(first posted in 2011) You got to hand it to Lee Iacocca; he was given an utter basket case of a car company and one new K car. And just like a magician, he kept reaching into his hat for a solid decade, pulling out one new variation after another on a theme in the key of K. Would you believe this? Ah,…yeah. This? Maybe. How about this? Umm…And when he reached in one last time and pulled out the TC, everybody laughed. Which is not what Lee had in mind at all. Lee was given the hook, but we’ll always associate the TC with the sin of pretentious overreaching.
I just realized now why I’m finally getting to the TC: it needed to be preceded by the Chrysler-Ghias to help put it in perspective. Note to Lee Iacocca: if you’re going to do an Italo-Americano, don’t do it on a K-car. And don’t release it a year after its styling has already appeared on one of your mass-production cars. And ditch the porthole; it kinda’ worked on the ’56 T-Bird, but…And, most of all, make it memorable. The Dodge-Ghia (top) may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it sure as hell wasn’t mistaken for a 1954 Dodge Royal.
Which one shall we take on first? Or are they all painfully obvious? The restyled “aero” Le Baron (bottom) beat the TC to the showrooms by several years. When the TC was first announced in 1986, that look was still kind of fresh. By the time the TC finally showed up, it was stale bread, even if it was baked in Italy.
As the first Italian-American to reach the top of the car business (equivalent to Kennedy being the first Catholic President), Lido’s natural pull to the old country was understandable. And his first go-around with Alejandro DeTomaso did produce the memorable Pantera.
Now that was on par with with the Chrysler-Ghias. I don’t have to go through the motions comparing a Pantera with a 1971 Mercury Marquis Brougham, right? Yes, Lee and Alejandro’s first little trans-Atlantic fling produced quite a love child. But second times around are always so problematic; everyone’s older and more cynical, for one. Love seemed to have very little to do with the TC, for sure; more like a hooker and a gigolo fleshing out the financial details of an odd coupling.
Let’s take a closer look at what they agreed to do to each other: the TC was built on a shortened Dodge Daytona platform. There were no less than three engines in the TC’s failed three-year life-span: the 89’s got a slightly modified Turbo II 2.2 L four coupled to the old three-speed automatic transaxle. Given the turbo lag, narrow power band, and the buzziness of the (non-balance shaft) 2.2 four, this was not a good way to make a first impression.
The ’90 and ’91 TC became a tri-continental affair, with Mitsubishi contributing its 3.0 L SOHC V6, now coupled to the infamous Ultra-Self-Destruct-O-Matic A604 in its maiden outing. Some 500 TCs were built with a different power train altogether: a specially built turbo 2.2 L four with a Cosworth 16 valve cylinder head and other go-fast goodies. It was paired with a Getrag five speed manual box. Undoubtedly, the ultimate K car engine-tranny combo. Also undoubtedly scary to source parts for nowadays.
The TC was also bestowed with then-new ABS and some special springs and shocks. If it’s the same ABS system our ’92 Caravan came with, it was a disaster that Chrysler had to extend a lifetime warranty on. But I know the TC has some devotees. That’s good. Every car has its redeeming qualities, and I’m sure the TC has its share. It certainly is the ultimate K car. Whether it made sense to fork over some $75k in today’s dollars to buy one is another question.
Apparently, not too many folks saw the value proposition, despite the Maserati name and some nicely stitched leather in the cabin. Lee had assumed TC sales of 5 – 10 k annually. A total 7300 TCs were sold in three years, way below that target. Oh well; I’m sure he and Alejandro had fun hashing out their baby. Seems like DeTomaso got the better end of the deal, consistent with his track record.
Now why am I showing you this pairing of K-based cars? It represents two of the more extreme ends of the speKtrum, in terms of their relative success and otherwise. Curiously enough, these two cars are within one-tenth of an inch of each other in overall length. I picked the TC for today’s CC because I wanted to do the shortest K-car ever, among other things. After I started, I suddenly had a moment of panic: is the SWB Caravan shorter? Turns out one of these is 175.8″ long,the other is 175.9″ long. Did I guess right?
These are the lofty issues I struggle with. Well, lengthy, in this case.
Obviously, I’ve run out of inspiration on the TC. Actually, I never had any. The TC is like a long-forgotten dream, until you actually run into one on the street. And then you ask yourself: did I really dream this?
Awesome writeup, Paul. I’ve never had a chance to see one in person, though I don’t know what I would say after seeing the most expensive K car ever.
I saw my first and only one last year while I was in Maryland visiting my mother. I said to her, holy crap, that’s a Chrysler TC, she said “So what?” obviously assuming it was just some generic Le Baron style Chrysler. I half way explained what made it special, snapped a picture with my cell phone, and moved on with my life.
I also like the Tc.It may have been a glorified Lebaron but I like you think This was a pretty cool car!
I have 2 of them i am looking for someone to restore one
the front end on one was wrecked but the other is fine but doesn’t run .
can you direct me to someone that can restore it reasonable for cash
I’m so glad to hear a woman say she has two Maserati. I have one 1989 that has been parked for 12 years and it’s been parked outside but I Love it. It has no rust considering it’s been out side. I think I’ll be getting it fixed within a few months. There are some negative comments but I still love my Maserati. As the saying goes one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. I hope you’ll find some one to fix your cars.
I recently restored a 16V that had been parked for 17 years. I have spent a fair amount on restoration. Body was in good shape but paint was oxidized so I had it repainted. It was well worth it. The most expensive mechanical issue was the Anti Lock Brake System. The part is over 1K and the labor is almost as much. TC Club of America has a ton of information and some experts that are extremely helpful.
This is some strange use of the word “special” of which I wasn’t previously aware.
ONE MAN’s TRASH, IS ANOTHER MAN’s DREAM!
I enjoyed the write up on the Chrysler TC by MASERATI. Most of what you reported was correct but it was fun to see how we can sku things in ways that sound one way & then when looked at from another prospective look quite differently.
For example my father bought one of these JEWELS as we call them in 1991. It was the 1989 ROYAL CABERNET ( sounded good to me ) exterior & the Bordeaux ( again Pleasant name ) interior. He purchased one of the chrystal key program returns. If you had an issue for 3 or more times & Chrysler could not fix it, they would basically BUY the Car back. He got his TC with 3500 miles on it. He already owned a 1988 GTC Le Baron which retailed new for $16,500 In the spring of 1988. His Maserati ( it was always a Chrysler to the tax & insurance man – but a MASERATI to anyone else that asked. ) cost him $17,500 because of this buy back program. The the two problems the original owner had with the car were;
1. that there was a squeak behind his seat that he could not get rid of but every time he would take it to the dealership, the service tech could never get it to make the noise. Humorously the original owner was 6 foot 6 inches tall & when he moved the 18 way ( or whatever they were ) seats back all the way the back of his seat was squeaking against the rear lift lid that hid the spare tire. So every time the tech got into the car & moved the seat up to drive it, it never made the noise.
2. Every time the car was driven for any time & they all still do this, the hard top & or the Hartz soft top would trickle with a small leak when in car wash or heavy rain. Seems that Chrysler passed around a video to all the dealers that carried the TC to show the one Mechanic at each shop how to keep the tops adjusted correctly after time & miles were added to the Car. The 1st owner’d shop did not see or pay any attention to the video because he kept having the problem.
Dad gets the car & on the 1st day he drives it to a inside assembly line upscale car wash in B’ham Ala. As he is watching his sweet Cabernet TC come thru the line, there were two men standing waiting on their cars also. One had a Mercedes upper end coupe & the other the same in a BMW line. One said to the other when they spied Dad.s car, WOW what is that? My Dad quietly answered it is a Maserati. Really, never seen one. Kind of neat with the ole retro opera windows. What are they like they ask? Dad says, they get 24 mpg. They have hand stitched supple leather throughout the cockpit including the Dash, door panels, rear wrap around area, front, side, & back of the seats & sit extremely comfortable. unbelievably reasonable insurance rate, quite low maintenance & repair rates with parts at a small fraction of the European models, & for all that it cost me $17,500. WOW was all the two guys could say when they had over $75,000 in their coupes. Oh yea Dad says, also that opera window top is a Hard Top & it comes off & there is a convertible top underneath!!! IT’S A CONVERTABLE TOO ? Needless to say Dad was smiling proud when he left that day with the two men looking on.
