The May 2004 issue has an article on the Maserati 5000GT - The June 2004 issue promises an article on the Maserati's latest 2004 Spyder Cambiocorsa.
Ghibli Buyer's Guide
"Ghibli II ... the Biturbo finally comes of age!"

Our thanks go to Phil Ward for his permission to reproduce excerpts of this article from the November 2000 issue of Auto Italia for your enjoyment.

ANOTHER GREAT ARTICLE BY ANDY HEYWOOD


The Ghibli II, launched in 1992

I always felt that the Ghibli was the car that the Biturbo should have been all along. In true Maserati tradition, it displayed a muscular, aggressive (yet beautiful) body style which was at the same time restrained, especially in dark colours. Its interior was luxuriously appointed, relying less on the communal parts bin and cheap materials that marred the original Biturbo.

The Ghibli was practical in that it had occasional seating for four people, and a large boot, and it went like the wind after which it was named.


Above all, it had that elusive 'want one' factor. Sadly, its time was cut short by Ferrari occupation of the Maserati factory and subsequently has suffered from the propaganda for the new 3200GT which effectively rewrites history to eliminate the De Tomaso era.

Left out in the cold, the Ghibli seems destined to roam the classifieds as a misfit of suitably depressed value. Is it a scary exotic with the build quality of a Lada or is it the performance bargain of the decade?


The interior of the series I Ghibli: Note the herring-bone carpets!

EVOLUTION


The powerful Ghibli M.Y.94 2.0-litre V6 engine

The advent of the modern Ghibli streamlined the range of cars that Maserati offered which, up to that point, had been at best confusing. No longer were they offering seven different models at the same time - in the UK alone - but merely two, the convertible Spyder and the two door coupé Ghibli.

The steel body was an in-house restyle of the Biturbo concept and although the underpinnings were derived from that car, all the outer body panels were different. Unlike previous models, the sheet metal did not alter during the life of the car, save for deletion of the dummy fuel-filler on the left-hand rear wing in 1995.


Already available in Italy for a year, the first right-hand drive Ghiblis arrived at the then concessionaires, Meridien in Lydhurst, in 1993. For the Italian market the engine for the Ghibli was a two-litre unit, but for the export markets it was the 2.8-litre version. This was the four-valve per cylinder, four camshaft version of the original Biturbo V6. It was an engine with which the Italians were familiar having been available in two-litre form in the 'Racing' since 1990. In the UK, a handful of 222s and 430s had previously been available with the 2.8-litre version known as 222 4V and 430 4V.


The Racing - was this the Ghibli prototype?

For Ghibli applications the engine management system was all-new, with direct ignition (i.e. no distributor) and a separate ignition and fuel ECU for each bank of three cylinders. So equipped, the 2.8-Iitre developed 284bhp at 6,00Orpm and 42.1 kgm of torque at 3,50Orpm (306bhp at 6,000rpm and kgm at rpm for the two-litre version). The two turbochargers were still Japanese IHI units, fed through twin intercoolers.

Transmission was via a new ZF five-speed (The Italian 2-litre car being fitted with a six-speed box) standard pattern manual gearbox (not the dog-leg box of the earlier Biturbo) and a ZF four-speed automatic was also available. The final drive was the same Torsen differential from the Biturbo, modified to incorporate an oil cooler which had the knock-on effect of robbing the only space under the boot floor where a spare wheel could fit. Therefore, a curiosity of all Ghiblis was their complete lack of a spare wheel, Maserati instead supplying two aerosols of tyre inflating foam, neatly packaged in a leather pouch in the boot.



The Ghibli MY 94 with its 'Merak-styled' wheels

The suspension was by MacPherson struts front and rear, and differed from the Biturbo in that the shock absorbers (developed by Koni) were electronically adjustable through four settings on a key pad sited next to the gear lever. The wheels for the first model were 16 inch diameter (a flat seven-spoke design made by both OZ and Mille Miglia) and allowed fitment of larger ventilated discs front and rear than had been possible with the Biturbo.


Equipment levels were high, including air-conditioning as standard with full climate control, electric windows and door mirrors, electric seat recliners and, of course, that trademark clock. Although the style of the interior was similar to the final Biturbos, where there had once been a mixture of leather and Alcantara, now there was full Connolly leather and properly veneered wooden dash and door panel inserts. Overall, and combined with far better build standards, the car exuded a quality, hand built feel.


While changes to specification on the home market took place for the 1994 model year, it was 1995 before the addition of Bosch ABS and still larger wheels (17 inch) marked a change in name to Ghibli ABS in the UK.

Towards the end of 1994 Maserati were involved in two new projects, the Ghibli Open Cup race series and the new series IV Quattroporte. Being able to share development budgets meant that further changes could be made to the Ghibli road car specification which were actioned in Italy in 1995 and for the UK in 1996.


Sheer luxury; leather interior, veneered wood and that clock!

