Cold Start: Is This Lavender?

Cs Lebaron

The M-Body (1977-1981) Chrysler Le Baron was, at least from my memories of the era, which is pretty much all I have to go on, since these are now all but extinct, a pile of chromed crap. These cars used the same platform as the (F-Body) Dodge Aspen, but with a different body, and were about as good as you’d imagine a Dodge Aspen with more velour to be. More importantly for today, I just want to know what the hell color I’m looking at here in this 1980 brochure. Is that lavender?

As much as I’d love to, I can’t recall ever seeing a lavender LeBaron out in the wild, so I think this just may be a combination of poor color printing fidelity, scanner color fidelity, age, and, oh, Mercury being in retrograde or some shit.

Cs Colors If we look at the list of available colors, I don’t see any that look like a metallic lavender. Even if we look for colors that may have been poorly reproduced, it’s still hard to figure out. The white? Ehhh, I don’t think so. Maybe that Light Heather Gray Metallic – actually, that’s probably the one, but I’m going mostly by name and brightness, as it looks like a bruise-green here.

But, none of this can stop you from imagining a lovely metallic lavender – perhaps even periwinkle – LeBaron if you so choose.

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30 Responses

  1. I think the lighting comment from Josh above makes the most sense.

    But there’s something else really weird about this Diplomat. It has both the wraparound side marker lights of the Diplomat up front…but also the separate side marker light of the LeBaron. I did notice this in the brochure as well, but not on any real pictures of an ’80 Diplo. Maybe like this sidelight, that color never made the final cut.

    Chrysler did have a sort of lavender in the late 50’s / early 60s. My grandmother had a ’59 New Yorker 4-door hardtop exactly like this one: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:1959_Chrysler_New_Yorker_%2818855386109%29.jpg

  2. I’m guessing it’s silver or light gray metallic, at sunset. That red pinstripe is a dead giveaway that it’s not blue.

    Also, it’s a Dodge Diplomat, as used heavily by the cops throughout the ’80s and into the early ’90s depending on the department’s budget. Still an M-body though.

    1. I think the lighting comment from Josh above makes the most sense.

      But there’s something else really weird about this Diplomat. It has both the wraparound side marker lights of the Diplomat up front…but also the separate side marker light of the LeBaron. I did notice this in the brochure as well, but not on any real pictures of an ’80 Diplo. Maybe like this sidelight, that color never made the final cut.

      Chrysler did have a sort of lavender in the late 50’s / early 60s. My grandmother had a ’59 New Yorker 4-door hardtop exactly like this one: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:1959_Chrysler_New_Yorker_%2818855386109%29.jpg

  3. It looks more like a violet, an effect like this can be achieved by painting purple over black or white, maybe they painted the nightwatch blue over the gray and got a blue/gray or blue and red/magenta would also do it…then again 80% of all people with color blind deficiencies are male, so there’s that too ????

  4. One summer day in ’92 I came home to find a wrecked hulk of an ’81 LeBaron coupe sitting in the driveway. I asked my mom “what is that wreck doing in the driveway? Did dad have to leave a car here to go tow another one?” Dad worked as a tow truck driver at the time so it was possible.

    Turns out my dad had bought it as a “project” for the two of us. It had been left in an impound lot following an accident and nobody claimed it. Upon hearing the engine run (225 slant six! Leaning tower of power baby!), and seeing the relatively low miles, my dad (who worked for the towing company) decided it would make a nice set of wheels for me and I could learn some things along the way. Boy did I.

    Upon first glance the car had been in a minor frontal collision. Bumper pushed in, right side fender mashed, front header panel in need of replacement. Huge spider web crack in the windshield in front of the driver. Driver side door window glass was missing, or rather there were small bits of it left from it shattering. There was some minor damage to the chrome trim on the drivers side B pillar and interior trim – a couple of holes but nothing major. The bench seat was gone, and the carpet was pretty nasty. I figured the driver put their head through the window and shattered it, and then bled all over creation. Since they never claimed the car from the impound I figured the owner might have died. I was kind of right.

    The first thing we did was rip out the bloody carpet and padding, and it was a shitshow. I popped out the floor drain plugs, and nearly vomited many times as I hosed out the blood and maggots from the interior. I was told the car had sat a “few weeks” like it was so I wasn’t too surprised at how disgusting it was. Once the carpet was removed and the floor pan was clean, the interior was in remarkably good condition.

    We then tackled the parts that needed replacing. We scoured junk yards for any similar year LeBarons, but could also use some parts off of Diplomats and Fifth Avenues. This is when I was first introduced to the you pull it concept, and it was pretty fun for 16 year old me. We replaced the front bumper, the drivers side glass, the whole grill and headlight assembly, pulled some power bucket seats out of a Fifth Ave, and got a great set of Crager mag wheels all out of the junkyard for just a few bucks. We stripped the exterior of most of the gawdy chrome trim, and did what little body work the rest of the car needed.

