JUNKYARD THERAPY: 1978 Chrysler LeBaron – Slant Six Perseverance

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The tough Slant Six engine dragged many Chrysler products into longer life cycles than the rest of the cars could bear. This well-used LeBaron tells the story.

As with this junked Cavalier Hatchback, we found a LeBaron full of rust and crude repairs. But it appears to have lasted far beyond the sum of its parts, thanks to the ever-beating heart known as the Chrysler Slant Six engine.

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Or Super Six, as per the air cleaner cover.

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When this LeBaron was marked for the 1978 model year, it was generally assumed that most American cars were good for 75K miles or so. Then the nickel-and-diming began: things big and small started to break, and the body started to rattle and rust…

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…and rust….

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…and rust.

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But some of those examples of planned adolescence had extra-durable engines, so budget-minded owners would get creative in keeping the other parts going.

Check out this LeBaron’s door panels. You’d have to think that the red originals had to be completely shot for the owner to go blue for their replacements.

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The white armrests are an interesting touch, and the dice lock tip shows some irreverence. At least both panels match each other, two blues within a sea of red.

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Another sign that this car was used way beyond its sell-by date is the thorough rub-off of the steering wheel’s fake wood trim.

Those nicks on the steering column around the turn-signal lever’s opening are curious – maybe there were hanging keys that dug into the plastic as they bounced around?

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One nice thing about Chryslers was that they typically included temperature gauges in their base cars, where Ford and GM skipped by with a warning light indicating that the damage was probably already done.

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Another quick fix for this LeBaron: a white paint job that was slathered over some of the trim.

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And it wouldn’t be a late-’70s car if it didn’t have awkwardly large bumpers. Although if you’ve had to repair the thin plastic aprons that pass as bumpers today, then you might appreciate the battering-ram aspect this LeBaron has.

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It’s easy to admire cars that transcended their likely product cycles to continue serving their cheapskate owners. The fact that this Malaise Era LeBaron kept being serviceable into the Obama years is a testament to the owner’s patience, as well as the Slant Six, that lovable lump of an engine.

Find a Chrysler LeBaron near you with BestRide’s local search.

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1 comment

  1. Owned a 1976 Dodge Aspen that the 225 Slant Six outlasted the body as the 1976 Aspens and Volares were bad rusting cars with crappy bodies but one hell of a good engine.

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