I really don’t know why the universe wanted me to encounter one of these bastardized Biturbos again. I thought I had made myself clear the last year: I really can’t abide these machines. They’re ugly on the outside, beyond kitsch inside, their reliability is famously dreadful and they represent a very troubled era for the company that made them.
But, try as I might, I was not able to avoid this squinty-eyed and fat-arsed Ghibli GT sitting on a Tokyo curb. I had already caught it in motion, fleetingly, but now it was there, immobile and alone. The only way to break the curse was to give into it, I thought.
It’s the later model, the one that you might prefer, as they must have ironed out a few of the kinks left in the earlier ones. On the other hand, they may have also added some new ones – it is a De Tomaso-era Maserati, after all. Well, except it isn’t. By the mid-‘90s, nuestro Alejandro’s once-mighty empire was but a modest redoubt. Fiat were taking over Maserati progressively, with Ferrari’s help – by the time this model came out, the boys from Turin and Modena had added the trident to their arsenal. The Ghibli GT was a transitional car, using some Ferrari bits (notably the rear axle, which came from the 456) and more serious attempts at quality control.
The Ghibli GT appeared in 1995, taking over from the original Ghibli II (launched in late 1991) that was but a mild evolution of the infamous Biturbo, dating all the way back to 1980. You can build the same exotic car for over a decade and get away with it. Plenty of carmakers have done so, from Aston Martin to Lamborghini. But they were stretching the shelf life of legendary models, whereas Maserati just kept making the same dreadful leather-lined shoebox year after year.
It got a bit better in some sense – the 2.8 litre V6 ended up being a capable engine, for instance. But looks-wise, business-wise and reputation-wise, Maserati’s one-horse stable left the marque quite a bit worse for wear. Even the Quattroporte ended up becoming a stretched Biturbo, complete with gimmicky Gandini styling. Those were dark days indeed.
The Ghibli GT died, not a moment too soon, in 1998 and the 3200GT replaced it. I believed at the time (and still do now) that this was the start of Maserati’s re-birth. Which makes this car either something placental, or the final stumble from a long line of faux-pas, missteps and pratfalls, starting with the ill-advised (for both parties) Citroën buy-out of the late ‘60s. Either way, I genuinely hope I never see another ‘90s Ghibli again.
Curbside Classic: 1994 Maserati Ghibli (AM336) – Rare For A Reason, by T87
You’ll come around, I’m sure of it. 🙂 It’s known that I like these and pretty much all the Biturbo spawn for whatever reason, although the trunk lid here is a bit much and not getting better with age. I don’t see myself spec’ing one out with a blue interior either. Still, now you’ve seen two, which is two more than most people will ever see. Perhaps two wrongs will make a right?
I know, it’s crazy. They built less than 3000 of these, half of which never left Italy, and I run into two of them half a world away. Feels a bit like “Groundhog Day” when Bill Murray’s character keeps running into that guy he was in high school with. So many rare and beautiful cars in the world (Maserati included), yet I keep bumping into Ned.
The trunk almost looks like it was layered on top of *another* trunk that is still on the car.
With that said, I don’t find this car to have an offensive shape… just not one I’d associate with “Maserati”. I’d believe it as a fancy FIAT.
(And good, old Ned Ryerson!! Great movie. Enduringly frustrating, but a classic, nonetheless.)
Now I’m very curious as to how that really is, is there in fact a trunk lid underneath and this is built up on top of it or? T87 just needs to find a third one of these and wait for the owner to load something. All good things do come in threes and I consider these good, so…
Nineteen Ninety SEVEN! It’s hard to fathom a car with a Maserati badge and a matching price tag would look like a strangely proportioned 1982 Cavalier in 1997.
I never much got the Maserati brand though, there isn’t a compelling product to me after the Bora. What has come since the BiTurbo and related just seem like discount Ferrari’s or Bentleys for a demographic that values luxury but really likes the topper of having a cheesy crown for a badge (I saw the Wagon Queen family Truckster in vacation before I saw my first Maserati, so my perspective on that appendage is a little warped).