    We primed the car in our driveway, sanded it, taped most of it, then drove it 10 miles to a Maaco while sitting on a milk crate (hadn’t gotten the new seats yet) to get it painted for about $200.

    With a shiny new paint job, less chrome trim, and a nice set of wheels I wound up with a pretty unique car to drive my senior year of HS and first two years of college. It was a reddish color, and a Mopar, so my friends and I used to joke and call it Christine and “death on wheels”. It was never cool, but by the early ’90s these cars were pretty rare (and rare in this case does not mean valuable).

    I drove it for a couple years, sold it, graduated college, got married, and moved to a different city. One weekend dad came to visit us and after a few drinks decided to tell me this:

    “If your mom had known the truth she never would have let me bring that car home.” They were divorced at that point so he didn’t care what she thought anymore.

    So the day he heard that car running in the impound lot, it had been sitting there for over six months. There were blankets over the seat, so you could sit in it if you wanted, but nobody in the lot wanted anything to do with it because it hadn’t been cleaned at all. Because it was a crime scene.

    It turns out the owner had rammed the car into something, but didn’t hit whatever it was with enough force to hurt himself so he then pulled out a shotgun and finished the job. In the car. That’s why the drivers door window was missing. The damage to the chrome trim and the damage on the inside of the door was from the shotgun blast. I had been joking for years that the owner had died in the car, but it turns out THE OWNER ACTUALLY DID DIE IN THE CAR. The seat was out of it when I first saw it because dad had already removed it. He also apparently did his best Jules impression from Pulp Fiction and was on brain detail so all I saw of the aftermath was some blood when I removed the carpet.

    So that’s a thing you know now about a 1981 Chrysler LeBaron. It’s been 30 years since I got that car, and 25 since I sold it, but I’ll be still getting mileage out of the story for a long time to come.

    1. Holy crap! Well that beats my story about a spilled milkshake in my buddies 5th Avenue….. which come to think of it we got that entire car out of a you-pull-it yard in the mid 90s, they had a small section of recently arrived vehicles which could be bought before they joined the rest of the yard. It needed some relatively minor stuff which we raided off the other myriad M-bodies in the yard and I think it lived about another 10 years if memory serves.

  5. I had a relative who owned this car in that gray, and I can confirm that the paint would take on different hues depending on the light. Man, was that a cushy car. Like driving in a living room. Chrysler was trying so hard to fool a certain group of buyers into thinking that a gussied-up Dodge Aspen was really a early 70’s Chrysler Newport.

  6. I love to dunk on the modern era of automotive paint for having 18 different options for gray and that’s it. But is it me, or were the 70’s essentially the same thing, but with 23 options for brown?

  7. This color is a tough one to nail down. It’s got to be any of the following from Chrysler’s 1980 paint catalogue:

    00127 – Metallic Wonder Bread
    00184 – Metallic Used PH Testing Strip
    00929 – Metallic Dignity Loss
    00643 – BLARGH Metal Flake
    00429 – Metallic White Paternity Suit
    00666 – Metallic Possessed Eyeballs
    00541 – Metallic This is What All The Kids Are Driving These Days
    00989 – Metallic Stereotypical TV Coroner Who Is Always Eating a Sandwich
    00112 – It’s Supposed to be White. We Tried.

  8. As nlpnt has said, the photo is actually of a Dodge Diplomat. I had a LeBaron of the same vintage, and if it’s possible, they were worse piles of chrome. I bought it new and it had BLUE leather interior. Plus a padded vinyl top so soft you could sleep on it. And those were the best things about it. The ignition key actually snapped in half while in use. I just left it that way, with the bottom half of the key permanently buried in the lock and utilizing the remaining half of the key to start and stop the engine.

  9. The white, cashmere, and heather all appear to be tweeds. I don’t think I have ever seen tweed paint, but the concept intrigues me. I would work an a Land Rover when you go out to shoot pheasants on your estate.

    1. I think it’s just a moire pattern from the halftone-printed brochure interfering with whatever scanner or camera was used to capture the image. Same reason you see lines and patterns when someone photographs a computer screen.

      (Sorry to ruin your tweed-painted Land Rover fantasy, but it’s not often I get to point out something technical on this site, so I had to make the most of it.)

  10. Recently I parked next to one of these–and was quickly surprised by how small they were. Tiny next to a modern (bloated) SUV/grocery-hauler. I saw DT’s photo of the Ford Escape vs. Jeep ZJ the other day, but those tiny Chryslers really were tiny.

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