Chrysler's TC
by Maserati
"... a Chrysler 'LeBaron' with the Maserati touch!"

I first saw the 'Chrysler TC by Maserati' on display at the 'Riscossa della Maserati' exhibition at the Museo Bonfanti in 2001. Upon my return to England, I searched the internet for more information on this car. The most informative site that I came across was 'Kanata -'. I searched for it again the other day but unfortunately the site no longer exists. Luckily I kept the text of the original page, so I contacted the e-mail address listed to ask permission to use his text but unfortunately my e-mail was returned undelivered. Now, I would like to dedicate this page to 'Kanata -' so that all Maserati enthusiasts can enjoy it.

The infamous Chrysler TC by Maserati. Some may have never heard of this car while others had already heard too much about it years before it was even launched. Promoted as early as 1985 by Chrysler's Chairman Lee A. Iacocca, it was initially known as the "Q-coupe" and almost became launched as the "Lido" (Mr. Iacocca's real first name). After a failed attempt at launching in 1987, the first boatload made their way from Italy in December 1988 with the official name: "Chrysler's TC by Maserati". The idea was to "...incorporate Chrysler's design and production concepts with those of Maserati, while keeping the quality high and the price relatively low." (Road & Track 06/91) A recipe for success?

Unfortunately, no! The initial perception was that it looked far too much like the Chrysler LeBaron (J-Body) Convertible, but cost US $13,505 more than a LeBaron GTC Convertible in 1988. Chrysler executives insisted, however, that the LeBaron and the TC were "just kissing cousins".

Truly an international car, 75% of the front-wheel drive TC's (TC stood for Touring Convertible) parts were built in Italy; the sheet metal, chassis components, and engine/transaxle came from the US; some components came from France; the Michelin tyres and Getrag shifter came from West Germany (thanks to George Lang); the wiring came from Spain; and it was all assembled in Maserati's Innocenti complex at Lambrate near Milan.

Chrysler intended to sell 4000-5000 TC's per year in the US through 300 selected Chrysler dealers. It was not to be. The TC's sales fell far short of expectations and dwindled off quickly only to be halted by 1991: a three-year run. In the end, only 7300 models were ever produced. Even more rare, with only 500 examples built, is the most desirable piece of this luxury convertible: the 4-cyl 2.2-litre De Tomaso-designed 16v DOHC Turbocharged and Intercooled 200 bhp built in Italy.

Three copies of the 16v Maserati TC are stored by Daimler Chrysler Heritage (Walter P. Chrysler Museum) including one hand-made version.

It is sad to note that the majority of TC's were equipped with the Mitsubishi V6 (straight out of the LeBaron) and then the 2.2-litre detuned intercooled Turbo II with 160 bhp @ 5200 rpm and 171 lb/ft of torque @ 3600 rpm. The 2.2 8v Turbo fitted with the 3-speed auto (the only choice) it makes for a very leisurely pace to 60mph: 11.0 seconds according to Chrysler to be exact. Part of the blame is the hefty 3355 lb (1375 kg) as-tested weight and the poorly spaced 3 forward gears. Top speed is 124mph. (Road & Track got this engine to "propel" this TC to 60mph in 9.9 seconds).

The real looker, and performer, is the DOHC 2.2 Turbocharged and Intercooled powerplant. Packing 200 bhp @ 5500 rpm and 220 lb/ft @ 3400 rpm with a compression ratio of 7.3:1, it motivated the TC surprisingly well: while Chrysler claimed 8 seconds to 60mph, Road & Track was able to get one to perform the same feat in only 6.9 secs with a quarter mile time of 15.4 secs at 92.5mph. Top speed was 135mph. Handling shows some limitations with only 0.79g. This engine has proven quite durable but its rarity keeps prices quite high for parts.

Problems surfaced from the beginning with the TC. Fit and finish for a $33,000 vehicle were sub-par as were many of the interior trim furnishings.

To a Daytona/LeBaron owner, too many pieces were familiar: the door locks and handles, window switches, foot-operated parking brake, gauge cluster, cruise/turn-signal stalk, steering column, dash vents, glove box, ashtray, cassette holder, climate controls, stereo (CD & cassette), windshield... and more.

"In the same glance, you spot cheap tape pinstripes and incredibly expensive Italian-made Fondmetal wheels. You spot a flawless seam between metal tonneau and rear deck, and then you wonder why its lines are spoiled by a mammoth high-mounted brake light that even the Chrysler guys call 'the chrome-plated nerd'. You spot misalignments between hood and fenders and between doors and rocker sills, and then you marvel at the mahogany-smooth paint."
(Automobile 06/88)

But this is rather harsh... I think it's an attractive, powerful (with the DOHC engine), luxury convertible that deserved better: better attention to detail and better finishing (unique instruments, real burled-wood inside, etc.).

Even if it cost $40,000 ($7,000 more than it did list at) it would have sold far better if it was truly unique looking inside and out and was more Maserati and less standard Chrysler.

Standard equipment included air conditioning, a ten-speaker Ultimate Sound System with compact disc player, tinted windows, remote electrically operated heated exterior mirrors, 'sports car mechanical instrumentation', central locking, electric windows, cruise control, electrically operated seats. From 1990 driver's air bag.

Paint colours available were: Royal Cabernet Pearl, Smoke Quartz Pearl, Exotic Red Pearl, Light Yellow Pearl, Jet Black clear and Artic White Clear. Interior trim colours: Black, Ginger and Bordeaux.

Collectibility as at August 21st, 2001 - The 1989 - 1991 Chrysler TC by Maserati has been named one of the top five sleeper classics for under $10,000 US by Hemmings Special Interest Auto Magazine. Below is an excerpt from the award:

1989-91 Chrysler TC by Maserati

Price range: $8,000 - $12,000

The following came directly from Hemmings and some is not true as noted below.

If you always lusted after an exotic Italian sports car with a name that ends in 'i,' but never had the money to park one of these pricey gems in your garage, there's an alternative that most enthusiasts can afford. It's called the Chrysler TC by Maserati. Styled by Chrysler, the TC is based on a Le Baron chassis that was sent to Maserati where it was shortened and the entire body shell assembled by hand, including a special hood. After Maserati installed the drivetrain, the cars were shipped back to America. Three engines were available in its short three-year life span: 160 bhp 2.2-litre Turbo four, 200 bhp 16-valve twin-cam, or a 141 bhp 3.0-litre Mitsubishi V-6. But regardless which version you choose, they were all built with independent rear suspension [Kanata Note: not true - as with all K-car based vehicles, the rear suspension was not independent], four-wheel disc brakes with ABS, 15-inch alloys, a power-operated removable hardtop, and genuine Italian leather upholstery. Although priced at the top end of our $10,000 price cap, several of these unique convertibles can still be found in the four-figure range. With a total production run of only 7,300, that's one rare Italian-American hybrid that almost anyone can afford.


2.2-litre 4-cyl 16v DOHC Turbo/Int. - 200hp - 220 lb/ft - 5-speed Getrag - 1989-1991

2.2-litre 4-cyl 8v SOHC Turbo/Int. - 160 bhp - 171 lb/ft 3-speed Auto - 1989

3.0-litre V6-cyl 8v SOHC - 141 bhp - 171 lb/ft - 4-speed Auto - 1990-1991

The 200 bhp 2.2-litre 4-cyl 16v DOHC Turbo (with Intercooler) engine.

The 141bhp 3.0-litre 3.0-litre V6-cyl 8v SOHC engine and alloy wheel.

Chrysler TC Driver's Handbooks for 1990 and 1991

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