By on September 13, 2021

1991 Chrysler TC by Maserati in Colorado junkyard, LH rear view - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsWith The General offering a costlier-than-an-S-Class Cadillac built in Turin and Hamtramck (the two assembly lines connected via custom-built 747 freighters) as well as Italianate Buicks and Oldsmobiles in the late 1980s, Lee Iacocca decided to leverage Chrysler’s investment in Maserati to create a K-Car-based Italian sports car: the TC by Maserati. Like the Allanté, Troféo, and Reatta, the TC hasn’t held its value so well over the decades, and I find the occasional example during my junkyard travels. Here’s a crashed ’91 in a yard near Denver, Colorado.

Chrysler made a big deal out of the TC’s Italian origins, but it was as closely related to the LeBaron as was the Allanté to the Eldorado. Actually, much of the suspension came from the related Dodge Daytona.

1991 Chrysler TC by Maserati in Colorado junkyard, build tag - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsStill, the TC was built in Italy, and those LeBaron-ish bodies were handmade by Italian craftsmen.

1991 Chrysler TC by Maserati in Colorado junkyard, engine - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe TC was sold for the 1989 through 1991 model years, and all the ’89s had a 2.2-liter turbocharged Chrysler four-cylinder (making either 160 or 200 horses, depending on whether you got the base engine or the Cosworth-headed DOHC version). For 1990 and 1991, the TC could be purchased with a 3.0-liter Mitsubishi 6G72 V6 engine, rated at 141 horsepower. That’s what’s in this car.

1991 Chrysler TC by Maserati in Colorado junkyard, gearshift lever - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsUnlike owners of the Allanté, Troféo, and Reatta, buyers of Chrysler’s TC by Maserati could get a manual transmission in their cars… but only if they selected the four-cylinder engine. All of the Mitsu-ized TCs got a four-speed A604 slushbox.

1991 Chrysler TC by Maserati in Colorado junkyard, gauge cluster - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThis car appears to have been a well-cared-for low-miler.

1991 Chrysler TC by Maserati in Colorado junkyard, RH front view - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThen it got into a crash, and it’s a lot cheaper to buy a nice TC than it is to fix a wrecked one.

1991 Chrysler TC by Maserati in Colorado junkyard, BIOHAZARD sticker - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThese stickers are never good news on a crashed car.

1991 Chrysler TC by Maserati in Colorado junkyard, hardtop roof - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsI keep hearing that these removable hardtops are worth big money, but this is the third one I’ve found in a cheap self-service yard. I hope some local TC aficionado grabs it before it reaches The Crusher.


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60 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1991 Chrysler TC by Maserati...”


  • avatar
    redapple

    Utter garbage.

    Rubbish.

  • avatar
    theflyersfan

    Grab the hardtop before the opera windows burn up the interior. They liked to focus the sun and carve nice little burn lines in the rear cargo shelf carpeting.

    This car was doomed from the beginning. You don’t trust either a severe lagged Chrysler turbo-4 or weak-kneed Mitsubishi V6 with the brittle 4-speed merged with the oh so wonderful build quality of Maserati. That’s a merger of the worst from both worlds. And then there were the excessive build costs, sky high price, the Le Baron styling, the delays, the Chrysler dealer experience, and the quality…I guess one can say “being born under a bad sign.”

    I guess in some circles, this can be looked at as a collectable car given their rarity and back story. But, to compare, the Allante, even with its own lengthy back story and history, was the better car.

    • 0 avatar
      Flipper35

      The 2.2l was a pretty stout engine.

      • 0 avatar
        theflyersfan

        I remember driving a Dodge Daytona with that engine. Maybe new turbos are so smooth and seamless that I recall older turbos as crude, but that engine felt “turbo crude” to me – the 1-Mississippi, 2-Mississippi, BAM BOOST!!! type of driving experience. Combined with the automatic, I’m not sure it would fit the mission of the car. The smoother V6 would, but 140 out of a 3.0L V6 is anemic. Most automakers were getting 20+ more HP and more torque out of similar sized engines.

        • 0 avatar
          FreedMike

          Plus, these were front-drivers, so torque steer was a major issue. I drove an Omni GLH Turbo, which had the hotter version of the Chrysler turbo four, and if your wheels weren’t pointed exactly straight when the boost hit, you needed some Mario Andretti moves.

          Man, was it a hoot to drive, though.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Hello… torque steer! I wonder how the Cosworth headed version of the TC motor handled? Seems like all of the FWDs of this period topped out at 200bhp but that may have been in part because of chassis dynamics. My C70 (a P80) debuted in 1997, but I’ve read the 2.3L high power turbo iterations have torque steer issues when one steps on it (something like 230bhp). The 2.4 low pressure turbo doesn’t have that issue, in fact even when I stomp it I have no odd steering.

          • 0 avatar
            Flipper35

            I believe these had equal length half shafts which helped considerably with torque steer. It was still there, but not like the hot Omni.

        • 0 avatar
          C5 is Alive

          “140 out of a 3.0L V6 is anemic. Most automakers were getting 20+ more HP and more torque out of similar sized engines.”

          Not really in 1991.

