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Chrysler LeBaron Coupe and Convertible

by Rich Hutchinson

The J-body Chrysler Lebaron Coupe and Convertible debuted in 1987, filling the spot left by the loss of the Chrysler Laser and Lebaron. The cars had common roots in the old Plymouth Reliant "K cars," but carried an extended wheelbase, an updated suspension, and new styling (inside and out).

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The design was quite unlike anything else offered by Chrysler at the time; even today, they turn heads. It's not surprising that Chrysler chose the LeBaron for ARCA racing when they entered in 1989 - using their LA-family 355 V8. The classy yet sporty styling also helped it to sell in Germany with a $35,000 sticker price, according to a 1991 Business Week article.

We now have a photo essay showing the construction of the last St. Louis-made Chrysler Lebaron Convertible in 1991 and some photos of pre-production Lebarons.

The base engine was a 2.5 liter four-cylinder through 1993; also available, at various times, were a 2.2L turbocharged four-cylinder, two versions of the similar 2.5 Turbo (one with higher boost and torque - neither had an intercooler), and a Mitsubishi 3.0L V6. Each engine was available with either an automatic or a stick-shift.

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The interior was virtually the same as the Chrysler Laser (Daytona-based and completely different from the Plymouth Laser) - as were the engine choices.

  • The 1989 LeBaron came with a driver's side airbag, one of the first available in a mass-market car. Two turbos were available: the 2.2 and 2.5. The GTC five-speed came with the intercooled "Turbo II" engine.
  • The 1990 Lebaron and Daytona both gained interior updates and upgraded content; even the oddly named Highline (the base model) came with power windows and power heated mirrors [but not power locks, according to Rusty Shepherd]. The 2.5 turbo had a slight increase in horsepower and extra torque. The four speed automatic replaced the three-speed.
    The most exciting change was adding the Turbo IV engine, with a variable nozzle system (developed by Chrysler and the supplier) that boosted power, with better mileage.
  • 1991 LeBaron buyers wanting a 2.2 turbo would be disappointed; it wasn't available.
  • The 1993 LeBaron had a facelift, dropping the headlamp covers and updating the tail lamps. This was the last year for the coupe, but the convertible continued.

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The 1994 Lebaron was only available with the Mitsu 3.0 V6. A passenger side airbag was added, and the only trim level was "fully loaded," but Lebaron was still one of the best selling convertibles. The 1995 was the last, with just a few color changes to mark the end of the series.

<a name="german"></a>German Edition

In the 1990s, Business Week ran an article on Germans buying American cars, complete with a photograph of a LeBaron Coupe in Germany. In the land of Mercedes and BMW, people were paying $35,000 for Chryslers that, at the time, were generally disregarded on their home turf.

Michael Knigge filled us in on the LeBaron GTC and, in particular, the German variety:

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My LeBaron GTC is one of only a few equipped with this engine, I think not more than 100, which were officially built for Europe. Chrysler began in 1988 to sell cars in Germany with official dealers. My LeBaron convertible has this fabulous 2.2 litre Turbo II intercooler engine, which was also built into cars of the GS II / Daytona series.

It has manual 5-speed transmission and the acceleration was under 8 sec. 0-60. It was the most expensive motor-car, execpt Vans and Off-Roaders, Chrysler sold in that year. The price was 51.000,- Deutschmarks including VAT, in 1989. It features full leather seats, all powered roof, seats, windows, catalytic converter, European style stereo radio / cassette, but no AC. It still runs 27 miles per gallon.

Chrysler had a 3-year warranty up to 70.000 mls. [I believe] the European versions had lots of different technical features like the brakes and suspension, for the high speed driving on the autobahn. It has some German or European parts like like battery, electrics and radio. There were no options except the AC and some metallic colors. My one has PL8 dark pewter.

Today Chrysler sells about 20.000 cars a year in Germany, most of them minivans ( I have one ) and Cherokees. Only few are classical motor cars. They offer the Intrepid, Stratus convertible [Sebring convertible in the US], Viper, New Yorker, and Neon and all of them are much more expensive as in the U.S.A. Unfortunately we have few serious Chrysler fans or clubs in Germany.