With all that said, I sold Dad’s car when he passed away a few years later. I looked for about 10 years for a Black one with the 6 cyl in it for replacement. Found the right one on EBAY believe it or not for $4160. Expected the worse & got the best when it was delivered. 70 year old mother received the car for me & I get a call at 6 am in the morning after its arrival wanting to know if she can keep this pretty car in her Carport for me & she will drive it around to keep the battery & fluids ok. My wife when finding out my new Baby was coming, she also asked if she could call it hers? Long story a little longer, I bought 11 of these silly cars in 90 days. 8 Automatics & 3 rare 16 valve 5 speed models. Showed them, tinkered with them & had a blast with them for many years. I would sell one every once in a while & now have only the 1st Black one I started with. I kept up with the cost of repairs, maintenance, insurance, taxes on the fleet. When all was said in done, I sold the 10 cars for enough to pay for all 11 & made about $1,000 per example on the 10 sold. It is now about 10 years later & I put the last one up on ebay last couple weeks. Although it did not meet the reserve price, I got an email afterwards offering me about the same $ I paid almost 10 years ago. Nope not too bad a car, not to me anyway.
Also let me mention that when I went to insure the 1st one 10 years ago they looked it up & offered to insure it for $20,000. When I told them what I paid for the little car, we both agreed to insure it for $12,000 instead. Referred me to the point that it took 10 years of looking to find that one & what would it take to find another one like it? The quoted insurance premium was $ 276. I said WOW that is a little high! The agent says really I thought $276 for coverage from august to april of the following year sounded pretty good to them. OH I said, I thought you meant $276 per month. So it is less than $35 per month for the insurance? How much liability & deductible does that have? Sir it has $500,000 liability, no Deductible on Comp or Collision & your Baby will be insured for $12,000 in case something tragic happens to it. Turns out I can only drive the car about 3,000 miles a year but with 11 of them that should not be a problem.
When I was offered about what I paid for the car a week or so back, I thought about it & decided maybe I should continue to enjoy it. Just think what it would take to replace it! No my opinion & I have owned 12 of them including Daddy’s, is I LIKE UM ALMOST WOULD SAY I LOVE EM! TOMMY
Other pics of the BABIES
One more just for Giggles.
My late father-n-law when he worked on the prototype TC back in the early 80’s
Did he ever mention the Chrysler SL, or the Imperial Lamborghini Edition ?
You are truly the TC Whisperer. Just goes to show that for every shoe, there is a foot.
if i were to by a 1989 chrysler mas are engine parts and tail lights still avaliable?
I always thought the bottom of the doors on these looked like a badly shrink wrapped album cover. It looks like it was stretched to fit, or has been warped by a incorrectly placed jack.
This car really was a joke. It cost over twice what a loaded LeBaron convertible did, easily.
I always thought it looked like it was based more on the 1986 than the restyled 87.
Are you saying it had the same 2.2 Turbo that was used on the 1986 Le Baron as well. I do actually like the rather Kitchey Opera windows. Might be fun to pick up one of these cheaply now.Or would that be more trouble than it would be fun?
I recall reading that the odd syntax of the car’s name – “Chrysler’s TC by Maserati” – was necessary to skirt a legal stipulation that all Chryslers be sold at all Chrysler dealers. There (at least initially) weren’t enough cars to go around, or there were some dealers deemed not up to selling such a prestigious car (similar to the VW Phaeton years later). By making the car technically not a Chrysler they could limit TC sales to just the upper-rung dealerships.
No wonder it drew laughter its a stupid looking thing, one toke over the line Lido? What can he have been thinking? Some of Exners odder ideas pale in compare. Are you sure you want to do this Sergio?People like me remember the original 500 and others you made and I cant see anyone forgetting Chryslers like these.
I may be off on the timeline of when what was developed (I was just in jr. high at the time)…but wasn’t the TC really just a quick “me-too!” to J.R. Ewings’s Cadillac Allante?
Yes the TC was supposed to be Chrysler’s answer to the Cadillac Allante. Pretty sad, huh?
A classic example of an utterly unnecessary product for not-too-bright people with money to waste.
Beautifully said! And also applies to the Caddy Allante. Never understood the point of either these two cars.
(sarcasm on) Well jeeze guys, of course the gentleman who might have a loaded Fifth Ave (see my avatar) would need a convertible for when he’s feeling sporting! A Lebaron is far to plebian to fit that bill. (sarcasm off)
Uh…I owned a 1992 LeBaron red convertible with white seats and charcoal dash and door panels, black carpet. Yeah, I will admit the K cars were 100K mile cars – that’s about all you could get out of them before the engines started being – well – shot. I bought ours in 1999 with 103K – yeah, it needed some work. Had a new top, though. It was a beautiful, classy-looking car and was the closest thing I could get to the ’64 Chevy I once owned. My wife and I are convertible people, and it was time to get back into the game and have a little fun. It did have the “Chrysler wobble” in the front end that I could never resolve, even with new CV joints. I had it repainted and replaced the wide rub strips on the sides with a thin black trim with chrome edging – looked like it belonged there, too. Engine finally blew in September 2007. It’s still around town, I understand, but in pretty sad shape, as the owners haven’t taked care of it like I did. As much as I like my MX5, it doesn’t have the “class” of the LeBaron, but I don’t have to work on it, either!
EDIT: I never bought into the “premium” status of the Maserati-badged TC either. They looked no nicer than the LeBarons did. Like making a stretched Dodge Dynasty into an Imperial – now that IS a “deadly sin” of the highest order!
A Miata doesn’t have the “class” of a LeBaron? To each their own but that generation of LeBaron was a total chick car based on a boring platform. They’re completely generic grocery getters. Their only redeeming feature is the top comes down.
A Miata is a beautiful car (first gen anyway) that drives better than it looks IMO. I would never drive a LeBaron convertible unless it was given to me, but I love Miatas. I had a 91. Right now I have a 2001 Mr2 Spyder, which is a blast to drive.
I remember when this gen of LeBarons were everywhere and they’ve always been generic.
You own a Miata & want to call the LeBaron a “chick car”? That is hilarious.
“When the TC was first announced in 1986, that look was till kind of fresh. By the time the TC finally showed up, it was stale bread, even if it was baked in Italy.”
How true. This could have been the LeBaron Halo car if introduced when it was intended to be.
Now as a fan of the L body cars, I’d give my eye teeth and left arm for that 16v cylinder head!
@Birddog: As a fan of the H body cars, I too, would give an eye tooth for that Lotus head…
Right on! I know a guy that has t beautiful examples of the Lancer version. A Shelby car and a grandma owned ES Turbo.
I wish you hadn’t told me about those… I reaaaallly wanted the Shelby version back in the day, but went with the regular one (cheaper) as we were awaiting our first kid…
Makes me wonder what the sound system was like. At that price, it better have been something. Anyhow, so if you wanted an exclusive American luxo two door in 1989-91 that was also fun (a justifiable expectation given the price tag), you chose between this, the econobox gen 7 Eldo with all the GM bells and whistles… and the Lincoln Mark VII with all of Ford’s bells and whistles. The latter gave you the HO engine, a self-leveling air suspension, a dead reliable 302/AOD combo all standard, and a blow your socks off JBL system if you so desired, a head unit CD player, and one of those funky old car phones as the options. And, in 1989 the Mark VII had the special edition, truly exclusive GTC variant with an even more advanced air suspension and insanely good handling. Compare this (from Wikipedia’s TC page):
“Inside the interior storage compartment, the TC came with an umbrella, tool kit and small spare tire.
