Del Griffith’s 1983 Chrysler LeBaron “will get you where you want to go”
“Those aren’t pillows!” For fans of John Hughes’ 1987 movie Planes, Trains and Automobiles, that’s not only laugh-out-loud funny, it’s true. Even folks who have never seen the movie know that line. Steve Martin’s wide-eyed utterance is an exclamation point in a hilarious scene in which Martin and John Candy find themselves unforgettably intertwined in a motel bed. It’s comedy gold—and just one of the many reasons it’s about time you dust off that old DVD and laugh your crank off once again.
If you need a more substantial reason to watch, you can always pretend (like I did) that you’re simply doing background research on the 1983 Chrysler LeBaron Custom Convertible that will cross the block at Barrett-Jackson’s Northeast Auction June 26–29 at the Mohegan Sun in Connecticut. Yes, that LeBaron. The “Grand Detroit Farm and Country Convertible.”
Actually, the LeBaron is a well-done recreation, which, of course, it would have to be. If you’ve seen Planes, Trains and Automobiles, you know there wasn’t much left of the original Chrysler—not after the wrong-way mishap and the, um, fire.
After Del Griffith (Candy) and Neil Page (Martin) are pulled over by a state trooper (played by Michael McKean of Laverne and Shirley fame), the no-nonsense officer asks, “What the hell are you driving here?” After informing the pair that they were speeding, the officer asks Candy, “Do you feel this vehicle is safe for highway travel?”
“Yes, I do. Yes, I really do. I believe that. I know it’s not pretty to look at, but it’ll get you where you want to go.”
“You have no outside mirror.”
“No, we lost that.”
“You have no functional gauges.”
“No, not a one. However, the radio still works. Funny as that may seem with all this mess, the radio is the only thing that’s really working good. And it’s clear as a bell—don’t ask me how.”
“I can’t let you go ahead in this vehicle… No, it’s not fit for the road. The vehicle will be impounded until such time as it can be made safe for travel on state highways.”
“OK, officer, I admit it. I broke the law and for that I’m really sorry, I am. It’ll never happen again. You got me there, and I won’t argue with you one iota, I swear. However, if you impound our car, I’m gonna be unable to get my friend home in time for his Thanksgiving dinner.”
Completely unconvinced, McKean arrests the weary travelers, and the last we see of the Chrysler LeBaron is on the winch of a tow truck. Now, more than three decades later, it’s baaaaack.
The beautifully awful 1983 Chrysler LeBaron Custom Convertible has Country Green paint with faux wood side panels, a D hood ornament, FARM COUNTRY chrome lettering, and Farm Brown interior. It is powered by a 2.6-liter four-cylinder engine and is mated to an automatic transmission. With 82,446 original miles, the car “runs and drives well” and is equipped with air conditioning, power windows, power steering, and power brakes. It also features the unique Texas Instruments Electronic Voice Alert, in which it will talk to you about the condition of the car (24 phrases, anyway).
The LeBaron, which is offered without reserve, comes with a rear-mounted travel trunk like the one in the movie, covered in travel stickers and stamped: Del O. Griffith, c/o American Light Fixtures, Shower Curtain Ring Division, P.O. Box 80808, Chicago, Ill.
If you’re thinking, “Hey, that car looks like it’s related to the Wagon Queen Family Truckster from National Lampoon’s Vacation,” then you’re exactly the kind of person who should bid on the LeBaron. Just keep your hands on your own pillows, please.