What If? 2014 Chrysler TC by Maserati
Welcome to What If, a new feature from imaginative illustrator Abimelec Arellano and Hagerty. We’ll be taking you back in time—and possibly forward into the future—to meet alternative-universe automobiles. Even better, our time machine is working well enough to bring “short take” reviews along with the photographs and advertisements. Buckle up and enjoy the ride! — Jack Baruth
(Originally published in Truck and Passenger, August 2013 issue)
Hey, pal! Remember the 1989 Chrysler TC “by Maserati”? Sure you do! It was a masterclass in building a LeBaron convertible that didn’t look as good as a LeBaron but cost twice and much and broke twice as often, straight from the deranged mind of K-car circus clown Lido Iacocca. Easily one of the worst ideas in automotive history, the TC was a showroom catastrophe and a business nightmare, combined with a logistical snafu and a warranty liability for years to come. Let me tell you, pal, this was a bad idea.
Apparently there’s no idea so bad that it doesn’t deserve a second act, so here we are. We’d like to tell you that this new TC by Maserati is the hasty one-night-stand result of the recently boiling-hot romance between Fiat and Chrysler, but in fact it’s been under discussion almost since the moment that Cerberus snatched the defeat of Chrysler ownership from the jaws of hedge-fund victory. You see, the dissolution of the DaimlerChrysler partnership meant that the Crossfire coupe and convertible would no longer be feasible, since that car was more or less an SLK320 in drag. It also looked like a dog taking a dump on the street.
Meanwhile, the newly reinvigorated Maserati division of FIAT had a new car and a new engine that wasn’t quite meeting production or sales targets. What better way to keep the factory humming than to … build a Chrysler? The engineering of such a car wasn’t all that difficult, but the cost structure proved unmanageable. Until, that is, Fiat started negotiating to buy Chrysler. Now it’s all a matter of shuffling costs around internally.
Here’s how to build a 2014 Chrysler TC by Maserati, and hold on to your hat, pal, because this might take a while to explain:
Step 1: A four-door CKD (completely knocked down) kit is produced straight outta Brampton, Ontario, and put on a truck to ASC in Detroit, Michigan. Minus the engine, of course, for reasons we’ll discuss in a minute.
Step 2: At ASC, the body-in-white is refabricated into a two-door convertible, using internal door parts from the Dodge Challenger but cloaked in a unique door skin made by ASC.
Step 3: The convertible-ized CKD is put in a special Airbus A380 operated by the Star Alliance and flown from Detroit to Turin, Italy.
Step 4: At the Turin facility, the body is painted and every single part of the interior is retrimmed in Maserati-spec materials including leather and carbon fiber. As with the original TC by Maserati, the garish wheels are made by storied F1 supplier Fondmetal.
Step 5: The painted CKD is sent via truck to Maserati’s facility in Modena where a 4.2-liter, 405-horsepower Maserati engine, previously seen in early versions of the Maserati GranTurismo, is mated to the ZF transmission.
Step 6: The car is then returned to Turin via truck for final assembly and quality testing—whatever that means.
Step 7: The same Airbus A380 used to carry the TC by Maserati from Detroit to Turin is then used to return the completed TC to Detroit, where it is trucked to the Conner Avenue plant for another round of quality control. At this point, customers have the option of having certain Maserati-installed interior pieces replaced with special supplier-built pieces, such as gold-infused California walnut trim.
Step 8: The completed car is sent to the dealers from Detroit.
The entire process is expected to take about four months from start to finish for each TC. Our pre-production model was said to have taken almost eight months to complete, which seems scarcely believable given the many quality kerfuffles evident throughout the interior. The Maserati-specific trim was misaligned and in many cases was simply not the correct size for the hole or slot where it would go; these problems were redressed by the liberal use of clear cyanoacrylate bonding agent … also known as “Crazy Glue” to you rubes in the Midwest. Perhaps the most astounding thing about the car is this: despite having a largely custom-fabricated body, the Maserati badge on the front is literally welded on top of the existing Chrysler wing grille. Why go through all the trouble to build the things you don’t see from scratch, while using the stock 300 grille on a custom laid-back fascia? It boggles the mind.
Tipping the scales at 4602 pounds, our test TC covered the quarter mile in 13.7 seconds at 104 miles per hour, singing a fascinating Italian aria along the way. Handling was … well, not so good, not with that swimming-pool opening only lightly secured by a massive, complex fabric top. Skidpad testing produced visible shifting of the doors in their cutouts, to the point that the paint was rubbed raw in several places where the door and sills tried to occupy the same space.
The resulting lack of predictability at the limits of cornering might be why our road warrior, Spaniel Felson, managed to jump the TC by Maserati over an Ann Arbor curb at triple-digit speeds, neatly shaving all the running gear off the floorpan and coming to rest in the front yard of a local Wendy’s. Felson says it was snap oversteer; we say it was snap judgment, the bad kind. Rumor has it that he was busy taking a “selfie” in the car, using a special “selfie stick.” It’s hard to get good help nowadays, right pal?
The base price for the TC by Maserati is a robust $99,999, with up to $25,000 in options possible through a combination of interior upgrades, special paint, and a “Trident package” that provides a lower-restriction exhaust and intake for more of that glorious Ferrari-sourced music. Well, it is certainly the cheapest way to get yourself behind the wheel of a car with an engine similar to that of the mighty F430. But the rest of it looks like something from MTV’s Pimp My Ride. Too bad Frank Sinatra is no longer alive to go on TV with Lido and sell this thing. It’s a real Italian-American mashup, with a little help from our Canadian friends!