The only extra cost option available for the TC was a CD player that was a plug-in attachment to the standard Infinity AM/FM cassette stereo. This CD player was a belt driven unit, primitive by later standards.”
LMAO. Well, I guess you also had an Allante probably mentioned in the same conversation. Another Italo-American, btw. Now there’s a GM (sin? hit?) that I can’t wait for you to review, Paul!
Nice work yet again, the Chrysler week has been a blast.
So when I need parts for my Chrysler-Maserati, I go to my Chrysler-Fiat dealer? Too creepy man!
For a lot of TC parts, I suspect you’d have better luck with eBay than the Chrysler dealer today.
Forget the TC, that Pantera is simply gorgeous! I was just daydreaming yesterday about how I would love to own a classic italian exotic, but couldnt deal with the maintenance, and right there is the answer. Italian looks with Ford power.
The Pantera is a true modern classic.
Oddly enough, I was selling Chryslers in 91 (IIRC) when the “TC by Maserati” was still new. The owner of the store was so proud to get his first one, and put it right in the middle of the showroom floor — all the staff and customers immediately proceeded to make fun of it. That went on for four months until he traded it to another dealer who had a family member that wanted it. It was a dark time in the history of Maserati as well as Chrysler.
As Paul points out, it is the “King of the K-cars”, and maybe even a bargain if you find one in decent shape to use as a classic beater. Just don’t drink the “Maserati” kool-aid.
The Pantera is gorgeous but that rear end swing has caught out a few drivers.Hanoi Rocks drummer Razzle was killed in a Pantera.
If you name yourself Razzle it is probably just a matter of time before fate catches up with you.
He was named after his choice in reading material.Razzle was a British Pound Shop version of Playboy,famous for it’s readers wives photos.
NHL legend and posthumous king of Canadian donut-shops, Tim Horton, also died in a Pantera.
Elvis supposedly hated his Pantera because it was always breaking down on him. I read he shot it one time after it failed him.
I wonder who would have bought and shot a T.C, or died in one?
It’s interesting to compare this effort to earlier pages from the Iacocca playbook, particularly the Lincoln Mark III. It’s the same basic formula: Take the Thunderbird/LeBaron and decorate it with enough geegaws to justify an eye-popping price increase. It’s just that by the mid- to late-80s, Lido started to think he could just phone it in.
I know a lot of people think the Mark III is a rolling monument to bad taste, but to me it always had some real road presence. And, unlike the TC, it doesn’t make me laugh.
Not sure if Iacocca’s already questionable taste got worse over the years, or if he started to think making substantial changes during the tarting-up of luxury models was unnecessary, or if it was just a function of Chrysler’s depleted resources. How they managed to sell even 7300 of these amazes me.
Relating this to the “rolling coffin” post… I often wondered why Iacocca didn’t keep the R-body on life support just a little longer and what he would have done with that platform if he had K-car profits to invest in the project.
“I often wondered why Iacocca didn’t keep the R-body on life support just a little longer”
I often wonder why the OEM’s constantly try to re-invent the wheel with all-new platforms rather than continuously improving the older ones. The older platforms that do stick around never get freshened and get out-dated real quick, if not content-wise, certainly potential customer perception-wise. The old Dart platforms should “never have been scrapped” – Lido’s own words, too! American companies just never seem to learn.
The Impala is a relatively sucessful example of stretching the platform dollar. It’s basic chassis dates to 1983..
You’re kidding? How?
There’s still a lot of the old Celebrity in today’s Impala, I believe.
That comment only makes me want to propose marriage to you!
RIGHT THE FRIG’ ON!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
au contraire mon ami – the last w-body Impala (celebrity + baretta based) was 2013; the brand new full size rides on the same new platform as the XTS… (Opel’s Epsilon…)
Ford Australia still has shock tower front ends from the XK in use, Ford US cant build a car worth squat go figure.
Not really, it was replaced in 1987 with a double wishbone front end with r&p steering.
The car is definitely a case of grandpa’s axe though.
The sad answer is probably nothing, since he blew the K-roll on Gulfstream and savings-and-loans, while Ford was blowing money on Ford Aerospace and the Uncle Sam antiaircraft gun, and GM was blowing money on Hughes and EDS.
In Lido’s case, I think it’s safe to say that he had forgotten nothing from his years at Ford, and learned nothing from them either. He was the king of the reskin in the ’60s and especially the ’70s, and his later years at Chrysler were like a fading rockstar’s comeback tour, still playing the same songs with less and less people coming to listen.
Don’t forget that conventional wisdom at the time said big, RWD V8s were finished. Pontiac dropped the fullsize Bonneville/Catalina for ’82, only to quickly return with the Canadian Parisienne the following year. Chevy seriously considered discontinuing the Impala/Caprice around the same time. And Buick, Olds and Cadillac moved to the front-drive H/C platform in anticipation of $3.00 gas by 1985.
The R-body was half-baked at best, with basic mechanicals that dated to 1962, and it hit the market with a thud. Chrysler, like everyone else, saw no future in that size car, and the pitiful sales volume probably made it a money loser. However, given the shift back to big cars, I’m a little bit surprised Mopar didn’t try to overhaul the more modern M-body, considering how well the Fifth Avenue started selling. But front drive was the wave of the future in the ’80s, and Chrysler was leading the charge in Detroit.
The irony is that Chrysler’s the only major manufacturer currently offering a volume fullsize, rear drive car. Thank God for AMC and the Eagle Premier, though, or who knows how long they would have tried to keep selling K-car New Yorkers and LeBarons.
The Chevy Lumina was designed as a direct replacement for the Chevy Impala/Caprice. I do applaud (for the time) all of King Lido’s K car spinoffs, but the Chrysler TC was an exercise not only in hubris, but in audacity. It would be as though India’s Tata Motors would create a “Nano S-Type – by Jaguar” (a Nano with Conolly leather seats, burled elm and a leaper on the bonnet!).
Absolutely right about the impending doom of big cars in the early ’80s. When my parents bought their Crown Victoria in ’84, the salesman told them that Ford would be dropping the car within a year or two. This could have been typical salesman BS (Buy it now before it’s TOO LATE!) but I believe it was true, then. What saved the fullsized V8 car was the Reagan Administration freezing the CAFE numbers at 27.5 mpg, which allowed the Big 3 to average out the mileage figures of the big cars with the smaller cars.
The Panthers I think were originally supposed to bow out after the 1983 model year to be replaced by the Foxes.
Very thankful for that big car temporary resurgence in the mid 80s, as it kept around a number of models that otherwise would have been gone for 3-25 more years, depending on the make.
The R’s were sales and quality flops and needed to go. Lido got more mileage from the M-Body, which was a Volare beefed up.
The Mark III was great, IMnsHO. It was the last one with decent pickup, until the VII rolled along. It was also less boaty than the IV, V, and VI. The VI got downsized to about the size of the III again, but looked like a two-door Panther (read: boat)… wait, it was a two door Panther. Anyway, it is curious that among the Lincoln fanatics today the jump is made usually from restoring a VII to restoring a III, skipping the real boats. And did I mention the III actually could *go*, lol. The best combo for a III that I know of is that classy deep dark (but not maroon) red with a gray vinyl roof. Then throw a black interior in that and you’ve got one badass looking car. Looks like Iacocca had totally lost it by the time the mid-80s rolled around, but then again, downsizing was all the craze then, and GM and Mopar interpreted it in all the wrong ways.
Love the LeBaron GTC convertible in the pix, but I can’t say that I have much respect for the TC, it was a joke upon it’s release. Like something for style (and sense) challenged people, at least it didn’t last long.
