Rare Rides: A 1989 Chrysler TC by Maserati - the Lemon Mix-up

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis
rare rides a 1989 chrysler tc by maserati the lemon mix up

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).

Introduced 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).

Born 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.

Of 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.

Meant 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

For 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.

All versions came with a plastic hardtop featuring a unique opera window for use in more formal occasions or when the weather was frosty.

Located 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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  • Pwrwrench Pwrwrench on Nov 04, 2017

    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.

    • JohnTaurus JohnTaurus on Nov 04, 2017

      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).

  • Voyager Voyager on Nov 04, 2017

    Wasn't this the JoHn Voight car?

    • See 1 previous
    • Voyager Voyager on Nov 04, 2017

      @Middle-Aged (Ex-Miata) Man 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?"

  • FreedMike This article fails to mention that Toyota is also investing heavily in solid state battery tech - which would solve a lot of inherent EV problems - and plans to deploy it soon. https://insideevs.com/news/598046/toyota-global-leader-solid-state-batery-patents/Of course, Toyota being Toyota, it will use the tech in hybrids first, which is smart - that will give them the chance to iron out the wrinkles, so to speak. But having said that, I’m with Toyota here - I’m not sold on an all EV future happening anytime soon. But clearly the market share for these vehicles has nowhere to go but up; how far up depends mainly on charging availability. And whether Toyota’s competitors are all in is debatable. Plenty of bet-hedging is going on among makers in the North American market.
  • Jeff S I am not against EVs but I completely understand Toyota's position. As for Greenpeace putting Toyota at the bottom of their environmental list is more drama. A good hybrid uses less gas, is cleaner than most other ICE, and is more affordable than most EVs. Prius has proven longevity and low maintenance cost. Having had a hybrid Maverick since April and averaging 40 to 50 mpg in city driving it has been smooth driving and very economical. Ford also has very good hybrids and some of the earlier Escapes are still going strong at 300k miles. The only thing I would have liked in my hybrid Maverick would be a plug in but it didn't come with it. If Toyota made a plug in hybrid compact pickup like the Maverick it would sell well. I would consider an EV in the future but price, battery technology, and infrastructure has to advance and improve. I don't buy a vehicle based on the recommendation of Greenpeace, as a status symbol, or peer pressure. I buy a vehicle on what best needs my needs and that I actually like.
  • Mobes Kind of a weird thing that probably only bothers me, but when you see someone driving a car with ball joints clearly about to fail. I really don't want to be around a car with massive negative camber that's not intentional.
  • Jeff S How reliable are Audi? Seems the Mazda, CRV, and Rav4 in the higher trim would not only be a better value but would be more reliable in the long term. Interior wise and the overall package the Mazda would be the best choice.
  • Pickles69 They have a point. All things (or engines/propulsion) to all people. Yet, when the analogy of being, “a department store,” of options is used, I shudder. Department stores are failing faster than any other retail. Just something to chew on.