By on June 10, 2021

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


  • avatar
    eggsalad

    “The new Sebring was ready, and would bring many affordable convertible buyers back to Chrysler.”

    You mean rental-car agencies, right? Right? Because I swear 75% of Sebring convertibles were purchased by Hertz, Avis, etc.

    • 0 avatar
      Car Ramrod

      Not so in Florida, where the retirees ate Sebrings up, even as they got uglier.

    • 0 avatar
      C5 is Alive

      Having worked at a Chrysler store in the Southwestern U.S. around this time, I can tell you we retailed at least two Sebring convertibles a week throughout most of 1998-1999, and seldom did we have more than 4-5 on the lot or in transit at any given time. Buyers loved them for what they were.

  • avatar
    eng_alvarado90

    “Across the line, manuals were provided by Getrag, and the automatics were from the Ultradrive range used on K-cars.”

    Only the 4 spd autos were from the Ultradrive variety. As I recall the 3 spd autos were still named Torqueflite.

    PS. Back in the mid to late 90s my uncle used to have a 1990 coupe with the Turbo engine and 3 spd. White exterior and red interior. As a kid back then I thought the red interior screamed good taste, LOL

    • 0 avatar
      spookiness

      IIRC, only the V-6 models had the 4-spd auto. I think all the 4-cyls still had a torqueflight. V-6 manuals are near-unicorns, but their existence has been documented.

      • 0 avatar
        C5 is Alive

        Correct, the A604 Ultradrive was a single transmission – not a family – and it wasn’t paired to any four-cylinder LeBarons or Daytonas in the U.S. market.

        The V-6/5-speed was kinda fun to toss around at first, but the car all-too easily revealed its K-Car origins (especially the flexy-bodied convertibles) and shifter throws were long enough to cross state lines.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    The ’93 GTC without the popup headlights has more than a passing resemblance to the MN12 Thunderbird of the same era.

  • avatar
    spookiness

    I had that exact 1.5 DIN size aftermarket Pioneer headunit in my Stratus. 20-something me thought it very nice, and I was insistent on something with a rotary volume knob.

    This is well known, but the successor Sebring convertible was a rare example of a convertible designed as a convertible without a coupe counterpart. The Sebring coupe was Mitsu-derived, while the JX platform Sebring was derived from and shared most gear with the JA platform “cloud” car sedans.

    • 0 avatar
      Car Ramrod

      In college I had that headunit as well, in my ZJ Grand Cherokee. 12 discs way in the back, one in the dash was as good as it got back then. Pioneer sold it for like 10 years, unchanged. There was a model with higher voltage preouts but I never saw one.

  • avatar
    ajla

    Arizona is kind of far away.

  • avatar
    Pig_Iron

    This is a nice break from obnoxious 4 door pickups.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Neat, but we must remember:

    Example’s mileage: 150,000 miles
    Intended lifetime: 100,000 miles

  • avatar
    bpscarguy

    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!

  • avatar
    LeBaron

    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.

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