Home » I Feel A Song Coming On: 1970 MGB vs 1987 Chrysler LeBaron

I Feel A Song Coming On: 1970 MGB vs 1987 Chrysler LeBaron

Sbsd 3 22 2024
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Happy Friday! It’s the end of the week, so it’s time for some fun cars. Today we’ve got two convertibles, both of which are referenced in a song you probably know. If you’ve been living under a rock for twenty-five years, or are, you know, David, I’ll enlighten you in a minute.

Yesterday was another near-tie, and I can never tell whether that means you all liked them both, or hated them both. I mean, nobody likes fixing carburetor problems or chasing down vacuum leaks. It seems a lot of you voted for the Blazer because it’s easy to swap in a better engine, or voted for the Isuzu because it isn’t a Blazer.

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For my imaginary money, it’s the Blazer all the way. I don’t even mind the automatic in these. If I were actually shopping for one, I’d hold out for a 4.3 liter, of course – but it would have to be a two-door.

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Now then: Cake’s song “Short Skirt, Long jacket” describes a fantasy woman that the singer, John McCrea, would like to meet. And she sure does sound like a catch, though it’s troublesome that he keeps calling her a “girl.” But we’ll put that aside for now. What bothers me about this dream date is how fickle she is about automobiles, throwing over a perfectly good British sports car for alleged unreliability and a lack of adequate beverage accommodations.

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However, as someone who appreciates both automobiles in question, it seems only fair to put the question to you. Would you trade an MG for a white Chrysler LeBaron, if these were your choices? Let’s take a look at them and you can decide.

1970 MGB Roadster – $7,500

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Engine/drivetrain: 1.8 liter overhead valve inline 4, four-speed manual w/overdrive, RWD

Location: Mountain View, CA

Odometer reading: 109,000 miles

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Operational status: Runs and drives great

MGBs tend to get separated into “chrome bumper” and “rubber bumper,” but there are a lot more variations than that. Over the course of eighteen years, BMC and then British Leyland constantly improved and updated the MGB. What we have here is a Mark III, with a recessed “fishmouth” grille, an “Abingdon Pillow” padded dash, and a 1970-only split rear bumper. It also has a five-main-bearing engine and an all-synchromesh gearbox with an electric overdrive that works on 3rd and 4th gears.

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That engine is a good old B-series inline four, displacing 1.8 liters. This is still the “good” high-compression engine, fed by a pair of SU HS-4 carburetors. It would originally have had a smog pump, and I see the mounting bracket for it, but nearly all MGBs of this era have had the pump removed – including mine. This engine was replaced under the previous ownership and is apparently lower mileage than the rest of the car. It runs and drives great, according to the seller.

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This car doesn’t have a soft top – it’s either the aftermarket hard top, or nothing. That’s not a big deal; MGB soft tops are kind of a pain in the ass to raise and lower. The seller is including a tonneau cover to keep the interior dry if you get caught out in the rain. The interior looks pretty good, and the seller says the red carpet is new. I like it; it sets off the black upholstery nicely. And by the way, if it really bothers you that much, you can totally get a cupholder armrest to fit this car.

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The trouble here, as with too many MGBs, is rust. The floor pans have holes; the seller says they’ve added fiberglass sheeting to close it up. The rockers and doglegs are showing signs of rust as well. The good part is that patch panels are available for all of that, and it takes a lot of rust to compromise an MGB structurally. You can probably leave it alone and it will be all right, actually.

1987 Chrysler LeBaron Turbo Convertible – $7,495

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Engine/drivetrain: Turbocharged 2.2-liter overhead cam inline 4, three-speed automatic, FWD

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Location: Moose Lake, MN

Odometer reading: 145,000 miles

Operational status: Ad doesn’t explicitly state, but it sounds like it runs and drives fine

Two years passed between the last MGB and the first Chrysler LeBaron convertible. Neither were the best of their breeds; the final MGBs were down on horsepower, and with raised ride height that ruined the handling. And for the first couple of years, the LeBaron made do with an awful 2.6 liter engine from Mitsubishi. By the time this second-generation LeBaron was built, Chrysler’s 2.2 turbo engine was the powerplant of choice.

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A Torqueflite automatic was almost compulsory; manual LeBarons did exist, but they’re rare. It’s all right; this is a cruiser, not a corner-carver. The turbo engine helps a lot in the horsepower department, but it’s no hot rod either. This one has about 145,000 miles on it and has had its turbocharger replaced, along with new tires, a new battery, and a new top.

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It’s being sold by an RV dealer, and I get the feeling they’re a little out of their comfort zone with it. But they do brag about their indoor RV showroom, so at least you don’t have to poke around at this car in the rain and snow. It also has collector plates on it, and seeing cars of this era called “classics” stings a bit. But it’s more than twice as old now as the MG would have been when it was new.

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It is in really nice condition, but being in Minnesota, I’d check the underside for rust carefully. K-based cars in general aren’t rustbuckets, but $7500 is a lot for a LeBaron, so it had better be pristine underneath.

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So there they are, and I’ll give you all weekend to decide whether Kitty or Karen or whatever her name is made the right decision. Either way, you’ve got a good-running convertible; you just have to choose between the British classic and the American legend.

(Image credits: Craigslist sellers)

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Wuffles Cookie
Wuffles Cookie
19 days ago

And she sure does sound like a catch, though it’s troublesome that he keeps calling her a “girl.”

Er… what? Music has been referring to the female half of a relationship as “girls” for a very, very, very long time. Like we have the lyrics to songs from ancient Mesopotamia from 4000 years ago, and they wrote about pining for girls as well.

And if the lady in the song is touring the facility and picking up the slack, I think we can safely assume nothing untoward is going on. If you want to make some moral stand about this issue (please don’t), you could pick any number of far worse entries to complain about.

Ward William
Ward William
21 days ago

I’ll take the MG because I will never consider a car that is photographed for sale after being washed or rained on. That is the oldest trick in the book and something I expect of used car salesmen who wear white shoes.

Last edited 21 days ago by Ward William
BentleyBoy
BentleyBoy
21 days ago

I have a lot of memories of my old MG some of them even good! MG all the way.

James Carson
James Carson
21 days ago

On second thought, probably just fab a 4 bar rear susp with a narrowed 8″ ford.

James Carson
James Carson
21 days ago

The B, fix the rust, new floor, roll fenders, rebuild electricals so it doesnt need smoke, rebuild front suspension, steering, and whatever else is needed. Adapt some seats so I can fit. Yank the boatanchor 1.8 and toss in a mildly built 302 SBF with 5 spd an IRS from a Miata with caddy cts center section. Paint it BRG and some repro minilites.

Freelivin1327
Freelivin1327
21 days ago

Gimmee the MGB please

Holly Birge
Holly Birge
21 days ago

First off, I love that song. So I’m gonna go backwards and change my name back to Kitty from Karen and trade my White Chrysler LeBaron for that awesome MG.

Thomas Metcalf
Thomas Metcalf
19 days ago
Reply to  Holly Birge

At Citi Bank, we will meet accidently.

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