Weekly Treasure: 1991 Chrysler TC By Maserati

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A failure with character.

Lee Iacocca was one of the great automotive executives. Without him, we may not have had the Ford Mustang, the original Chrysler minivans, and the Chrysler TC by Maserati. Wasn't that an expensive failure? Indeed it was, but this luxury convertible was also an example of risk-taking, something Iacocca was known for. Sometimes they paid off.

This debacle all got started when Iacocca was heading Chrysler in the 1980s. He'd already saved the automaker from extinction thanks to the minivan and K cars and was riding on a high. It was time to explore other potential areas of opportunity. Could an American engine and a Maserati body go together?

Enter Alejandro de Tomaso, a longtime friend of Iacocca. De Tomaso was the owner of Maserati back then and when Iacocca called, he listened.

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On paper, this wasn't such a bad idea. Having a so-called image builder was highly attractive. One problem was that it didn't differ enough from the Chrysler LeBaron. On top of that, there were serious management problems that caused numerous delays. It took five years for the Chrysler TC to reach production.

Sold from 1989 through 1991, the expensive convertible was built on a shortened version of the Dodge Daytona's platform and initially powered by a turbocharged 2.2-liter straight-four with 162 horsepower. It was soon replaced with a Mitsubishi-built 3.0-liter V6 with just 142 hp. Only 500 examples received the so-called "Maserati" engine, a 200-hp 2.2-liter turbo.

Some notable design features included a detachable hardtop with circular windows and Italian-stitched leather interior upholstery. There was even a special storage area compartment for an umbrella, tool kit, and spare tire - all of which came standard. The only available option was a CD player.

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Only 300 Chrysler dealerships sold the vehicle and were available by special order. Ultimately, the TC was a failure. It looked cheesy. Still, it's sometimes considered a collector's car and this 1991 example currently up for grabs at SoCal Sportscars has a $5,995 price tag.

Its exact mileage isn't known because the odometer stopped working. It does, however, have the V6 engine paired to a four-speed automatic. Overall, it still runs and drives just fine and appears to be in decent shape inside and out. Despite being a misstep for Iacocca, the TC is still a piece of automotive history with an interesting story behind it.

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