The turbo II engine for Europe had 177 European HP ( not SAE ) and the torque was 271 NM at 2400 rpm, the high speed was 205 km p.h (coupé: 211). In 1988-89 Chrysler offered the 2.5 l, 2.5 Turbo, and the 2.2 Turbo II. In 1990 they offered the 3.0 l V6 only. Till today I have 306.000 km at the meter, all driven by myself. A month ago I bought a new exhaust -- the first!
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Boise edition

I bought my 1992 Lebaron Convertible 3 years ago from the original owner. It is Aqua Pearl (turqoise), 3.0 liter V6 with a 5 speed manual transmission. I LOVE this car. It had 37,000 miles on it when I got it and was still on manufacturer's warranty to 70,000. Of course, it has over 110,000 now.

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I've had to replace the valve seals at 90,000, the rear right window motor and a new top. It always runs great and I use it every day for a round trip ride to work - 70 miles. The top stays down almost all summer and the front wheel drive makes the snow totally harmless. Did I mention? I LOVE this car! - Teresa Edington, Boise, Idaho

Quick comparison

Ed Campbell wrote that he has both a 1992 V6 with the Sport Package and a 1992 turbo model. "The handling is like night and day between the two 92s, but each is pleasant in its own way. Also the turbo transmission is a much nicer shifting more substantial feeling unit. Clutch effort on the turbo is quite heavy; V6 is like a Honda's for effort. Turbo engine is noisy as advertised, but with all the low RPM torque, it's like driving a big block V8 car, where gear shifting is largely unneeded, just gas it and it pulls away at almost any speed, even in 5th gear."

Sport Package

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Teresa Edington's LeBaron with 1992-only Sport Package and five-speed V6

Ed Campbell wrote about the Sport Package on Teresa Edington's car: The sport package existed only in 1992 (I believe) and basically gave a GTC look to a few of the base cars. I believe it is a fairly rare option, but really improved the overall appearance by getting rid of the wide black side rub strip, substituting a unique narrow body colored rub strip in it's place. Like Teresa, I have a 92 V6 5 speed sport package car, but mine is what Chrysler called Radiant Red clearcoat. The package consisted basically of color-keyed grill and fascias, and black trim under taillight bar, on both fascias and around coupe windows. Every one I've seen had the very common lace wheelcovers, (white on white cars). Colors are the same as GTC, Aqua, Red, Black, and White. I have seen one 93 GTC V6 Convertible, 5 speed with 16" wheels and sport handling package, probably the ultimate usage of that drivetrain.

Specifications (inches unless otherwise specified)

1987-95 Lebaron CoupeConvertible YearTrims
Wheelbase100.3 - .5 100.6 1987Highline, Premium
Track (front/rear)57.5/57.6 1988Highline, Premium, GT
Overall Length185 1989Highline, Premium, GT, GTC
Overall Width68.4 1990Highline, Premium, GT, GTC
Overall Height51 1991Highline, Premium LX, Premium GTC
Curb Weight, lb28633010 1992-93(unnamed base), LX, GTC
Cargo Vol., cu ft.14.410.3 1994-95LX, GTC (convertible only)
Fuel Capacity14.0 gallons
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Seating Capacity54
Front Headroom37.638.3
Max. front legroom42.542.5
Rear Headroom36.337.0
Min. rear legroom33.0
Steering Ratio 16:1
For more specifications,

see the bottom of this page!


