped working. The door windows were fine as they were sealed from the elements. When I sold mine just short of 200,000 miles those windows were still working. Glad your headlight covers still worked. Mine became intermittent even after I replaced the motor. It was an electrical connection but I never had the time to trace it and fix it. Fortunately there was a manual override. Mine was red with the gray interior as well.

    • 0 avatar
      Zackman

      windswords: One of my window motors went out, but I was referring to the plastic parts that anchored the cable that actually moved the window up and down. That’s the piece that broke, on the bottom of the glass. I guess it was nylon, but I fashioned a make-shift bracket and it worked all along. Mine had 148K miles when the engine went out one beautiful day as I was driving from work, two miles from home. The engine wasn’t worth messing with. In fact, it needed a new engine for at least the previous 30K miles, but I strung it along. I sold it to my mechanic who turned it over to his assistant who then proceeded to install an engine, A/C compressor, OBC and as far as I know, it’s still out there, somewhere! This was strictly a fun car, but had too many niggling issues that I didn’t want to mess with anymore.

  • avatar
    geozinger

    Why is that car in the boneyard? It looks like you could put tires on it and drive it away…
     
    I had a turbo Mopar back in the day and would like to have another one. I would drive that one just for the ‘camp’ factor alone! Put some Swiss Cheese or Sawblade wheels on it and roam the streets of the upper midwest! No need for SUV with that bad boy in the driveway.

    • 0 avatar
      windswords

      The Flicker photo link that David posted has the sawblade alloys, also known as eggshell wheels. The pizza wheels were nice too. Looked like the swiss cheese alloys but the holes were all the same size and evenly spaced along the rim edge (guess it reminded some of peperoni).

    • 0 avatar
      geozinger

      @windswords: Yes, the swiss cheese wheels I’m thinking of were the ones that came on the original 1984 Daytona Turbo. There were two variations, one with 4 lug and the 5 lug. The pepperoni or Alfa wheels came later, but stlll look just as nice.

  • avatar
    GrandCharles

    I never tought i would find an interior of a 1980′s chrysler desirable…guess we lost something along the way…carpet, velour seat, soft touch dash…The wood is definitely cool!

  • avatar
    YYYYguy

    Chrysler products have a unique “new car smell”.  We just took a look at a Jeep Patriot and the odor whisked me back to a 1987 Voyager my family leased, with a stop in 1991 to say hello to our grand voyager.

    • 0 avatar
      Zackman

      I remember how the early Japanese cars smelled – they stunk! They had a sickly-sweet smell like vinyl left in the summer heat too long and damp! Kind of like an old plastic pool liner. They touted in the sales brochures at the time about using “high-quality American vinyls”, too! Must have been old pool liners!

    • 0 avatar
      YYYYguy

      It’s nice to know Chrysler is still using the same materials today that they used back in 87. :)

      Korean made cars have a horrific odor too.  Anything I’ve driven from Daewoo (Suzuki rebadges) to Hyundai has this funk to them.

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      I suspect Japanese and Korean cars with that unusual smell were shipped, not built here, and got that odor from the ship. A friend’s 2010 Sonata initially had a smell that reminded me of a navy ship I was a crewmember on. He had to wipe down all the plastic and vinyl with Spic’N’Span and sprinkled Arm & Hammer on the carpet to get rid of it.

  • avatar
    obbop

    More livable innable than many other conveyances.

  • avatar
    Omnifan

    Ooh, ooh, gotta make a trip to Denver!  Love that car!!

  • avatar
    friedclams

    A friend in high school had a ’79 T&C wagon (rear-wheel drive) that was slathered in fake wood. The plastic trim actually rotted and disintegrated “like real wood”, much to our amusement.

  • avatar
    h82w8

    My mom had a white one of these in the early-mid ’80s. It replaced her last-of-the-breed forest green ’78 LeBaron T&C V8 wagon, (which I took on several road trips w/ my buds and therefore kinda liked). I was in college when she got it, but got to drive it a few times. It was awful…noisy, gutless, cheap. But indeed it had thick faux wood trim and lots of room for her three cocker spaniels!

  • avatar

    Maybe it was because my parents hauled my brother and I around in it, but I do have a soft spot for the ’87 Dodge Caravan, in dark blue/wood paneling, of course. Still remember the new-car smell in that as well (I need to test drive a Chrysler/Dodge sometime to see if that smell still exist). Wood Paneling should make a comeback, atleast tastefully done on the current Caravans and Grand Cherokees.

