Curbside Classic:1990 Chrysler’s TC (By Maserati!) – La Vita è Bella

1990 Chrysler TC by Maserati


If one thing was certain in 1989, besides the rock-firm stability of the U.S.S.R. or the everlasting popularity of Milli Vanilli, it was the clamor of car buyers for a two-seat, Italian-made, Chrysler K-Car costing almost twice as much as a similar-looking LeBaron convertible. It simply had to be made to satisfy the demand for an exclusive automobile of this nature. If there was any doubt on this point, it would be countered by pointing to the runaway success of the 1987+ Cadillac Allante.

Obviously, the preceding was sarcasm of the highest order. The clamor was more like indifference. Neither the Allante or the TC came anywhere close to their respective makers’ hopes for sales, making both rare sights on the road thirty plus years after their run. The TC deserves a healthy portion of snark, but this article isn’t about the poor value for buyers or the ridiculous business case for Chrysler. All that is in the distant pass. This is a story about a happy survivor far removed from the angst and eye rolls it generated when new.


1990 Chrysler TC by Maserati


I couldn’t tell you the last time I saw a running TC in active use. I saw a TC in a junkyard in 2021. More on that car in a minute. The TC has been written about numerous times here on CC, quite naturally, it being such an odd duck of a car. Most of those have been non-running cars, and of the few in use, two were found by Joseph Dennis. He seems to attract these for some reason!


1990 Chrysler TC by Maserati


I felt I had to present this one because it is a true daily driver curbside classic. The car has aged some (who hasn’t?) but it is currently registered, runs well, and living a beautiful life. I know this because I got to chat with its enthusiastic owner.



He is about 30 years old, so not even born at the time of the affair between Chrysler and Maserati that produced this love child. Perhaps that’s why he’s unaffected by the negativity and cynicism typical of car guys old enough to remember them new. He was happy to stop and talk about his car, as is typical of enthusiast owners.

The car reminded me a little of the wonderful 1997 movie Life Is Beautiful (La Vita è Bella), an Italian film released widely in the U.S.  The story is about a Jewish Italian man during WWII who maintains an irrepressible optimism despite the existential negativity around him and the horrible things happening to him and his family.


34k miles currently


The owner bought the car about 4 years ago, not looking for a TC at all but it was a good deal for a convertible with only 22k miles on it. He had heard of the TC, but had never seen one on the road before. He couldn’t resist it, and has since come to really love it. He’s gotten to know others in the TC niche who have helped with mechanical issues and parts. He has a couple of other cars as well, but still drives the TC regularly, with the hardtop off as much as possible thank you very much.


1990 Chrysler TC by Maserati


I don’t believe I’ve ever seen a rougher interior with such low miles. The leather-wrapped dash and door panels have held up well. The same can’t be said for the steering wheel and, quite conspicuously, the [formerly] glorious TC seats.


1990 Chrysler TC by Maserati


The center armrest, styled to look like a skin graft taken from the Michelin Man, is looking particularly hide-bare. The small shifter console is where the interior most reveals its K-car roots.


1990 Chrysler TC by Maserati

Offset center stack is another K-car tell.


Those Italians really know how to work some leather! The young body worker looks like he wants to seduce the car. The dour older female inspector is maybe thinking she wishes her skin were as soft as the seats. I’m not sure what the bespeckled gentleman is doing with the leather, but you can bet it will be craftsman like.


1990 Chrysler TC by Maserati


1989 TCs came with a 160hp 2.2L Chrysler turbo 4-cylinder, justifying the “TC” abbreviation for Turbo Convertible. 1990 versions like this one (as well as 1991) came with a SOHC 141 hp Mitsubishi NON-turbo V6. Should they have changed the name to just “C”? The V6 brought a loss of 19hp, but it was a smoother engine probably more befitting a relaxed luxury cruiser like this. Fortunately, there was no torque loss with 172 lb⋅ft (233 N⋅m) of torque at 3600 rpm vs. 171 lb-ft at the same rpm for the 2.2. There was also an optional Maserati-massaged 200-hp, DOHC 16-valve turbocharged 2.2-liter four-cylinder mated to a Getrag five-speed manual. Only 500 of the 7,300 TCs made had this drivetrain.

The owner started the engine for me and it is indeed quiet and smooth-idling.


1990 Chrysler TC by Maserati


As I mentioned earlier, this is the second TC I’ve run into in the last four years. The first was a much sadder specimen unexpectedly found at LKQ Pick-A-Part nestled among rows of newer and common domestic fare. I wrote a short article on it.


1990 Chrysler TC by Maserati


This TC was battered on the outside, but actually better inside. Buzzards Buyers had taken the steering column and armrest, but the seats were still there. With 50k miles (16k more than our subject car), the seats were exponentially better. Expected minimal wear on the driver’s, and virtually no wear on the passenger’s.


Can you guess the vehicle each came from?


I had parts to find and limited time on that junkyard trip, but after I went home, I got to thinking that I might be able to make use of such a sweet seat. Years ago, I made chairs out of old car seats for a friend’s house for his networked computer gaming stations. I made one for myself, which I still use. These are much more comfortable than a typical desk chair. So, how much more comfy would a Chrysler TC seat be?? I had reservations about how I could make the motor-driven recline function work, but decided to go back and get the seat anyway. Two days later I went to buy it and found that the TC was gone, its date with the executioner just passed.


1990 Chrysler TC by Maserati


In a perfect world, those TC seats and certain other interior bits could have made their way into our subject car, rectifying its most obvious flaws. Alas, it soldiers on with an appreciative owner who seems not to mind it being a little rough around the middle. Perhaps someday there will be another donor car to help it regain more of its original Lido glory.


1990 Chrysler TC Maserati


In the meantime, it has more than enough glory to get by and have a measure of class lacking in the boring boxes surrounding it in modern parking lots. The TC life is still beautiful.


Photographed in Houston, TX on 3/31/24

related reading: 

Curbside Classic: 1989 Chrysler’s TC By Maserati – The (Deadly) Sin Of Pretentious Overreaching by Paul Niedermeyer

Curbside Recycling: 1989 Chrysler’s TC By Maserati – Did TC Stand For Total Crap Or ‘Talian Chrysler? by Jim Klein

Classic Comparo: Chrysler TC by Maserati vs Cadillac Allanté – interesting non-CC article with lots of excellent professional photos.