Today’s Nice Price or No Dice Chrysler is probably the cheapest running car in America wearing the Maserati nameplate. It’s pretty worn, so let’s see if it’s cheap enough.
There are two ways to ensure a vehicle’s rarity. One is for the manufacturer to restrict production far below demand. The other is for that manufacturer to build a vehicle that’s just plain less desirable in the first place.
That was the case with the 1990 Toyota 4Runner SR5 we looked at yesterday. Its two-door body style was a less practical choice than its four-door sibling, something car buyers of the era acknowledged by gravitating to the latter. An initial lack of popularity means that there are fewer examples on the road today, a fact the 4Runner’s seller seemed to play up in the car’s ad. At $7,900, however, few of you were having it, and the Toyota fell in a 68 percent No Dice loss.
What, to your way of thinking, defines a rare car? This exceedingly rough 1989 Chrysler TC by Maserati is apparently one of only 7,300 examples ever produced. Would you consider that to be rare? Let’s break that down even further. This TC is one of only 1,454 to have left Italy in 1989 wearing Cabernet paint. Further, it’s one of only 649 to sport the Bordeaux leather interior that year, and one of just 650 to do so in total.
That’s reasonably rare, and that may make investing a bit of cash, and perhaps some sweat equity, in this car something more than just a fool’s errand. There’s plenty to do here, too. That Cabernet paint — or at least the clear coat over it — is failing across all the horizontal panels and around the removable roof. We don’t even get to see what sort of shape the soft top is in.
Other issues include an interior that could use some saddle soap. Or maybe a couple of gallons of it. The rearview mirror is dangling off the windshield, and the steering wheel looks as if it came from Edward Scissorhands’ Uber. Quite remarkably, the center armrest appears to have escaped the ravages of age and neglect.
There’s still more to be done under the hood. The 2.2-liter Turbo II SOHC four that lives there is suffering from what the seller claims to be a misfire; it manages to muster only three of the engine’s cylinders. With all the pistons available, the engine should make around 160 horsepower. There’s no telling what it will take to get the missing ponies back in the corral.
It’s not all doom and gloom here, however. The seller says the car has a clean title and current registration. On top of that, it registers only 101,000 miles and is said to come with a fresh set of tires on its factory alloy wheels. The engine issues haven’t kept it down either, as the seller claims to have made the trek from Las Vegas to Los Angeles in the car.
That should have been quite the trip, and likely a fairly luxurious affair, what with the TC’s Italian leather upholstery and automatic gearbox. That A413 three-speed was the only transmission offered with the Turbo II engine. If you really want a TC with a manual you’ll have to wait around for one of the 16-valve editions that were available only with a Getrag five-speed stick. There were 501 of those built.
The most important question is whether anyone should want a Chrysler TC by Maserati at all. This is an important piece of both Mopar and Maserati history, but admittedly it’s a bit of a laughable piece of that history. In fact, it’s debatable whether it was this model or the Biturbo that had a greater impact on the denigration of the Maserati brand in enthusiasts’ minds.
That doesn’t make this any less interesting a car, though. And with a $1,600 asking price, it’s well within the reach of many. This is, as noted, likely to be the cheapest licensed and drivable car wearing the Maserati name available to buy today. In a somewhat ironic move, the seller has snapped the photos for the ad in a strip mall parking lot in front of a business called the “Bank of Hope.”
How does all that make you feel? Is $1,600 a fair price for a somewhat needy car with a comically tainted past? Or, does the car’s condition and the model’s history, have you telling this TC to GTFO?
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