Junkyard Gem: 1990 Chrysler LeBaron GT Convertible


When Chrysler sprang back to life under Lee Iacocca and his K-Cars, the flagship of the new front-wheel-drive order was the luxurious new 1982 LeBaron convertible, which shoved aside the drab and antiquated Dodge Diplomat-based 1981 LeBaron. The LeBaron sedan got the axe after 1989, with only sporty coupes and devil-may-care ragtops given LeBaron badges after that. Here’s an example of the third-generation LeBaron convertible, found in a Colorado wrecking yard a few months ago.

There were four trim levels of LeBaron convertible available for the 1990 model year: Highline, Premium, GT and GTC. Today’s Junkyard Gem is a second-from-the-top GT, which had an MSRP of $17,799 (about $43,383 in 2023 dollars).

The intake manifold may bear the Chrysler name, but this engine is three liters of pure Mitsubishi 6G72 power. With 141 horsepower and 171 pound-feet, this engine was  standard equipment on the GT convertible (if you bought the GTC Coupe, you got a 175-horse 2.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder).

The idea of a Detroit luxury machine with a manual transmission seems strange today… and it was also somewhat strange 33 years ago. The original buyer of this car almost certainly had the money for the optional automatic ($552, or $1,314 today) but preferred the five-on-the-floor manual. With a curb weight of just 2,775 pounds, this car would have been plenty of fun to drive with a three-pedal setup.

The resemblance between this car and its far more expensive first cousin, Chrysler’s TC by Maserati, was all too obvious to TC shoppers. Yes, that’s genuine Corinthian Leather on the seats.

Driver’s-side airbags were rare on 1990 US-market cars, but Chrysler was ahead of the competition with this safety feature.

This car nearly reached 275,000 miles during its life. Who says a convertible doesn’t make a good daily commuter?

It looks to have been in good condition at the end, though the driver’s door latch mechanism needed to be reattached via welding repairs at some point.

The retractable headlight covers are open in these photos. Chrysler ditched the hidden headlights for the 1993 LeBarons; production ended after 1995.

There is no luxury without engineering.

In Canada, Céline Dion pitched this generation of LeBaron convertible. Prenez de l’avance avec Chrysler.

It’s good to see that Chrysler didn’t give up on LeBaron convertible advertising during the car’s final year.

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