I had a meeting the Pittsburgh Zone Rep of Chrysler back in the 80’s, and I was impressed that he drove a silver gray LeBaron GTC coupe, outfitted like the ragtop in the above pix. I’d figured he’d be driving a Fifth Avenue or some other barge, but he rolled up in that car, and I knew we would be able to do business.
I like the lines of the TC’s hardtop, porthole or not. I think I read somewhere the porthole was optional, or maybe not there for the whole run or something.
Otherwise, I like the looks of the regular LeBaron coupe better. It has the extra wheelbase to make the proportions look correct to my eye.
My sister’s first car was an ’89 Daytona CS Turbo, a car very similar to the LeBaron, with a nearly identical interior. I actually liked driving that car, although body rigidity was nonexistent; you were always feeling the driver’s door flexing around in its opening while turning corners and such. But it was comfortable, it had lots of features, good power (when it would run right), good fuel economy, a perfectly-placed dead pedal, and if you could get past the oddly high cowl and dash, it just worked.
Long after the car was traded away, I found out the CS was some kind of version made lighter for sporty driving, but I seriously doubt it made much difference.
Yeah, that was the Carroll Shelby edition, a fairly desirable version. That was the last version before the IROC model. I liked the Daytona/Laser cars, they were pretty decent performers for the times.
What a stupid car. Lee Iacocca, for all the things he did right, really never got his head out of the late ’60s. Chrysler clung to vinyl tops, wire wheel covers and formal rooflines longer than everybody but Buick.
I love these things, and I WILL own an example one day. Maybe even one day soon.
ChryslerCo in the 1980s was just off the hook.
Every time I see one of these,I think of what might have been…
At the end of the 91 model year, the local ChryCo dealer in Huntsville, Alabama was trying desperately to unload these things. I was in the market for a new car at the time and I wanted a MASERATI , dammit ! ( I was 28 at the time). Finally ,almost in desperation, the dealer ran a weekend special with like $10,000 off MSRP, which got the thing within swinging distance of reasonable,but still high. The wife put her foot down. Maserati or no, a car seat and another offsprung wasn’t going in that back seat and the cost was about what we had in our small house. Remember, these things were still pretty new at the time and all of the inherent problems with the tranny (A604) and the uber-expensive soft trim parts and the like were not common knowledge yet. I have thanked my wife every day since then for insisting on a 1991 Lexus Es250 (4 doors, 6cyl, Toyota reliability). These TC’s were like the high maintenance hot chick that was willing and eager in high school,but you knew that trouble was always just around the corner.
hot chick?? the TC? nah… even in the 80s there were way better choices to throw your money away on…
Funny story related to a “Chrysler TC – by Maserati” – at the annual Kodiak (Alaska) Crab Festival (this in 2007), the organizers were raffling away an ’89 TC. Decent shape – but even they had trouble “giving” this one away.
The interior hardware and finely stitched leather seats would be nice to transplant into another vehicle . . . . (like a compact pick-up) not sure how many TC’s are still left out there.
I am not sure how I missed this one the first time around, but I have to fill in a gaping hole here. The plan was for the custom-built TC to come out about a year before the restyled LeBaron convertible. This way, the hand-built expensive Maserati version would get oos and aahs over its beautiful new style and both Chrysler and Maserati would make some money off of the early sales. Then, about a year later, the restyled LeBaron convertible would hit the showrooms with styling inspired by last years Maserati TC, and they would sell a bunch of those too.
What actually happened was that the Maserati project got further and further behind while the LeBaron stayed on schedule. The result is as you describe – the Maserati TC was a complete failure and huge waste of money. Iacocca was said to be livid about Maserati’s inability to hold up its end of the deal, and cancelled several other Chrysler-Maserati ventures that had been planned.
Everyone kind of forgets how attractive the 87 LeBaron convertible was when it came out. After years of the blocky K cars, the smooth, fluid lines of the LeBaron made it the most attractive Chrysler since the original Cordoba. And Chrysler did sell a bundle of these. But as with the K car, these stayed around a few years too long and looked fairly old fashioned by the time the Sebring convertible came along to replace it in the late 90s.
I always wondered if Maserati was 100% to blame for the TC fiasco. It’s hard to fathom Iacocca not having the ability to pull the plug as the TC fell further and further behind schedule.
But given Iacocca’s massive ego, my guess would be he figured anything associated with his name would be a huge hit, regardless how unlikely. So, he stuck with the TC to the bitter end, and the results were predictable. The production delays would give him a convenient way of denying any culpability but I can’t imagine Chrysler’s shareholders buying it.
How is the LeBaron dated? Far as I’m concerned my 1995 is nicer then almost all cars of it’s size and general shape on the road at any price. Plenty of newer cars look good on two or three sides, the LeBaron looks good on all four sides. I love being out in this car.
BTW the pic is from the ebay listing I won it on for $3,200 at 37k miles.
It is very interesting that just about all of the comments here are from people that have never owned one of these rare cars, some of you have never seen one in person. I have known about the TC since it was new and could not afford one then. Right now I own 3 of them, a 1989, a 1990, and a 1991. You can say all the negative things you want but, where can you buy a rare collector car in which only about 7,000 were ever produced at a very reasonable price? Well you can now with this car. We get nothing but positive comments and questions about these cars. You are right; most people have never even seen one in person. The real beauty of these cars is the fact that most of the parts are readily available from any parts store at a reasonable price. They are extremely reliable as there were millions of K-cars produced over the years. A bit of preventative maintenance is all it takes to have and own a nice low cost rare semi-exotic car with the Maserati label All in all it would be hard to beat for the purchase price and ease of parts availability. I real nice ‘head-turner’. For a few thousand dollars you could try one out for yourself.
Mark, I own a 89 TC,29,000 miles on it. I am having trouble getting parts from Chryler dealer. Need the Pull down Motor for the top, 4490 338
14878-B A8 any help would be welcome.
It’s nice to finally see a TC owner making a comment. This being 2013 now, I rather think none of these people will ever read this… But being the owner of an 89 TC myself, I have to agree with you. I have owned mine for 18 years, it has over 250,000 miles on the same 2.2L engine. I maintain this car and anymore could do the same. It’s easy to put down anything, especially when a whole bunch join in.
However, these cars are built with the best ‘K’ car parts and the body is greatly more reinforced than any other. For their shortness, they outweigh the LeBarons and drive very well even at very high speeds. There are still plenty of them left on the road and in very good condition.
Dear Hemi Andersen!
As long quite happy with my1990 Chry Lebaron GT Vert with Suzuki 3.0L, I also picked up and drove some 800 miles home (already some 3k miles on it now) a 1990 Chry/Maserati TC.
My other recent experience, short while preceding, is with the 2.2L Maserati 4Cyl in an ’89! Such experience, both what ‘claimed’ by seller, and it’s actual ‘performance’, as yet, not good. Sounds you’ve long experience with the 2.2L Maserati… the ’89 TC. Though as your experience sounds good, you might know of other with this challenge: might you, or ANYone here have experienced a, mchanic thinks was green (?)… approximately bit less than 10 gauge (mechanic not sure) wire, ganged with several, just over the driver’s side strut area, which tends… ‘melt down’??? Had it shipped to good mechanic, where upon starting, it, fair short time, blew fuse (aforementioned wire, apparently having ‘melted in past’. The 10 Amp fuse replaced, again it failed.
Having placed a 30-50 or so circuit breaker… it tends run… stutter… run… stutter… run… stutter… … … No short obvious. He can not tell from where the amperage, but obviously higher than should be.
Has any one experienced such on the ’89 2.2L set up? Have JUST picked up maintenance book, but have not yet searched. Does not seem would be a common occurrence; so not expecting references? Any Suggestions, Hemi… … … … anyone? This question posed to Mark as well, I hope either or another able as sit with getting this TC again functioning. While I’ve long cared for a few ‘C’ bodies, ’65 and ’67. I do much appreciate my ’90 Chrysler GT and recent 1990 Chry/Mas TC!!! I hope one day to have the fine looking ’89 running as well as it looks!!!