Engine SizeYears cidBore/StrokeHorsepowerTorqueCompresson
2.5L TBI1987-93153 3.44 x 4.09[email protected][email protected]8.9:1
2.2L Turbo I1987-88135 3.44 x 3.62142-150
2.2L Turbo II1987-90135 3.44 x 3.62[email protected][email protected]8.0:1
2.5 Turbo I 1989153 3.44 x 4.09[email protected][email protected]7.8:1
2.5 Turbo I (high torque)1991-93153 3.44 x 4.09[email protected][email protected]7.8:1
3.0 MMC V61990-931813.59 x 2.99 [email protected],000[email protected],8008.9:1
2.2 Turbo IV 19901353.44 x 3.62174225

*As far as they go, these stats are correct, compiled from Chrysler materials. Turbo engines all required midgrade with premium strongly recommended. The 2.5 turbo generated more power than the Mitsubishi 3-liter V6; it was also smoother in operation than the 2.2 liter turbos.

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In 1989, engine choices were given as the 2.5L I4, and both the 2.2 and 2.5L Turbo motors. I have press materials from 1991 stating 2.5L "High Torque" Turbo as newly available. This is borne out by the numbers above. 1990 materials on hand make no mention of the 2.5L Turbo or for that matter the rare 2.2 Turbo IV, which doesn't mean they didn't exist.

Five-speed V6 cars

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Tom Popiel
wrote: I've been selling for Florida Chrysler Plymouth Jeep for more than 10 years. I recall ordering a 5 speed LeBaron convertible with the Mitsubishi 3.0 litre 6 cylinder. I remember the one time I got to drive it and it was a great experience. Plenty of power, smooth and easy shifting, almost shifted itself. Thought you might like to hear about "another one". (Proud owner of a 1989 LeBaron GTC Turbo Coupe, 2.5 turbo/auto - currently has 150,500 miles).

Chris Choffat: I owned a 1990 Lebaron GT convertible with the 3.0 V6 and the 5-speed. It had 120K mi on the orig clutch and AC charge when I gave it away. I actually bought it used off a car lot. They couldn't sell it since it had the stick. My gain. It was a great car. I used to blow the doors off the kiddies in their Hondas on the way to the racetrack on Friday nights.

Brian Peter Mirabito wrote:

Ever since the 3.0L introduction into the J-body in 1989 it was offered with a 5-speed. However, near the end of the model run Chrysler made the automatic mandatory with the V6. The manual and the V-6 are rare. That drivetrain was also offered in the Spirit at first.

My father worked for New Venture Gear, as a product engineer, for the last 35 years. New Venture Gear supplies Chrysler with their manual transaxle. I have also worked there in the same capacity as an intern. I can vividly remember the discussions with my father of how a great combination the 3.0L and the V-6 were going to make in the LeBaron. ... It's unfortunate that the V-6 5-speed is so hard to find, my dad saw mine advertised in a local Pennysaver.
Doug bought a new 1993 five-speed V6 from the factory; there was no charge automatic, he said, but taking the five speed resulted in a credit.

John Zeedick (owner of a 1992 V-6, five-speed LeBaron convertible) wrote that only 732 V6 5-speeds were built. Rare they are indeed, considering they produced 36,000 plus drop tops in 92. "I have only minor mods to the motor and I can keep pace with the best of them. It loves high speed runs but can carve the turns with ease. The dealer said he could not sell it because it was a 5-speed and no wanted it."

Mark Feit wrote: "The manual transmission truly does make it a different car, and after 139,000 miles I haven't missed the automatic once. My clutch is still the one from the factory. Aside from a few suspension parts that are showing their age, it continues to be as solid, reliable and fun-to-drive as it was the day I bought it. And even at age eight, people still tell me it's a nice car. Even without the 205/60 rubber and the AY3 suspension, it still does a great job carving up the twisties. The only major non-warranty and non-normal-wear problems I've had with it were the loss of a seal at one end of the camshaft and dead window and headlight motors."

