By on April 15, 2015

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Replacing a Lincoln Town Car with Chrysler LHS may be a strange decision, and it’s definitely an interesting experience. But it’s also very educating one, for the differences between the two tell surprisingly much about the way people think about cars, the way people buy cars and the way cars are designed.

I’ve always loved a true American fullsize sedan – a body-on-frame, RWD behemoth with a large V8 in front, bench seat in the middle and a trunk large enough for several bodies in the back. And the ’98 Lincoln Town Car I have driven daily for more than a year fits that bill perfectly. But it was borrowed and to buy it (and fix remaining issues) was not really within my financial means. So it had to go, and I had to find a replacement. And I found a car that’s like Town Car’s lost sibling in many ways, and its polar opposite in many others. The 1994 Chrysler LHS.

The 1990s Chryslers do not get much love among American car enthusiasts in Czech Republic. Not only they lack a pair of cylinders and they are driven by the wrong wheels, but, what’s probably the worst, they are quite common. They may not admit it, but for most US car owners in Europe, the rarity is large part of the magic. And because Chryslers were officialy imported in 1990s and 00s, they’re usually not held to such esteem as the “true American” cars – e.g. those that had to be brough here by “gray importers”.

But if you want a cheap luxobarge, this makes big Chryslers pretty interesting. Not being as cool as other American cars means they’re cheap. While a ’98 Town Car would cost around $5k here, which is significantly more than a 7-Series (E38) BMW or first generation Audi A8, the LHS can be had for under $2,000. In my case, with broken timing gear but otherwise fine, it cost 11,000 CZK. That’s $433 at today’s exchange rate. That’s Škoda Felicia money. And a Felicia isn’t much better than Yugo. Included in the price was a parts car with working a drivetrain. So, after another few hundered bucks for timing gear repair (about $150 for parts + shipping, roughly twice that for work, as the tensioner was broken out from the block), I have a nice and fully driveable fullsize sedan.

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It still has a few flaws – mostly the front suspension needs attention – but it’s got a pretty decent interior, the Infinity sound system works just fine, the body and paint is not perfect, but nice enough, the transmission shifts, the engine purrs, the power stuff works. A nice start to finding out what’s the story with those big Chryslers. I’ve always avoided them for reasons mentioned above, but that was a few years ago, when they did cost money. So, how does one compare to a Town Car? And will it keep up, or it will it commit a mechanical suicide?

When it was launched, the LH platform was the Chrysler’s return to the world of true fullsize cars and presented a thoroughly modern approach to the same brief that gave birth to B-bodies and Panthers a long time ago. And, viewed by cold, rational eyes, it was far superior to both. The reasons why Panther outlived the LH by many years, and why LH was replaced by much more Panther-like LX are are a fascinating look into the automotive market.

If you compare a ’98 Town Car with a ’94 LHS, the first thing you’ll notice is how similar the two cars are. I would even venture to say that the Town Car’s design was largely inspired by the older LHS – especially the rear part. And even the size, interior space and driving characteristics are quite similar, though nowhere near identical. Which leads us to the second thing you’ll notice.

That the LHS feels much more modern. Yes, you read that right. I switched from a ’98 car (which was the first year of the new model) to a ’94 car (which was also the first year), and it felt like I went half a decade newer. In some ways, it’s no surprise – after all, the Panther platform was introduced in late 70s, while the LH made its debut in 1993. But that explains the fundamental differences in packaging and handling, not things like interior fit, finish and technologies. The LHS feels almost European, in a good way. Truth to be said, I don’t feel much difference when I transfer from the Chrysler to a friend’s ’04 Mercedes CLK 270 CDI, which I’m testing this week.

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While the Town Car must have looked and felt like a cost-cutted re-hash of an old platform (which it actually was), the LHS must have felt like a spaceship when it appeared in dealer lots in late 1993. The instrument cluster wasn’t as cutting-edge as in Lexus LS400 a few years earlier, but it was still wonderfully illuminated and supremely legible. The excellent Infinity stereo had in-dash CD player. There was a nifty “message center” in the centre of the dashboard – a pitch black panel in the middle of the dash where the idiot lights show up.

The main difference, though, is the space. When designing the new LH platform, Chrysler engineers took a rational approach and decided that there’s no need to make room for a V8 when a V6 can power the car quick enough (the LHS with its 3.5 V6 feels a bit quicker than Lincoln with 4.6 V8), and that there’s no point in making it RWD. Rear wheel drive costs money, it costs space and it adds weight. It improves balance and driving feel, but people who buy large American sedans mostly couldn’t care less about such things.

As a result of this cold, rational thinking, they did the most modern and most practical one could think of at the time. They moved the longitudinally mounted V6 far to the front – it is in front of the front axle – and used the resulting space to make most of the wheelbase. It paid off. Even though it almost a foot shorter, the LHS provides more interior space than the Town Car, as well as larger (or at least more usefully shaped) trunk.