As yet baffled, my mechanic, about the surging wire failing in the ’89 w/2.2L Maserati. Please share experience, if having shared in same. My mechanic, while fair young, indeed good… yet not knowing what next try. What shared here, fair ‘sketchy’, was best he could describe.
Appreciated, Hemi (as well as any via Mark and other TC fans/owners) your assistance and/or recommending to one having experience similar. Nothing else seeming needed, it’s low miles and condition; do need ascertain cause of the amperage high on what told a 12 volt, 10 amp max line. Sounds amps surging 3-5 X that. Again, again, appreciated, any guidance able!
Thank you, David
All of what you say is no doubt true. But let’s not forget why these are rare in the first place. Although the car is pleasant and attractive, the sin here is Iacocca wanting $33,000 for one of these when the consumer could have a similar, loaded LeBaron for $14,000 less. There was just not enough differentiation in style, performance and prestige to justify the huge price premium. Now if they made this an Imperial with some more unique styling cues it may have sold better. It worked for Ford with the Mark III, which was differentiated enough from the T-Bird and of course, was never considered anything but a Lincoln.
I think Chrysler knew these were DOA, as there was no strong marketing effort behind them once introduced. The car buying public wasn’t stupid. Then weren’t going to pay $33K in 1989 dollars for a LeBaron with a porthole.
I do agree that the price was high by 1989 dollars. However you have to consider that it cost a lot to truck, ‘float’ all those sub components from the USA to Italy, have the Italians stamp out the bodies, which were totally produced in Italy, get parts from other European venders, assemble the cars and then ship the finished product back to the states. In all, it cost Chrysler over $100K per car to produce the 7300 cars they had contracted to.
If you can find the LA Times from spring of 1989, you would read that Chrysler cancelled any further TC production contract that early, when they encountered the production problems at the Maserati plant. They were stuck with the initial contract and there was no turning back from that.
Structurally, the TC is much better and stronger built than the LeBaron and all the other ‘K’ car platform cars. I continue being one who is very satisfied with my 26 year old 1989 TC. Built in 1988.
Dear Mark! Appreciated, both your experience with the fair variety of TC options in such little time, and the obvious sense, and Care for… ‘the critters’! I see much good in the TC and hope yet well maintain a ’90, while caring resolve issue with an ’89. New to me, the (2) ’89s NOT what claimed before shipping them to me, and the ’90 which I, months later, drove 1k home; it’s 3.0 stronger as the Inter-State miles lapsed! Yet ‘issues’ with the 2.2 Turbo II. Might you recommend a GOOD Club and person/s caring help keep such ‘on road’?!? David
P.S. Tend ‘tween MN (and CO) … generally in KS, only 1.5 Hr across border South of Lincoln, NE! While long fan of 60’s Mopar Muscle and VERY pleased, over decade, with fair rare, extreme lack of any problems (with even notorious Tranny Seal) until 220 k, High Performance Tranny version of Lebaron GT… I am fair new to the TC! Has been excellent thus far, the ’90, though odd shorts in wiring inconsequential to drive. The 2.2 Turbo though, running roughly with ‘regular’ intermittent electrical spikes to unit dictating fuel to oxygen ratio. My mechanic, at a ‘loss’. Anyone helpful regarding parts/resourses/EXPERIENCE and Care for these TC’s!??!!!!! Again, Mark, might you know a good Club ‘reference’??? The ONLY one, to which I’ve yet had time communicate, though such prior recent TC purchase, has NOT responded to me, though ‘appears’ yet ‘up and running’?!? Thank you, your consideration!!! Much appreciated! David
Mark! Agreed, so MUCH joked ’bout something which they’ve usually, and usually obviously, SO little knowledge. Such said, I am personally glad not to have magically needed raise the $ they originally demanded. Happy now to own ’89 and ’90, short of the lie from a seller in PA from some place called something like Canadenza (zia)… NOT running well, though claimed was… EITHER of the ’89’s with common 2.2L.
As long quite happy with my1990 Chry Lebaron GT Vert with Suzuki 3.0L, I also picked up and drove some 800 miles home (already some 3k miles on it now) a 1990 Chry/Maserati TC!
Not sure what all the differences yet BUT, my GT not a normal Lebaron to begin with! My GT has a HP Tranny which, until over 220k never even required a Tranny SEAL, which was so common a problem in SO MANY Vans and Lebarons, at quite early mileage; a stupid tranny seal. Again, the HP tranny at 220k before needed anything, and it wasn’t the seal. Had it rebuilt by good man knowing of years of the tranny… custom built with best of some 4-5 years range. Again, it apparently not the normal, but a HP version.
Though seems geared for lower gears power, not liking disappear at, and not even
HAVING an mph gauge reading to 140, as does the GT… it yet gutsy at 90… then slacks off in power and, again, at least as yet, not doing any 140. Fair less hp than the 501 manual 5-speed w/Maserati engine version, but I have no need beyond a 90-95 pass in an 80 zone. Believe the Mitsubishi far less troublesome and an easier find of parts.
Now then… the ’89: migh ANYone here have experienced a, believed green (?)… approximately bit less than 10 gauge, wire, ganged with several, just over the driver’s side strut area, which tends ‘melt down’??? Had it shipped to good mechanic, where upon starting, it, fair short time, blew fuse. Such, 10 Amp fuse, replaced, again it failed. Having placed a 30-50 or so circuit breaker… it tends run… stutter… run… stutter… run… stutter… … … No short obvious. He can not tell from where the amperage, but obviously higher than should be. Has any one experienced such on the ’89 2.2L set up? Have JUST picked up maintenance book, but have not yet searched. Does not seem would be a common occurrence. Any Suggestions, Mark… … … … anyone? I tend prefer ‘C’ bodies, ’65 and ’67. Much though, appreciate ’90 Chrysler GT and current Chry/Mas TC!!!
As yet baffled, my mechanic, about the surging wire failing in the ’89 w/2.2L Maserati. Please share experience, if having shared in same. My mechanic, while fair young, indeed good… yet not knowing what next try. What shared here, fair ‘sketchy’, was best he could describe.
Appreciated, your assistance and/or recommending to one having experience similar. Nothing else seeming needed, it’s low miles and condition; do need ascertain cause of the amperage high on that 12 volt line. Again, again, appreciated, any guidance able! Thank you, David
You can get that pull down motor at http://www.tcparts.com or try the tcmaserati forum on the net.
I have owned an 1990 TC Maserati for several years now. It is a 3 litre V6 and I find the car to be very enjoyable to drive. Proper maintenance has always been maintained on the TC and for a car that is 23 years old it runs soundly with no squeaks and other odd noises that you can certainly associate with any vehicle of that vintage. I usually find that those who do not actually own one of these classics or who have never experienced driving one of these tend to sneer at the vehicle and puppet those who are ill informed about the TC.
I’ve always liked the TC. Stood up well to the Allante at half the price. To me the screw-up was making a two seater, same mistake as the Allante and the latest T-Bird. They could have gone with a fold down rear seat or removable seat allowing the car to be much more useful. The looks and use of my 1988 Lebaron is in no way harmed by having a rear seat.
This car just proves how versatile the K-Car platform was. It was the basis of so many Mopars from simple family transportation (Aries/Reliant-Caravan/Voyager), economical daily driver (Shadow/Sundance), all out performance machine (Spirit R/T – Dyatona R/T), to a full tilt luxury cruiser in the truest American sense (Fifth Avenue/Imperial), to a competent grand touring car such as this. I would have given in a better name though.
I bought my ’89 TC in the Spring of ’91 for $10K, it has been a lifelong joy to drive all over AZ!!!! I even took it across country to Pensacola, FL and back again through Calrlsbad, NM to Phoenix. The easily portable hardtop roof rack is awesome.. The manual soft-top is so easy and quick, that it gets a lot of use. Especially commuting to work… Great value for money, and fantastic in the details!!!!!!