    • 0 avatar
      Zackman

      I thought the “Dreamcruiser” option of the PT Cruiser was really nice. Wood applique’ on a minivan? That I’m not sure of…I’d have to see an example. It may work. I wonder…

    • 0 avatar
      mazder3

      @Zackman
      Here’s a T&C woodyvan.
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:2nd-Town-and-Country.jpg

    • 0 avatar
      c5karl

      If I recall correctly, the first generation Town & Country minivan wasn’t available without the fake woody trim.  That was a key selling point that made it more luxurious than its Dodge and Plymouth cousins.  I’m pretty sure that was true until the jellybean shaped vans came on the scene.

    • 0 avatar
      Zackman

      I meant to say a new generation minivan. I have seen many of the first-gen & first-gen refresh models. What would a new one look like? It may work. When they went to the egg-shaped models in the mid-1990s, the wood option disappeared.

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    Loved these “Town & Country” wagons.  There was one that kept popping up on eBay a few years back.  According to the listing someone’s elderly father had passed away shortly after paying to have the car painted.  It had less than 100,000 miles on it, deep red (almost maroon) with a tan leather pillowed interior, turbo motor.  Very cosmetically perfect.
     
    Sadly my fiance would consider it a muy malo purchase and impossible to justify.  Although I think I’d only have to sleep in it for ONE night in order for her to get over it.  It’s one of those vehicles that’s so uncool, its actually cool.

  • avatar
    scottcom36

    C’mon, Murilee! Chrysler wasn’t all front-wheel drive in ’86! The RWD Fifth Avenue, Gran Fury and Diplomat still had a couple of good years ahead of them.

  • avatar
    northshorerealtr

    Had an 84 Plymouth Reliant wagon–the LE, complete with woodgrain, ps, pb, AC, am/fm, cloth delux  bench seat with center armrest…and nothing else. Bought it from a guy in my office at 3 years old with  37K miles for use as an airport car/weekend runnaround.   Drove it another 50K+ miles, with no issues–and regular maintenance was cheap–then sold it for MORE than I paid for it 3 years later.  Remarkably, even parked outside, the woodgrain remained solid. Only vehicle I’ve ever made money on after regular use.  Good little driver, and remarkably roomy and efficient.  A simple car.
    Is there such a thing as a simple car anymore?  I suspect that those days are long gone.

  • avatar
    mazder3

    For those wishing to make their xB into a T&C wannabe…
    http://www.stripeman.com/woodgrain-decal.htm
    Looks like you could custom order if you wish.

  • avatar
    tonyola

    I’m amazed at the praise heaped on the K-cars here. I’ve driven several examples and a girlfriend owned an ’85 Reliant for several years. The regular 2.2 was gutless, the handling and steering were vague, reliability was unremarkable, interior assembly was sloppy, and the whole car felt cheap and crude compared to contemporary Hondas and Toyotas. Chrysler didn’t even bother ponying up for a better dashboard on this LeBaron – it’s just the Aries/Reliant dash with some cheesy fake wood and plastic brightwork. Built to a budget and you’re always being reminded of that fact.

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      The K-car was better than the X-car, and I think it was better than the Tempo/Topaz. It was not a car for anyone who’d ever driven a Honda, but no American car was or is. The regular 2.2 wasn’t completely gutless for the day. They could last at least 150,000 miles, which was decent for engines still suffering from symptoms of primitive smog controls. As for the interiors, it is remarkable that there were enough customers for the K-cars and their derivatives. It seems to me that they would mostly appeal to Mopar loyalists who didn’t buy a Volare or Aspen, which is how my father wound up with a 1985 Lancer ES Turbo. I suppose some others were sold to GM’s X-car, Monza, and Malibu victims. There is nothing good to say about the Mopar turbos. The first headgasket on the Lancer lasted 17K miles, the second one 7K miles, the third one not many more, but it is a mystery exactly how many as the digital dashboard had gone black. Chrysler’s 5/50 warranty said nothing about loaner cars and had plenty of exclusions and deductibles. We didn’t need a warranty, we needed a car that worked.

    • 0 avatar
      geozinger

      Yes, yes, all hail the conquering UJC (universal Japanese car), the car that never broke™.
      And again we conveniently forget about the fragile trannys, the crappy carburetors and all of their ills, the paper thin steel in the bodies, the power robbing and essentially useless air conditioning, etc…
      Granted, these cars WERE built to a price and many of them displayed it. But the constant stream of how wonderful the old (insert your UJC here) was is just as revisionist as some of these recollections are.
      They all have skeletons in the closets.