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The costs? First, the looks. Although LHS must have looked striking when it was launched, and it still feels much more modern than your typical 20 year old car, it lacked the imposing presence of Panthers and B-bodies. Its short, low-slung hood makes it look a bit tail heavy, and a bit like a car from the not-so-welcome future, where cars are on their way to become transportation pods.

Then, the driving. On paper, it’s a perfectly fine automobile. It’s reasonably quick in a straight line and it can at least keep up with its fullsize RWD brethren in corners as well. So far so good. But the engine hanging over the front axle has immense effect on how the car feels. With most cars, the understeer/oversteer is something you read about in reviews, but most drivers never really understand what that means. In LHS? Oh yeah, the car can teach understeer on university! You don’t need to be driving quick at all to feel that the thing Just. Doesn’t. Want. To. Turn.

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Probably the worst, though, is the way the car behaves when you accelerate hard from a standstill while cornering. While a rear drive sedan just slightly squats and moves forward stately, unless you’re acting as a lead-footed maniac, the front drive car starts scraping for traction and screeching its tires. And even if traction control sets in, there’s still no grace in that.

If people bought cars purely by logic and not based on feel and characeter, the LH-platform could be deemed superior to its Mercedes-derived successor, the LX. But LX, with its elegant proportions and rear wheel drive, much better fits the buyer’s idea of how a luxury sedan should look and feel. People are not rational – and their car buying habits aren’t rational, either.

@VojtaDobes is motoring journalist from Czech Republic, who previously worked for local editions of Autocar and TopGear magazines. Today, he runs his own website, www.Autickar.cz and serves as editor-in-chief at www.USmotors.cz. After a failed adventure with importing classic American cars to Europe, he is utterly broke, so he drives a ratty Chrysler LHS. His previous cars included a 1988 Caprice in NYC Taxi livery, a hot-rodded Opel Diplomat, two Dodge Coronets, a Simca, a Fiat 600 and Austin Maestro. He has never owned a diesel, manual wagon.

Photo: David Marek

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107 Comments on “European Long-Term Review: Chrysler LHS...”


  • avatar
    johnhowington

    one of my favorite car shapes and still is, it at least got a little bit of fame in the car chase scene in the movie ‘strange days’

  • avatar
    87 Morgan

    A guy up the street from me has the 300m version of this car, newer though. I want to say lat 90’s. It is his DD and has a boat load of miles on it, north of 200k. He just loves the car and has said multiple times that he is not ridding himself of it until the bitter end. Thus far it has not cost him much to keep on the road. He is an avid DIYer so about once a year you see him in the garage swapping something.

    From what I gather, in 3.5 trim these were reliable units not only for Chrysler, but compared to the offerings of time in general.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      I think we all know which engine was the bad one! ;)

      3.5L – .8L = SHHHH

    • 0 avatar
      Featherston

      @ 87 Morgan – A moment of silence for my buddy’s ’02 300M. He just traded it in after 13 years and almost 180,000 miles. The drivetrain was still going strong, but it was suffering some suspension issues plus some niggling but not cheap problems such as a dead heating element in the driver’s seat. He could’ve kept it on the road, but the repair costs would’ve exceeded the Blue Book value by a decent margin. Were he a DIYer, keeping it would’ve been a no-brainer.

      When trading it in, he commented how much he’d loved the car. The salesman was an old-school guy who’d been working at a Chrysler dealership in ’02. He replied that everyone loved the 300M and that it “was an instant classic.” It’s one of those cars where the manufacturer just got things right in terms of roominess, comfort, performance, styling, and reliability for a given price point.

      • 0 avatar
        87 Morgan

        Interesting you note the front suspension. The last time I was in his garage and he had the hood up he was completing some suspension work. He had said that he got a quote from a shop and the number was nuts in terms of the value of the car, so he decided to youtube it and see what happens.

        Had a stack of borrowed specialty tools from O’Reilly and was balls deep in the repair. He apparently completed the job as the car is still on the road. With the FWD, it is a crowded engine bay for sure so I can see why repair costs are high.

  • avatar
    OliverTwist

    I’m curious about the Czech regulations on the taillamps, especially the rear turn signal indicators. When I visited Prague in 1992 and again in 2008, I saw many North American vehicles, which were grey import, and noticed many of them had yellow turn signal indicators sourced from aftermarket suppliers and tacked on the taillamps or bumpers. Some had portion cut out and replaced with yellow lenses. Few had original export taillamps fitted.

    How do you like the headlamp output? I understand that the first two model years had a serious design flaw that many owners complained. Chrysler rushed the emergency redesign for the third model year.

    • 0 avatar
      Vojta Dobeš

      Turn signals have to be amber by law – keeping original red ones means inability to pass inspection and possible troubles with traffic cops, although they usually ignore it.

      This one has amber bulbs fitted to the reverse lamps (one reverse was kept functioning by adding a second, white bulb).

      And the headlights suck.

      • 0 avatar
        Wheeljack

        Headlights on first gen LH cars were truly awful, eclipsed only by the JR an NS minivan headlights. Second gen headlamps were a little better, and towards the end of the run, the 300M special offered optional HID projector lamps.

