Thursday, 6 October 2016

From the top down, the rights and wrongs with my LeBaron

So, not only has it been almost four months since I bought a 1994 Chrysler LeBaron GTC convertible, it has also been just over a week since it was brought to our new home out of storage. Even now, my eyes are widening to the reality of things.

Today was a moderately overcast which is great for taking pictures of a car. Why do you ask? Well bright, direct sunlight can hide a lot of details, dim light can make a camera lens work a little harder. Take the two above pictures for example.

Starting from the top, the convertible mechanism works, as it should and without any issues or concerns. The vinyl sailcloth is shot, too many holes, tears and duct tape fixes that just didn't work. The added problem is the rear window was broken who knows when (still finding little bits of glass in the rear deck trim) and replaced with a sheet of ill-fitting plexiglass, that has to be removed every time I would want to put the top down.

However, a replacement isn't nearly as expensive as I first thought, ranging from $250 for one with a plastic rear window and up to $400 if I wanted a glass with defrost option (these figures are before taxes, shipping and conversion to Canadian funds). Some even come with a Do It Yourself DVD for installation!

The windshield has a few cracks, but not enough to warrant a replacement yet. New wiper blades are definitely in order. Also, all the side power windows go up and down, albeit a little on the slow side. Which brings me to the driver's door. The previous owner told me about an issue with one of the hinge mounts and the possibility of the door falling right off the door if I tried to open it. Perhaps, I will look into a body shop for that problem, since that is well above and beyond my means to repair.

A fantastic shot of the plexiglass I was just talking about. The upside is all the lights work outback and the trunk seal is still keeping the weather out. However, there is a finger sized scar in the center plastic rear panel that runs between the corner tail lights, along with the trunk lock mechanism being removed. Internet searches to find a replacement have turned up nothing, so far.

As you can see from these pictures, the attempts to touch up the paint from previous owners has not stood the test of time. Late eighties through mid-nineties domestic vehicles seem to suffer from this, if the problem isn't addressed quickly enough or after being parked, exposed to the elements, year after year. More often than not, it's the clear coat that gives out, slowly exposing the dull and unprotected color base coat. Here, the paint is just separating itself from the primer.

Initial estimates to have the car sanded and prepped for minor body work and paint coming in between $200 to $600.

Now, I start to come to the more expensive parts. The aftermarket Eagle Alloys rims are a nice touch, too bad the mostly worn out tires ruin the image. Although the sidewalls don't show any signs of curb bumping, the tread is pretty smooth. Looking at $125 to $250 per tire for replacements. The struts could use a change too, since the car bounces more than twice when pushed down at the corners. Let's call that about $1000, including parts and labor at a shop, not including brakes, that should be replaced too.

If there is one standout  positive feature of this car, it's the interior. For a car this age and guessing that it has spent more than a few years of winter driving, the seats, dashboard and floor carpets are in what I would consider to be "above average" condition. No cigarette burn holes, no mud buildup, very impressed.

However, that good feeling turns sour once I made the discovery that the passenger seat doesn't flip forward. The release mechanism feels broken on the inside, so anyone who wants to ride in the back has to climb over in the most undignified way. I have tried the driver's side, since the door issue negates any benefit gained if it did.

The aftermarket Pioneer stereo appears to be either professionally installed or somebody took their time to make it look as clean as possible. Either way, it tunes in the local stations without difficulties and the speakers put at a very decent sound.

However, there is one feature that could be a cause for concern for some when it comes to this car, the odometer.

When brand new, this Mitsubishi sourced 3.0 liter V6 produced 142 bhp at 5000 rpm and 172 lb·ft of torque at 3600 rpm. 22 years later, it's safe to assume those figures are a little bit lower now. Despite the clean appearance in these pictures, the engine does have some issues. Somebody has put in some modest time to clean off the oil and road spray from the top surfaces, the sides and bottom of things shows a lot of build, both of dirt and leaked out oil.

Surprisingly, it starts just fine and runs smoothly, just a minor ticking sound that I have heard from other, older V6's. The wiring, hoses and belts, as I can see them, appear to be in serviceable order, no cracks, splits or excessive wear. The transaxle shifts good while driving, no hesitation or other causes for concern.

So, would it be worth the effort to fix it up, let alone restore it? According to Kelly Blue Book, the answer would be no. Although I didn't input the exact facts, the numbers wouldn't change very much in my favor, I think. 

Based on the figures I have stated throughout this post, the total estimates on repairs/replacement items already exceed the current value of the car. Other than being my first convertible and proving to myself and a few other folks that a person can still pick up a running vehicle at the $500 mark, there isn't even a sentimental attachment to it.

Does it hold any future, collectable value? Well, already being a discontinued model and 22 years old, I have doubts that it's worth will increase. Even with investing the time and money to bring it back to acceptable roadworthy condition, it just might make better sense to get something newer, with lower mileage and that can hold it's financial and fun value.

Perhaps, I need to find a comfortable spot on that proverbial fence and think about things.

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