    • 0 avatar
      tonyola

      geozinger:

      I owned a 1984 Honda CRX for nine years, then a 1990 Civic LX sedan for over 15 years. Both were stickshifts and were driven very hard. Both cars were absolutely dead reliable, had fine A/C for Florida, and required virtually nothing beyond regular maintenance. Everything and I mean everything continued to work. Nothing broke, fell off, or came adrift. I never even had to replace the clutch in either car. I can also tell you about lots of other Civics and Coronas from the ’80s and ’90s that go a quarter million miles with just maintenance. You can mock the so-called UJC if you want, but there’s a lot of truth to the “car that never broke” reputation. The only revisionism is on your part.

    • 0 avatar
      geozinger

      @tonyola: I’m glad to see that you’ve had such good experiences with your Hondas. I’ve had several different cars from various companies that were equally trouble free. Nor were they only domestic. My experiences with Hondas weren’t that great. But my larger point IS the revisionist history I spoke of earlier. People here appear to believe that all of the malaise era cars were bad, which is not true. And there were plenty of examples of less than successful upgrades. Spend some in some of those mid 80′s cars, from all of the manufacturers. I was selling back then, I worked for a multi line dealer, I spent a lot of time in the cars. I hung out in the service bays, I saw a lot of crap. I wasn’t picking on Honda specifically, the mid 80′s Hondas raised the bar for interiors, but many others were just as ‘malaisey’ as anything Detroit or Wolfsburg put out.
       
      If it’s not your cup of meat, that’s fine. Don’t put all of them in the same category, however.

  • avatar
    MarcKyle64

    It looks like Vacation’s Family Truckster to me…

    Holiday Roooooaoooooooaooood, Holiday Rooooaooooaooddd…

  • avatar
    sportsuburbangt

    The K Cars sucked!
     

  • avatar
    fiestajunky

    If you wanted the ultimate “K” , you had to get the ’84 Town and Country convertible. It sorta kinda looked like an old Ford Sportsman (if you squinted and used your hand to cover the grille) ,but there was nothing else on the road like it. I had an all day argument with my wife about the purchase of one of those back in early 1985. I wanted one so bad that if I could have snuck back to the dealership after she fell asleep,I would have bought the damn thing. But nooooooooo, we needed a “minivan” because we had “kids”.
    I did manage to snag an 86 Dodge 600 ES ragtop a few years later (when she had her precious minivan and I got my own set of wheels that I did not have to share). Anyway, it was a great K car because it handled a bit better than a plain vanilla 600 (Or its twin, the Plymouth Caravelle)and the turbo made the performance from the 2.2 acceptable. It finally just became a four wheeled black money hole and I sold it to a high school kid for $250.
     

  • avatar

    I learned a lot about working on cars from my K, a ’90 Sundance.  It was an honest, sort-of reliable car that took a lot of teenage thrashing.  The K products had to be the best domestic cars available at the time in their class and maybe even better than some of the second-tier Japanese stuff.

  • avatar
    DweezilSFV

    Passed a recent model Mopar SUV that had the entire wood treatment done to it. Think it was the Liberty. Burgundy color. Didn’t look bad.

    As much trash talk as is bandied about re the awful cheap interiors of Domestic 80s cars it’s funny how well this one held up. And I see many of them like this, the 86 Olds Calais I gave my parents years ago [and which was eventually given to my brother] for example still has seats and dashboard that look great. The small bits are all trashed: glove box lock, door handles, sun visors and the rest of the GM parts bin stuff didn’t go the distance.

  • avatar
    vent-L-8

    too bad this one didn’t have the digital dash, I loved those.  The best digitals were on the 88-90 LeBarons.

    • 0 avatar
      windswords

      My 90 convertible LeBaron had one. Very easy to read day or night. One day somewhere past 150,000 miles it went dark. I called around, shops wanted at least $400 to fix it, dealer wanted over $600 IF they could find one in their parts computer. Instead I went to a local junk yard and picked one for $50. It had been sitting in a convertible that no longer had a top in the hot Florida sun and rain. When I plugged it in it lit right up. These units were built at Chrysler’s Hunstville, AL electronics plant. After Daimler took over Chrysler they sold it to Siemens.

  • avatar
    nikita

    “Most hideous station wagon ever made” is in the eye of the beholder, but even without stimulated wood, 1960-62 Mopar wagons top my list.