  • avatar
    danio3834

    The thing I remember most about these cars is how comfortable those seats were. Just look at em.

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      This is true. I had a Concorde, and those thrones were glorious. The back seat also had ample room and comfort for high school shenanigans.

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        It was truly soothing to climb out of the back row of my SO’s parents’ 2013 RAV4 after a 3 hour trip, and into the back seat of her grandfather’s Concorde to drive to the casino in Cleveland. Wow those are some nice accommodations back there. Too bad the A/C was on the fritz in the Chrysler, we would have had the full package. I’ve always thought that American cars do 2 things better than anyone else: awesomely isolating interiors and world beating HVAC systems, particularly in terms of air conditioner strength.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      I didn’t like the LHS and Concorde, but I remember the 300M and Intrepid had great seats, too. Both also rode very well, especially for the time and _certainly_ better than the Panthers, Taurus and GM W-Bodies.

      The Intrepid was also exceptionally well-packaged: acres of interior space versus the Panther and W. Real space, too—not cheated by rooflines, tumblehome or measurement trickery.

      I know car people typically hated cab-forward, but it paid serious dividends in terms of passenger space and comfort.

    • 0 avatar
      Felis Concolor

      If I wasn’t constrained by my “wagons/5-doors or nothing” criteria for personal purchases, I’d have seriously considered that cabin over GM’s last generation B-body wagons; those seats look to be every bit the equal of Buick’s Roadmaster thrones and just as capable of making long interstate miles disappear.

      • 0 avatar
        Roberto Esponja

        In my family we had both an LHS and a Roadmaster, and while the Roadmaster’s seats were comfy, the LHS’s were miles better. Miss both cars…

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    Best LHS photos I’ve seen in a long while. I always liked these, and at the time (being 8 or so) I didn’t understand that they were an Intrepid. Just like I thought the Eagle Vision was much better than the Intrepid, because it had an EAGLE on the front! No way!

    So far as I can tell, the difference between the LHS and the New Yorker was… floor mount shifter versus the ol’ column shift.

    What’s the interior build quality like on these? They photograph well, and the leather and trim looks pretty nice even today. I’ll not think of the van center stack.

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      It’s the only LHS photos I’ve seen in a long while.

    • 0 avatar
      cgjeep

      The Concord was the Chrysler version of the Intrepid. The LHS was larger. Concord, Vision and Intrepid were LH cars, the LHS was LH stretched.

      • 0 avatar
        bball40dtw

        I had a second gen Concorde. It was actually 2 inches longer than the LHS with the same wheelbase.

        The first gen Concorde was about 4-5 inches shorter than the LHS. Same wheelbase though.

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          So they switched it for gen 2? I guess because the gen 2 Concorde didn’t have the “sporty” nature of the LHS perhaps.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            The LHS was eventually replaced by the Concorde Limited. No one bought the LHS after the Concorde’s redesign for the 98MY and the 300M coming out for the 99MY.

    • 0 avatar
      Sam Hell Jr

      My dad had a Vision with pretty much every option but leather. Great engine, great road trip car. I loved the little sound system joystick that controlled balance and fade. Also the car went through five air conditioning units. Five. My hopes for the author’s vehicle are not high.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        Who was making Chrysler passenger vehicle AC units from 1988 – 2004? They were awful, all of em. The Ram trucks didn’t have this issue.

        • 0 avatar
          bball40dtw

          My family also went through two AC units on an LH car.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            We went through one or two, on each of:

            88 Dynasty
            94 Grand Voyager
            99 Caravan Sport (maybe 3 on this one)

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            See my above comment about my gf’s granddad’s Concorde, it too lost the A/C, this is a 2004 with about 52k miles. I think it might even be a 2.7L, it was making some ominous sounds on a cold start, his mechanic told him to put some sort of additive to the oil and things seemed to have quieted down… he passed the car on to a relative last year so all is well.

        • 0 avatar
          bball40dtw

          Corey-

          I think the AC compressor in my ’98 Dodge Ram could have cooled my 1400 sq ft house. Regular cab trucks have the best AC because the AC unit is built for an extended cab or crew cab truck.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            I agree, the truck ones are great. My dad had a 96 Ram 1500, and that one would freeze you out. Now he has an 06 1500, and that one freezes you too.

            He also has a 94 2500 dump truck, but I can’t recall if that one has AC or no. I’ll look next time.

        • 0 avatar
          cbrworm

          I don’t know who made them, but when they worked they were great. We had multiple A/C failures in all our bought new American cars, which we stopped buying in ’95. ’84 and ’89 Caravan/Voyager both needed multiple A/C repairs early in life. ’87 and ’91 Aerostars both needed non-stop A/C repairs. ’95 Chevy 1500 van – two compressors before the warranty expired.

          Only two Japanese cars that we had with A/C problems. an ’86 Toyota van and a slightly newer 4Runner.

          I don’t know if all A/C systems were horrible at that point in time or if we just got lucky.

