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

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis

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]

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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  • 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.

  • IBx1 Never got the appeal of these; it looks like there was a Soviet mandate to create a car with two doors and a roof that could be configured in different ways.
  • CAMeyer Considering how many voters will be voting for Trump because they remember that gas prices were low in 2020–never mind the pandemic—this seems like a wise move.
  • The Oracle Been out on the boat on Lake James (NC) and cooking up some hella good food here with friends at the lake place.
  • ToolGuy Also on to-do list: Read the latest Steve S. fiction work on TTAC (May 20 Junkyard Find)
  • 1995 SC I'm likely in the minority, but I really liked the last Eldorado best. That and the STS.