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      Car History: Car History Year 1983
    Posted on Monday, September 27 @ 13:25:54 UTC by Cars
      Cars To most people, this year marked the return of the convertible. Of course, to all intents and purposes, the convertible had never gone anywhere at all - although the major auto-makers had dropped the model from their lineups in the '70s, there were always a number of specialist companies who would custom-build a ragtop from almost any make or model if the price was right. Quite a few cars also came with removable roof panels which, if not exactly true convertibles, at least retained the idea of driving with the wind in your hair. When the impending safety legislation that was supposed to outlaw the convertible failed to materialize, a couple of manufacturers almost simultaneously decided they would bring back the ragtop.

    Apart from the fact that they both had classic fold-down tops, the two offerings were about as far apart in the automotive spectrum as it is possible to get. T+ie Ford Mustang convertible marked a return to the sporty, front-engine, rear-drive, ultimate fun car ethos of the Sixties, whereas the Chrysler LeBaron Town & Country Convertible was truthfully described in advertisements as "...like no other car on the road today." The front-wheel-drive, "woody"-styled Town & Country actually harked back to a Chrysler model of the late 1940s and was intended as an out-and-out luxury car. While the Mustang convertible may have been listed as an "official" Ford model, it was actually built by an outside company. After assembly at Dearborn, completed notchback coupes were shipped to Cars & Concepts of Brighton, Michigan, for conversion and installation of interior trim. Sold as either a GLX with a 3.8-liter V6 engine or a GT with the 302 cu.in. (5.0-liter) V8, the ragtop 'Stang also featured a glass backlight, roll-down quarter windows and a power top. Factory price for a GLX convertible began the year at a touch under ten thousand dollars, but jumped to $12,467 after a few months. The Town & Country wasn't the only LeBaron convertible introduced in '83. There was also a base model and a luxury Mark Cross version, but it was with the "woody" that Chrysler said it was "re-introducing an American classic." Unlike the original, however, the '83 had a fake white ash wooden frame on the body and a 2.2-liter four-cylinder engine under the hood plus Torqueflite automatic transmission. The power convertible top came with zip-down window and weather-seal sides, and there was also a tailored top boot. The LeBaron Town & Country convertible carried a factory price of $15,595 and promised buyers that "No indulgence has been overlooked." While that statement was a rather ambitious one, the car was undoubtedly unique to America. Sales of the two ragtops were directly opposite to the fortunes of the respective companies. When Chrysler re-introduced the convertible they forecast sales of around 3,000 units and hoped to break even, but it was the publicity that would be generated by the ragtop that was the attraction. By the end of the '83 model year, a total of 9.891 LeBaron convertibles had been sold - 5,441 were Mark Cross versions and 1,520 had the Town & Country package installed. Mustang sales for '83 were 23,438, and while Ford hung on to second spot in the sales charts, they slipped to fourth in terms of production numbers behind Oldsmobile and Buick - the first time Ford hadn't been in the top two since 1905. Ford had the best-selling car in the country with the compact Escort and it launched an exciting new Thunderbird, but it was still losing money. Chrysler, on the other hand, had increased its market share and was making substantial profits - so substantial that Lee lacocca was able to pay back its government loan in full, seven years early. A proposal for a merger between Chrysler and Ford was made in 1981, but rejected out of hand by the Ford management, who must have had second thoughts about that decision on more than one occasion during this period. Specification FORD THUNDERBIRD TURBO COUPE Engine Cast iron -4 Cylinders in line Displacement 140 cu.ins. Bore and stroke 3.78 x 3.13-Turbocharged Horsepower 145 Body styles Coupe No. of seats 4 Weight (lbs) 3,100 Ibs Price $11,790 Produced 122,000 (all models)     Specification CHRYSLER LEBARON TOWN & COUNTRY Engine Cast iron -4 Cylinders in line Displacement 135 cu. ins Bore and stroke 3.44 x 3.62 ins. Horsepower 94 Body styles 5 door station wagon No. of seats 5-7 Weight (lbs) 2,656 Ibs Price $9,731 Produced 10,994  
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