By Terry Golda
My quest for this 1984 Chrysler LeBaron Town and Country convertible started in the summer of 1985, when my wife and I went to the Chrysler dealer in Hamilton Township, outside of Trenton, N.J., one evening to look at what they had in stock. We thought a convertible would be fun, and the dealer had one on the showroom floor. We looked at it and sat in it, but no one came to help us, so we walked out. As we left, we saw the sales people looking out the window at us.
Late the same evening, we went to the dealer in Flemington, N.J., which was then housed in an old gas station on the highway. Salesmen were scurrying about the lot, moving cars, etc. Again, no one helped us. My wife said, “That’s it — we’re not buying a new car.” We went home.
At the time, I had recently read Lee Iacocca’s book “Iacocca.” My wife was now reading it. In the book, she found an incident similar to the one we one we had experienced. She wrote a letter to Lee Iacocca and quoted the passage from his book, and in her letter she added, “Guess nothing’s changed.” She put the letter in the mail and we went off on vacation for a week. When we returned home at the end of August, we discovered we had received a phone call from Chrysler’s District Zone Manager, Blasé DeLeo. He said the letter got to the front office and caused quite a stir, and so he asked, “How can I help you?” By that time, I knew what I wanted: not just a convertible, but a Chrysler LeBaron convertible with the Town and Country option of woodgrain paneling on the sides, reminiscent of the Chrysler woodie convertibles of the ’40s.
Chrysler manufactured “new era” convertibles from 1983 through 1986, with only a total of 3,721 made in those years. DeLeo said he would look through his computer for one and get back to me.
In a few days, I received a call from DeLeo that a dealer in Lansdale, Pa., had one. I made an appointment with the dealer to see it. It was a white 1985 and not very clean, with almost 10,000 miles on it. The dealer said his wife had used it as a demonstrator, and he wasn’t offering it to me for a decent price. Mind you, other than the Chrysler limousine, the Town and Country convertible was Chrysler’s most expensive car of the time, with a window sticker price of almost $19,000.
I called the district zone manager and said, “Keep looking.” He said he could get me a new 1986 model, and I said I was not interested. For 1986, Chrysler had eliminated the luggage rack to accommodate the federally mandated third stop lamp; the “waterfall grille” stopped at the bumper line; and the parking lights were moved to the side, cutting off the angular beauty of the wood trim. To me, those changes took away some of car’s charm.
One day, on a hunch, I stopped at Autoland on Route 22 in Springfield, N.J. Almost a year and a half earlier, I’d looked at cars this dealership had on the lot. They had five Town and Country convertibles at that time. To my surprise, they still had three on the lot, all 1984s. The cars had been on the lot for nearly a year and a half! I took a test drive in one, and said I would think about it. That was a Wednesday. On Friday, the Star Ledger newspaper had a huge ad for Autoland, and one of the highlighted sales items was a gray 1985 Town and Country convertible at a really great price of $13,500. I know this car did not exist, because I wrote down all the serial numbers of the cars I had seen on the lot, and Chrysler never painted them in gray (just white, black and chocolate brown).
The following Monday morning, I went to the dealership and said, “I would like to buy the car in the ad.” They said it was sold. “Well,” I said, “I will offer you the same price for the black 1984 you have on the lot.” The salesman said the black car was turbocharged, and the car in the ad was not. “I’ll have to talk to the owner,” he said. “The owner said I can give you that car for $300 more than the one in the ad.” I said, “Sold.”
A few days later, Blasé DeLeo called back. I told him I had found a car. He said, “You did?” Apparently, he had been looking for 1985s and had never tried looking for a 1984. Who would have thought that a car would be on the lot of a high-volume dealer for a year and a half? I did ask him if he could arrange for me to have all the warranty service work done at Flemington since this was much closer to my home, and at that time, dealers were very fussy about who serviced a new car. He arranged that and I was happy.
I have since joined the Antique Automobile Club of America and entered the car in competition as soon as it was eligible. It is now a repeat First Place Senior-winning car.
SHOW US YOUR WHEELS!
If you’ve got an old car you love, we want to hear about it. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
If you like stories like these and other classic car features, check out Old Cars magazine. CLICK HERE to subscribe.
Have you ever wondered what your classic ride is worth? Old Cars has you covered with the Old Cars Report Price Guide. We are your source for unbiased and real-world pricing. Subscribe today and find out what your car is really worth! CLICK HERE to subscribe.
*As an Amazon Associate, Old Cars earns from qualifying purchases.