By on November 3, 2017

Image: 1989 Chrysler TC by Maserati

The heart of a K-Car, the styling of a LeBaron, the build quality of an Italian, and the price of a Corvette. Just one car in the history of the world managed to combine all these virtues together into a gelatinous, custard-like vehicle.

And our Rare Ride today just happens to have a similar color, too. Come have a look at the majestic Chrysler TC, by Maserati (not really).

Image: 1989 Chrysler TC by MaseratiIntroduced in 1986 at the Los Angeles Auto Show in America, the idea behind the TC was solid: A luxury grand touring convertible in the finest tradition. Designed and built by Maserati, with the parts sharing, reliability, and common sense of Chrysler (and its vast checkbook).

image: 1989 Chrysler TC by MaseratiBorn from a friendship between Chrysler CEO Lee Iacocca and Alejandro de Tomaso of Pantera fame (and then-owner of Maserati), the two companies signed an agreement in the mid-1980s to develop a coupe. Available at 300 select Chrysler dealers between 1989 and 1991, the TC started with the heart of a Dodge Daytona. It’s actually the same 2.2-liter four-cylinder we recently saw in the Shelby Charger. For 1990 and ’91 Chrysler upped the ante and the displacement, using a 3.0-liter Mitsubishi V6 like you’d find in a Dodge Dynasty.

Image: 1989 Chrysler TC by MaseratiOf the 7,210 total model run, just 500 examples received a special engine. Matched to a manual transmission was a 2.2-liter turbocharged Maserati-developed unit, which was actually made in England by Cosworth. Cosworth’s production stopped short of finishing each engine, shipping them to Italy where Maserati would tighten some screws and apply its stamp.

Image: 1989 Chrysler TC by MaseratiMeant to be a halo car for the Chrysler brand, the TC’s development took longer than expected. Unfortunately, the years between the 1986 auto show reveal and 1989’s dealer deliveries revealed the TC’s biggest problem — the new LeBaron. It didn’t share a body, it didn’t share a platform, nor was the interior the same. But it looked just like the TC, had the same engine, and was considerably less expensive.

A loaded up LeBaron GTC convertible with the Mark Cross package cost $19,666 in 1989. For the same year, the TC started at $33,000. Here are some other competitors’ prices from 1989.

  • Corvette Convertible, $36,785
  • Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz, $26,738
  • Lincoln Mark VII LSC, $27,569
  • Buick Reatta, $26,700

Image: Chrysler TC by MaseratiFor this absurdly high price, you received a special hand-made, sumptuous Italian leather interior in either camel or black. This photo is how it originally looked from the factory — our example today has had some cheap leather work done on the seats.

Image: 1989 Chrysler TC by MaseratiAll versions came with a plastic hardtop featuring a unique opera window for use in more formal occasions or when the weather was frosty.

Image: 1989 Chrysler TC by MaseratiLocated in Washington state, this 1989 TC has many new parts, and is asking $6,300 from a seller who is likely desperate to unload it at this point.

[Images via seller, Chrysler]

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75 Comments on “Rare Rides: A 1989 Chrysler TC by Maserati – the Lemon Mix-up...”


  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    I had a good friend in middle / high school whose father owned one of these. Mint-condition, too. As far as I know, he still has it. Poor guy thinks it’ll be worth big money someday.

    I think that both the Chrysler TC by Maserati and the Cadillac Allanté were interesting—and unsuccessful—Detroit efforts to force European pedigree when all else was uncompetitive on the luxury front. These cars were neat in their own right, in an obscure, tacky sort of way…but decidedly less so if you took them and their aspirations seriously (a Mercedes-Benz SL competitor? Ha!). And in the case of the TC by Maserati, I suppose it foreshadowed the fact that Maserati and Chrysler would eventually be joined at the hips and would share components with one another.

    • 0 avatar

      The Allante was DOUBLE the price of the TC, and was up there with the Mercedes SL.

      • 0 avatar
        Kyree S. Williams

        Exactly. But it wasn’t a *good* SL competitor, and people continued to pay much more for the SL.

        A couple of years ago, my best friend bought a ’93 Allante. With the Northstar, it wasn’t bad, but it had quite a bit of torque steer.

        • 0 avatar
          JohnTaurus

          I found a 1992 Allante the other day. Its mint but has no brakes, evidently the cost to repair them exceeds the car’s value. I did some research which suggested there was a way to repair them at a substantially lower cost by using a Bosch controller from a late 80s Chrysler product. Evidently it isn’t an exact match, but could be made to work.

          Its an interesting car, one I wouldn’t mind having, although I wouldn’t want to spend much on it (buying or repairing).

          Here it is: https://gulfport.craigslist.org/cto/d/1992-cadillac-allante-great/6368500549.html

          $50k in early 1990s money? Lol.

          I always thought the tail lamps looked foggy, like they were cracked and moisture got in and made them hazy. But, they’re all like that.

          • 0 avatar
            Kyree S. Williams

            That’s an interesting MacGyver-style fix.

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            I’m OK with MacGyver style fixes on just about anything BUT brakes and steering.

