I know it hasn’t quite been a year yet, but I got tired of waiting to see how my 1983 Chrysler LeBaron Town and Country Mark Cross Edition fared after being buried 10 feet underground … ALIVE. While the car did manage to drive itself into the grave, the chances of it living again seemed pretty slim — especially after it was nearly murdered again by the excavator trying to remove it.
For those who don’t remember my LeBaron saga leading up to its burial, I’m not the type of person to ruin a perfectly good car — at least not on purpose. Unfortunately, this rare K-car woodie was a disaster upon arrival, with terminal rust and numerous mechanical issues. The cost of fixing the rotted floors and everything else would have exceeded the value of the car ten times over, so I was especially disappointed. I had bought it sight unseen from a seller with 22 LeBaron woodie convertibles, and the only specific instruction I gave him was to sell me one from his "collection" that didn’t have rust.
Clearly, I shouldn’t have expected much from someone crazy enough to hoard LeBarons, and the car I paid $2,000 for was worth little more than scrap value. Due to the numerous holes and damage to the unibody, it was totally unsafe to drive, and I certainly didn’t want the liability of selling it to someone in its current state. Where it really needed to go was directly to the crusher, but since I’m also insane, I thought it would be more fun to bury the car in an experiment.
The same excavator that dug the hole for me last year also helped exhume the car, but it took us a while before we actually found it. I had forgotten how deep the hole was, and the only protection I had given the car was a piece of plywood over the soft top. That ended up being the first thing the excavator hit, which also poked a hole into what was left of the soft top, sending tons of dirt into the passenger compartment. Surprisingly, things looked pretty dry and untouched inside, but the car was also packed tight into the dirt.
The weight of the earth had compacted enough to seal the car in place, and it completely collapsed the windshield pillar and soft-top assembly. After digging out the nose of the car and making a ramp to roll it out, we hooked a chain to the bumper in our first attempt to pull the car out. The bumper ripped off before the car moved an inch, and the same thing almost happened to the windshield pillars with the chain hooked around there. Clearly, the car didn’t want to budge.
After some head scratching, we decided to try pushing the convertible from its rear, which finally started rolling the car forward. In the process, the bumper-mounted spare tire exploded, and the excavator nearly slid into the hole on top of the car — but once the car started moving, it came out pretty quickly. Finally free from its tomb, the excavator delicately removed the plywood cover on top of the LeBaron and pulled the soft top back for me. This made it look somewhat like a convertible again — but a very pancaked version of it.
I still had to dig hundreds of pounds of dirt out of the interior and off the hood, but with that out of the way, I was shocked at how well it fared. Other than the damage from the weight of the earth — and the extreme measures to remove the car — everything else was remarkably preserved. Even a sheet of paper with my Carmax appraisal offer was completely dry and untouched in the back seat, along with some clothes I had bought for the first silly video. Strangely though, things didn’t seem to fare nearly as well under the hood.
The engine wasn’t that clean to begin with, but somehow ten months underground made it look more like 100 years at the bottom of the ocean. Everything had corroded terribly like moisture was continuously trapped underneath the engine bay. My mechanic, the Car Wizard, had arrived at this point, and he didn’t hold much hope for this car to do anything ever again, but we hooked his jump box to the battery anyway and hoped for a miracle.
Other than its ridiculous appearance, this LeBaron’s main claim to fame is an electronic talking voice reminding you to fasten your seatbelts and alerting you of any issues with the car. This system had sadly failed during its underground slumber, but the rest of the electronics did fire to life, including the factory radio. Even more shocking, the engine actually turned over with the key, and with a little starting fluid, it roared to life with the same 4-cylinder fury it had when it crashed into the hole.This was short-lived before something in the ignition system failed, but the fact that it fired off at all was completely amazing.
I’m now content to send my LeBaron off to be shredded into soda cans, but this experiment was successful enough that I want to do it again. Since I already have the hole and the perfect car in mind, I might as well do it all over again. This time, it will be something a lot more modern — and not a convertible.
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