    • 0 avatar
      Truckducken

      Yep, the New Yorker (laid to rest after MY96) had a column shifter so that it could accommodate the bench-like front seats. These did seat three across in a pinch, whereas the LHS was front buckets only. What great cars. I truly miss mine; have been driving a rental 300 w/ Pentastar and 8AT this week and it really reminded me of how well thought out and executed the LH’s were.

    • 0 avatar
      ponchoman49

      Judging by several examples we sold the interiors did not hold too well like many from the 90’s time era. Some cheap interior plastics, burned out bulbs, warped air bag covers, shot A/C units, squeaks and rattles and indifferent build quality was the norm on these. Many later examples also suffered the door seals shrinking and coming apart, the transmissions were fragile, the 3.5 was hard to work on and the headlights were poor and that was when they weren’t yellowed.

      • 0 avatar
        dtremit

        To a certain extent, that was due to automakers trying a lot of new things — a lot of plastic dash pieces that were bigger/more complex than previously, R134a refrigerant, air bags in mainstream cars, etc.

        In retrospect a lot of the interiors of the ’80s look better, but at the time the ’90s plastics were seen as a big improvement. I know the ’96 Taurus was one of the first places Ford ever used soft touch paint, for instance.

  • avatar
    Halftruth

    Good read. I am glad to see this car still doing duty. While they did get alot of things right with the LH, the front end sloppiness was not one. I replaced inner tie rod bushing twice on my LHS and the cradle bushings needed replacing as well.
    Nothing too difficult but definitely needed to sharpen up the steering/handling.
    And yes, they love to push the front wheels in a corner. I found if you want to have fun with them, lock out the overdrive to have some engine RPMs helping out.
    I know they sold these with a full bench and column shift but the buckets are nice too and they wear very well. Keep us updated on the good and bad.

  • avatar
    Jean-Pierre Sarti

    I remember renting one of these for a cross country trip. Wonderfully comfortable for long trips and yes the trunk could almost pass for a NYC micro apartment.

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    Chrysler made a huge deal out of the “cab-forward” LH layout when they first came out. Hanging the differential and axles off the side of the bellhousing did make for some odd handling traits, like a FWD Audi or Subaru.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Uncle and Aunt who were farmers had an early 80s Grand Prix (coupe), followed by a late 80s Oldsmobile 98, followed by an LHS, followed by a V6 Lucerne.

    There’s a theme in there somewhere.

  • avatar
    cgjeep

    They made a contented version of the LHS called the New Yorker. It had bench seats.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    The 300Ms were rockets. What the STS was supposed to be. I will never forget seeing one chirp second after taking off from a light.

    Seems like ~250 HP is about the limit of what makes sense for a streetable FWD car, and these had more than that with linguine chasses from what I remember. These were not cars meant to be hurried at all.

    • 0 avatar
      nrd515

      300M a rocket? Wow, an LX 300 or Charger R/T with a 5.7 hemi must seem like it has warp drive to you! My neighbor’s last car was a 300M, in silver, he got sick soon after buying it, and his wife kept the car until a couple of years ago, when it was replaced by a 2013 300C. I drove the old car a couple of times, along with having an LHS and Concorde loaners, and there’s nothing rocketlike about any of them, even with the biggest engine available, the 3.5. They were “ehh” at best. With a 2.7, they were, well, pitiful.

      • 0 avatar
        danio3834

        The 3.5L HO equipped LH cars were late 90’s fast. It’s relative. High 15s in the 1/4 for a mid/large every day sedan was pretty respectable at the time.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Nice article Vojta.

  • avatar
    Carrera

    Great article! It reminds me of the time in 2006 I went and visited family in Romania. A cousin of my dad’s sent a 1996 Dodge Intrepid 3.5L to Romania sometimes back in 2004. They’ve tried to register it there but due to the bureaucracy, it was mission impossible. Back in early 2000s, Romania’s car registration laws were not harmonized with EU at all. Actually even now, they are not 100% harmonized. Because the vehicle was not from the EU and the engine was gargantuan in comparison to Romanian standards, the registration tax would have been about $2,000 for a car worth about 900. They kept the vehicle registered in Florida and every year they would purchase expensive European insurance ( called a green card at that time).
    The vehicle was not in the best shape. I would say that it was probably totaled in an accident in USA and fixed before exportation. It was a good enough repair job, but the headlights were not OEM and were very dull and dim, the paint was faded in few places, the transmission felt very fragile, the seat belts were for cosmetic purpose only and didn’t lock, the two airbags I don’t think were present, the AC was gone, and the suspension/steering linkages were gone. It felt scary to drive in the beginning because the steering was very loose and I had to think before I turned. After I turned the steering wheel, it took a second or two before car changed direction. Frightening in the beginning, but I learned to cope. I drove the vehicle for about 22 days while visiting. On the hwy it was great. Because it was the top of the line Intrepid, it had trip calculator, instant fuel consumption, leather seats and other “luxuries”. The fuel consumption was about 30mpg HWY at 55mph which was about maximum possible for those highways. As soon as I would drive into town, the fuel economy would go to 15-16 mpg which was appalling when taking into consideration that gas was about $ 6/gall at that time. Since the car was given to me to use for free, I didn’t complain. The car was a pain to drive in town. Often times, it was just downright huge. Very hard to manoeuver in parking lots and generally on city streets where the average vehicle Dacia Logan is the size of a Hyundai Accent. The car got a lot of looks because there weren’t too many American vehicles of that vintage in town ( decent size, 350,000 people). The only other comparable vehicle I saw was a 1993 Buick Lesabre 3.8l with New York plates. That was another dinosaur that was impossible to register in Romania in mid 2000s. It belonged to some Romanians who moved back after a 6-7 year stint in New York State.
    At the end of my trip, I returned the car to my dad’s cousin. A few months later, I heard that he scrapped it for parts and got about $150 for it at a junk yard when the transmission was finally on its last legs and was prohibitively too expensive to fix. He was rarely driving it anyway and the insurance alone was about $ 700/year which for Romanian standards at the time was a lot of money. Good memories though.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      So in Romania you can still have you car registered in a state *from another country* and its legal, but not actually in Romania.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        Things not worth your time:

        -Shipping a beat up 10-year old Intrepid to Romania.

        Now that that’s out of the way, this sounds like a huge mess, and something where you’re not likely to have real coverage in an accident anyway. You’re running it on FL plates in Romania then? So do you get pulled over all the time?

        If not, and they aren’t paying attention (and don’t even know what a FL plate should look like) I probably wouldn’t bother with registering it, lol.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          “Things not worth your time:

          -Shipping a beat up 10-year old Intrepid to Romania.”

          You forgot the reason of: because I can.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Yeah, but still! We have so many affordable used things here you could send back, since you’re paying the same shipping fee.

            A nice frameless window 96 ES300 comes to mind.

        • 0 avatar
          Carrera

          Corey,
          I think they paid about $900 for the car at an auction in Florida. It had about 90,000 miles and the title was for a totaled and fixed car. They’ve shipped it from JAX to Bremerhaven-Germany for about 600. Drove it to Romania. From what I understand when the car was shipped to Romania in 2002-2003 it wasn’t in that crappy shape. Remember, in 2003 the car was only 6-7 years old. A comparable European car would have been a lot more money, but much more convenient to own. As for the plates, the cops didn’t care. As long as registration in Florida was current ( and it was) and my driver license was from Florida ( and it was) they didn’t bother me at all. I heard that if you had a Romanian DL, they would harass and wanted to see if you had a notarized paper from the owner which allowed one to drive the car. This was not my first time driving a Florida registered card in Romania. Back in 1997, I helped my dad drive his 1992 Toyota Pick-up from Bremerhaven to Romania. The truck was in excellent shape and only had 74,000 miles when we took it. That truck is like a time capsule now. It only has 76k miles but hasn’t been driven in over 5 years. It has been in a garage for all this time. My father has passed away unexpectedly 2 years ago and I think as per Romanian law, the truck belongs to me now. Last time I drove it was back in 2004 or so and it was in great shape with everything working ( AC, radio). The only weird thing was the 3rd gear was popping-out upon accelerating ( 5sp, manual of course). When the cops saw Florida plate, Florida DL, the traffic stop was over.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Thanks for the detail. That nice truck will be ruined if someone doesn’t keep it up and drive it!

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            “When the cops saw Florida plate, Florida DL, the traffic stop was over.”

            This is so hilarious to me.

          • 0 avatar
            Onus

            Neat, that you could get away with that. Romanian Customs didn’t care that the car was in Romania for years? It seems most countries have time limits that you can temporarily import cars. The US itself only allows a year. Many countries have similar restrictions.

      • 0 avatar
        Carrera

        28 cars,
        My trip was back in 2006. After Romania joined EU in 2007 cars registered in other countries ( Bulgaria) mostly became very common. There were some technicalities involved with Bulgarian plates, but those were cars that couldn’t have been registered in Romania anyway. Most of them didn’t have insurance and I think at this time, that practice is not too common.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      Those may have been the stock headlights. The early LH cars had notoriously terrible headlights.

      • 0 avatar
        Carrera

        DAL20402,
        Yes the lights were beyond bad. They weren’t too cloudy, they were misaligned and the lens inside was not shiny anymore. The light was dispersed all over the road and only about 20-30 feet in front. The only saving grace were the driving/fog lights. They were ok but unfortunately were good for very close-up and that was about it. If I turned those off, couldn’t see much at all. In town it was ok because of streetlights. Out of town, at night, I was asking for trouble. High beams helped a little but not much. I just tried to avoid driving at night on the hwy. I felt so bad that when I came back home to USA I wanted to order a pair of headlights from rockauto or whatever and mail them to him in Romania but by then he was going to junk the car.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Why do the rear fender emblems say “LHS” but the trunk says “New Yorker”? I’m wondering if the trunk deck is original to the car or if someone was drunk on the day of assembly because “New Yorker” isn’t a peel off emblem in those years as it was previously in script.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      It’s got the floor shifter, so that makes it an LHS. So it has the wrong trunk lid.