    • 0 avatar
      Felis Concolor

      Aye: it’s a very old saw, but “the only thing uglier than a 1963 Polara is a 1962 Polara”. I got that one from a fellow who proudly drove his clean ’62 Polara around on a regular basis.

  • avatar
    mazder3

    Do you think Michael Karesh would do a product review on this?
    http://www.ptwoody.com/ff001.html
    The Freestyle looks very nice as a woody.

  • avatar
    Felis Concolor

    Love the Super 8 comment: I was still producing thousands of feet of amateur footage in those days using a beloved Beaulieu 2008S my father gave to me when he began to explore the joys of consumer video movie cameras.
    The angular plastic wood trim is the perfect complement to that vehicle, as it serves to enhance the original angular appearance of the K platform, instead of attempting to hide it.

  • avatar
    joe_thousandaire

    Fiatsler is bringing back the Grand Wagoneer, if they don’t slap some wood sides on that baby I’m burning down their freaking headquarters – its right down the road.

    • 0 avatar
      Wheeljack

      +1 

      If they are too chicken to offer the new Grand Wagoneer with woodgrain from the factory, then I hope Mopar offers it as a an accessory kit. It just wouldn’t be right to offer the Waggy without wood. Considering what some people are paying that Wagonmaster guy for “refurbished” Wagoneers, a modern take on it should find at least a few cusomers.

  • avatar
    Moparman426W

    The K car really was better than the FWD cars from ford and GM, and I’m not saying that just because I’m a chrysler guy. They were very mechanically simple by 80′s FWD car standards, very esay to work on, even the turbo models were easier to towk on than the ford and gm models.
    They were pretty reliable, the biggest problem you might have with one before you reached 100-150k was the head gasket, which was easy to replace and cheap to buy, but then a lot of cars during that time blew head gaskets. Gasket technology wasn’t really there yet to make a head gasket that was bulletproof between an iron block and aluminum head.  Jap vehicles were the same, I helped a buddy replace the head gasket on his 78 datsun pickup with only 42k.

    And the K cars didn’t start returning to ore in short order like the japanese cars of the time. I remember some jap cars from the 70′s and 80′s having such thin metal that you had to be careful not to apply too much pressure while waxing one or you could dent it.

    • 0 avatar
      Felis Concolor

      Indeed it was easier to work on; from the water pump housing and alternator to the press-until-it-pops-into-place shift linkage rod ends, I never spent more than a couple of hours working on any subsystem of the 2.2 engine family and most parts took less than a half hour to replace, even in my Omni’s relatively cramped engine compartment. The special tool included on the transmission itself to aid in shift linkage adjustment was a welcome touch.

  • avatar
    Moparman426W

    * easier to work on.  my puter’s freezing up on me.

  • avatar
    turbobrick

    Hey waitaminute… The last year for turbocharged 240 series was 1985!

  • avatar
    golden2husky

    Amazing how if you know K cars, how much this is just a tarted up K.  I really like my old 87 Kcar.  it gave a hair over a quarter million miles with, for the most part, basic maintenance.  Driven hard, maintained well.  And yes, as reliable as any of those UJC Japanese cars, but clearly the assembly was not as good.  No matter, the K served me well.  This is the reason that quite a few here speak well of the K’s:  They were good cheap cars.

    Mine met its maker when the factory head gasket failed at said mileage above. Key to this (and any aluminum engine) is to never overheat.

  • avatar
    Moparman426W

     I couldn’t stand wood trim on wagons back in the day, especially overdone like on this one. But now 2 and a half decades later I think it would be cool to have one, it does kinda have character for being from the 80′s.
    I was never into 4 bangers, but I always wanted to take a K car, like a new yorker turbo and make a sleeper. This wagon would be an  even better sleeper! Those turbo 2.2′s can be built to run like hell, just imagine the fun of seeing the expressions on the faces of unsuspecting suckers after blowing them into the weeds with this wagon! I wish it was nearby because I would certainly take a look at it and buy it if the price was right.

  • avatar
    zeus01

    Seeing the above pics brought back memories and made me realize that maybe the AMC Pacer wasn’t really that ugly after all…

  • avatar
    LeBaron86Woody

    I would love to know where this car is located. I need the wood grain off the sides for mine. Technically just the buttons that cover the nuts that hold it on, but having replacement parts would be nice. Quite difficult to find anything that pertains to the wood grain.
    By the way, as most here note, great little cars these K ones were and are. Mine has 222,200 miles and counting, with the recommended light maintenance. The only thing thats giving me trouble with it now is the steering.


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