          GM LG6 3.1L V6 – 120 hp
          GM LHO 3.1L V6 – 140 hp
          Ford Vulcan 3.0L V6 – 140 hp
          Toyota 3VZ-E 3.0L V6 – 145 hp
          Toyota 2VZ-FE 3.0L V6 – 153 hp

          Nissan is the outlier, with the VG30E making 160 hp in the Maxima, and Toyota would soon bump its V6 up to 185 hp in the ’92 Camry SE. But “most [mass market] automakers” still weren’t quite there yet in 1991.

          • 0 avatar
            theflyersfan

            BMW M50 I-6: 189HP
            Mercedes-Benz M104 I-6: ~190HP
            Audi was getting close to 200HP out of the turbo I-5.
            Maserati even had the engine in the Biturbo around 225hp.

            Chrysler wanted to position this to play with the European big boys by teaming up with Maserati. Given the comparison with the European makers, anemic still stands.

          • 0 avatar
            Morea

            Alfa Romeo 3.0L V6 – 182 hp

            (The Busso V6, enlarged from 2.5L to 3L in 1987.)

        • 0 avatar
          SilverCoupe

          Flyersfan,

          You are quite right, I had a 142 HP ’84 Chrysler Laser Turbo, but I loved it when that turbo boost finally hit! A lot better the Scirocco I had previously, which at 80 HP or so, just gained momentum as it felt like it.

        • 0 avatar
          Flipper35

          From idle maybe. If you were already moving there was not much lag. At least in the 2.2l turbo I had.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      “But, to compare, the Allante, even with its own lengthy back story and history, was the better car.”

      I think the Allante was something like twice the price, I hope it was better.

  • avatar
    indi500fan

    Biohazard…wow never seen that at the local yard.

    • 0 avatar
      Art Vandelay

      Bad news…blood in the interior generally.

      • 0 avatar
        C5 is Alive

        At least the generally straight body hints that the crash probably wasn’t fatal.

      • 0 avatar
        SPPPP

        Have seen blood in a car interior at the pick-n-pull. Have never seen a biohazard sticker. In fairness, it’s been a while since I went out to one. On a beautiful, quiet, sunny spring day, I saw a small pool of blood when I looked up at a headliner. (As we all know, liquids flow down, not up.) It was definitely a sobering moment that made me think about the contrasts that time brings. OK, not OK, then OK again.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      The car itself was kind of a biohazard.

      • 0 avatar
        Arthur Dailey

        During the week that I was to take my driving test, My Old Man took me to the ‘impound’ lot where the local police had vehicles towed that had been involved in serious personal injury collisions.

        Remember when in American Graffiti John Milner took the young kid played by MacKenzie Phillips through the ‘car graveyard’ and recounted to each car and its driver?

        Well sort of the same thing. Only when we went, many of the vehicles had not yet been ‘cleared out/cleaned’. Lots of dried blood, masses of hair, etc clearly visible.

        I was still too young and stupid to get the full effect. But those images have lasted with me for nearly 50 years.

        • 0 avatar
          AJ

          I remember a half hour film (on a projector!) of photos of fellow teenagers back in driver’s ed. The local police created the film from our local roads. Yikes, I still remember the stories!

  • avatar
    numike

    Difficult to communicate with the truth about cars under the contact us link so I will put it here A Look at Some Wild 1980s Digital Dashboards
    When the intent was to dazzle rather than provide good UX https://www.core77.com/posts/109822/A-Look-at-Some-Wild-1980s-Digital-Dashboards

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Reminds me of a quote attributed to John Robert Columbo circa 1965 ” “Canada could have enjoyed: English government, French culture, and American know-how. Instead it ended up with: English know-how, French government, and American culture.”

    Implying the worst of each. Much like this car. Still it is too bad that a well preserved model ended up like this.

    Hope that everyone got out OK for as Murilee wrote ‘that bio-hazard sign’ is never a good thing on a crashed vehicle.

    • 0 avatar
      The Snu

      Along those lines, the joke I heard was heaven is where the cops are British, the Engineers are German, and the cooks are French;

      Hell is where the Cops are German, the cooks are British, and the engineers are French…

  • avatar
    wjtinfwb

    The only thing more ludicrous than a Cavalier based Cadillac is a K-car based Maserati. Must have been some great drugs in the Boardrooms back in the 80’s and 90’s…

    • 0 avatar
      Dan

      Infinitely more ludicrous. The compact shitbox as a luxury car wasn’t a bad guess in 1980. Recall what gas cost and the economy looked like.

      Chrysler built theirs seven years of recovery later.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      I think the D3 were on two drugs in the ’80s when it came to the lux segment: denial and bad habits. They knew their buyers were getting so old that they were trading in their glorified LTD/Caprice/Newport luxobarges for a hearse, and the younger buyers were all going with Japanese and European brands. But they figured they could do things the old-fashioned, badge-engineered way. Cars like this and the Cimarron were the result.

      This one isn’t quite as egregiously offensive as a Cimarron, though – it did have a distinct body and a hand-built interior. But it sucked.

    • 0 avatar
      aja8888

      The folks in the boardroom probably never got to actually drive this thing.

