1984 Chrysler LeBaron

Long before former President Ronald Reagan’s name was added to Washington National Airport, Nancy Windingland worked at the facility that serves Washington, D.C.

On her way to work one day in 1984, Windingland spotted a fellow commuter driving a brand new car she describes as “so cute.” She saw the flanks of the white convertible were covered with “wood” trim.

Later she told her husband, “That’s one of the cars I want to own before I die.” The object of her undying affection was a 1984 Chrysler LeBaron Town & Country convertible. An admitted “chick car,” she says.

When new, the visually compelling 1984 convertible had a base price of $16,495. Under the hood was a 2.2-liter turbocharged engine that developed 142 horsepower. Windingland learned that only 1,105 such cars were manufactured by Chrysler during the 1984 model year.
In 1991, Windingland received a telephone call from her husband who remembered her fondness for the Town & Country convertible. He had spotted a white one on a used-car lot as he drove through Charlottesville, Va.

“You had better buy it,” she responded without seeing the car. When she got the Chrysler it had already been driven 59,000 miles. “It was just an old car,” Windingland says. The unique Chrysler’s odometer currently has eclipsed 72,000 miles.
The 2,530-pound Chrysler rides on P185/70R14 tires that support the car on a 100.3-inch wheelbase, which encourages nimble handling.
“It is not a high-quality production vehicle,” Windingland is the first to admit, though she adds, “It makes people smile.”

Her car is well loaded, including leather “Mark Cross” interior and a deluxe radio with a cassette tape player function. The car also has a factory-installed air conditioner — an optional extra not commonly found on convertibles 26 years ago. Convenience features like power windows, power steering and power brakes all contribute to a pleasant driving experience.

Dark brown carpeting and a dark brown vinyl dashboard complete the interior. A digital speedometer in the instrument panel is prepared to register speeds well past 100 mph. With a 135-cubic-inch engine under the hood, a practical Windingland observes, “It doesn’t look like a three-digit car.”
Fluid capacities in the Chrysler include a 14-gallon gasoline tank and a 9-quart cooling system. The engine, with a full-flow spin-on oil filter, holds 4 quarts of oil, plus 1 more for the turbocharger.

In addition to the automatic transmission with a floor-mounted shift lever, the 1984 LeBaron Town & Country features a tilt steering wheel, power driver’s seat and power door locks. Simulated wire wheel hubcaps and the vinyl “wood” trim help give the car a sporty appearance.
“It is the most `deluxe’ of all the ones produced,” Windingland observes.
Another feature on her convertible, which she feels ambivalent about, is the automated voice that reminds her of forgotten tasks, such as when her car says, “Don’t forget your keys.” When the keys are removed from the ignition the voice chimes in with, “Thank you.”

Windingland has replaced the glass rear window in the tan convertible top. Raising or lowering the top is easily accomplished with the quick release of two hooks above the windshield frame followed by a light touch on the switch marked, “top.”
Once in the lowered position, Windingland opens the trunk where she keeps the light brown boot and snaps it into place for a more finished, neat appearance.
Because of the mechanical apparatus operating the convertible top the width of the rear seat is on the small side.

Still, Windingland hears no complaints from her four grandchildren, Steven, Anya, Derek and Drake when they come to Fredericksburg, Va., for a visit and a ride in her Chrysler.
Of all the cars the grandchildren have seen come and go through Windingland’s garage, they all seem pleased with what they call, “The car that grandma kept.”
“You cannot not smile when you look at it,” Windingland says. — Vern Parker, Motor Matters

Copyright, Motor Matters, 2010

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