I love Vulgarati. I’m stealing that next time I’m behind one of these in traffic 😆
“a strangely proportioned 1982 Cavalier in 1997.”
Ouch! But true. This car is UGLY.
The Biturbo was released in December of 1981, seven months after the Cavalier. Perhaps Maserati figured they wanted to produce at least as many as Chevy did, so in ’97 they were still working away at it….
You guys are harsh! I’ll never own one, so don’t really care about the reliability or even basic driving competency. But I think these later versions are far more attractive than the original Biturbo which looks dull at its best and is awkwardly ugly at its worst.
My guilty pleasure Vulgarati (perfect!!) is the Fourdoor IV Evolution.
I can’t bear the Vulgarati either, but I too can be guiltily pleasured by one of these.
“I really don’t know why the universe wanted me to encounter one of these bastardized Biturbos again…this squinty-eyed and fat-arsed Ghibli GT”
I’m laughing at this. I’m getting the distinct impression you don’t like it.
I’ve never seen one. My eye first caught the trunk and thought it must be a convertible. It is not a good looking car. But the interior…1990s blue with with bright burled trim on the steering wheel, shift knob, and handbrake? My daily drivers for the last 10 years have had grey/black interiors. This is looking festive.
And I’m in a phase where I cannot criticize anything with a manual transmission. I’m jonesing BAD for one of those right now.
How is the car street legal in Japan without backup lights?
Upon closer inspection, the innermost segment appears to be badly discolored backup lights.
There’s nothing discoloured about them; they’re like that on purpose. So are the outermost compartments, which light up in amber to provide the turn signal function. The taillamp was designed to create as close as possible to an all-red unlit appearance while still providing the required light colours for the various functions. There are various techniques for doing this, and a whole lot of different makes and models so equipped all over the world.
Thanks for the education. It’s interesting that the same isn’t done for the front turn signals (with amber tinted bulb behind clear lens) Perhaps that’s not legal in Japan?
There’s no prohibition on clear lens/amber bulb turn signals in Japan. There’s also no demand up front for three different colours of light with one single colour appearance to the lens.
1 to Daniel, MN12 Cougars came this way for the backup lamps, 89-93s used black to match the inboard laser stripe pattern Mercury used on most models at the time and 94-97s used red to match the new red lens after ditching it. I actually wrote up a how to article on how to restore them several years ago (which photobucket screwed up) as they commonly actually fade and end up looking like plain clear lenses.
This is how they illuminate
Must be the CC effect, and you posting about the Vulgarati today. Just last night we watched a classic 80s’ movie, The Running Man, with Arnold in it. First off, it was set in the future of 2017/2018… so we’ve already passed that.
And secondly, related to this post, the TV Host extraordinaire Killian arrives to the studio in the related Quattroporte III limo!
We’ve passed the time the movie takes place but the portrayal was fairly accurate lol
That stretch limo is based on the older V8 powered Quattroporte, not the BiTurbo derived one.
Aaaah. With such a quick view, I wasn’t sure. Thanks for the clarification.
Ugh. Jeeziz. Gross! From most angles it looks like a crudely cut-and-spliced, cartoonishly overinflated Alfa Romeo 164. The headlamps look like some kind of makeshift transplant with frames hastily cobbled up to hide the mismatch between what’s there and what was supposed to be there.
I am not on side with the notion that Italian design is necessarily awesome or sexy or beautiful or meritorious or superior or even sound. Designs warranting those adjectives have come from Italy, surely, but Italians are people, too. They poop and belch and catch colds and drive trucks and buy tampons and laugh at bigotted jokes and overestimate themselves and do halfassed work—just like everyone else. A great deal of boring, undercooked, overwrought, ridiculous, and unsound design has come from Italy. I just have never found the putative inherent magic in Italian design to be a real thing; it strikes me as more of a marketing campaign slow-baked into a mythical legend cynically pitched at the crowd who buy expensive stuff to show the world they can buy expensive stuff.