Leather used everywhere for the windshield header, pillars, seats and doors is top notch! It handles very nicely, and I’ve gotten comments from friends on how well it handles, accelerates, and drives. Everything works, including the CC, except the odometer. N’joy!!!!
TC Mark! New to TCs and already the infamous weak sprocket in odometer known! Same problem! Have very unofficially, and can not place where, heard recommendation to replace the bad item with a ‘metal’ option, but heard no recommendation of where best locate equivalent sprocket and… do NOT know that using steel instead of original won’t cause some further complication/s!!?!?! Have you yet resolved your difficulty with such issue, and if so, might you share any ‘tip/s’ regarding fix of odometer; including any resources and, procedures getting ‘into’ the odometer unit? While stumbling only upon rough description other, as one advertising repair service, they apparently replaced with same problematic cog. Have you yet found recommendation on a fair good, lasting ‘fix’?!!! If so, please share!!, Thank you, David
Chrysler’s TC by Maserati. Along with Australia’s Chrysler by Chrysler, it seems they cornered the market in stoopid names. The front-on angle is actually very attractive.
It seems the word “by” is a tipoff for a rolling Deadly Sin. Case in point…Cadillac’s ad slogan during the early to mid ’80s was “Best of all…it’s a Cadillac”. That is, of course, unless the ad was for the Cimarron……
For comparison, an ad for a “real” 1982 Cadillac…..
My uncle got one as part of a company liquidation…if the company made all it’s spending decisions in a similar fashion, we know why they went under. The car was massively overpriced when new, but my uncle loved everything but the porthole. Drove it for nearly 300,000 miles before rattles and repair frequency caught up with it.
I drove it a few times, and cannot lie….I liked it! It was comfortable and rode well. If it had been cheaper it might have done better.
For you TC owners, good for you! It might not have been a great buy when new, but if you like it, you’re ahead of my neighbor, whose BMW has had so many issues that it’s a very expensive source of stress, not pleasure.
I think it would have been more credible, if it was marketed as a premium LeBaron. And it would have been better accepted in the market perhaps. Otherwise, I think Chrysler needed to create a more unique style for this auto. It looks too closely to the LeBaron, and I can see elements of the Dynasty in it’s style as well. The corporate door handles were shared with the Shadow/Sundance… as were a number of bit parts I am sure. Given the K-Car roots.
Too homogenous within the Chrysler brand, to be treated as a unique model IMO.
As I commented yesterday, too much family resemblance within an auto company can be done with questionable results. This is a very good example.
You have to remember the TC was supposed to come out before the LeBaron and other similar styled K cars. Issues with tooling and whatnot in Italy caused delays over over two years from when It was supposed to be release to when it actually hit showroom floors. It was planned to be the most stylish and luxurious car on the road deserving of the price. The LeBaron and other vehicles were supposed to come out after it as a “common mans” offering of the unique TC. Sadly since the delays caused the LeBaron to be released before the TC, people never got past the similar looks and shared parts as you mentioned.
If you take away the roof treatment/porthole, as well as the deep scalloping of the rocker panels, there are a lot of straight edges on this car. Combined with the Oldsmobile-like wheels, I find it has a look similar to an similar vintage Olds Ciera.
All in all, the TC was still more reliable then a Maserati BiTurbo
A Vega’s more reliable than a BiTurbo. Or maybe not LOL.
Paul’s write up nails this car perfectly. I can recall seeing couple of these new and just wondered why? In most ways an inferior and way overpriced LeBaron.
Even the initial concept is just wrong. Why invoke a name that is perceived as higher prestige than your own? It sort of backhands the positive points that Chrysler could have leveraged on its own history – as they did quite successfully with the 300 nameplate in the ’90s.
Back handing your own history never works. “It’s not your Father’s Oldsmobile” brought down a Division. Rather amazingly, Buick has started running commercials with astonished people looking at Buicks and saying “That’s not a Buick!” Why, why, why? Buick has been on an upswing for several years. Why bash their own past now? Not to mention that the look of the current Buicks has been around for several years.
Marketing people can be astonishingly dumb.
Not impressed,a none to special looking Chrysler with a temperamental Italian engine.Now if they made a Maserati with a Mopar V8 that would be nice,this is what I was expecting and was hugely disappointed.it’s like they made a car with the left over bits of what should have been built.A bit like paying to see Pavarotti and then having Chas & Dave turn up on stage
You could have a Maserati with a Ford engine at least – the De Tomaso Longchamps (twin of the Maserati Kyalami), although I’m not sure which came first.
Longchamps came first, then when Alejandro de Tomaso took control of Maserati in 1975, the Kyalami was born. Apparently no shared body panels, but essentially same car except for motorvation. At one point supply of the 351 for the Longchamp ran dry and De Tomaso sourced some from Australia.
What a great looking car,I need it now!
This brings back memories. Thanks for the write up on this one.
My uncle had the 86 LeBaron GTS with the 4cyl Turbo. and I recall being at the Chrysler dealer with my uncle looking at a TC in the showroom when these came out, and not getting the difference between it and the regular LeBaron style-wise (or anything else in Chrysler’s showroom for that matter). The LeBaron with the Turbo, while definitely having a rough sounding little engine, was quite a fun car to drive, actually. But, no I couldn’t see paying twice as much for one with a Maserati symbol on it. I had always assumed it was powered by Maserati at least, but I guess now I know why it didn’t work out so well.
I’m a bit intrigued by the people that have never seen one of these. I recall seeing these regularly around Pittsburgh in their day, especially a bright red in my grandparents’ neighborhood as a kid. I always kind of liked them, despite obviously being a fancy LeBaron without a rear seat. I saw one last summer at the Chrysler employee car show in Auburn Hills for the first time in years, and I still kinda like it. Even if it’s not anything spectacular in the mechanical department, I feel the styling has held up better than the Buick Reatta.
Another CC effect, I saw a bright red one in excellent shape driving near my neighborhood. I have actually seen it out several times, and may have even gotten a windshield shot of it once. One of these times I will catch it parked.
Neutral on the car, but wasn’t aware it was a separate model from the LeBaron until now. Thought it was some version of the LeBaron that came between the mid 80s refresh and the 90s version! Interesting history and story.
I’m not trying to say this car isn’t ridiculous, but the sole thing that makes it ridiculous and not just a poorly executed car is that horrific porthole hardtop roof. See attached picture below.
Maybe there’s more, actually. I can’t pretend that it doesn’t say “by Maserati” on a few badges. That’s another piece of overt ridiculousness. The “by” gimmick is the automotive world’s most obvious giveaway that a car is pretending to be something it’s not. Wasn’t this at one time a popular way to market colognes or clothing as a particular designer’s take on something abstract or conceptual in dramatic, minimalist black & white TV ads? (e.g. “Odor of Prison Rape by Calvin Klein”, “Holocaust Denial Denim by FUBU” – I can’t think of any actual ones). That alone is absurd but to extend it to an automobile is offensive. The premise is like the premise behind a seriously entry level modern art installation, but they didn’t even have the balls to come out and say it that way. “This is an exotic Italian take on the American piece of shit in your driveway; we’ve given it an accordingly foolish price”.
“by Maserati” was something of a farce literally as well. I’m not sure how involved they were in the development, but the only thing built by Maserati was the rare 16-valve engine which was largely assembled from parts sourced or designed elsewhere.
At the very least, that same engine does deserve some props. AFAIK, it was the most powerful 4-cylinder sold in the USA at the time and after the turbo-era petered out in the early 90s, it took a long time for a 4-cylinder to get back to 200HP on these shores. If you’re gonna buy a Chrysler TC by Maserati, I’d think that would be the one to have. That’s something that makes it at least a little bit special – although less so since Chrysler came out with the 16-valve Turbo III engine shortly afterwards which was even more powerful and could be had for more than half the cost in a Dodge Spirit. Still, if I’m buying something “by Maserati” it sure as hell better not have a Mitsubishi V6 under the hood. I’m not even gonna touch the similarities to the LeBaron convertible, because there’s nothing more I could add.
