Back in the ’90s, Chrysler threw the LeBaron name on pretty much every platform they had. Out of all of those, today’s Nice Price or No Dice GTC turbo is probably the one you’d be least likely to throw back. Will its price, however, throw you off?
Many of you envisioned the potential buyer of last Friday’s 1996 Jaguar XJS as a smarmy middle-aged guy with poor fashion habits and the residue of little blue pills in his pockets. Some of you even intimated that this persona was something other than aspirational!
It’s hard to say how much sway that stereotype held over the car’s desirability. If it did, that was probably the deciding factor in its fate. The car’s $8,000 asking price missed the mark by an ever so slight margin, falling in an incredibly close 50.8 percent No Dice loss. Perhaps if the jag had implied an image of an owner who coaches manatees on a body-positive mindset and has never ordered their steak well-done things would have been different.
Speaking of different, today’s 1990 Chrysler LeBaron GTC turbo isn’t all that far off in intent from Friday’s Jag. What’s totally different, however, is how it gets to that job done.
When you consider Chrysler’s K-Car — the platform that famously saved the company to fight another day — it’s easy to dismiss it as a simple means to an end. It was, after all, just a cheap to manufacture platform that could keep Chrysler afloat and make the company some money so it could keep the lights on. The thing is, the K-Car and its derivatives were so well designed for the time that they proved phenomenally versatile and capable beyond that initial save the company mission.
Cheap and cheery as the first models were, the later J and H-body derivatives showed just how good a platform the original K was. At the time, the turbo-powered H-body Dodge Lancer and Chrysler LeBaron GTS models were considered some of the fastest and best-handling sedans sold in America.
This GTC is a rare edition of the familial J-body, which took a lot of parts from the Dodge Daytona and wrapped them in an incredibly elegant and well-proportioned coupe, or in this car’s case, convertible body. One of the main failing points of the contemporary Chrysler TC by Maserati was its unfortunate similarity in both looks and performance to the lesser LeBaron, which was offered at a considerably lower price.
As we have noted, this LeBaron is similar in its mission to last Friday’s XJS. They are both convertible cruisers that, at one time, topped their respective manufacturers’ ranges. Each also features dramatic styling unlike anything else either carmaker offered at the time. That’s where the similarities end and the differences start to stack up. The Jag was an old-school straight-six-powered rear-wheel-drive car and the LeBaron is a turbo four-cylinder with FWD. A Mitsubishi-sourced V6 was offered in the GTC, but this car’s 2.2-liter Turbo II is the engine you want. The five-speed Getrag gearbox is also the way to go (no stick was offered in the XJS at all), and this car has that too.
The 2.2 Turbo II in the GTC sits sideways and features both an intercooler and a variable nozzle turbo for improved power. Wrung out with this equipment, the little four-pot was good for 174 horsepower and 210 lb-ft of torque. Not in the same league as the Jag, but impressive for the time nonetheless.
Another difference can be found by comparing cabins. The Jag’s interior is awash in leather and wood. It looks like a fancy English drawing-room. This GTC gives you leather on the seating surfaces — and it all looks to be in excellent shape too — but that’s surrounded by cheap plastic and… well, more cheap plastic.
That’s ok though since the LeBaron has always been a car priced several tiers below the Jag. That’s not to say it doesn’t look pretty swank. The black paint is elegant and seems to be in remarkable shape for its age. The car has a number of decal badges on both nose and booty and even those look to be in good shape. Underneath sits a set of basketweave alloys with black-painted centers, while on top is a vinyl convertible lid that seems perfectly serviceable, right down to the glass back window.
The ad claims 150,000 miles on the clock and for this to be one of only 132 GTC convertible models ever produced. The title is clean and the ad makes no mention of any issues, mechanical or aesthetic. What might you consider such a beast to be worth?
The seller thinks it’s worth $4,200 and in today’s insane used car market, that, at first glance, seems pretty sane. The question for you is whether that’s a deal. What do you think, is this LeBaron worth that $4,200 asking as it sits? Or, is this a K-Car-derivative that doesn’t deserve diverting that much hard-earned cash?
H/T to Phil R. for the hookup!
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