Today’s Bad Idea: 1989 Chrysler TC by Maserati

Chrysler was kind of a weird company in the mid-late 1980’s. Riding high on the success of their K-car platform, CEO Lee Iacocca was on fire. Chrysler was flush with cash and growing aggressively, buying up struggling rival AMC for the profitable Jeep brand, and even acquiring Lamborghini for a short period in 1987. His winning streak had to end somewhere, though. While at Ford, Iacocca had made friends with a guy by the name of Alejandro de Tomaso, and the two subsequently collaborated to create the exotic De Tomaso Pantera sports car. Iacocca figured it might be worth trying something similar at Chrysler; he leaned on his old buddy, who owned Maserati at the time, and the two companies decided to collaborate on a new flagship sports car for Chrysler. Deadlines were blown, somehow the K-car platform got involved, and the final product – ridiculously called the “Chrysler TC by Maserati” – was little more than a dressed-up Chrysler LeBaron for twice the price. If that seems to scratch your itch, for some reason, you might be interested in this 1989 example for a not-quite-reasonable $5500.

The Chrysler K-car might have been revolutionary in its time, but they aren’t very highly regarded today and are not exactly known for their robustness. Along similar lines, Maserati was basically scraping the bottom of the barrel in the mid-late 1980’s with products like the BiTurbo, a vehicle with piss-poor build quality and virtually no redeeming qualities; also considered one of the most complicated and least reliable cars ever manufactured. Basically, these weren’t two companies you would have wanted collaborating on a vehicle in the first place; 25 years later, it takes a strange person to seek out a TC, let alone plunk down $5500 for one.

To its credit, the one on offer here is the most desirable TC model offered, with the rare Cosworth 16-valve cylinder head and Getrag 5-speed manual transmission. I have never understood why sports car parts like these ended up on the TC, though, as it is decidedly not a sports car. I mean, look at those opera windows! Sporty! That rich leather interior with wide, flat seat pads that look like cuts of meat? Sporty. And the dated burgundy paint applied to the decidedly pedestrian styling that any regular person would mistake for a Chrysler LeBaron? Sporty, I tell you! If it isn’t clear, these cars do nothing for me. But even if the TC really does it for you, this example isn’t a very good idea.

The seller of this TC claims it is “95% rust free,” then attaches a picture of some rocker panel rot that any rust belt-dwelling car enthusiast like myself would cringe at. Sure, it’s not a fist-size hole or anything, but it’s far from simple surface rust; it is rather obviously rusting from the inside of the rocker outward, which means there are almost definitely more corrosion-related surprises waiting in the shadows. The car might be visibly 95% rust free, but the rust you can’t see until you cut into a panel is always the worst. Then there’s the broken odometer, so who knows how many miles it really has. Don’t even get me started on the deferred timing belt maintenance that could take out that rare Cosworth head in the blink of an eye. On top of that, this car is just plain overpriced. It might be in pretty decent shape and have the most desirable drivetrain, but $5500 is just too much for a TC that’s anything less than flawless; I typically see these trading hands for about $3000 in similar shape.

Overall, the Chrysler TC by Maserati is a car that seems to have been designed to do almost nothing for no one. It’s not a sports car, not really a luxury car, wasn’t affordable and parts aren’t (and never were) easy to come by for the uncommon Cosworth-modified powerplant. Hell, it’s not even clear what Maserati contributed to the vehicle other than their name and a heavy dose of shoddy 80’s Italian build quality (yes, these were built in Italy). Most people who wanted one of these did the sensible thing and just bought a well-optioned turbo LeBaron, which was 90% of the car for 50% of the price. If you have $5500 to spend, there are lots of cars out there that do everything the TC does an order of magnitude better. Or if you really want a TC for some reason, this one is too rough around the edges for its high asking price. And that’s why this TC is a Bad Idea. Original text below:

looking to sell my 1989 TC Maserati 16 Valve turbocharged 4cyl with 5-speed getrag transmission.. My TC is 95% rust free, see photo of the rust, 60k miles but odometer stopped and I have maybe driven 500 miles in the 9 years ive owned it it was at chryslers of carlisle in 2012. in great shape, its more of a drivers car than show quality unless somebody really wants to spend the time to repaint it. the little rust on the rockers is solid, could use a good sanding and cosmetic repair easily could be saved, do not need repalcement. Carbernet and ginger with black soft top and has matching hard top. is complete with all items, most are pricey. if I get asking price I will include about 1500$ of performance 16V masi items like cometic gaskets, 16v custom fidanza cam gears, nos timing belt, nos belt tensioner, magnacore wires, nos license plate frame for front bumper, hard top cart for top when removed, extra soft top pull down assembly, and I have lining for the hood that needs to be cut and applied. might be interested in a trade for a late 60s muscle car needing work, high end automatic swiss watches (breitling, omega, oris), 2000s american 4×4 truck with a 5spd of comparable value
put Turbo in email subject line.


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