I feel bad now. I got so far away from the original point I was trying to make, which was: this car isn’t really bad looking, but its roof is. I’ll even go as far as saying that I think it would be cool to own the 16V Turbo version. Look at this picture below, whaddya think?
It looks too much like an ordinary Chrysler convertible.A pleasant looking car but not special enough,if the TC had come out before the LeBaron cars they could have said they were styled after the TC.BMC did a similar trick with the flagship 3 litre looking like a run of the mill Land Crab
I think the sole purpose of this car was to make the Cadillac Allante seem better and less convoluted than it actually was.
The TC was, indeed, a nice looking car. In fact, Lebaron sales might have been even better if that car had the TC’s front end.
But the whole concept of shipping a stateside-built chassis across the Atlantic, having a body built around it (that looked virtually identical to an already in production domestic car), then having it shipped ‘back’ to the US, was absurd, to say the least. As I said earlier, Iacocca should have pulled the plug immediately when it became apparent that Maserati was going to be unable to get the TC back into the states before the Lebaron went into production.
I wonder if the problem was that Iacocca had already shipped the supply of Daytona chassis to Innocenti (on time) and he was, therefore, at the mercy of De Tomaso to complete the cars as scheduled. It probably would have cost Iacocca the same amount to have the bare Daytona chassis shipped back to the US, whether they had a body on them or not.
Rather than go to the trouble of suing Maserati (which he might not have had a good chance of winning, depending on how the contract was written), well, Iacocca may not have had any choice in the matter than to try and just break even whenever Maserati got around to shipping the completed cars back to the states.
Did Maserati even build the body themselves? I’ve always been under the impression that they basically just assembled the car with parts shipped from Chrysler and various outside suppliers. I could be totally wrong on that when it comes to the bodywork, but the absence of rust on every TC I’ve seen seems to indicate that it was manufactured elsewhere.
That scenario sounds very plausible, but I bet Iaccoca himself was on board with the TC until the bitter end. It’s such a Lido car! Regardless, I’m sure several other people at Chrysler saw it for what it was fairly early on and wouldn’t be at all surprised if the whole thing went down exactly as you’ve suggested.
The TC got a bad reputation from the ‘get-go’ because of the delay in production and delivery to the states.
For people to knock the car because it used many production parts from the domestic line is ridiculous. Imagine if it had been equipped with Lucas ignition and wiring! How about some little 2.2L Italian engine of that era?
The facts are that this car, after 25 years, is still serviceable with still readily available parts similar to the ‘K’ platform. We have some cool cars, ‘Dude’.
Regardless of the car’s merits, I never could get past the unwieldy name “Chrysler’s TC by Maserati”. It’s like this site being called “Niedermeyer’s CC by WordPress”. Certainly they could have come up with something a little more appealing. Chrysler, I mean.
Holy deja vu!!! Just saw one in that color Saturday! Probably the only one left here in Ohio…
I’ll agree that the whole “By” thing is kind of odd. But, its earlier use was usually meant to denote a car that was a cut above the brand’s typical product. Sort of an attempt to make a model its own brand.
Most early Chevrolet Caprice models had “Caprice by Chevrolet” nameplates on their trunk lids. The Caprice went on to a long successful history that is still in progress on a global basis.
The 1966 version of the logo……
1966 was first year for stand alone Caprice, so it was getting its footing. Instead of being the ‘Impala Caprice’, to compete with ‘Galaxie 500 LTD’, etc.
Impala may have got demoted and cancelled by 1985, but current name is still in use since ’00. So, it won in the long run, the new PPV Caprice is ultra low volume.
Was Chevrolet’s usage of “by” in the 60s the origin of this foolishness? I’ve always thought those badges were silly, but they’re also so tiny – and it’s somehow less offensive when the car it’s attached to is something this iconic.
The early Caprice and LTD were dignified, stylish cars, but they were also directly responsible for giving us some of the most grotesque creations of the 1970s. They were proto-Broughams, so it’s only fitting that one of them wore the “by” badges that came back into style once Landau roofs and pillow seats started disappearing.
Some say these are “nice”, but that’s not good enough to spend the original MSRP. Die hard Mopar K car fins love these, since they didn’t pay for the initial depreciation cost.
But, I think this is one of the top 10 “Deadly Sins” of any car maker.
I’m seeing more dislike than usual for a car that is basically sound, has a bit of style and is ultimately a collectible and enjoyable piece. No doubt that it was a marketing flop due to timing and pricing but these vehicles are unique and fairly easy to maintain in this day and age. The TC Maserati club has an excellent blog on AACA and its own parts site to support the pieces unique to the car as well as any other parts concerns. Most chassis and mechanical parts are readily available since it is K based and inexpensive to purchase. Try it, you’ll like it….
What’s sadder about this whole TC mess, is that easily 95% of them came in that putrid Ensure yellow. I had a boss who owned a black one, and in that color it actually looked very presentable. His is the only one I’ve seen in black to this date.
There were 5 colors used on the TC over the 3 model years .
They were, Light Yellow-1743, Exotic Red-2227, Royal Cabernet-1454, Black-870 and White 1007 for a total production of 7301 automobiles.
Therefore yellow is far from being 95%.
Possibly you see more Yellow TCs because this color holds up very well over the years where Cabernet and Red are more affected by UV. Once the paint starts to go, people tend to neglect the rest of the car in equal proportion it seems.
Black was such a low production number and White hangs in there like Yellow.
New to me, the (2) ’89s NOT what claimed before shipping them to me, and the ’90 which I, months later, drove 1k home; it’s 3.0 stronger as the Inter-State miles lapsed! Yet ‘issues’ with the 2.2 Turbo II. Might you recommend a GOOD Club and person/s caring help keep such ‘on road’?!? David
P.S. Tend ‘tween MN (and CO) … generally in KS, only 1.5 Hr across border South of Lincoln, NE! While long fan of 60’s Mopar Muscle and VERY pleased, over decade, with fair rare, extreme lack of any problems (with even notorious Tranny Seal) until 220 k, High Performance Tranny version of Lebaron GT… I am fair new to the TC! Has been excellent thus far, the ’90, though odd shorts in wiring inconsequential to drive. The 2.2 Turbo though, running roughly with ‘regular’ intermittent electrical spikes to unit dictating fuel to oxygen ratio. My mechanic, at a ‘loss’. Anyone helpful regarding parts/resourses/EXPERIENCE and Care for these TC’s!??!!!!! Again, a good Club ‘reference’??? Again and always, David
The TC is a nice looking car and my comments have nothing to do with it’s intrinsic qualities. But “labeling” it a Maserati was an insult to Maserati just like the Biturbo was/is consider an insult to all Maserati that came before deTomaso. The only Maserati in a TC is the Biturbo’s interior and the label “by Maserati”.
Interesting comment. You readers may like to know that the TC was built in Milan Italy in the Maserati factory along side the other Maserati line. Thereby the “By” in the name of this model Chrysler. Any of you who want to see more, check out the annual TC America convention in Reno Nevada, first weekend of May 2014.
You will see many pristine 89 – 91 TCs there.
OMG! What a joke. The car is nothing what I thought it would be. Just got off the phone with a guy in South Carolina selling a 1989 Chrysler Maserati, he wants $950.00 for it with 80,000 miles, convertible with a hardtop and they have just spent $7,000.00 to keep it running. It’s a 4 cylinder and he said he would drop a new engine in it if he decided to keep it. Wow. I don’t think so. What was I thinking? I wasn’t.
It is apparent CC Smith, that the guy attempting to sell his TC neither knows how to maintain it and certainly is gullible spending that much money and still thinking he needs a new engine.
