Junkyard Gem: 1978 Chrysler LeBaron Coupe

Murilee Martin
·2 mins read


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From the early 1930s through the middle 1970s, Chrysler used the LeBaron name (taken from a coachbuilder eventually consumed by the car company, much as Fleetwood and Ghia were absorbed by GM and Ford, respectively) on high-end Imperial models. Then, facing decreased demand for mammoth land yachts thanks to certain geopolitical events, Chrysler created a separate LeBaron model, based on the midsize platform used for the Dodge Diplomat/Plymouth Gran Fury. Production of this LeBaron began in 1977 and continued until the debut of Lee Iacocca's famous K-Car LeBarons for the 1982 model year. While you'll find the occasional Diplomat these days, the 1977-1981 LeBaron has become all but extinct. Here's a crash-victim '78 in a Denver car graveyard.

Plenty of times, I'll find discarded cars of this era that seem to have moldered outside for decade after neglected decade, but this one drove to its final crash.

That means that the 318-cubic-inch (5.2-liter) V8 under the hood would be a good bet to buy for another Chrysler project… but nobody seems interested, because this Malaise Era engine made only 140 horsepower when new. The base engine in the 1978 LeBaron was a 110-horse Slant-6, so at least this car had the upgrade.

Sure, the Diplomat was the not-so-plush successor to the non-plush Aspen/Volaré and the even-less-plush Dart/Valiant, but Chrysler installed a reasonably nice interior in the Diplomat's Chrysler-badged sibling. This one has the standard "Cortez" cloth-and-vinyl bench seat, but not the optional power windows or door locks.

This one has stickers for Run-D.M.C., Public Enemy, Slayer, and Megadeth… plus one for the Oakland Raiders, hated rivals of Denver's local sportsball team. I'm pretty sure the car was not being driven by the original purchaser when it crashed.

Believe it or not, this car was available with a four-on-the-floor manual transmission and a V8 engine. Were any sold that way? I wouldn't bet on it.

Molded-in faux stitching proved very popular in American cars of the late 1970s and early 1980s.

This advertisement may have resulted in some cannibalization of Cordoba sales, though the Pontiac Grand Prix stood as the primary rival for the '78 LeBaron coupe.