The Chrysler-Maserati TC of 1989–91 may have been Lee Iacocca’s pet project, but it did show Chrysler a thing or two about trans-oceanic undertakings.

But when the Crossfire was introduced at the 2001 North American Auto Show in Detroit, Chrysler wasn’t exactly calling the shots, thanks to the DaimlerChrysler merger.

While the TC was more a case of spreading out the workload between two continents (actually three, if you count the Mitsubishi V6 engine in later production), the Crossfire is an example of what had since become the norm — platform sharing. In this case, the first-generation Mercedes-Benz SLK was where the DNA started. When the second-generation SLK was introduced for 2004, Daimler kicked the old platform over to the Chrysler side of the house as the underpinnings for the Crossfire.

A Mercedes and a Mopar

While it has the bones of a Benz, Crossfire styling is uniquely Chrysler and American. Penned by Eric Stoddard, a lot of the look can be traced back as far as pre-World War II Art Deco.

The most dynamic styling cue is the bustle-back rear, essentially maintaining a singular curve from the roof to the rear fascia. This markedly accentuated the long-hood, short-deck proportions that Americans love in performance cars. Topping off the rump was an active rear spoiler.

It also followed on the coattails of the 1997–2001 Plymouth/2002 Chrysler Prowler as more of a styling exercise that was mass-produced rather than a dedicated performance car.

Unique coupe, copycat convertible

The Crossfire was originally introduced as a coupe only, with the convertible premiering a year later, and some purists prefer the uniqueness of the coupe styling over the drop top — which really comes off as an SLK made to look like a Chrysler. To them, it’s the coupe that will make this a future collectible rather than a fancy rear-drive Sebring with expensive Mercedes parts.

Among those Mercedes parts, Chrysler used the 3.2L V6, good for 215 ponies. Behind it was either a standard 6-speed manual or the 5-speed AutoStick — both also Mercedes-sourced.

Boosting performance (literally) in 2005 and 2006 was the SRT-6 package. With it, the AMG warmed-up V6 gained a supercharger (and a very healthy kick up to 330 hp), a taughter suspension, larger brakes, chin spoiler, and alloy wheels upsized to 18s up front and 19s in the back. The automatic transmission was your only driveline choice. And the nifty fold up/fold down spoiler was replaced with a larger fixed unit.

For 2006 and 2007, the base-level convertible was also offered with a Special Edition package, mostly in unique trimmings, but with SRT-6 wheels.

The car’s limited usefulness, less-than-luxurious interior fittings, and high price compared to the competition kept sales low. From an early 2004 model year start of 25,123 units built, by 2008, a mere 1,786 dribbled out of contract manufacturer Karmann. Sales were so pathetic that Chrysler resorted to listing excess inventory on in late 2005. With Mercedes-Benz out of the picture and a financially strapped Chrysler having the shots called by Cerberus Capital, there was zero chance of it seeing 2009.

Rough ride to collectibility

Today, the Crossfire is starting to see some pockets of interest as both a future collectible and a unique used car. The hot ticket is one of the 4,071 SRT-6s, but most tend to be Limiteds. By the final year of ’08, that was your one and only choice. While a 6-speed manual transmission was standard, good luck finding one, as most seem to have the AutoStick (thanks mostly to modern dealer politics of avoiding manual-transmission cars like the plague). As one of the dwindling numbers of coupes with pedals, not paddles, straight-stick examples promise to do well in value going forward.

Depreciation is beginning to flatten out, and while commuter-bomb base models and Limiteds with hundreds of thousands of miles will continue to drop, low-mile single-owner cars are being actively sought and fought for.

As a Mercedes/Mopar hybrid, servicing can be problematic if your Chrysler dealer won’t touch your 2004–06. However, it would be wise to pick up common servicing and trim bits that are on the shelf of your local Chrysler dealer before they evaporate.

Those that come from a Buy Here/Pay Here used-car lot are money pits waiting to happen. Buy the best example you can afford, preferably from a caring owner.

Another plus for future collectibility is that it was truly a global car for Chrysler. Before Fiat’s acquisition of Chrysler, it was one of the few of that brand that DaimlerChrysler made any serious attempt at marketing outside of North America. Indeed, when American Chrysler dealers couldn’t move them in 2005, the rest of the world (primarily Europe) devoured the balance of production. Overall, this will be a future plus for interest in this uniquely styled car.

Another sign of growing interest in these cars — it’s one of the only “Cheap Thrills” cars that multiple subscribers have asked me to write up.

While it’s not time to cash out your Hemi ’Cuda for a year’s worth of SRT-6 roadster production, it’s a car to consider the next time you see one on the open market. You may just want to grab a good one while you can.

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