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John Gilkeson wrote:

I enjoy the allpar site as the owner of a 1988 LeBaron Premium convertible
with 2.2 turbo and three speed automatic. The coupe and convertible were available with 5-speed transmission with all engines from 1987-1993, for the base, GT, and GTC models. Premium and LX versions (J51 and J55) were available only with the automatic. The 5-speed was not available in 1994 or 1995. The Chrysler TC by Maserati was also available in 1989 with 5-speed and turbo and 1990 with 5-speed and both the turbo and V-6 engines, but very few 5-speeds were made. The 1991 TC was reportedly available only with V-6 and automatic.
<a name="lebaronguide"></a>Other LeBarons

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Edward R. Hennessy posted this guide to the 1980s/90s LeBaron series:

The LeBaron name has been splattered all over the Chrysler lineup, but it got really confusing with EEK models. Originally, it was a model of Imperial, the low to mid-priced line. This ended with the end of the Imperial as a brand in 1975.

M1977-1981Rear wheel drive (similar to Diplomat)
K1982-19882 and 4 door sedan (similar to Reliant)
J1987-1995Coupe and convertible shown on this page (Coupe through 1993)
H1985-1989GTS model, 4 doors (similar to Lancer)
AA1990-19944 door (similar to Acclaim/Spirit)

"Several of these were made at the same time. Some combinations were less confusing, since one of the two was a two door, and the other a four door. The worst was probably 1987 and 1988, with the LeBaron, LeBaron coupe, and LeBaron GTS. When I bought parts, if there was any hint of confusion, I asked for parts from an 1987 Aries..."

Feedback from Germany

I fell in love with the Le Baron 87 on a gas station, seeing a picture on a car magazine. I went "That`s mine!" It took a time but 1996 I got MINE: a 89 2.5 turbo convertible in twilight blue! What a beauty! Meanwhile one of my best friends got one too, the 3.0 version in silver... Forget those Mercedes - I never trade my Le Baron!

- Manuel Gollek, Zorneding / Germany

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Feedback from Holland

I have this wonderful original black convertible with only 60k miles in a European original version. My version is full leather grey with black colour, and in superb condition, I wont sell it regards from Holland, the tulip country!!!

- evert van walsum

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Walt Szymanski's car

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Walt Szymanski wrote:

I have a 1991 Chrysler Lebaron GTC with Performance Package in Radiant Red.
I ordered the car new in 1991. It's a 2.5 Turbo, 3 speed Torqueflite, (I live near Chicago, auto a must). The GTC Performance Package added power assisted four wheel disc brakes,12 way power adjustable driver seat, performance handling suspension, 205/55R16 tires, and 16 inch cast aluminum wheels. I was going to go with leather interior but the Performance package added a unique fabric interior to coupes standard (optional on convertible). The driver seat also added two more controls, on the seat rather than on the door with the rest of the seat controls. They were Wings and Lumbar. The lumbar used an air bag in the seat back with a electric air compressor under the seat. The wings adjust in and out in the seat back to hold you up right through the hard turns.

I have the "Traveler" Computer below the radio, doing the MPG, etc. My driving in the suburbs with air off is 21-22 average mpg. I get a better MPG if I use 2 psi of boost on accelerate, and get up to speed quickly, then very little or very heavy acceleration. I guess a little boost does help the MPG.

I have the overhead console with compass, outside air temp, garage opener holder, and sun glass holder.
The car is 15 years old. Just turned 70,000 miles, this summer season. It has been stored EVERY WINTER! Original disc brake pads. But I might have to change the fronts before it goes back in storage this fall.

(The following specifications and such were supplied by Walt.)
More Specifications (from 1991)

