Curbside Classic: 1986 Dodge 600ES Konvertible

Paul Niedermeyer
by Paul Niedermeyer

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.

More new Kurbside Klassics here

Paul Niedermeyer
Paul Niedermeyer

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  • Ragtopman Ragtopman on Aug 20, 2010

    I feel I have to defend the Chrysler convertible. I drive one. In fact, the '95 LeBaron I drive now (bought three years ago with 63k and nw with 106k as a daily driver) replaced a '96 Sebring that I drove from 63k to nearly 200k and still sold for $2k. Thank the good Lord that Chrysler was the only company to bring convertibles to the masses when the other Detroit 2 bailed out. BTW, my J-body LeBaron runs like new. It won't win any races, but I don't care (and never have).

  • Ed Zuccarelli Ed Zuccarelli on Mar 15, 2011

    I too feel the need to defend here. I have owned several....Most noteworthy, the 84 E-Class that flipped on the PA turnpike, with my wife and two sons aboard, in exactly the same circumstances that killed Princess Diana. All three walked away. The Dodge Caravelle coupe that caught fire when my girlfriend (I was divorced by then, ok?) was driving home from Virginia. The firewall held after the front end of the car was destroyed. She was able to empty the trunk of bone dry christmas presents. The first 85 LeBaron convertible that I found behind a gas station and bought for 200 dollars for the hell of it, and the second that carried my sons and I from NJ to Texas in 1999, and now the somewhat rare 1984 600 ES convertible that is my son's first car. He was an infant when the E-Class flipped, knows the story, and trusts the construction of the K-Body series. I do too.

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