      I am unable to determine if the New Yorker vs. LHS in 1994, if one of them got the Pentastar logo and one got the Chrysler seal.

    • 0 avatar
      Vojta Dobeš

      Maybe it has something to do with the reason why at least one body panel if slightly different shade of silver(ish). I guess the poor thing’s been accident.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        Here’s the oddity, assuming it was in an accident why was a “New Yorker” trunk sourced instead of the appropriate “LHS”? The LH New Yorker only sold 61,202 units to the LHS’ 152,762 so its nearly a 3:1 ratio to have used an “LHS” deck. I speculate:

        1. The car was in a rear collision and due to the fact you are in Czech Republic a silverish trunk deck was sourced and it just happened to be from the rarer New Yorker by chance.

        or

        2. Due the fact it was an export car Chrysler mixed and matched the trunk decks as policy (to save money?), or it was mismatched during original assembly by your friendly UAW employees.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chrysler_New_Yorker

        • 0 avatar
          danio3834

          CAW, bro. Give credit where it’s due ;)

        • 0 avatar
          SC5door

          The car isn’t an export LHS.

          It’s missing amber turn signals on the rear, and side repeaters.

          Also the small strip at the bottom of the trunk lid is a trim item. If the car was rear ended the wrong strip could have been ordered and snapped on…typically when parts are ordered from a junk yard..ect where PN#’s can be crossed.

          • 0 avatar
            Vojta Dobeš

            Hm, one more idea just crossed my mind. For quite some time, it was nearly impossible to import any car older than 8 years to Czech Republic (later, it was any car older than 8 years that wasn’t originally sold in EU, now, it’s any car older than 8 years that’s not imported from EU country), or to be more precise, it was impossible to register it.

            Thus, when one car died for some reason, the title from it was re-used on an imported vehicle. Even if it was just similar.

            So, in case someone had a New Yorker documents and imported an LHS, or vice versa, he would add the emblems to the car to match the papers. But that would mean that the VIN was tampered with (or there would be some paper trail if it was done legally as “body replacement”). I’ll look into it tommorrow.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            It also appears that the speedo is not primarily in metric. MPH + LHD = US spec.

  • avatar
    Featherston

    “Rear wheel drive costs money.” Is that actually true? Jeremy Clarkson, nobody’s expert on engineering or economics, said that once, and it’s been repeated on the internet ever since. In today’s market, rear wheel drive certainly *correlates* to expensive luxury offerings, but do production costs differ much from those for front wheel drive? Obviously there are other variables at play, such as choosing whether or not to go with an independent rear suspension or if you’re basing your design off an existing platform, which will move costs one way or the other.

    Not flaming, just asking.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      It is, in a way:

      * You need a differential and torque tube
      * The rear suspension design is either much more complex and expensive, or a Panther-style solid axle
      * For the size of the car, you get much less interior space

      The big issue is that you’re at a weight, packaging and fuel-economy disadvantage versus a front-drive car. Which means you either sell a small, more thirsty car for the same money—which people will not buy—or you sell it for more money and add more features. That means your car will, by default, be somewhat bespoke and you won’t be able to share the platform out with a larger lineup of cars and amortize the costs even further.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      Assembling a fwd unibody vehicle can be done incredibly efficiently: the engine, transmission with axles, are all mounted to the subframe, which is then lifted up into the unibody and bolted on. No rear end or driveshafts to worry about.

    • 0 avatar
      Featherston

      Thanks, guys.

      I don’t disagree on those points, but my guess is that while there may be extra costs associated with rear wheel drive, they’re not huge relative to the overall cost of manufacturing a given vehicle. For example, I don’t see an independent, multi-link rear suspension in a FWD drive car as being significantly cheaper than an independent, multi-link suspension in a RWD car. We can’t really compare apples to apples here, since no one to my knowledge makes a standalone FWD luxury car – the MKS, TLX, XTS, Maxima, and so forth, all having mainstream siblings. I think you’re right in that there are incremental costs associated with a standalone RWD platform that are better borne out in the luxury market.

      I guess my gripe centers around the facts that:
      – Clarkson can be full of crap, and annoyingly some people seem to consider him a subject matter expert rather than an entertainer.
      – FWD tends to be a better layout for compacts and subcompacts (and to a lesser extent for midsizes intended to be driven at less than seven-tenths) primarily because of space efficiency, not because of cheapness.
      – RWD makes more sense within a luxury midsize or luxury fullsize equation, but I don’t think it’s the major driving force in the cost of the vehicle.

      If front wheel drive were worlds cheaper–and I guess no one other than Clarkson has argued or implied that–Detroit would’ve commenced cranking out FWD Fords, Chevrolets, and Plymouths at some point in the ’30s or ’50s (advances in CV joints being a necessary precursor).

      Good discussion.

      • 0 avatar
        psarhjinian

        “example, I don’t see an independent, multi-link rear suspension in a FWD drive car as being significantly cheaper than an independent, multi-link suspension in a RWD car.”

        It is cheaper.

