Sunday, July 05, 2015

Automotif XCV...

1984 Chrysler LeBaron Town & Country convertible
To someone growing up in 6th or 7th Century England, the world must have seemed overshadowed by a glorious past. Like Tolkein's Gondor, the reminders of a previous lost level of civilization were all around: in grand villas with no-longer-functional plumbing; huge, decrepit public buildings looted for stone to make pasture fences; and ruler-straight, board-flat paved roads, with weeds and trees growing between the frost-heaved pavers.

How similar the life of the auto enthusiast on these shores in the late Seventies and early Eighties. Performance was a thing of the past, strangled by emissions and fuel economy needs and gun-shy insurers. When the last '76 Eldorado rolled off the line, it was marketed as "The Last American Convertible"*. By 1980, the base Camaro and Mustang each came with a 4-cylinder engine and Corvette buyers in California had one powertrain option: A low-tune 305c.i.d. mill with a slushbox and fake dual exhausts.

Enjoyable cars were slow to return and the early steps were halting, as witnessed by the '84 LeBaron above. Chrysler brought domestic convertibles back to the U.S. market by giving roofectomies to its highest-zoot K-Car variants in 1982. Initially only available with the 2.6L Mitsubishi "Silent Shaft" 4-cylinder, they soon offered a turbocharged 142bhp 2.2L motor, distinguished by hood louvers as seen on the car in the photo. The incongruous woodgrain vinyl siding on the top-of-the-line Town & Country models was by order of Lido Iaccoca hisownself. The self-consciously retro-themed packaging wasn't a very big hit on the FWD cars, consistently comprising less than 10% of the annual sales total.

Don't see many survivors from that era. Rust-resistance wasn't really a thing yet, and build quality was wildly varying, but the dude in the picture seems to have a pretty well-maintained ride. Bets he's the original owner?

*There was a lawsuit when Caddy reintroduced convertibles to their lineup in 1984, of course. Because 'Murrica!