1979 Chrysler LeBaron Coupe: Brougham Without The Gilt

So, when’s the last time you saw one of these? Here in the salty Midwest even the once-numerous ’80s Diplomats, Gran Furys and flossy Fifth Avenues are pretty much extinct, so I was happy to see this ’79 LeBaron coupe at the Trains, Planes and Automobiles show in historic Geneseo, IL, back in September of 2012. It looked very nice in black with red interior-a classic combo in your author’s opinion.

1977 LeBaron coupe

1978 LeBaron sedan and coupe

As you would expect of a 1970s near-luxury car, ample amounts of chrome, wire wheel covers, whitewalls, and velour upholstery were available. Most people who bought a Chrysler back then wanted to advertise their good fortune to everyone, and that meant adding all the gingerbread they could.

The available alloys, which were also optional on the Cordoba, looked exceptionally nice, in your author’s opinion.

Interiors were suitably plush, especially with the available leather seating. I don’t normally like gray interiors, but the dove-gray leather thrones shown here look very, very nice.

One of these could have been a pretty comfy ride back then-assuming you got a ‘good one’ – past Mopar owners know what I mean, ha ha. As you’d expect, a variety of Slant Six, Super Six and 318 and 360 V8s could be installed in the LeBaron’s engine bay.

Just a few pages past that wire-wheeled, dove gray version in the ’79 LeBaron brochure was this handsome tobacco brown coupe, with a ‘slick top’ and the always-sharp Road Wheels and whitewalls to set it off. And you could make things even simpler–or stealthier, if you prefer.

Which brings us to our featured car, which almost looks like an undercover police car with those vented police package hubcaps.

The LeBaron lasted to ’81 in this form, albeit with a squared-off facelift in ’80. The ‘upside-down’ headlights remained, however. Starting in ’82, the car would become the New Yorker Fifth Avenue, and the LeBaron would fall into a K-shaped hole and remain there for years.

I liked it a lot. But as this was way before smartphones and fat memory cards, I only took a few photos. And despite attending this show most every year, I never saw this car again. Drat.

6 Replies to “1979 Chrysler LeBaron Coupe: Brougham Without The Gilt”

  1. AvatarJohn C.

    These were of course trimmed out Volares. These days they are not remembered well, but a lot of work was done to give them smoothness and quiet above the quite noisy Valiant/Dart they replaced. Those of course were sold as upscale here and there around the world, but they would need more work to cut it as upscale in the USA. Surprisingly Chrysler was able to do the work, given their financial hardship. The new Chrysler of the 80s then benefited from the high margin upscale offerings far outlasting the bread and butter Volare’.

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  2. AvatarJohn M.

    Thanks for your post. I have long admired the 1978-1981 LeBaron coupe, with it’s aptly named “upside down headlights”. Those strike me very much as a vintage Imperial styling nod. The leather interiors were also absolutely stunning. Frankly, I often daydreamed about turning one into a mildly modified (wheels/tires, engine, suspension, exhaust) muscle car – the black one in your story seems to have those inklings. Chrysler made a “300” version of the Cordoba, so I don’t think this is that far fetched. Obviously, major engine mods would have been required to make one any kind of a performer. A complete engine swap for a HP 340 would have done the trick, albeit with some wire harness issues given the likely Lean Burn OEM system. I almost never see these at auction – online or at Mecum / Barrett-Jackson. Perhaps rust got most of them before anyone thought them worthy of preserving.

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    • Avatarstingray65

      I was a car loving teenager when these came out, but my dream cars were all from the pre-malaise era of the 1950s to early 70s when strong smog free engines and dainty bumpers made cars fast and beautiful, which is the reason you see a lot more Hemi/440/340 Chrysler Corporation intermediates and pony cars from the 1960s-early 70s (and competitors from Ford and GM) around today than LeBarons/Cordobas from the smog choked, big bumpered mid 70s to mid 80s when cars finally started to get better again with the relaxed bumper standards and fuel injection.

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      • AvatarJohn C.

        It is interesting that another John points to the comfort offered by this Lebaron and points out that adding some speed might make for an ideal. While I am opposed to this on historical grounds I will point to the ease of adding speed to this car versus the difficulty of adding comfort to the cars that Stingray mentions that were before his time but he is comfortable praising. What does that say? Buy BMW/Honda, it is what the import humpers wanted but what was suicide for America!

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