His First Maserati
A Biturbo in need of TLC!

This is a tale related to me by a Maserati owner who wishes
to remain anonymous but whom I will refer to as George.

Ever since he was a teenager, George had always wanted to own an Italian sports car, but alas could never afford one. Then in January 1992 he saw a 1986 LHD Maserati Biturbo Coupe advertised at a very low price and his curiosity took him to London to view the car. George knew that a 2-door Coupe could never be described as a true sports car, but he was now well past middle age and his priorities had somewhat changed.

On seeing the car George was immediately taken by its looks. Here, he thought, was a car with real racing pedigree but which looked very much 'run of the mill', in spite of it's Azzuro Metallizzato paintwork, his favourite colour. Even the interior, in Missioni Azzuro, looked more at home in a gypsy caravan - with apologies to our Romany friends.

To this day George still doesn't know why he bought the car, but it was cheap, or so he first thought. The car had only 57,000 km on the clock and the interior was clean. However after it's first four years of life there were no further service records. He noticed a small void in the dashboard. The owner told George that it was for a clock, but that the small clock had been stolen! Not a problem George thought. Biturbo owners will of course have guessed by now that George didn't really know Maseratis, and more importantly hadn't done his homework. Big mistake!

George then took it for a test drive with the owner, during which time he discovered the reason for its somewhat attractive price. The engine sounded rough, very rough indeed and the gearbox didn't sound much better. The embarrassed owner told him he had not owned the car long and that it had not been regularly serviced, save for the MOT, because, "SURPRISE! SURPRISE!", there was no official Maserati agent or specialist close by.

It was obvious that the owner had little knowledge of car mechanics, and that being the case, wanted to "Get shot of It". The conversation which then followed included a lengthy description of the owner's divorce settlement, revealing that the car was just another poor victim of this saga. He could no longer afford the ex-wife, the mistress and most of all Maserati prices. This car was getting cheaper by the minute, or so George thought. At one point George was half expecting the owner to give him the keys and tell him to take it away, but he didn't.

His own financial situation and lack of mechanical knowledge had George wondering if it was really a very bright idea to buy the car, but there was something about this car that he really liked. After much haggling, in which the sight of crisp £20 notes had done no harm at all, a suitable price was negotiated and off George went. He now owned his first Maserati. A childhood dream had been fulfilled, or had George's "nightmare" just begun? To this day George often wonders exactly who had been the happier of the two as he drove off that day.

George had mixed feelings as he started the journey home. He had serious doubts about actually making it back. Then the most amusing thing, at least he thinks so now, happened. He was looking for a more comfortable driving position, and this wasn't easy in an Italian car when you're over 6ft tall, so he decided to adjusted the driver's seat. Easy, up, down, forwards, backwards it's all electric he thought. But wait a minute this is an Italian car not famed for their reliability in the electrical department. WELL NEITHER WAS THIS MASERATI!

As George adjusted the back of the seat, it just kept moving forwards until his ample nose was almost touching the windscreen. No matter how hard he tried to reverse this process, the seat just wouldn't budge.

George pulled over to the side of the road and investigated further. By now a burning smell was coming from the seat adjustment switch, so he managed to pull it out and disconnect the wires. Oh dear what had he done in buying this car, but he kept reminding himself that it was cheap. He then had the bright idea of changing the driver's seat with the passenger seat. He tried to remove the driver's seat but unfortunately as the fuse had blown, the all electric seat wouldn't budge preventing access to the retaining bolts at the rear of the seat. He then decided that his best option was to remove the retaining bolts at the front of the seat, allowing him to at least tilt the seat backwards a little. Having done his best to improve the situation, he continued his journey home.

George wonders to this day what other drivers, in more sensible modes of transport, must have thought of his choice in cars, especially a Maserati with such a strange driving position. One can only imagine the look of disbelief in their faces as George drove along with his chest up against the steering wheel, occasionally reaching behind to change gear and generally having a most uncomfortable time. After quite a struggle George and the car finally made it home. George recalled that at the time, his back was no longer a 'Maserati enthusiast'.

George had always wanted to learn a thing or two about car mechanics and he was about to learn the hard way. After a lengthy search - did I mention the car didn't come with a handbook? - he located the fuse-box and the fuse was duly changed. The next day a visit to his nearest, about a hundred and fifty miles, Maserati dealer provided him with a new switch, at exorbitant cost, and his seating problem was solved.

The rough sounding engine however proved a little more difficult to solve. George's friend Paul, a car mechanic who had worked on a few exotic cars, couldn't wait to see this Maserati. He decided that the car was running far too hot for his liking and recommended removing both cylinder heads. This he said would serve two purposes, one changing the cylinder head gaskets (he suspected a possible leak) would help with the cooling and two it would give them a chance to look at the condition of the engine. A service / repair manual and all necessary parts were purchased and the transformation began.

I should mention at this point that famous hole in the dash, you know the one for the clock. George had allowed himself a generous £50 for the clock. It came as somewhat of a shock when he was quoted £500 for the Lassale timepiece. Needless to say he drove around with that hole in the dash for some time.

The mechanical work progressed well save for the awkward exhaust bolts and once the heads were off, the engine was found to be in excellent condition. The head gaskets were duly changed but as they were replacing the spider-like intake manifold they discovered a crack, a rather large one. The leaking manifold went some way to explaining the rough sounding engine. The manifold was repaired and George remembers their relief when they had no parts left over after putting the engine back together. All plugs, oils, coolant and filters were changed and after a good engine clean, it was time to fire up. Why! Oh Why! does this car take so long to start, he thought?

Eventually the engine roared into life and off they went for the test drive, Paul drove as George thought he'd rather earned the honour. What a transformation! As Paul put his foot down George observed a twinkle in his eyes. Paul turned and looked at George and they realised what a bargain, save for the clock, George had bought. The car was a dream, very fast and its road holding amazing and the driving position had also improve!

After all the hard work, George now owned his true Italian sports car and had enjoyed owning the Maserati. George said that apart from routine maintenance, he had had no serious problems with the car and after seven years of fun it went on to another good home.

Whatever happened to the clock? Well it would appear that some owners remove them and convert them into table clocks for the home. Yet another case of vandalism!

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