Monday, January 30, 2017

Italy + America - the worst of both worlds

I was driving around Newtown Connecticut with a couple of friends recently when I implored them to stop so I could jump out. A little old lady out of central casting was walking away from her infamous automotive Brundlefly; a TC!
This is a 1990 Chrysler TC by Maserati in Black. It is in astonishing condition throughout. I jumped out of the car I was in and caught up to the owner as she was walking into a store to explain myself and ask if she minded me snapping some pics (she was very gracious). She and her husband bought the car new for $35,000 and she said it only has like 20,000 miles on it today!
The story of this amalgamation starts back in the early 1970s when Lee Iacocca (who was at Ford at the time) developed a friendship with race car driver and builder Alejandro De Tomaso. They launched a collaboration with the De Tomaso Pantera being powered by Ford V8 engines and transmissions. 2 decades later Iacocca was at Chrysler forging a similar deal with Maserati where a Chrysler drivetrain would power an Italian sports car. The thought alone is ridiculous as Mitsubishi supplied the engines for this era Chrysler anyway. What exactly were they trying to accomplish?
Unfortunately the result looked a lot like the already available Chrysler LeBaron GTC convertible based on the *K-Car platform. I always assumed this was a K-Car tarted up with Maserati badges and leather, but it turns out I was only half right as the bodies were made in Italy.
*To be fair the GTC was built on the J platform but that was just a modified K.
Regardless here is the result which Iacocca promised would be "the prettiest Italian to arrive stateside since his mother immigrated". His poor mother!
This isn't a bad looking car and indeed it has aged pretty well in the years since production. The hardtop is removable with a manually operated canvas top stowed beneath.
It was obvious that this TC is beloved. She even parked far away from ever other car to keep it scratch and dent free.
The third brake light is very prominent due to the hardtop design. Confusion extends to the naming:
Who exactly is responsible for this car then? It seems that 2 automakers are trying to pass the buck.
The late '80s/early '90s were a curious time in U.S. automotive design. Cars were moving from the squared-off boxy angles of the '80s towards the rounded blobs of the '90s. Smaller, 2 seat convertibles were available from GM as well; the Buick Reatta and Cadillac Allante joined the TC on the roads of 1990. The Allante was also partially designed by an Italian company; Pininfarina. 
Mercury revised the Capri name on a small convertible from '91-'94, but they were sadistic enough to claim that it was a 4 seater. The rear seats were ridiculously, painfully small to the point of being unusable except for small children.
The opera window portholes on the hardtop were possibly the last of their kind. Most automakers left them behind by the mid-'80s as holdovers from the Malaise era.
The logo is a combination of the Maserati trident surrounded by the Chrysler Pentastar.
The color of the leather interior is Ginger. There were only a few choices of interior and exterior colors during the 3 year production run of 1989-1991. Interior appointments are no frills except for the small amounts of wood trim that K and J cars of the era lacked.
I'd like to point out the large airbag on the steering wheel which was standard equipment for the TC. There was no hiding these older airbags. You can clearly see the dimensions of it and the middle seam where it will give way if needed.
Well there we have it: a forgotten footnote in the history of 2 automakers. The TC was in development longer than it was actually produced. All 1991 models were actually holdovers from 1990 that hadn't been sold or titled yet. While sales projections predicted 10,000 per year leaving showrooms a total of only 7,500 were ever built. 
Amazingly Chrysler wouldn't let up on the idea of a collaboration even after the TC. More than a decade after the TC died off they offered the Chrysler Crossfire which used the mechanicals of a Mercedes Benz SLK with a domestic body that Jeremy Clarkson referred to as having the same stance a dog takes while defecating. Mercedes treated it with embarrassment and shame, pretending it didn't exist. Regardless when enough time passes these bastard offspring are entertaining to encounter in the wild. I wouldn't pay much for a TC, but I would be curious to drive one I suppose.

1 comment:

  1. gorgeous, I work with a guy that has a lemon chiffon colored one, I tell everyone I work with a guy that has a maseratti