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            I like this one better.

            https://www.ebay.com/itm/1989-Cadillac-Allante/292310769816?hash=item440f146098:g:hI4AAOSwBv9Z4-YQ&vxp=mtr

            Totally respecting the “girl on the hood” sales approach here.

          • 0 avatar
            JohnTaurus

            I’m wondering if the entire system could be replaced using parts from another car. From the master cylinder to the calipers. You may lose ABS, but at least it would stop.

            From what I read on the Chrysler Bosch part, the modification was to do with the wiring harness, the part is essentially the same otherwise.

            For some reason, the girl on the hood of the eBay one does nothing for me. :P I’m just wondering if she’s the reason the drivers door looks odd, lol. Seriously, though, I wonder if it was just ajar or if its misaligned. He also seems pretty vague on what work it needs. The one in Mississippi is not far from me, I could check it out in person if I were so inclined. I’m not in a position to be buying a lawn ornament, not even one that’s a Cadillac/Italian half breed that spent some time on a Boeing jumbo jet.

      • 0 avatar
        MRF 95 T-Bird

        Back in the late 80’s I stopped in a my local Oldsmobile Cadillac dealer for a part for my 80 Toronado. On the showroom floor there were a couple of Allante’s priced at around $54k.
        A comparable SL was $5-8k more.

      • 0 avatar
        el scotto

        I sure hope you’re just talking about price and not anything else. A swing and miss from Gm.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      I cant speak for the original ones, but aside from the operation of top I really liked my Allante 4.5L and FWIW I don’t think Cadillac’s later effort with the XLR was really any better.

      However, the Allante pricing when new was insane. It should have been in the $40k range (something on top of a Trofeo and Eldorado) not the $55K-$65k market.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Rare, and for a good reason…

    As I understand it, though, this was largely based on the LeBaron coupe, even if they didn’t share sheetmetal.

    • 0 avatar

      Different platform!

      TC = Q
      LeB = J, modified K

    • 0 avatar
      JimZ

      it was build on the “Q” platform, which was the shortest wheelbase derivative of the K architecture.

      put it this way, almost all of Chrysler’s cars back then were on the K platform, just stretched or shrunk as need be.

      K: Reliant, Aries, 400, 600, early LeBaron
      E: Caravelle, E-Class, New Yorker
      G: Daytona, Laser
      H: Lancer, Lebaron GTS
      J: Lebaron coupe/convertible
      P: Shadow, Sundance

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        That was my understanding as well, Jim.

        It was ALL K-car back then.

      • 0 avatar
        MRF 95 T-Bird

        The VW MQB platform of its era.

      • 0 avatar
        brandloyalty

        K was also Spirit and Acclaim. To be exact EEK. (Extended Everyday K?)

        • 0 avatar
          JimZ

          yes, the Spirit/Acclaim/Lebaron came out just as Chrysler was transitioning to their new platform nomenclature; those triplets were the “AA” cars.

          • 0 avatar
            JohnTaurus

            Embarrassing admission: I rather like the Plymouth Acclaim. I ran across a 4 cylinder/5 speed example once, and I surely would take that unicorn, but a V-6 in a classy desert tan color would do.

            The Plymouth Breeze was my favorite cloud car, too. I owned a Cirrus, which was awful from a reliability point of view (had the 2.5L V-6l. Too bad they didn’t give the Breeze the 2.4L/5 speed combo, if it had a manual, it was stuck with the 2.slow. I drove a 5 speed Breeze quite a bit when it came in on trade at the dealer I worked for. I only wished it had more power, but I liked the way it handled. I guess being a 4 cylinder left it less nose heavy than the V-6, but I honestly didn’t drive the Cirrus much at all before it broke down and I parted it out.

          • 0 avatar

            I like the later LeBaron sedan, and think it wore both corporate and luxury styling well. It looks particularly nice with a landau on it.

          • 0 avatar
            JohnTaurus

            I agree Corey.

          • 0 avatar

            https://www.ebay.com/itm/1990-Chrysler-LeBaron-GTC/192350095893

            LOL

          • 0 avatar
            JohnTaurus

            Haaa!

            I’ve recently seen a Saturn Astra hatchback marketed as an SUV. And I can’t tell you the number of “V4” Camrys and Accords I see (usually posted by dealers under “by-owner”, or scammers).

          • 0 avatar
            JimC2

            @JohnTaurus- I liked the Spirit/Acclaim too. They were the ultimate evolution of the basic K Car, the perfect rental sedan if you will.

          • 0 avatar
            JohnTaurus

            Found a unicorn:

            https://erie.craigslist.org/cto/d/1992-plymouth-acclaim/6345826014.html

            So. Much. Red.

            But I’d still drive it. Wouldn’t necessarily pay $3k for it, but I do like it.

  • avatar
    Featherston

    I actually saw one of these parked in the wild three or four summers ago. The top was down, so I got to see the seats, which were a wonder to behold.

  • avatar

    Regardless of what the good folks at Allpar.com will tell you, they’re the same body and the same platform.

