“The best looking Italian to show up in this country since my mother came over,” is how Mr. Iacocca describes the infamous TC by Maserati in this December 1985 interview with Car and Driver. If my feelings regarding the company’s famed CEO were equivocal before coming across this scoop, they are now most definitely skewed in a negative direction. Leaving the actual appearance of the Chrysler TC aside for a moment, that statement also took into account various other cars like the Ferrari 400GT, the Alfa Giulia Sprint and the 1959-60 Cadillac Eldorado Brougham, to name but a few of the large number of Italian-built cars sold in the US. There’s got to be an Italian word for chutzpah.
I will admit, it’s not a bad looking machine, especially for pre-Taurus Detroit, but certainly nothing to necessarily write home about. There were attractive, equally modern looking designs in GM’s F-body and the Corvette and at any rate, styling was the least of this car’s problems. Mr. Don Sherman’s coverage of the car’s genesis isn’t nearly critical enough to really drive the point home, even though there are shades of the misguided thinking which brought it into being.
Obviously, a magazine can only be so critical, but Car and Driver’s coverage of the ’86 Seville and Eldorado was much less favorable (that review can be read here). Still, if you read between the lines, it’s not difficult to foretell failure. For starters, Mr. Sherman mentions Iacocca’s earlier collaboration with De Tomaso while at Ford, invoking the sort of irresponsibility which got him kicked out of Dearborn. The exaggerated language further used to describe his relationship with various other parties within the corporation is also vaguely satirical, but still errs on the cautious side.
One wonders if any such restraint was necessary; Chrysler wasn’t going to give the editors at C&D anything worth covering in detail for the next six years (unless one considers the debut of the new 3.3 V6 worthy of a dedicated feature). They already knew this was, despite its assembly in an Italian-government managed factory (wrested from De Tomaso’s inept hands), K-car through and through–just for perspective, imagine if the imported Allante were based on the X-car. Such was the extent of the madness afoot in the creation of the TC.
But the best part? Mr. Sherman raves about Iacocca’s ability to get cars into production in record time, “without waiting for the next shipment of robots from Japan.” When this article went to press, production was expected to begin in 1987; the TC didn’t hit dealers until late 1989. And with no new platforms introduced by then, you have to wonder what the engineers under Iacocca’s command were busy doing in the meantime. History proves them to be a talented bunch, but this bizarre Italian collaboration embodies the degree to which their talents were squandered as the ’80s wore on. As creative as it can be, mental illness is rarely productive.