By on June 9, 2021

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]

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25 Comments on “Rare Rides: The 1990 Chrysler LeBaron GTC Turbo Convertible, Variable Driving Excitement (Part I)...”

  • avatar

    Do want…

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  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    My 85 H-Body LeBaron GTS was excellent, accumulating more miles and more years than any car I’ve owned, and finally bit the dust in 2000. Thankfully, it was a non-turbo 5-speed, which would be a very rare ride today.

    Chrysler leveraged the successful K-series for all it was worth.

    • 0 avatar

      Had an 88 coupe as a rental for a month… really liked it…

      I would take an 88 coupe with 5sp/turbo today… love that black one up top even more…

      Not to say either would be better than an 88 T-Bird Turbo coupe

  • avatar

    Excellent research Corey, I had no idea “LeBaron” was a reference to a 1930s coachbuilder. Chrysler put it on everything in the late 70s to 80s, I figured it was their equivalent to “brougham”.

    LeBaron all the things.

    • 0 avatar

      I didn’t know it either until yesterday. Apparently a fairly popular company, who did work for all the big names. Eventually they started working for Chrysler above all others before the buyout.

      • 0 avatar

        The trim name may have made sense in the 1950s and 60s but by the 80s I’m not sure it had any cachet. Even among the elderly of the time, were any of them really thinking “Wow, LeBaron made pseudo luxury K-car where do I sign?”. I think its example of something which may have meant something but the original meaning was long lost. For instance to my reelection “GMC” originally stood for “General Motors Canada” but since has become an acronym for rebadged Chevrolet models.

  • avatar
    C5 is Alive

    That’s a 1992 GTC coupe in the header photo, not a 1990. The pairing of the pre-1993 hidden headlights with the 1993-1995 amber tail lights gives it away, as do the 16″ wheels later seen on the 1993-1997 Concorde and LHS.

    From the headline, I’m guessing Corey’s found a very rare ’90 Turbo IV car with the variable nozzle turbo.

  • avatar

    I always thought that generation coupe was pretty.Kind of the end of the PLC era, but adapted for the times. I have an irrational attraction to AA body sedans- good simple roomy no nonsense car.

  • avatar
    cimarron typeR

    I remember a friends dad bought a new white/grey leather turbo vert Lebaron .Looked really cool. The dad was kind of a DB though.Mostly he spent tennis practice sucking on his pipe and looking condescendingly at the rest of us in our station wagons.
    Little did he know , he wasn’t the cool Dad after all. It was the family that owned what must’ve been the first E36 sedan in southwest MO and an Impulse RS Turbo. Both red. Both manuals.

  • avatar

    This was the best of the K-cars, and those wheels were the second best wheels ever put on a K-car, after the flat-face round-hole wheels that were on some GLH and Shelby Chargers.

  • avatar
    Art Vandelay

    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.

  • avatar

    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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