The Chrysler TC by Maserati is, in a word, controversial. After reading about it in a book about 1980s and 1990s Maseratis, I just had to find out more. Who better to ask then the Chief Program Manager for the Italo-American machine? Make the jump for my interview with Bob Davis.
But first, a little background. In the mid-80s, Chrysler bought a stake in Maserati (then controlled by Alejandro de Tomaso). Chrysler wanted to glamorize the K-car by building a luxury car in Italy and selling it here in America. And thus, the TC, a FWD 2-seater, was born.
Most TCs came with the 2.2-liter turbocharged four by Chrysler and later by the 3-liter Mitsubishi V6. Both of these versions came with automatics. 501 TCs– the most coveted– had 16 valve, DOHC heads on Chrysler blocks. The heads were designed by Maserati and produced by Cosworth. This engine was good for 220 lb-ft of torque and 200 hp. It was mated with a Getrag 5-speed manual.
Other random factoids:
- The logo was called the Pentatrident.
- “by Maserati”‘s font size had to be 80% the size of “Chrysler TC”.
- Iacocca described it as “the best-looking Italian to show up to America since my mother came over.”
- Between 1989 and 1991, around 7,300 TCs were sold.
The craziest thing I learned was that two TCs were used as pace cars at the 1987 Monaco F1 Grand Prix. One was driven by Carroll Shelby with de Tomaso sitting shotgun. The other was driven by Bob Lutz with Iacocca sitting shotgun. 1m internet points to any of you readers who can produce a jpg of this vortex of awesome.
And now, the interview with Bob Davis:
Q. Please tell us about your career in the automotive industry.
I worked for Chrysler for 39 years, mainly in Engineering.
Q. What was your assignment with respect to the TC?
My assignment on the TC was the Chief Program Manager and to be located in Italy.
Q. Why did Chrysler want to build the TC?
Chrysler felt that the TC would take the Chrysler brand “up-market” and help the company learn how to shorten the “time to market”.
Q. The TC looks similar to the LeBaron convertible. Was that a coincidence? Was there any discussion within Chrysler that this may hurt the TC’s sales, considering the marked price difference between the two models?
The TC did look a lot like the LeBaron convertible and it was felt that selling the TC in low volumes would help LeBaron sales. This was certainly true that the original Thunderbird helped sell a lot of Ford convertibles.
Q. A relatively small number of the TCs were equipped with Maserati engines. Why weren’t all the TCs fitted with the Maser engine?
Most TCs were built with automatic transmissions and we were limited by the torque capacity of those transmissions.
Q. What was the TC supposed to compete against at the time?
Mercedes SL, Cadillac Allante, Buick Reatta
Q. What did you like about the TC? What did you not like?
I especially like the all-leather interior. I wished that we could have somehow reinforced the automatic transmission and improved the performance of those cars.
Q. In retrospect, what could have been done differently to make the TC more of a commercial success?
I was not in a position to know as I was in Italy and was not aware of the marketing or dealer/customer reactions in the U.S.
Q. How was Mr. de Tomaso to work with?
I enjoyed working with him. He came from a racing background. He had been a driver and later started making cars. He did a super job on the 16-valve engine.
Q. How was Mr. Iacocca to work with?
He was the man who “saved Chrysler”. He was always very direct in knowing what he wanted in order to help sell the car. Best boss you can have.
Q. Why do you love cars?
I have always loved cars. After retiring from Chrysler, I do volunteer work for the W.P.Chrysler Museum where ” I am an antique person in the midst of antique cars.”
A big thank you to Mr. Davis for the interview and the Chrysler TC club for putting me in contact with Mr. Davis.
For more information on this classic, check out this article in Hemmings.
Image source: Alden Jewell