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Underrated Lookers:
The ’96-’98 Chrysler Sebring Convertible

February 12, 2012 by Matt

Chrysler Sebring Convertible Vert Cabriolet Cabrio Droptop Ragtop Beige Brown Tan Bronze 1996 96

As the adage goes, even a stopped clock is right twice a day.

Ever in the midst of wild design flailings, everything miraculously came together for Chrysler with the above car, the ’96-’98 Chrysler Sebring Convertible. I want to be very specific about the model year range I have in mind, because the train jumped the tracks, as it were, very quickly.

For a moment, though, let’s examine the design under consideration. Long, low proportions? Check. Well-resolved lines and absence of fussy surface detail? Yessir. Understated grille shape with stroke-of-genius Jag E-Type chrome bar bisecting the opening? Got it. Nicely-shaped wheels complementing the overall styling? Yep. For what the car needed to be—a dedicated boulevard cruiser than drew just enough (but not too much) attention to itself to reflect well on its occupants—the design was absolutely, stunningly perfect. I honestly don’t know if even as established a high-roller droptop as the Mercedes SL has anything on the ’96-’98 Sebring Convertible, if you take the “badge prestige” factor out of the equation. It’s that good.

Chrysler Sebring Convertible Vert Cabriolet Cabrio Droptop Ragtop Green 1996 96

As mentioned above, though, Chrysler just couldn’t well enough (or in this case, excellent) alone and had to fiddle with the design. The car lost its lovely grille bar for ’99, and received a few other design tweaks that negatively altered the coherency of the shape. And the second- and third-generation Sebring convertibles aren’t really even worth mentioning in the same article as the ’96-’98 car; they’re as hideously abominable as the original was gorgeous. We’re talking paper-bag-over-the-head territory here.

But for one brief, shining moment, Chrysler pulled it together and delivered a stunner. Shame they didn’t learn from their success.

Editor’s note: This post is part of an ongoing series featuring cars whose design I find appealing, in contrast to mainstream opinion. Read the other installments here:

Filed under: Aesthetics, Chrysler, Underrated Lookers

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