So yesterday, my thoughts on the demise of the Chrysler 200 convertible became an unexpected hit. My post was pulled to the FP, and I got ALL the comments!! And ALL the feels, too.
Anyway, a few people mistook my post for trying to "hate" on old dowager, and that wasn't the point at all. So today, I decided to show the Chrysler LeBaron/Sebring/200 convertible a little love and look back to when times were better.
Whether it was Yacco himself, or Ricardo Montalban, the 1982-86 LeBaron K convertible had plenty of marketing power behind it. After 5 years without an American convertible on the market, Chrysler cut the roof off a Plymouth Reliant 2-door sedan, added more tinsel and chrome, and sold it as the LeBaron convertible in 1982. It would be their first drop-top since 1970. For '84, the LeBaron picked up Chrysler's new 2.2L Turbo I4, giving it enough torque to wrench the wheel out of your hands at the same time the flaccid cowl was trying to shake it out.
You could even get it in swanky Town & Country trim, with fake wood paneling up the sides. This was supposed to hearken back to the classic Chrysler Town & Country convertibles of the '40s.
The '86 model (seen above) is especially interesting, as it was the last year for the original K body, but the only year it saw the softer, rounder face. It was also the car that figured prominently as a supporting character in 1987's Planes, Traines, and Automobiles.
For 1987, Chrysler put a new body (code named "J") and interior on the old girl, and gave it that most Jalop of features...pop-up headlight doors! And James Earl Jones to do the voice-over work.
For 1989, Chrysler was so pleased with the LeBaron convertible, they saw fit to retrim it, load it down with leather and equipment, and sell a version called the Chrysler TC by Maserati. Only, they barely sold any. Because they were rubbish. So they killed the Maser version off after 1991.
For 1993, the Lebaron J got a new nose and tail. And it became one of the only convertibles in history to outsell its coupe counterpart so drastically, they dropped that version altogether the next year. The LeBaron convertible would soldier on into 1995 as one of the last Chrysler cars to use the K platform, nearly 15 years after it had been introduced. To be honest, I've always very much liked the 1993-95 LeBaron convertibles.
For 1996, Chrysler cut up its cab-forward Cirrus sedan, threw all-new body panels on it, and called it the Sebring convertible. That car took the 4-place convertible's sales to new heights. It also held the distinction of being one of the few cars to not share a platform with the other bodystyle that carried its name, the Mitsubishi Eclipse-based Sebring coupe.
But by November 1998, clouds were forming on the horizon. Foreboding ones. Bob Eaton led the charge to sell Chrysler to Daimler-Benz for about $36B. While he made out like a bandit, Daimler management did their level best to alienate Chrysler's braintrust, and saw a mass exodus of the very people that had brough Chrysler all its success and profitability in the '90s.
That showed when Chrysler took the wraps off their redesigned 2001 Sebring convertible. The new Sebring convertible was not nearly the design revolution its predecessor had been. Quality hadn't improved, either, which was one of the failings of the 1996-2000 model, as well. Buyers started ignoring it and seeking more stylish, better-made options until. In 2005, the car became associated with the bumbling, Narcissistic, but ultimately incompetent character of Michael Scott from NBC's The Office. The car's image never recovered.
But this post is about the happier days of this once best-seller. So let's pour one out today for the Chrysler convertible.