Awkward First Date: 1991 Chrysler TC by Maserati

By Nathan Avots-Smith

These days, Chrysler and Maserati are joined in corporate matrimony under the umbrella of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, or FCA, but years before this blessed union came to pass, the two had a brief dalliance that didn’t portend a rosy future together. Under the matchmaking eye of one Lido “Lee” Iacocca, the two produced the Chrysler TC by Maserati convertible from 1988 to 1991 before going their separate ways, until fate intervened to reunite them nearly two decades later. Bill Walters intrepidly ventured into deepest South Jersey craigslist to find this ’91 TC, offered in Cinnaminson, NJ, for a mere $2,500. Could this Italo-American be the cheap date you’ve been looking for?

Lest you think that “Chrysler by Maserati” means that a sonorous, high-revving Italian heart was transplanted into what looks a lot like a run-of-the-mill LeBaron, you should know that this TC, like most of its 1990 and ’91 brethren, is powered by an Illinois-built, Mitsubishi-supplied 3-liter V6, mated to a four-speed automatic. It was, in fact, the bodywork and interior that were furnished by Maserati; Chrysler engineering plus Maserati build quality, especially in the ’80s, doesn’t necessarily mean that either company was playing to its strengths. Despite its resemblance to the LeBaron, by the way, the TC is more closely related to the shorter-wheelbase Dodge Daytona, but they’re all just branches on the K-car family tree. The opera windows on the detachable hardtop are pure Iacocca.

Perhaps the biggest justification for the TC’s $37,000 MSRP when new—aside from the expense of having the car built in Italy, obviously—was its hand-stitched, all-leather interior. I imagine sliding into this luxe cocoon would be like diving into a bowl of butterscotch pudding that smelled like cow. The lack of wear on the seats here belies the claimed 49,000 miles, although there’s some puckering on the dash pad and both door cards appear to have shrunk and warped a little. Quite presentable, overall.

The whole car looks to be in pretty decent shape, even if it’s neither Chrysler nor Maserati’s all-time greatest effort, and is said to run and drive well. I know of a guy who’s been trying (unsuccessfully, I should note) to sell one of these for twelve grand, so why is this one so cheap? All we know from the ad is that the seller is losing storage for the car. Simple Chrysler and Mitsubishi underpinnings should make this a fairly low-cost tourer if you want to make a long-term commitment, and at a $2,500 price of entry, the first date couldn’t be any more awkward than Chrysler and Maserati’s, could it?

Get Daily Email Updates:

Comments

  1. angliagt

    I think that the Bi Turbo had a lot to do with
    the reputation (& resale value) of these,& Chrysler’s reputation
    doesn’t help much either,unfortunatly.

    0
  2. Sam

    Cheap fun in the summer sun. Great interior, maybe some different wheels and find some over the top badging for the grill and trunk lid.

    Hard to go wrong for $2500.

    3+
  3. John D.

    In the Fall of 2010, I was trying to buy one like this with a bad transmission for $700 about an hour from me. But I had a stroke instead. I’ve never been able to put cash to a deal since. I would prefer an ’89 turbo that I could hot rod. Maybe in time You can find these for way less than the $2500 asking price.

    0
    • cyclemikey

      Where? In the junkyard? I’ve never been a fan of these, but this is pretty dang cheap.

      If you can find one of these in similar condition for “way less than $2500” please let us know. I won’t hold my breath.

      3+
  4. jdjonesdr

    I don’t understand why this hasn’t sold yet. Seems like a lot of car for 2500, with a hard top no less.

    1+
  5. Bmac Bmac Member

    My dad got one these on one of his crazy deals, it was only a couple of years old, drove for about a month. Only got one thing to say about it….. Nope, mom always said if you don’t have anything nice to say, shut up!

    3+
  6. John

    I’ve owned several of these and know them well. I like to think of them as a Lebaron done right. It’s a shorter wheelbase with a beefed up suspension so it handles and rides better then most K cars (snicker) and the seats are incredible. Too bad the Chrysler penny pinchers got involved. The electronics and switchery are right out of the base line Chrysler bins. A bad move for a ‘premium vehicle’. Still though, a fun find and a great conversation piece. My favorite was my 89. It had the Chrysler 2.2 intercooled turbo. Reliable, quick, fun and easy to fix. The later 3.0 V6 was adequate but boring. A limited amount of these (around 500 or so) were built with a twin cam 4 banger mated to a five speed manual. From a collectively standpoint, that would be the one to grab. If your lucky enough to find one….

    2+
  7. capt Doug

    great looks – well kept – priced low – good deal

    0
  8. Tom

    “…like diving into a bowl of butterscotch pudding that smelled like cow.” Oddly, I’d like to give that a whirl.

    3+
  9. Steve

    Im no big fan of these cars, that said it is kinda weird why. I love MOPAR even the ’80s mopar’ish cars like the GLHS and Im a big fan of the early ’90s Shadow turbo. With a 5 speed this was a lot of fun. In my opinion with no knowledge of automotive marketing, I kinda thought this was the Chrysler answer to the Cadillac Allante. It was a win in my opinion, but it could have been a slam dunk if the American design team had looked more toward BMW, Mercedes, Saab, and even Volvo for clues to what Americans wanted in a European car. 2500 bucks…..Id buy it

    0
  10. chad

    Like better view of the soft top, a view of the hard.
    Usta live 1 town over & know it’s close to Philly, may not last long in that populous a region…

    0
  11. LAB3

    A cow-orker of mine about 10 yrs ago always kept bragging about his Maserati but never drove it so we never saw it to prove he wasn’t just BS’ing is. Finally he did bring it to work one day and it was one of these! Needless to say much butthurt was dished out, not toward the car itself but his stories about it, it’s a LeBaron, nuff said.

    0
    • packrat

      @LAB3: One of the burgundy hardtops (limited paint palette for the TC models) showed up on barnfinds awhile back.

      The stories (and vigorous carping!) which ensued across the owner and non-owner sides of the aisle put me in mind of the old fairy tale about The Emperor’s New Clothes.

      http://barnfinds.com/the-worlds-most-affordable-maserati/#comments

      I also remember, someone I knew had a used one a little under twenty years ago, and she was very impressed she got a Maserati so heavily discounted. (In that gentle era we did not disabuse her of her notion.)

      0
  12. That Guy

    This one is nicer than most at this price point. You can’t go far wrong for $2500. I’m on the wrong coast, so shipping would pretty much negate the price advantage versus those I see advertised here.

    Here’s a manual one, scruffy and needing some work, in central California at the same $2500 asking:

    https://sacramento.craigslist.org/cto/6166978064.html

    0

Leave A Comment

Rules: No profanity, politics, or personal attacks. Click here to list your car for sale.

*

Notify me of new comments via email. Or subscribe without commenting.