SedanHighline Coupe /
LX Coupe/
Overall Length (in.)182.7184.9184.9184.9
Wheelbase (in.)103.5100.5/100.6100.5/100.6100.5/100.6
Overall Height (in.)53.751.2/52.451.2/52.451.2/52.4
Track-Front (in.)57.657.657.657.6
Track-Rear (in.)57.257.657.657.6
Overall Width (in.)68.168.568.468.4
Turning Diameter (ft)36.238.440.540.5
Head Room (in.)38.437.6/38.337.6/38.337.6/38.3
Leg Room (in.)41.942.442.442.4
Hip Room (in.)51.752.452.452.4
Shoulder Room (in.)53.955.955.955.9
Head Room-Rear (in.)37.936.3/37.036.3/37.036.3/37.0
SedanHighline Coupe /
LX Coupe/
Leg Room-Rear (in.)38.3333333
Hip Room-Rear (in.)5247.9/37.647.9/37.647.9/37.6
Shoulder Room-Rear (in.)54.256.3/45.756.3/45.756.3/45.7
Trunk Capacity (cu ft)14.414.4/10.314.4/10.314.4/10.3
Interior Volume (cu ft)110.1103.8/94.1103.8/94.1103.8/94.1
Overall Top Gear Ratio2.523.022.522.74
Tires (all-season radials) P195/70R14
Tire walls whitewallblackblackblack
Wheel Turns
Curb Weight (lb)3,0402,853/2,9913,015/3,1662,877/3,016

Front suspension: Gas-Charged, Position-Sensitive Struts with Antisway Bar (GTC: upgraded antisway bar)

Rear suspension: Trailing Beam Axle, Coil Springs, Gas-Charged Shocks and Antisway Bar (GTC: upgraded antisway bar)

Wheels and covers: 14" on sedan and Highline, 15" on LX and GTC; Sedan got a "luxury wheel cover" with steel wheels, and coupes and convertibles got "premium wheel covers" with steel wheels, except for GTC which had cast aluminum wheels (no covers).

Kevin from Roscoe, NY added that, in 1989, 16 inch aluminum rims were available on the GTC, with 205/55R16 tires.

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Susan King wrote:

I purchased my 1991 (made 4/91) LeBaron highline convertible in 1998. I paid about $10,000. A rookie salesman, at a super-large dealer, after not finding anything on several lots that I was excited over, took me out to their 'overflow' lot, and there it was....white over grey...I fell instantly in love and I've been in love ever since!

My LeBaron had 69,000 miles when I bought it, and within the year, the water pump failed, getting coolant on the timing chain (so the repair shop said, as I tried not to faint from the repair bill). 40,000 more miles and 5 years later, not much else has broken.

The Mitsubishi 2.5L V6 automatic still gets up and out of the way when needed and there's little engine noise, which I think is great for an engine that's 13 years old. It does tend to run hot in traffic - goes to 1/2 to 3/4 of the gauge before dropping off - it definitely prefers highway speeds to stop-and-go-traffic. Gas mileage is around 20-26mpg highway.

The oil dipstick does seem to read high but a mechanic told me to just read it from the back and you're fine. Still passes California Smog2 (tighter standards than Smog1) with very good scores. It doesn't leak oil but it does burn some. To my knowledge, the engine has never been overhauled. Regular servicing of fluids seems to be pretty much all it needs.

My 'baby' is accident free and all original, except for having to replace the ragtop after some fool slashed it trying to steal the car (unsuccessfully). Chrysler only stocks white and black tops nowadays, but I insisted that the insurance company replace it with a custom dyed to original grey. (I won; it's grey.) Top took over 6 weeks to ship and installation took 3 days for the dying and 3 days to install. During that experience, I discovered there was a slight design problem with the tops of 1991 models - fabric was wearing prematurely over the top support (about the door edge) that caused Chrysler to issued a service bulletin or whatever. I had the insurance company make sure the repair shop retrofitted the supports, per that bulletin, to prevent that same premature wear on the new top. By the way, the top ran about $1200, installed.

I still prefer my full-size sedan for long hauls and day-to-day commuting; but, for Saturday nights out and sightseeing trips, the LeBaron's the only choice. It drives like a dream and floats around curves (we try to find a lot of curvy roads!) - and, even in 2004, turns heads wherever it goes, especially when dressed out with the white leather cover that snaps around the ragtop compartment. It's just a very sexy car with sleek, timeless design, and many people are very surprised when I tell them it's a '91.

I love this car! and I love all the Chrysler people, from design down to the last bolt-tightener on the line, for building such an incredible vehicle!
There have been many other Chrysler LeBarons, most recently based on the Spirit/Acclaim and on the Volare/Aspen.

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