You must have been thinking something if you even made the phone call.
Then again, I may know the owner and the car, so you better stay clear of it.
I know I’m really late to the game on this, but I’d like to know if these cars having cornering lamps. I’m toying with the idea of buying one, but I live way out in the country where street lights don’t exist and the cornering light is really nice to have.
In 1991 I was a year out of high school & working full time at an upscale car wash as a detailer, making some decent scratch off my tips. The guy who owned the car wash was a gold chain-sporting, loudmouth dickweed scumbag who was cheating on his wife with a snooty, heinous slag who drove one of these turkeys. I got to know it well, as Big Mouth insisted I was the designated one to wash and polish it when Mistress would come in. It was the deep Bordeaux red with that parchment paper color interior. I admit the leather was pretty nice, but overall, I thought it was a STUPID car that too closely resembled the lesser LeBaron convertible. I can’t believe that Maserati actually allowed their hallowed name to be on such a lackluster, dumpy little car, based on a K car, no less. Ms. Mistress thought she was really hot stuff when she pulled up in this turd! What a joke! BTW, Mr. Big Mouth got found out & wifey divorced his scummy ass & took him for every cent he had! I’m certain that Mistresses TC met a similar deserved demise, too!
With the top down and in a darker colour these aren’t all that bad looking, though certainly not worth the price of admission when new. Hard to believe they even managed to sell 7 of them, much less over 7000.
I’ve had several 1989 lebaron gtc’s, 4 Tll cars and an auto 2.5 Tl. Awesome cars with the biggest front disk brakes offered from chrysler (over 12 inches). I have a 16 V Maserati that I haven’t driven yet, fixing many issues with lights, seats, and other items. My father has one of the Tll cars, I am looking for a low stall torque converter. Too soft I’m guessing to handle turbo lag, still looking. These cars are very interesting but, the execution of assembly does leave something to be desired. I haven’t seen one yet where the instrument cluster cover wasn’t warped. Leather shrinks on the doors and you can see holes in the door under the leather where it looks like the door pull from the lebaron door was bolted. Seat motors seized because factory forgot to lubricate electric motor shaft and bushings (3 all on the same side). If your car sits outside long term (with windows up) your headlight plug connectors will corrode along with the bulbs in the dash. Hopefully this car will be half as fun as my GTC’s. Willing to trade my TC 16V with 39,000 original miles project car for an ’89 GTC Tll 5 sp coupe or convert, must be a driver. Thanks, John at email@example.com
OK, anyone with a thing for these cars, now is your chance.
About 30 minutes northeast from me is a guy who owns twelve of them in all years and colors. This may be the biggest collection of these anywhere. He has them up for sale. Collect the whole set!
‘You can sell a cheap car that looks like an expensive one, but you can’t sell an expensive car that looks like a cheap one’ is one of the hard-and-fast, unbreakable rules of the auto industry, some of the more memorable examples being the Cadillac Cimarron and downsized 1962 Mopars. Of all people, Iacocca surely knew it. But by the time it became apparent that the Lebaron-lookalike TC wasn’t going to make it to market until well after the Lebaron convertible, it was too late.
One of the ironies of the TC’s failure is that it may have come primarily due to the success of the original Lebaron convertible. Chrysler’s finance people had told Iacocca that a Lebaron convertible would be too expensive to be profitable, but he overrode them, and his instincts were proven to be correct when the car became a hit.
I can’t help but believe the same thing happened with the TC but, this time, the finance guys were the ones who were right when De Tomaso’s production delays meant the much more expensive TC wouldn’t arrive until years after the very similar (but a whole lot cheaper) Lebaron.
BTW, it was mentioned that the TC fiasco caused Iacocca to cancel future De Tomaso projects. Does anyone know what those other projects might have been?
Ford, in my opinion, really got 1989 right. They introduced the Taurus SHO and the Thunderbird Super Coupe, and both were cutting edge cars that were different enough to appeal to different markets. Do you want a coupe or a 4 door sedan? A luxo muscle personal luxury cruiser with a supercharger and tire shredding low end torque and fancy things like IRS, or do you want a high revving overhead cam 4 valve per cylinder with split port induction engine, along with an aggressive manual transmission?
Taking this into consideration, it’s ridiculous how Chrysler sold ANY of these. It would have had to be to a fairly clueless person, and/ or to someone who was older that had the money that was also a Chrysler/ Dodge/ Plymouth diehard.
Early ’90’s… playing golf at a nice public course with two friends and a fourth was added to our group. He was an older guy, a bit hefty, dark hair that looked dyed, and a fair amount of gold on his neck and wrists. Basically, he was pretty tacky looking by my admittedly conservative standards. Somewhere along the way he made sure we knew he had a Maserati. As a car guy I was interested, and he said he’d let me look it over when we finished. You know the rest of the story!
Taken by itself, it’s an attractive car. I really like the way it looks. But a 75 thousand (adjusted for price) cost is just way too much. Now, if it had its own specific engine (and something pretty exotic as a V8, maybe a forerunner to the 4.6L sohc Ford or the GM Northstar engine, Chrysler could have introduced some sort of new, exciting engine, and could have wrung the last bit of life out of the K car platform. But any engine like that would have made more sense in the early 90’s with a total redesign of their cars, which is also when Ford and GM rolled theirs out.
The interior, from what I’ve seen, is nothing special either. It’s pretty easy to see why Chrysler had given Iacocca the boot after this, because it’s pretty lazy. UNLESS Chrysler were–despite the successes of the 80’s–still in a financial black hole and ill equipped to take chances on new engines and platforms. In a way, this kind of reminds me of AMC’s cost stretching on a platform, and that no matter how they chopped up and re-packaged a Hornet to make a Gremlin, their audience was growing impatient with the variations of the same platform.
If the Lebaron lookalike exterior for an exorbitant price wasn’t enough to turn away any potential customers, the run-of-the-mill, plastic-fantastic Daytona dash would certainly have done it. The TC might have been a good-looking car, but special in any way it was not.
The TC boondoggle might not have taken down Chrysler, but I can easily see it being responsible for cementing the end of Iacocca’s tenure at the company. He’d had a great run but it was all over.
Chrysler’S TC by Maserati
Is it a Chrysler? Is it a Maserati? It has Mitsubishi engine? WTF? Let’s look at their more mainstream models. Lebaron 123, Lebaron XYZ, Lebaron Oh Whoopee. Honey, let’s go look at the Buick’s. It’s just easier.
Not many mentions of how this compared with the Cadillac Allante, which went over a bit better, but not by much. To me, at least Cadillac tried. The Allante got the Northstar engine (which was not a big plus, long term) and came fully loaded (I believe the car phone was the only option, forgive me if my memory is incorrect). Plus, it was a larger car and mostly unique from other models. This was too much a LeBaron after a little nip and tuck over in Italy.
For all the faults, I still like these things. If for no other reason, one should buy one just to join a Maserati owner’s club. It seems to upset those folks, LOL.
I sure learned a lot more about the TC than I knew. I remember following the development of it through Popular Mechanics and the comparisons to the Lebaron and Mercedes SL. I always thought it was a letdown but I see it has some virtues of it’s own. That Pantera is just sex! The TC is one of the better car “by another car maker” efforts I’ve seen.
This somehow reminds me of the night when Johnny Carson did a bit about the most expensive hotel room in America, and it was in a Holiday Inn somewhere in middle America.
In all honesty, the TC did have a chance. Compare it with the sharp-creased, original, 1982-86 Lebaron convertible. If de Tomaso had had his act together and the TC had made it into showrooms in, say, late 1985, the idea of getting an ‘exotic’, svelte Maserati through Chrysler dealers held promise. When viewed next to the original Lebaron convertible, Iacocca might have gotten away with it.
But when it didn’t make it until well after the lookalike (and much cheaper) 1987 Lebaron convertible, the TC instantly became dead-car-walking.