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?"

  • Sayahh Is it 1974 or 1794? The article is inconsistent.
  • Laura I just buy a Hyndai Elantra SEL, and My car started to have issues with the AC dont work the air sometimes is really hot and later cold and also I heard a noice in the engine so I went to the dealer for the first service and explain what was hapenning to the AC they told me that the car was getting hot because the vent is not working I didnt know that the car was getting hot because it doesnt show nothing no sign no beep nothing I was surprise and also I notice that it needed engine oil, I think that something is wrong with this car because is a model 23 and I just got it on April only 5 months use. is this normal ? Also my daughter bought the same model and she went for a trip and the car also got hot and it didnt show up in the system she called them and they said to take the car to the dealer for a check up I think that if the cars are new they shouldnt be having this problems.
  • JamesGarfield What charging network does the Polestar use?
  • JamesGarfield Re: Getting away from union plantsAbout a dozen years or so ago, Caterpillar built a huge new engine plant, just down the road here in Seguin TX. Story has it, Caterpillar came to Seguin City council in advance, and told them their plans. Then they asked for no advanced publicity from Seguin, until announcement day. This new plant was gonna be a non-union replacement for a couple of union plants in IL and SC, and Cat didn't want to stir up union problems until the plan was set. They told Seguin, If you about blab this in advance, we'll walk. Well, Seguin kept quiet as instructed, and the plan went through, with all the usual expected tax abatements given.Plant construction began, but the Caterpillar name was conspicuously absent from anywhere on the site. Instead, the plant was described as being a collective of various contractors and suppliers for Caterpillar. Which in fact, it was. Then comes the day, with the big new plant fully operationa!, that Caterpillar comes in and announces, Hey, Yeah it's our plant, and the Caterpillar name boldly goes up on the front. All you contractor folks, welcome aboard, you're now Caterpillar employees. Then, Cat turns and announces they are closing those two union plants immediately, and will be transporting all the heavy manufacturing equipment to Seguin. None of the union workers, just the equipment. And today, the Caterpillar plant sits out there, humming away happily, making engines for the industry and good paying jobs for us. I'd call that a winner.
  • Stuki Moi What Subaru taketh away in costs, dealers will no doubt add right back in adjustments.... Fat chance Subaru will offer a sufficient supply of them.