    Pull up photos of a LeBaron and the TC, examine them side by side:

    LeBaron:
    http://autowpaper.com/images/chrysler-lebaron-convertible-white-2.jpg

    TC:
    http://momentcar.com/images/chrysler-tc-by-maserati-9.jpg

    • 0 avatar
      JimZ

      every FWD Chrysler back then (except the L-body Omnirizon) was a K derivative. Just stretched or shrunk as needed.

      • 0 avatar

        Agreed, I mean, look at the doors…the OP indicates that it merely “looked” like a LeBaron, when in fact it really was a lightly reskinned Chrysler…

        • 0 avatar

          I’m going to say this once, to save you further embarrassment. They were not the same panels.

          Lebaron, wheelbase 100.5″, length 184.8″
          TC, wheelbase 93.3″, length 175.8″

          • 0 avatar
            StudeDude

            To amplify Corey’s point, the Lebaron doors are ~ 7 inches longer than the TC doors. None of the body panels can be interchanged. The bodies have the same Coke bottle look but that’s it. Many of the mechanical parts are shared other than the ABS brake system on the TC.

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            I’ve seen these cars parked side by side at a dealership. I’m sure they didn’t share any body panels, but they were VERY, VERY similar.

            Look at the front windshield and A-pillars, in particular. Almost identical. My guess is that Chrysler took the existing LeBaron body and shortened it for the TC.

            Probably goes a long way to explaining with this car didn’t sell!

        • 0 avatar
          fincar1

          I’ll bet that the doors would interchange….

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            Probably not, but clearly the two cars are closely related.

          • 0 avatar
            JohnTaurus

            You can exchange a door that’s 7 inches longer (or shorter) than the one you’re swapping out? Amazing.

          • 0 avatar

            I want him to picture doing this with a kitchen cabinet, and see if he still thinks it would work out.

          • 0 avatar
            JohnTaurus

            I guess with a cutting torch and welding equipment, anything is possible.

            I’ve always wondered what it would be like to take two cars, back from the era when most cars offered a sedan and coupe bodystyle, and have one door on one side (like a coupe) and two doors on the other (like a sedan). Would take a lot of fabrication (cutting, welding, etc) but I bet it would be a stand-out at a car show.

            Like say use an early 1980s Malibu as a basis. You’d start with two cars, one a sedan and one a coupe, graft on one car’s side to the other car. I suppose if you were really good, you could build two cars that would be mirror opposite of each other.

          • 0 avatar
            Kyree S. Williams

            Or you could just buy a Veloster, hideous as it may be. The Veloster has unequal-length front doors.

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            Many things about the Veloster are “inequal…”

          • 0 avatar
            JohnTaurus

            Yeah, but then I’d have to tell people I own a Veloster.

            Lol

            I’m not sure saying I own a 198? Malibu is much better. Maybe it would be best to go with a mid 1990s Civic sedan/coupe. No fart can.

  • avatar
    ajla

    Maserati had a ~200hp 2.0L FI V6 at the time that could have been used here.

    I’m sure such a vehicle would be a reliability nightmare but it would at least justify the premium branding.

  • avatar
    StudeDude

    Corey did make 1 mistake in his piece. The hardtop was not metal but molded plastic—still pretty heavy for 1 person.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Me wanty.

  • avatar
    sirwired

    To me this looks like an example of a car that’s old and rare, but not a classic. (But, hey, there are enthusiasts for just about every model of car ever made, so it’s probably a “classic” to somebody!)

  • avatar
    slavuta

    I owned LeBaron. What a junk! At first I looked at these like, “nice!”. But once through LeBaron, I was like, “cheesy”

  • avatar
    el scotto

    Panel gaps; Sweet Jeebus!, look at the panel gaps! Pull up a pic of an 89 Acord/Camry and compare. Thankfully the end of an era (epoch?) where brain-dead ceo’s from the big three said ” A new bodystyle over the same engineering/mechanicals; the public will buy them like crazy!!!”

  • avatar
    pwrwrench

    The 2-door 3-door 4-door thing has been done.
    I first saw one in a magazine long ago. Story was a 4-door door had been seriously side-swiped and the owner found a donor 2-door car of same make and model. He grafted on the rear quarter of the 2-door in place of the damaged parts. The windshield post and hinge area were the same. Door bolted right on. Owner/builder said he liked it as he was tall and had to squeeze out of the smaller driver’s door of the original car.
    I saw one of these mods in a parking lot in the 80s. Had to get out and walk around it to be sure I was not confusing two different cars.
    Both were larger American cars. Don’t recall the make.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus

      Very cool. I guess if there’s an idea out there, someone has tried it at some point. Especially with cars, they really seem to get the creative juices flowing (at least for me).

  • avatar

    Wasn’t this the JoHn Voight car?

    • 0 avatar
      Middle-Aged Miata Man

      That was an ’83 LeBaron (erroneously said to be an ’89 upon its introduction in “The Mom & Pop Store” but corrected in a later episode.)

      I know too much about these things.

      • 0 avatar

        I was referring to the famous Seinfeld episode, where George Costanza claimed that he had bought a car that once belonged to the famous actor. Jerry Seinfeld then looks at the title… “Wasn’t his first name spelled without an h?”


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