Car Spot: A Chrysler with an Italian accent

This was Lido’s idea

Lee Iacocca did a lot of great things in his automtive career. He invented the Ford Mustang and the pony car market and the mini van while at Chrysler, again creating another market. In fact he is credited for saving Chrysler in the 80’s but he had a few clunkers like the Chrysler TC by Maserati, this week’s car spot I found at a reseller near my home.

Lee Iacocca at the introduction of the K-car.

After Chrysler become an investor in Maserati in 1985, Lido set the wheels in motion for a joint development car and claimed that the planned “Q-coupe” would be the prettiest Italian to arrive stateside since his mother immigrated. Ummm, sure. The luxury roadster, which resembled a Chrysler LeBaron because it shared many of the LeBaron’s components but took five years to complete mainly because Chrysler and Maserati engineers didn’t play well in the same sandbox. The original plan was for the TC to be introduced before the LeBaron.

It was powered by a variety of engines sourced from anemic Chrysler and Mitsubishi engines but they were cheap and kind of off the shelf stuff. Then they upped the game. 500 cars were built with an optional drivetrain consisting of a Getrag manual transmission and a 16-valve head version of Chyrsler’s 2.2 L. It was called the Maserati engine because it was assembled by Maserati and has a Maserati-branded cast valve cover.

The 200 hp engine’s parts came from all over. The cylinder head was cast in England by Cosworth and finished in Italy by Maserati. The pistons came from Mahle GmbH in Germany. It used a specially-made 2.2 block, upgraded crankshaft, and rods. A turbocharger was sourced from IHI. The rest of the engine used common Turbo II parts made in the United States.

The car’s platform was based on a shortened Dodge Daytona chassis with suspension and axles from the original model, except for the 5-speed Getrag with “Maserati” engine. The bodywork was produced by De Tomaso. The struts and shocks were specially designed for the car by Fichtel and Sachs, and a Teves anti-lock braking system was standard. The special wheels were made in Italy by a company that was a supplier to Formula One.

Does this opera window remind you of another car? How about the baby Bird?

Just about every Chrysler executive hated the car and thought it should be witten off but Iacocca refused to accept responsibility for its failure pinning it on his marketers because the car had not been positioned propery in the upscale market.  Most outpoken at Chrysler was Bob Lutz who said the partnership resulted in only the TC, a “misadventure” that wound up costing Chrysler “close to $600 million in 1985 dollars. The cost in 2021 dollaars would be $165,930 in 2021 dollars. Yikes!

Yes, that is a cellular phone.

So what would you expect with a car that was overpriced and poor design? It was projected to sellbetween 5,000 and 10,000 units, ibut only hit 7,200. In contrast, the LeBaron GTC had more color choices and exactly the same features at a considerably cheaper price. Reviewers call it out for not luxurious and only nominally European. Does this all sound vagely familiar? Read my car spot on the Cadillac Allanté. What are they worth now? Around ten grand will get you into one of these “european type sports cars”.

Be sure to check back next Friday for another one of my car spots along with a bit of history behind them. Have a great weekend.


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