Fashion Faux Pas: 1988 Chrysler TC By Maserati 5 Speed

Ah, the Chrysler TC, lost in the hazy days of the late '80s only to be revived in on the computer screen in front of you.

What brought about the unlikely (and unholy) union of Chrysler and Maserati? Two words: Lee Iacocca.

The legendary head of Chrysler, who to his credit eventually turned the company around, became friends with Alejandro De Tomaso while they were both at Ford. Iacocca then left for Chrysler and De Tomaso for Maserati. Their bromance was far from over though. In the midst of the Reagan Revolution they decided to make a car together...because, heck, Chrysler and Maserati were both known for reliable, quality products, so why not join forces? The result was the TC.

The TC is awkwardly called the "Chrysler TC by Maserati". So which is it, a Chrysler or a Maserati? Neither, it's a Chrysler by Maserati. Like double breasted suit by Armani. Or maybe something more horrific, like novel by Stephen King. In an era when designer names were all the rage and lended instant credibility to brand-conscious consumers, I'm sure this seemed like an awesome idea then. Today it just plain stinks, although the hilarity that must have ensued on the second hand market ("Honey, look at the Maserati I bought for dirt cheap") is almost worth the name fumbling. But who I am to argue. The badge features a Maserati trident inside the Chrysler pentagon, the automotive equivalent of a practical joke. Or maybe just a big middle finger. I swear somebody somewhere was having a great laugh.

Essentially, Iacocca used a shortened Dodge Daytona platform, slapped on an ever-so-slightly modified Lebaron body, and put a four or six cylinder engine under the hood. Power went to the front wheels. There was also a removable hard top with porthole side windows, to up the kitsch factor.

To its credit, the interior has these enormous padded leather seats that look more like La-Z-Boy recliners than something you sit on in a car to drive.

Not surprisingly, the TC (by Maserati) never caught on. The car borrowed the worst from each manufacturer: poor engineering, bland styling, front-wheel drive, lackluster performence and a general pointlessness. Iacocca expected the TC to usher in a new era of respect for the brand. Instead it became a joke on late-night TV (not true but that would have been hilarious) and symbolic of everything that was wrong with the '80s.

They expected to sell between 5,000 - 10,000 units per year, but sales never went past 3,800. 1991 was the last year (for a lot of things actually, it turned out).

This example has come roaring back for our viewing pleasure. TC cars are worth absolutely nothing. Nobody takes them seriously, though I am sure there are devoted rings of cult followers throughout the U.S. You can grab them for nothing, despite few being made and the odd backstory.

This '89 example is notable for its overall good body, turbocharged four-cylinder and very rare 5-speed manual transmission. These were just boutique cruisers, most with automatics. It's somewhat funny to see a stick shift, but considering that only 501 came with one, somewhere out there, a collector's heart is racing.

The asking price to buy the fruits of a high-powered 1980s friendship? Just $3,200, and it's all yours.

Find it here on ebay in Staten Island, New York.


  1. The ad starts off with "This Maserati made 2 Door Sports car has..." Huh?!? Not a Maserati. Not a sports car. OK, so this seller is very creative with his descriptions, but it's still priced at least $2K higher than it should be. $1200 is about the going rate for an '88 LeBaron convertible, right?