  • avatar
    Matt Foley

    So – what was the most desirable K-car derivative? This Chryslerati? The Shelby CSX? The Daytona IROC? The 2nd-gen Caravan with the 2.5 and 5-sp stick?

    If the only cars available were K-car derived, I’ll take a 1990-93 Chrysler Imperial.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      My 85 LeBaron GTS 5-spd was awesome. No turbo meant it lasted a long time. It was roomy inside, and the hatch offered great utility.

      I had it for its last 12 years of life, ending in 2000, at 206k miles.

    • 0 avatar
      spookiness

      We had a Lebaron GTS turbo with automatic. Yeah the turbo lag was bad, but to teenage me it was fun. Digital dash with broughamy bordello red velvet interior. I dunno about desirability, but my fave K-car derivative is the Acclaim/Spirit with the 2.5. Pretty solid and roomy generic car. I still see them.

    • 0 avatar
      eng_alvarado90

      I’d take a 1991-1992 Dodge Spirit R/T. Peak performance out of a K-derived car. Not to mention it’s arguably the most collectable of the bunch.

    • 0 avatar
      Steve S.

      I’ll take the standard ’87-’92 Lebaron convertible that looked almost exactly like this, but for half the price. Make mine the Mitsubishi V6 version.

      Or, according to Wikipedia there was a Mexican version called the “Chrysler Phantom R/T” which had the 224 hp 16 valve turbo engine that the Dodge Spirit R/T had. I’ll take a ragtop version of that.

  • avatar
    CaddyDaddy

    in 91′ CaddyDaddy was a young lad just about to get his DL. Saw this at the LA Auto Show and knew it was just a K-Car. About this time, what was more harsh – Quad 4, Tech -4 or Chrysler 2.2L Turbo? Compared to Honda’s 4cyl.

    Also, was the A604’s tradename Ultradrive? If so, Yikes!

    As a fam, we test drove on of these. Then went to the Cad dealer and test drove a Deville with the 4.9L you can guess what ended up in the Garage.

  • avatar
    tane94

    The worst mish-mash of Italio-American car building. Scashad.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    The TC was ridiculed even during its brief existence – no hindsight required.

    Perhaps the owner of this car crashed it on purpose, since that miserable 3.0 Mitsubishi was probably smoking a lot by 73k miles.

  • avatar
    SPPPP

    Not to be too morbid, but I don’t really see any crash damage on this vehicle. The radiator support looks straight, and the steering wheel isn’t bent. That makes me think that the biohazard stickers are either pest-related, or possibly there was a medical emergency (heart attack, carbon monoxide, self-harm, overdose).

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    I chuckled when I heard the Chrysler training video say, “owning a TC doesn’t make a person an automotive enthusiast”. Somehow that was beneath TC buyers I suppose.

  • avatar
    tylanner

    The people that designed and produced the majority of American cars in the 80’s/90’s really should be ashamed of the absolutely detestable, uninspired hunks of metal they spat out of otherwise perfectly operational factories…

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      I wouldn’t go that far. I was just reading the story of the Reatta on Ate Up With Motor, at least at GM starting in the late 70s the previous process of designers “leading” the engineers was reversed as the designers were forced to content with more regulations and cost cutting measures. Thus the 80s product were panned as being too alike in styling, and for good measure. TC could have been some kind of one off exotic given the right circumstance -such as Viper- but instead it became another K-car but styled and built by Pininfarina.

  • avatar
    ajla

    Like with the Allante (which I did own for awhile), I don’t think these were bad cars but the price charged was far too high for what you were getting.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      “the Allante (which I did own for awhile)”

      Now its time to add a Jaguar :D

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      Basically, the TC it was a (lightly) tarted-up LeBaron that was made in Italy.

      The Allante was on an existing platform but obviously shared no styling or interior features with any other GM car. A much more “legit” effort.

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        I think a full-whack LeBaron was about $20K so if this was around $25K I could see it being okay. Instead the MSRP was like $37K.

      • 0 avatar
        C5 is Alive

        Again, the TC was originally intended to precede the introduction of the 1987 LeBaron by one model year, but various Mopar and Maserati issues bumped it to MY89.

        Still, it’s more accurate to say the LeBaron was the larger and cheaper version of the TC, even if the market (mis)perception was otherwise.

      • 0 avatar
        StudeDude

        Though they looked alike, the TC and Lebaron convertible shared no body panels whatsoever.The interior controls were similar to the ’87-89 models but were different thereafter for the Lebaron.

  • avatar
    ajla

  • avatar
    aja8888

    I have a friend who owns TWO of these trying to make one good car out of the pair. He’s been at it for a couple of years now. I think he has given up and won’t junk them due to how much money he has already put into the effort.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    The one good thing about these cars was the very soft and pretty butterscotch leather. This one was doomed to the junkyard from the second somebody made the fateful decision to order it with a black interior.

  • avatar

    One of the car mags described this car as the result of too many wine soaked lunches in southern italy with Lee Iacocca and DeTomaso. Some poor engineers were then tasked with making…something, and to a price. This was the result.

  • avatar

    Terrible cars. I love them!

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