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

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis
rare rides the 1990 chrysler lebaron gtc turbo convertible variable driving

In our last installment of the Chrysler LeBaron story, we covered the model’s inception via a coachbuilder in Detroit, and its development from a trim into its own model line.

Today we cover LeBaron’s last stand.

J-body LeBarons were offered from 1987 through 1993 as coupes, and 1995 as convertibles. The new generation was a big styling upgrade over the smaller, pre-87 version, and went more upscale with its luxury detailing and concealed headlamps. Built in Delaware and Missouri domestically, there was additional production in Toluca, Mexico. Examples sold south of the border were called the Chrysler Phantom. Considered a personal luxury car, the LeBaron stood on its own without a Dodge or Plymouth twin.

LeBaron was powered by one of three different 2.2-liter Turbo engines, in generations I to IV, the III being a Mexican market exclusive. Also available was a 2.5-liter naturally aspirated K-car engine, a 2.5-liter turbo, and the not-so-trusty 3.0-liter 6G72 V6 from Mitsubishi. Transmissions were five-speed manual or three-speed auto for 2.2- and 2.5-liter engines, but the V6 employed entirely different transmissions. There, automatics were three- or four-speed, and three different five-speed manuals were also on offer. Across the line, manuals were provided by Getrag, and the automatics were from the Ultradrive range used on K-cars.

Chrysler updated the LeBaron a couple times during its run, once in 1990 when there was a new interior design, and again in 1993 where the exterior visuals were updated and a passenger airbag added as optional extra. The rarest later LeBaron by far is a GTC coupe with the refreshed front end. Your author has never seen one, ever.

A number of trims were available on LeBaron, and in fact the most were offered in 1990 (six). Sporty versions included the GT and GT Turbo, and topped out at the GTC Turbo. The other three trims were more luxury oriented, and included Highline, Highline Turbo, and Premium.

Features of the GTC included monochromatic trim, discrete GTC badging, and the 2.2-liter turbocharged engine. That engine was the highlight of the GTC Turbo, and was updated to include variable nozzle turbo (VNT) technology in 1990. The engine technology first debuted in 1989 on the very limited run Shelby CSX ( after this one). Designed to reduce turbo lag, the Turbo IV had much improved boost at lower RPMs. Much better to drive than standard turbo engines of the time, the IV produced 174 horsepower and 210 lb-ft of torque.

By the ’95 model year, Chrysler was ready to wrap up LeBaron and indeed the K-car chapter entirely. The new Sebring was ready, and would bring many affordable convertible buyers back to Chrysler. Today’s Rare Ride is a clean black over gray GTC convertible from 1990, and one of 132 produced that year. With a manual transmission and 150,000 miles, it asks $4,200 in Arizona.

[Images: Chrysler]

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  • Bpscarguy Bpscarguy on Jun 11, 2021

    I had a 1990 convertible with the V6 and pretty loaded - but not leather. Had it in college and shortly after. Was dying for a convertible and it fit the bill. Was pretty darn trouble free. Had it for about 3.5 years. Bought it for $7000 with about 60K on it, sold it at about 90K for $6800!

  • LeBaron LeBaron on Jun 12, 2021

    They were also built at the Diamond Star plant in Normal Ill. I had a late build 1995 GTC that was built there. Granted, Mitsubishi was the sole owner of the plant by then, so they may have built it under contract. I enjoyed the hell out of that car and owned it for close to 25 years before donating it earlier this year. Still didn't have 100,000 miles on it but had too many issues to make it worth dealing with.

  • Ehaase 1980-1982 Cougar XR-7 shared its wheelbase and body with the Thunderbird. I think the Cougar name was used for the 1977 and 1981 sedans, regular coupe and wagons (1977 and 1982 only) in an effort to replicate Oldsmobile's success using the Cutlass name on all its intermediates, although I wonder why Ford bothered, as the Granada/Cougar were replaced by the Fox LTD/Marquis in 1983.
  • Ken Accomando The Mark VIII was actually designed before the aero Bird, but FMC was nervous about the huge change in design, so it followed the Thunderbird a year. Remember, at this time, the 1983 Thunderbird was the first new aero Ford, with the Tempo soon following. It seems so obvious now but Ford was concerned if their buyers would accept the new aero look! To get the Lincoln buyers warmed up, they also debuted for the 1982 auto show season the Lincoln Concept 90…which really previewed the new Mark VII. Also, the new 1983 Thunderbird and Cougar debuted a little late, in Nov 1982, so perhaps that’s why they were left out of the full line brochures.
  • Tassos This is yesterday;s news, or even the day before. I reported it here yesterday, and commented on it. Do wake up.
  • 2ACL As far as manufacturers with US operations go? Current Focus or Fiesta. Honda e.As for those with no US operations, I've been intrigued by the Peugeot 508 Sport Engineered and Vauxhall Corsa Electric.
  • Tassos SNAAB shot itself in the foot when it BASTARDIZED its unique brand by BADGE ENGINEERING its vehicles with GOD DAMNED GM, OPEL, CHEVY, LANCIA and who knows what other automotive RIFF RAFF. I know of no Saab Enthusiast (they do exist) who felt sorry when the stupid maker went BANKRUPT.