1994 Chrysler LeBaron

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1994 Chrysler LeBaron
Available in 4 styles:  LeBaron 2dr Convertible shown
Asking Price Range
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Estimated MPG

20–22 city / 27–28 hwy

Expert Reviews

By 

chicagotribune.com
The ploy backfired.

Chrysler Corp. decided to dress up its LeBaron convertible by installing a cloth headliner. The cloth not only would hide all the associated droptop hardware, it would serve as insulation to keep normally noisy vinyl tops from whistling or flopping in the wind.

Great idea, not so great execution.

How do you keep a cloth liner in place? Chrysler chose to use Velcro, the sticky material that holds kids' clothes or shoes in place in lieu of forcing them to learn to use buttons, snaps, laces or zippers until the day they go for their first job interview. Velcro may be fine for tennis shoes, but for cars it just doesn't do the trick.

The LeBaron GTC convertible is a beauty. It's as if the body was designed as a convertible first, a 2-door sports coupe second. Smooth, flowing lines and a rich exterior paint finish. The GTS stands out in a crowd.

Unfortunately, in order to fulfill the mission of the vehicle-movement from point A to point B without having to hitchhike-you must at some time enter the inside of the machine. That's where fashion stops and foolishness takes over.

The cloth top is Velcroed in place along the sides and front at the headliner. To fold the power-operated top you must loosen the Velcro. Rrrrrrrrrrip on one side. Rrrrrrrrrrp at the other. Then rrrrrrrrrrrrip at the front. Undo the two fastener handles at the headliner. Get the handles stuck in the cloth headliner. Undo the handles from the Velcro. Rrrrrrip the Velcro again. Finally the handles are free and you can lower the top.

Drive and enjoy. Get all the sun and wind you can stand before it's time to replace the top. Push the button to raise the top. Lift the cloth headliner flapping at the windshield so you can fasten the handles. Close the handle. Get stuck in the headliner. Open the handle to remove the cloth headliner stuck in the handle. Refasten the handle. Reopen the handle again to release the headliner again. Finally the handles are free and you can fasten the handles and stick the top to the Velcro.

Patience is a virtue and an absolute necessity if you own a LeBaron GTC convertible.

One other potential problem with the GTC is that the rear window is plastic rather than glass. That means it eventually can crack or discolor and need replacing.

As for the mechanicals, a 3-liter, 141-h.p. V-6 teamed with 4-speed automatic is standard, a peppy if not overly powerful engine rated at 20 m.p.g. city/28 m.p.g. highway, which means you can expect acceptable range between stops for fuel.

Despite 15-inch all-season tires and front and rear gas-charged shocks, the suspension is more user friendly on smooth, straight roads than uneven winding pavement. You'll experience wide swings in corners or turns, so keep in mind the focus of the GTC is top down convertible motoring and not aggressive sports coupe roving of highways.

The re are seats in the rear, but unless the passengers forced to travel in back are called Junior or Missy don't expect sufficient room for human habitation. The trunk, at least, will handle your groceries or luggage-provided Junior or Missy eat or pack light.

Final drawback-no cupholder, an exclusion we saved until this far in the column so that you wouldn't give up in disgust early.

So, you say, the GTC is obviously a car to stay away from. Au contraire, Mon ami, which in the native tongue means-go for it.

The Velcro is vexing and the plastic window perplexing, but this is a convertible, one of the few on the road you can purchase for less than two year's salary. The LeBaron coupe has been dropped, the LeBaron convertible sticks around (rather apt words considering the Velcro) through 1995 and is dropped for 1996 when a new convertible joins the Chrysler lineup, a 2-door built off the Chrysler Cirrus/Dodge Stratus 4-door sedan platform coming o t this fall to replace the Dodge Spirit/Plymouth Ac claim.

The typical scenario in Detroit on a model that is biding its time until retirement is to keep raising the price. Sounds stupid, but by raising the price of the old model, you establish a hefty starting price for the new model that succeeds it. Chrysler, however, did just the opposite. For 1994 it reduced the price of the GTC by about $2,800, even though it added a host of standard equipment.

Base price is $16,999, a $2,832 or 16.2 percent reduction from '93, even though dual air bags, the V-6 and automatic, air conditioning and AM/FM stereo were added as standard. About the only option you need is anti-lock brakes at $699, although the test car added the preferred equipment group consisting of power locks/seats/mirrors (outside mirrors also heated), tilt steering, cruise control, remote decklid release, leather interior, cast aluminum wheels and floor mats for $2,305 to run the sticker to $20,003. Freight added $530, but a $305 Chrysler discount on the options brought the final price to $20,228.

A convertible for open air motoring, and dual air bags and anti-lock brakes for safety. Hard to beat that combo.

Sure, you'll have to live with some depreciation when the GTC is dropped from the lineup, but it won't be as bad on the droptop as on the regular coupe. Keep the car two or three years (before the Velcro goes limp and the plastic window turns yellow) and you'll get a good chunk of your money back, more than enough to make a hefty down payment on that Cirrus/Stratus convertible offshoot coming out in 1996.

>> 1994 Chrysler LeBaron GTC Convertible Wheelbase: 100.6 inches Length: 184.8 inches Engine: 3 liter, 141 h.p., V-6. Transmission: 4-speed automatic. Fuel economy: 20 m.p.g. city/28 m.p.g. highway. Base price: $16,999. Price as tested: $20,228 including $530 freight charge. Strong point: It's a convertible. Dual air bags standard. Attractive pricing. Weak point: It won't be around much longer. ABS an option. Velcro headliner tangles up with power top release handles. Plastic rear window. >>

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