Junkyard Find: 1978 Chrysler LeBaron Coupe
The LeBaron name goes well back in Chrysler history, starting when the coachbuilder known as LeBaron Carrossiers was purchased by Detroit car-body-builder Briggs Manufacturing in 1926 and Chrysler bought Briggs in 1953. After various high-end Imperials got LeBaron branding over the decades, Chrysler decided to turn the Dodge Diplomat into a swanky luxury machine and revive the storied LeBaron name in the process. Here's one of those cars, found in a Denver boneyard recently.
This was the first time the LeBaron name was used as a standalone model name by Chrysler, which was in big financial trouble and sinking fast into danger of bankruptcy at the time.
This generation of LeBaron was sold for the 1977 through 1981 model years, and it was available as a coupe, sedan and wagon.
The two-door was a credibly rakish personal luxury coupe for its time, and probably cannibalized some sales from the Cordoba.
Plenty of cops and cabdrivers drove Diplomats and Gran Furies over the following decade, and all the faux-velour inside and opera lights outside couldn't erase that.
In 1978, a new LeBaron coupe started at $5,114, or about $24,885 in 2023 dollars, while a bigger and more opulent new Cordoba could be had for just $436 more.
Meanwhile, Dodge dealers were asking $4,991 for new '78 Diplomats ($24,286 today). Plymouth didn't come out with the Gran Fury until the 1980 model year.
The base engine was a 225-cubic-inch Slant-6 rated at 110 horsepower and 180 pound-feet. This car has the optional 318-cubic-inch V8, which had 140 horsepower and 245 pound-feet.
The 318 added $176 to the LeBaron's price tag ($856 in today's money), and it came with the often-troublesome computer-controlled Lean Burn ignition system.
Sold by Roger Mauro, who was well-known for his racing prowess around these parts.
The interior doesn't seem so bad, but the vinyl roof got nuked decades ago.
The trunk must have filled with water every time it rained or snowed, so it's rusty.
Worth restoring? Not in this condition.
Not many car shoppers bought 1977-1981 LeBarons, and they're seriously rare today. When the LeBaron name went onto the flagship of Lee Iacocca's K-Cars starting with the 1982 model year, sales went very well.
The front-wheel-drive LeBarons stayed in production all the way through 1995.
Lighter, leaner, with a young aggressive style.
Get a little style in your life. Add a little life to your style. Sticker-priced like Cutlass Supreme.
[Images: The author]
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