Rare Rides: The 1986 Chrysler Town & Country Wagon - Adventures in Vinyl

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis

Rare Rides previously featured the last rear-drive Town & Country wagon, a model closely related to the sturdy and reliable M-body Dodge Diplomat. Today’s wagon is a sign of its times: It’s front-drive, efficient, and based on the K-car platform (like 98 percent of Chrysler’s offerings for the years 1981 through 1995).

Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

The M-body seventh-generation LeBaron Town & Country linked above was a short-lived product offering. Available only between 1978 and 1981, its short life came down to changing fortunes at Chrysler. By the early Eighties, ChryCo was out of money, launching minivans, and in the midst of switching up the rest of its product to front-drive.

After the 1981 run of rear-drive Town & Country wagons, the Chrysler factory at Newark, Delaware switched its production line over to front-drive K cars. All eighth-generation Town & Country wagons were made in Newark, bearing model years between 1982 and 1988.

The luxurious Town & Country wagon shared its panels with the new and plebeian LeBaron wagon, but maintained exclusivity via copious vinyl wood cladding like in prior Town & Country generations. There was also a Town & Country convertible, which marked the first time that badge graced a drop top since 1968.

Town & Country vehicles used the same four-cylinder engines as found in other K cars, which ranged in displacement from 2.2- to 2.6-liters. All engines were Chrysler-sourced apart from the 2.6, which was donated by Mitsubishi. Unique for an American-branded wagon, a turbocharger was also available on the 2.2-liter engine. The only transmission offered was a three-speed automatic.

By 1988 the family wagon was on the way out, mostly due to the minivan offerings Chrysler pioneered in North America. After one last hurrah, the Town & Country wagon disappeared permanently. No vehicle used the name in 1989, but in 1990 a new type of vehicle wore the Town & Country badge: a minivan. And it kept the wood paneling, too.

Today’s Rare Ride is for sale in Cincinnati. With just 58,000 miles traveled since 1986, it’s about as clean as they come. A knowledgeable dealer seemingly attributes the Town & Country as the ultimate K-car (wrong) and the car which saved Chrysler (also wrong), and asks $9,995.

[Images: seller]

Corey Lewis
Corey Lewis

Interested in lots of cars and their various historical contexts. Started writing articles for TTAC in late 2016, when my first posts were QOTDs. From there I started a few new series like Rare Rides, Buy/Drive/Burn, Abandoned History, and most recently Rare Rides Icons. Operating from a home base in Cincinnati, Ohio, a relative auto journalist dead zone. Many of my articles are prompted by something I'll see on social media that sparks my interest and causes me to research. Finding articles and information from the early days of the internet and beyond that covers the little details lost to time: trim packages, color and wheel choices, interior fabrics. Beyond those, I'm fascinated by automotive industry experiments, both failures and successes. Lately I've taken an interest in AI, and generating "what if" type images for car models long dead. Reincarnating a modern Toyota Paseo, Lincoln Mark IX, or Isuzu Trooper through a text prompt is fun. Fun to post them on Twitter too, and watch people overreact. To that end, the social media I use most is Twitter, @CoreyLewis86. I also contribute pieces for Forbes Wheels and Forbes Home.

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  • HotPotato HotPotato on May 05, 2020

    Remember the massive rear end sag on these things, even when new? Apparently 1980s bumper height requirements only applied to the front, because lots of cars, including the 1980s VW Scirocco, had the low-rider look: nose pointed to the sky with 4x4 fender gap, tail pointed to the ground and seemingly riding on the bump stops.

  • 28-Cars-Later 28-Cars-Later on May 06, 2020

    I'm sure its clean for its age but what was the intended lifespan of one of these out of the gate? 80K? I realize no one is really going to be DD'ing this but I wonder if this isn't museum grade (which I don't think it is) who is buying this for any reasonable amount of money let alone the insane $10K stickered?

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