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Rough Start: This 1978 Chrysler LeBaron Is McTaggart’s Dream – Ugly Mopar, Awesome Powertrain!


Rough Start: This 1978 Chrysler LeBaron Is McTaggart’s Dream – Ugly Mopar, Awesome Powertrain!

Fair is fair…the “boat tail” Dodge Diplomat and Chrysler LeBaron coupes of the late 1970s aren’t everyone’s cup of tea. When they are super-clean, they are alright. But if you find one super-clean, consider yourselves lucky…most of these cars have been ran into the ground and left for dead. That being said, it’s an FJM Mopar, so of course I like it. Doesn’t hurt that I had one in high school…along with two of my friends and a high-school sweetheart, too. It was solid, it was dependable, and it was traded off in a momentary lapse of brain cells for one of the biggest shitboxes I’ve ever owned, period. Stupid move. Ah, well…live and learn.

So why is this less-than-pretty LeBaron even on BangShift? It doesn’t hurt that the lead photo for the Craigslist ad was this thing hazing the tires off. That’s what got me to take a first look. The rest of the ad sold it: the LeBaron has been 360 swapped, and sports a few goodies including a Mopar Performance “purple” camshaft, a 727 TorqueFlite, and an 8.75 rear axle (a “489” case at that) with 3.23 gears and a SureGrip unit. There were a small handful of 360-powered early M-bodies released, but everything else in that lineup did not come from the factory…unless this is a factory 360 car, the automatic would’ve been the A998, the rear axle a 7.25″ unit that is a better fuse than anything, and the camshaft would’ve been perfect for making about 130 strangled ponies on a good day. 

The rest of the LeBaron is hit and miss…it’s a desert car so rot shouldn’t be an issue, but the paint needs serious attention, the vinyl roof needs to be reskinned, those factory wheels just need to go away, and the usual cheap car tidbits like missing trim, interior refurbishment and cleanup work need to be performed. Dolled up, this LeBaron can be a comfortable riot, or you can just pull the goodies and go hunting for a nicer example…imagine all of those speed parts in a mint Fifth Avenue for a second.

Craigslist Link: 1978 Chrysler LeBaron Medallion


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3 thoughts on “Rough Start: This 1978 Chrysler LeBaron Is McTaggart’s Dream – Ugly Mopar, Awesome Powertrain!

  1. Dick Fitzwell

    this is why I love bangshift! Nobody else would bother writing about that hunk of garbage

  2. Jason Anderson

    I bought a 78 LeBaron 4 door last November.The seller claimed the 318 was .040 and now a 324 with a Comp Extreme Energy cam.I could see that it had J heads,headers,an M1 single plane and a 750 double pumper.It had been in the guys barn for 10 years or so.I gave him 450 bucks and dragged it home.It fired right up with gas and a battery,and certainly had a lope to it.The brakes were froze,the transmission was “shot” and mice had turned it into an apartment building..8 months and about 2 grand later..I love this thing.I had a buddy rebuild a 904 for me.Apparently the previous owner didnt have the convertor in right,and just drove bolts home.The engine was leaking oil,so I bought a “cam change” gasket set.Somebody forgot to put the oil slinger on the crank! But the engine looks fresh.The heads have had the runners smoothed and port matched.The one legger rear has 3.90s,and if it gets traction,it really moves out! I love it to the point that Im sure my ‘Cuda wonders what the F is going on.I dont have a garage,which can be a pain here in Western NY,but luckily my best friend lets “LeBron” stay in his garage sometimes.Ive been working on this thing with a limited budget between my chemo treatments.Ive been calling it Chryslertherapy! I took it to the local cruise night last week,and was stoked to see people freak out over it!

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