Rare Rides: The 1990 Chrysler LeBaron GTC Turbo Convertible, Variable Driving Excitement (Part I)

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis

Today’s Rare Ride is one of the rarest versions of Chrysler’s third-generation LeBaron, in its run up to the final days and the conclusion of the very long-lived K-car platform. Sporty, turbocharged, and done up in black, the LeBaron had a long and winding road to get to its terminus.

Let’s talk about that history a bit.

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen the LeBaron name here at Rare Rides: In 2018 we featured this exceptionally rare LeBaron Town & Country woody wagon from 1978. That wagon eventually turned into the non-LeBaron (but same idea) Town & Country K-car wagon in the Eighties.

LeBaron was an independent coachbuilder once, and started building bodies for Chrysler in the 1930s. When Chrysler created the Imperial brand to compete with the likes of Cadillac, Packard, and Lincoln in 1931, some cars at the top of the range were fitted with luxurious bodies produced by LeBaron. When the Airflow’s overall styling was a flop, Chrysler went conservative and hired away a co-founder at LeBaron to rework the company’s styling. Eventually Chrysler bought out LeBaron entirely in 1953, and by that time the company had absorbed another coachbuilder: Briggs.

The name went dormant for a short while, until LeBaron appeared as the upscale trim of the new Imperial in 1956. The name became its own model in 1977 upon the creation of the M-body (Diplomat) based cars. At that point, it was available as sedan, wagon, and coupe.

LeBaron’s second gen for 1982 through 1988 kept all extant body styles of the first edition, and added on a convertible (available through 1986). After ’86 second-gen LeBaron coupes and convertibles were replaced in a move from the K-body to the new extended J-body. Keep in mind there was another LeBaron at the time as well, the five-door LeBaron GTS on the H-platform. That one was an upscale version of the Dodge Lancer.

The second-gen LeBaron sedan continued on through the ’89 model year before it was replaced with its third generation (1990-1994). That one resided on the AA-body K variant, and was the decked-out version of the Dodge Spirit and Plymouth Acclaim. It’s all a model and trim jumble, but that was just how Chrysler operated in the Eighties.

Complexities over, we’re caught up to relatively present day and the modern iteration of LeBaron. Next time we’ll talk all about the Eighties and turbocharging.

[Images: Chrysler]

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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  • Art Vandelay Art Vandelay on Jun 09, 2021

    A girl I knew back in the day had one of these. She went through a growing up of sorts...Changed her name from Kitty to Karen and traded her MG for a white Chrysler Labaron. She was very excited a bout the reliability (wanted a car that would get her there) and loved the cupholder armrest.

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    • Art Vandelay Art Vandelay on Jun 09, 2021

      @bumpy ii It was hard to notice the skirt...she always had such a long jacket on.

  • Slavuta Slavuta on Jun 09, 2021

    Ok, I had a 1987 4 door variant. Extremely unreliable car. Huge turbo lag Fun stuff. I have some guy living in my development, has last gen convertible and uses it as truck bed for carrying lawn moving equipment. He basically does some property work for his neighbors using this convertible.

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