1989 Chrysler TC by Maserati. Click image to enlarge
Article and photo by Bill vance
By the mid-1980s the Chrysler Corp. was looking for a little glamour. After retreating from the abyss of bankruptcy, its chairman-saviour Lee Iacocca was ready for an exciting new product.
Their K-car Dodge Aries/Plymouth Reliant and its many permutations were successfully saving the company, and the front-wheel drive Dodge Caravan/Plymouth Voyager minivan was consolidating it by creating a whole new market that Chrysler would control. Chrysler had even revived the convertible.
But Iacocca wanted more, so his Italian heritage led him to an association with a grand old Italian marque, Officine Alfierie Maserati of Modena. It was under the control of expatriate Argentine Alejandro DeTomaso, now in the sports luxury car business in Italy.
The two men had collaborated in the 1970s when Iacocca was with Ford and they brought the Ford-powered, mid-engined DeTomaso Pantera exotic car into Lincoln-Mercury showrooms. Then in the early ’80s, DeTomaso had lent his name to a special tape-and-trim edition of Chrysler’s Dodge DeTomaso 024 sport coupe.
Maserati’s history reached back to 1926, about as far as Chrysler’s, and its reputation was based more on racing successes than on road cars. It began seriously marketing passenger cars after the Second World War, and was able to hang on in grand prix Formula One racing until 1957.
It concentrated on grand touring cars such as the Mistral, Khamsin and Mexico, and in spite of its limited production, Maserati built a remarkable mystique.
Iacocca wanted some of that mystique, and he had Chrysler buy five per cent of Maserati. He was anxious to pursue a joint venture to develop a GT-type luxury car that would wear both Maserati’s famous Neptune trident and the Chrysler nameplate. The vehicle chosen was a smallish, two-passenger convertible that was to exude sybaritic opulence.
For economy and expediency it was based on K-car mechanicals. A Dodge Daytona platform with the wheelbase shrunk from 2,464 mm (97 in.) to 2,370 (93.3) carried such K-car hardware as rack-and-pinion steering, MacPherson strut front suspension, and a beam axle and coil springs at the rear. It was to be powered by Chrysler’s transverse 2.2-litre four-cylinder engine.
Transmissions would be either a five-speed manual or three-speed automatic, and brakes were anti-lock disc all around.
Two engine versions were initially available. For its manual-equipped model, Chrysler had Maserati modify its 2.2 four with a twin cam 16-valve head, new connecting rods and pistons, and a fully counterweighted forged-steel crankshaft. The engine’s 200 horsepower reached the front wheels through a German Getrag heavy-duty manual transmission.