You make a good case, but they did have their moment, car design-wise. That was the ’50s and ’60s. The amount of gorgeous designs that came out of that country back then is astounding. But by the late ’70s, they were kind of coasting, for sure. Then the small carrozzerias were closing down, Frua and Michelotti died, computers took over a central role and the whole thing fizzled out.
This Maserati’s big square butt is a gravestone that marks the remains of Italy’s once-great influence on automotive design.
The headlamps nagged at me (as headlamps are wont to do) so I zoomed in on the pic and immediately recognised them. They are more or less just what I thought: something of about the right size crammed in with a bezel slapped on to cover the hackwork. Specifically, a Hella heavy-duty truck headlamp. This same headlamp was also used on several Ferrari models, though much less sloppily integrated.
The bezel actually shows some design work, the hood/fender gap line transitions into a notch in the bezel and then that scallops out and around the light surface. Interestingly done once looked at more closely, not just a rectangular filler piece.
I will preemptively apologize, but I like it. Would I buy it, no, but if I was visiting South Florida and someone loaned it to me, I would enjoy it.
I love the Biturbo and every single variant thereof, regardless of what anyone else says about them. Sure, it’s the anti-SM, but I don’t count that as a bad thing. It has the same crisp, deliberate look that the E30 BMW had. It’s too bad it was neither that cheap nor that dependable. I’m not sure about this versions style updates, but then anything on its third facelift can get weird.
Quite like the Gandini styled Biturbo and derivatives, in some respects feel they worked have worked very well with high-performance Delta Integrale / Evo saloon and coupe versions of the Lancia Prisma (along with the later Dedra).
I thought these looked good, even though they didn’t look as expensive as they were. Gray is a horrible color for this car. I remember back in the day the dealer where I had my ALFAs serviced sold these among other interesting cars. They had a couple of reasonably priced low mile used BiTurbos and I mentioned to the service manager that I was thinking of getting one. He turned and told me that as a friend he couldn’t let me do that.
When the head of the service department says don’t, you listen.
At least it’s not a Maserati Achieva.
Ouch. And it does look like one.
These things went like hell, but I was always fearful of it going BANG every time I put the welly into it. Build quality was horrible.
Ooh ahh, I say, even the knob has wood, I bet the owner likes giving that a good polishing.
And in the same way a Carry On movie is to film, this car is to motoring – not a monument to quality, or decency, or taste, or discretion (or style or engineering), though it must be conceded that it has a nice clock.
If one has the late-baroque palazzo in which to mount it, that is, (and “late” does not include 21st century Florida repros).
Vulgarati – CC Word Of The Year.
T87 is showing quite a way with words. Last time it was “Corrugated Irony” in his piece on the Citroen van. Now this.
Vulgarati sums it up beautifully.
Or Maserati Giblet.
Having a close friend in Germany with a Ghibli like this (his is ’95), I started to look at them differently. From his and his Maserati club fellows experience, the reliability horrors are mostly the result of very poor dealer mechanics knowledge and care. Yes, these cars are not bulletproff like German or Swedish, or simple like typical Japanese or American. They demand not only knowledge, but good deal of analyzing and ability to understand their shortcomings or quirks, and not tolerant to a ham-handed monkey with a wrench.
Another BIG issue is parts – they are rare earth elements now and sometimes one needs to figure out substitutes or have contacts with machinists who can make new parts for you.
I am not a big fan of the design – while the front is sharp and sporty, it seems whoever did it lost interest by the time he got to C-Pillars. And as much as I love the Quatroporte, I cannot stand that slanted rear wheel opening. Pretentious and totally out of tune with the rest of the car.
But mechanically they are not too bad and have aged and are capable of holding up quite well for a small-volume Italian semi-exotic.