Retro Road Test ..1982 Chrysler LeBaron. Driving Uncle Lee's K-Car Drop Top
Despite your feelings on the Chrysler K-Car it was a milestone vehicle. Its saved Chrysler from almost certain bankruptcy. It also saved Lee Iacocca and aging Chysler from itself. By the late 1970′s all of Chryslers offerings were dinosaurs.
When the K-Car came out in 1981 it was a fresh sheet of paper for sinking Chrysler. Small by standards of the day it offerd front wheel drive in tidy but roomy platform. The 1982 LeBaron Convertibles were also milestone cars due to the fact they were the first USA produced drop-top since the 1976 Cadillac Eldorado.
In its first year only 1583 Lebaron ragtops were made and even less with very Ricardo Montalbanlike Mark Cross interior. Our subject 1982 Chrysler LeBaron convertible is a low mile original Florida car with only 32,515 miles. It is equipped with the Mitsubishi “Clickity Clackity” 2.6 liter engine and the cushy Mark Cross package. The values of these are only going to go up. Very few nice examples are left.
We had an 82 LeBaron (the one pictured with the fender skirts) It spent many years as a tour car (did the Lincoln Highway Tour), daily driver, fun top down cruiser and proved to be reliable and comfy. Oddly with all the classic we have owned this "Iacocca Mobile" was one of our all time faves.
So how does it drive? In two words very "K-Car" That means good and bad things. First the bad. If you have become spoiled by the build quality of today's modern drop tops forget about that in the first gen LeBaron Convertible. Fit and and finish is Ok for its day but you get more cowl shake than Rosie O'Donnell's thighs on a treadmill. The standard issue 3 speed auto trans keeps you longing for that 4th or 5th gears. The ride is supple but handling is far from sports car like. The 82 "Baron" was meant for cruising not tossing.
The good... The interior in the fine Corinthian Leather Marc Cross edition is comfy, nice fit and the simple dash is easy to read. Unlike the later dumb digital set up of the post 1984 LeBaron's. The Mitsubishi 2.6 clacker is frugal and offers decent power. if possible try to get one that had had Weber Carburetor Conversion installed. That gets rid of the horrible Mukuni feedback carburetor and gives you much more power. Driving an 82 LeBaron convertible with the top down is a pleasing drama free experience. For the bucks you pay for one you could not find a more relaxing way to enjoy a top down drive in semi-tacky 80's style