Only 24K Miles! 1989 Maserati TC

OK, is it a Maserati, a LeBaron, something in between or just a poseur. It’s got that special Italian name but it has an everyday K-Car look about it. Whatever the case, we’ll figure it out as best we can. This 1989 Maserati TC is located in Boise, Idaho and is available, here on Facebook Marketplace for $7,500, OBO.

The TC was one of those “Why?” projects. What was the target market? Perhaps it was just brand name appeal – also known as badge engineering. The story is that Lee Iacocca, CEO of Chrysler, and Alejandro de Tomaso, owner of Maserati, struck up a friendship back in the ’80s and the TC was the result of their business relationship. But in only three years, and 7,300 total units completed, the TC was over and out. The ultimate result? An expensive, Italian based convertible coupe, built on a Chrysler K-Car platform and powered by a 160 HP, Chrysler 2.2 liter, four-cylinder, turbocharged engine. And speaking of the engine, the seller of this TC claims that his car is a 25K mile example and it, “runs and drives great”. Unfortunately, there are no images of the engine included in the listing.

The TC was built as a convertible with a removable hardtop, replete with a porthole similar to a ’56-’57 T-Bird. The exterior of this TC is 24K mile-like, there is no fade, scratches, dents, rust, etc. from what is revealed by the only two included images. It is safe to say that this Maserati has been well stored. Of note, one of the biggest recorded drawbacks to the TC’s general acceptance was the fact that it was only offered in four exterior colors.

The interior, also illustrated by just two images, is probably where the most notable difference between this TC and a LeBaron resides. This is a sumptuous “ginger” leather environment and besides being very attractive, it looks to be extremely comfortable, hardly standard LeBaron fare. Again, it is hard to glean much from either image but the interior appears to require no attention.

Why would one purchase a TC either in 1989 or now? In ’89 it was probably due to the panache of the Maserati name. At a $33K base price, the TC was about $14K more than a similarly equipped Lebaron – that’s an expensive interior! Oh yeah, and the TC had no back seat either. Ed Tahaney from “Automobile” magazine hypothesized in a May 2020 article that TC stood for “too costly”. And Bob Lutz, former Chrysler Global Product Development Chief,  and never one lost for words, claimed that Chrysler spent $600M, all in, on the TC, or about $82K per copy in early ’90s dollars, ouch! You can argue that the TC and the Lebaron weren’t really in the same class or competitors but I used to confuse the two and if enough of the buying public does that, there goes your marketing edge. Anyway, Chrysler’s big mistake years ago, can be your deal today for $7,500, OBO; perhaps it’s worth it as a rare curiosity item?

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Comments

  1. Sfm5

    Iaccoca forgot to do a sanity check before approving production of this car.

    Like 4
    • Wayne Thomas

      Agreed. There is nothing about this car to motivate a buyer. Even in its appearance, it just looks so fragile, unsporty with a wobbly imprecise ride quality. Nothing about it exudes strength, luxury or prestige. Looks like a cheap car that someone in a poor community slapped on a Maserati badge to look ‘important’.

  2. Sam61

    I’m in the market for a Reatta…go ahead and laugh. I would transplant the TC leather seats into a Reatta for pimpolious comfort!

    Like 2
    • Jay

      Why be cruel. Your self-awareness is punishment enough :).

      But then again, I have a car with a stock rotory engine. We all have our kinks.

      Like 3
  3. charlie Member

    The first year did have a Maserati engine, but after that the more reliable and easy to service, Chrysler engine. The LeBaron convertible, (the bargain in collector cars today – if the top model with leather and the V6) was supposed to appear three years after this thing, but it took so long to put this to market that the LeBaron caught up and passed it. The other real bargain in collector toys are the retractable hardtops built by Pontiac and VW and Volvo in the ’90’s, very comfortable and, at the moment, very inexpensive.

    Like 2
  4. Wayne Maddox

    I had the twin to this car and found it to be a really fun car to drive.

  5. John

    It’s no Maserati.

    Like 2
  6. Bryan

    Most of these TC Maserati convertibles came with the Mitsubishi 3.0L V6 w/automatic. I’m sure these will be collectible after we’re all dead. They were built and marketed as a specialty car thirty years ago after all. And it does have the Maserati Trident in the grill too!

    The retractable Pontiac G6 (2006-2010) and the retractable Chrysler Sebring/200 (2008-2014) and retractable Volvo C70 (2006-2013) are still depreciating I’m sure…too new to be considered collectible.

    Like 1
  7. wizzy

    I have a friend that has a pair of these in #2- condition. He’s a restoration shop owner. He can’t get rid of his at $5000. each. Pretty cars in a way but simply have no value.

    Like 2
  8. SubGothius

    This is a Chrysler, not a Maserati, properly named “Chrysler’s TC by Maserati”, though they were at least built in Italy at Innocenti, a Maserati subsidiary at the time. Only 500 of these were made with the “Maserati engine”, which was only available with the manual trans and really just a Maserati-built 16v head (co-developed by Cosworth and Crane Cams with heads cast at Cosworth) on a beefed-up Chrysler 2.2L Turbo II short block. The rest (including all automatics) just got the regular 2.2L Turbo II or, later, the Mitsubishi 3.0L V6.

    Like 4
    • alphasud Member

      That one should be the only one worth collecting. Chrysler’s answer to the Cosworth Vega GM made. Except this one has the marshmallow leather Maserati interior.

  9. oldcarsarecool

    If I remember right, the TC by Maserati was supposed to be introduced for the 1987 model year, the same year the redesigned LeBaron would be introduced. The standard new product development timeline, which is pretty lengthy by itself, was also saddled with having to make assembly arrangements overseas. Unfortunately for Chrysler, this, along with R & D development delays, pushed the TC’s debut back two years. That, right there, killed the car.

    The TC was to be the company’s upscale image leader. Execs wanted this beautiful and exclusive car to draw people into the showroom. Customers who could afford the $30k + MSRP for this car would purchase one. The customer who liked the image presented by the TC but couldn’t afford it could then check out the redesigned LeBaron Convertible, which would be presented as a “mini-me” version of the flagship. The LeBaron was styled not exactly like, but similar to the TC. The LeBaron’s interior wasn’t as plush as that in the TC, but it was similar overall. In other words, you could have something that resembled the flagship at a price you could afford.

    However, the above mentioned delays with the TC caused it to be introduced two years after the LeBaron. Now, the psychology was reversed. After seeing LeBaron Convertibles for two years, customers viewed the 1989 TC as nothing more than a LeBaron with a couple of minor visual differences at almost double the price.

    Like 4
  10. michael kelly

    This is Lee Iacocca’s “Hold My Beer” answer to the Cadillac Allante.

    Like 3
  11. Stangalang

    TC stands for The Chrysler 😁

    Like 1
  12. bikefixr

    Who gives a crap about collect ability? It’s a reasonably attractive, comfortable and reliable convertible. I’d own this in a heartbeat if I had another garage space available. Cheap top-down afternoon fun.

    Like 1
  13. normal

    Put in one of Shelby’s Turbo engines, and push your backside into that ginger seat !!!

    • SubGothius

      It’s already got the Turbo II engine used in most of the later Shelby turbo models (GLHS, Daytona Shelby Z, Lancer, CSX). The only more potent variants would be the Turbo III from the Spirit R/T or the Turbo IV from the CSX-VNT.

      Like 1

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