        It didn’t matter when you could just make cars bigger and bigger to deal with the loss of space. Plus, back then, you didn’t have to worry about independent suspension and rear-drive was easier than front-drive because of CV joints and the whole front suspension.

        The oil crisis changed the equation: suddenly you could just throw size and power at the problem.

        Rear-drive is easy to do crudely but expensive to do if you have to meet modern standards for weight, fuel and packaging. Front-drive is cheaper to do, given the requirements of a modern automotive market.

        • 0 avatar
          krhodes1

          RWD in and of itself is not much of a space robber these days, given that almost everything is designed to allow for that all-important AWD option. The space saver is the transverse mounted engine and FWD proportions with the engine set way forward. Of course, as this Chrysler shows (and old Audis and Renaults, you can do longitudinal engines with the engine hung way out front, but then the handling is utter crap.

          IIRC, the reason for the drivetrain layout in these cars is that Chrysler intended to have both FWD and RWD versions of the platform, as well as for interior room. And all of them share a bit of DNA with the Renault 25 (sold here as the Eagle Premier / Dodge Monaco) by way of AMC.

          As for the cost question – without a doubt for small cars FWD is much cheaper. For a big luxury car? I would not be so sure – it takes a LOT of clever and expensive engineering to make a big, powerful FWD car drive and handle properly. To the point where the cost savings probably evaporate. At which point you just make the thing AWD (at least optionally) anyway.

          • 0 avatar
            dtremit

            My guess is that the FWD advantages for luxury cars largely come in platform sharing, not direct savings. If only 20% of the cars built on the platform have the clever expensive bits, you still come out ahead.

            Fuel economy is the other big question — my understanding is that it’s hard to avoid about a 10% penalty over FWD, given the same car and powerplant. Of course that’s negated in AWD, but again, if the volume model isn’t equipped, there can still be a CAFE advantage.

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        The front-drive packaging advantage is the other big part of this, even in the larger categories. A large midsize or small fullsize front-driver can have limo-style room in a tidy package. To get that sort of room in a rear-driver you end up with behemoths like the extended-wheelbase Germans.

        • 0 avatar
          krhodes1

          The space robbing is due to setting the engine way back in the chassis for handling (and looks) more than RWD. My 3-series has a smaller console and rear seat driveshaft tunnel than a lot of nominally FWD cars do these days. The days of flat floors in FWD cars are pretty much gone. The FWD mid-sizers are big inside because they are BIG outside too.

  • avatar
    Scoutdude

    Take a look under that hood and back of the car again. The LH cars were designed to take a V8 and have RWD or have that V6 and AWD. That is why they are actually windshield forward cars. You’ll find the firewall way back from the base of the windshield to allow for that V8 to slip in there. That is why the V6 is longitudinally mounted and the transaxle dictated by that layout is why they understeer so bad because that pushed the V6 so far forward and up. Chrysler did huge police business at the time thanks to much lower pricing that the others and they didn’t want to give it up. However they ran out of money to tool up for the RWD and AWD components.

    The original plans for the LX cars was just a mild refresh and a dusting off of the designs for the AWD and RWD systems. Once Damiler tok over they said no we are not paying for the tooling for your AWD transaxle and RWD differential so go back to the drawing board and incorporate our parts.

    • 0 avatar
      KalapanaBlack

      I’m not doubting you, but I have never heard this anywhere else. I have heard many times that the engine layout was necessitated by the LH having been developed from the Renault based Premier/Monaco, longitudinal FWD having long been a Renault design quirk. I have also heard that rumblings of possible AWD development in the LH happening if demand was there, which it largely was not. Your story is interesting, and quite possible as Chrysler has long been both nearly broke (thus reusing the Renault engineering in the LH), full of scrappy/unorthodox engineers (thus planning a modular FWD/AWD V6/V8 platform), or some combination of both (supporting some mix of both stories).

      Any supporting info for your version of events? I’m genuinely interested in the minutiae of long-ago car design decisions!

      • 0 avatar
        mdensch

        Thank you. I was hoping someone else remembered that Chrysler had nothing to do with engineering the LH platform. They inherited it from AMC/Renault when they bought AMC and it was just what Chrysler needed for a large, more efficient FWD platform going forward. Chrysler engineers would never have designed a longitudinal engine layout, that was a Renault affectation that the French company had been using for decades (like the ’69 Renault 16 I once owned).

        It is too bad that the Germans unceremoniously dumped the LH platform when Daimler took over the company. It would have been interesting to see it evolve.

  • avatar
    Whatnext

    Thanks for the great article and photos, I had forgotten what attractive cars these were, in and out. And look at that gloriously usable trunk opening! A lost art.

  • avatar
    honda_lawn_art

    Thanks for the article.

    I’ve read that the LH cars trace their lineage to the Eagle Premier, a design Chrysler inherited from AMC/Renault, specifically the Renault 25. And if you look up an image of the 25’s engine bay from the era, there sits a longitudinally mounted engine ahead of the front wheels.

    • 0 avatar
      dtremit

      I seem to recall comments being made at the time of the merger that the Premier was a big part of what Chrysler saw in AMC.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        They were not after the Premier, they wanted the plant that was built to build it, that was the value in the non-Jeep portion of the deal. Yes they share the longitudinal drive layout but Drysler did it that was to make the platform could handle RWD and AWD. Over at Allpar an engineer has noted repeatedly that they had the designs all done, they just needed to tool up for a few of the pieces and that they could run them on the same line.

    • 0 avatar
      Wheeljack

      Francois Castaing stayed with AMC when Chrysler bought them. He was put in charge of engineering, and he was known for preferring the longitudinal layout on FWD cars. And you are right about the Eagle Premier – from underneath they look an awful lot like an LH car, minus the ZF transaxle the Premier used.

  • avatar
    calgarytek

    Nice article. For some reason I really love American cars in foreign countries.

    I’m not disappointed, but if I had my pick, I’d get a Honda Legend of that vintage. Why Chrysler couldn’t fit an upper control arm into each front corner is beyond me…

  • avatar
    SC5door

    We had a 93 Intrepid 3.5 that was an early build unit:

    Other than the lack of a proper headrest the seats were extremly comfortable in that car (cloth). The car was put together pretty well, except for the typical water pump on the 3.5L going bad, and some leaky gaskets. No transmission issues either. I”ve seen plenty of examples of the warped airbag cover as well….mine never did but it was garage kept.

    It was also by far the brightest interior at night as well: puddle lamps in all 4 doors (appears that one is burned out in the OP’s LHS), lights over the rear doors, dome lamp, and map lights up front.

    Always loved the LHS and Intrepid, but never cared for the Concorde and Vision.

    BTW 3.5L with dual throttle bodies FTW. Personally I think it looked better under the hood than the Taurus SHO’s engine.

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      “I”ve seen plenty of examples of the warped airbag cover as well”

      I’ve seen this with Volvo 850’s, at least Chrysler interiors of that time wren’t that hard to work on.

      Which SHO are you referring to?

  • avatar
    Lorenzo

    Well, being more super-annuated than most people here, I can remember when the LHS would have been considered mid-sized. I had a mid-sized ’68 Mercury Montego, which was an inch shorter, had a 3 inch longer wheelbase, and was one inch wider – and weighed 100 lbs. less.

    By contrast, the last true full size car I owned, a ’63 Chrysler Newport, was 8 inches longer, 6 inches wider and had a whopping 9 inch longer wheelbase, and weighed only 500 lbs more than the LHS.

    Still, I can’t imagine driving an LHS on some of the narrow roads in the Czech Republic. There must be places you just can’t go! At least it should require less fuel than the Town Car to get there.

    • 0 avatar
      Vojta Dobeš

      I drove a ’88 Caprice as a daily driver for quite some time. I also owned a ’68 Galaxie and while it was big, it wasn’t terrible to drive around here. The biggest car I’ve driven on Czech roads was a 1971 Imperial LeBaron (or, to be precise, two different examples of it), and my former boss drove a ’10 Suburban daily. No problem with any of that, it never happened that I couldn’t get anywhere.

      But I took that Suburban on a work trip to Normandy, and boy it sucked there. It seems that there’s a HUGE difference between French roads (and, by that token, probably also rural English, Spanish or Italian ones), and Czech roads.

      Also, fullsize buses go to almost all the villages in the Czech Republic, even the tiniest ones, on tiniest roads. A bus is still quite a lot bigger than an LHS :)

      P.S.:
      The LHS gets same fuel mileage as Town Car. Almost exactly.

      • 0 avatar

        Very nice article.

        I lived in France 50 years ago, for a year, and yes, the roads were a bit snug for American cars. (My parents bought a Peugeot 404.) Somewhere around that time there was a humorous film, La Belle Americaine, about some French people with an American car.

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    I had the chance to ride in a Concord relative to one of these, it was a pretty comfy ride, even better than a newer Mercedes I’ve rode in.

    I’ve always been worried with working on these though, sideways V6’s tend to make for jammed up engine space.

    These made a wave when they were new though, just a shame that the later face-lifts kinda spoiled whatever luxurious “presence” these cars had.

    I still say the perfect “rational” car would be a mini-van, more space than a wagon while still using regular car bits.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Interesting LH article:

    http://www.allpar.com/history/lh-manufacturing.html

  • avatar
    Brock_Landers

    Good review! Vojta you are my favourite author on this site after Baruth!

  • avatar
    pheanix

    The Euro looking dash kills it for me, there’s no reason why an American car should look like it’s “imported from Detroit.” But then, I’m kinda old-fashioned. A boring interior and dash design (all subjective, of course) would always prevent me from considering buying a vehicle, regardless of any other pros and cons. This car hails from the 90s, when the domestic auto makers were beginning to be ashamed of looking American, a trend that has largely continued (and arguably increased) since.

    I love Detroit styling cues inside and out. So… this could never compete against a Townie for me (not to mention, I prefer the RWD BoF ride to what this has to offer).

    Great review, good luck with that one!


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