These changes centred mainly around the adoption of the Quattroporte axle (taken from the Ferrari 456) and tubular rear suspension as fitted on the race cars, and a Getrag six-speed gearbox.



The Ghibli GT

Automatic transmission was still an option. There were few external clues to the new specification apart from another change in wheel design, still 17 inch but now with a ribbed spoke design by Milie Miglia.

Another clue was that the backing for the one piece headlamps changed from the silver of the MY 94/ABS cars to black for this new version, known as Ghibli GT.


The GT was the final version of the model, the only other version being the Open Cup race replica which was sold alongside the GT from 1996 to 1998. The Cup used all the upgrades of the GT but with a two-litre engine only, even in right- hand drive form. This engine used roller bearing turbos - different from any other model - modified engine management mapping, and a freer-flowing exhaust system which helped it to develop 330bhp. Further changes were made to suspension bushing, and larger Brembo brakes were also fitted. Externally, the Cup was distinguished by its use of five-spoke split rim Speedline wheels and single outlet per side exhaust pipes, as opposed to twin tailpipe per side on all other models. It also had a badge on the lower doors proclaiming it Ghibli Open Cup and a racing style aluminium fuel filler cap. Internally, the differences were greater, the wood being exchanged for carbon-fibre inserts. Drilled pedals, Momo Corse steering wheel and aluminium gearknob completed the racing car ambience.



The Ghibli Cup

The Ghibli Cup dashboard and that clock again!

While the Cup was a limited edition, the GT continued until 1998 when the Maserati factory closed for refurbishment and the installation of the 3200GT production line. On re-opening in early 1999, another 250 Ghiblis were made using remaining bodyshells and parts (some of which were destined for the UK) before the 3200GT finally took over and the Ghibii was deleted.


SALES AND MARKETING


The limited edition Ghibli 'Primatist' - only 35 cars produced.

From 1991 to 1998, Meridien were the sole Maserati concessionaires for the UK. They imported approximately 150 Ghiblis in that time including 26 Cup models. Since then, when Maranello Concessionaires took over, there have been a further 17 of the post factory shut-down cars imported. In addition to this, there have been a number of left-hand drive cars personally imported to take advantage of the strong pound and the seeming lack of interest in the cars on the home market, although these probably only account for 10% of the cars registered in the UK.


The price of a Ghbli in the UK in 1994 was 42,000. This rose to 46,000 for a GT in 1996 and 47,500 for a Cup in 1997. The cars imported by Maranello Concessionaires were soid at varying prices.


SERVICING COSTS

The service interval on all Ghiblis is 6,000 miles or one year. Maserati devised a very specific service schedule for these cars and, therefore, every service up to 96,000 miles is different. Broadly speaking the major services come up every 24,000 miles and these involve changing the cam belt. However, the four camshaft engine only uses the cam belt at the front of the engine to drive the exhaust camshafts. The inlet cams are driven by chains, looped over from the exhaust cams at the back of the engine. Every 48,000 miles the chains must be changed and this can only be achieved correctly by removing the engine. The book time for this service is therefore 30 hours.


THE OILY BITS

For all their complexity, both 2.0-litre and 2.8-litre engines have proved very reliable. Isolated problem cases include one car that snapped a timing chain at 13,000 miles, although no valves were bent and the engine was still running afterwards! A Cup car seized a turbocharger at 25,000 miles - roller bearing turbos are 3,900 each, an imported car that had been seriously chipped broke a connecting rod: and a car fitted with the wrong thermostat continually overheated until the block cracked. Apart from that, they're fine!

The latter two failures could both have been avoided, the former are signs that, while Maseratis build quality had improved, quality control was still patchy. This is also borne out by the fact that all Ghiblis seem to require a new radiator because of the appalling quality of the leaky originals.


Another common problem is with the charging system. The alternator is sited low in the engine bay and collects road debris and salt which shortens its life considerably. However, neither are expensive to repair.
The complicated engine management system functions as two separate units, to the point where if there is a problem on one bank of cylinders it will still run on the other. It suffers from glitches and corrosion in the fuses and relays, but otherwise is reliable. The only sensors that seem to be a common replacement are the lambda sensors in the exhaust, but this is more a consequence of being damaged due to the minimal ground clearance.


The real treasure lies under the bonnet!


Adequate rear-seating for two extra passengers

Ground clearance was a serious problem on the early Ghiblis with 16 inch wheels and requires sleeping policemen to be treated with respect. The move to 17 inch wheels was in part to combat this problem but the driver still has to be careful. Another reason for enlarging the wheel sizes was to allow fitment of ever-larger brakes. Each model change saw the use of different brake discs and heat was obviously a problem throughout as Maserati did not provide brake back plates to protect the discs from road grime in an attempt to aid cooling. This has the effect of causing the discs to corrode more quickly and can be a problem on cars that are driven infrequently.


The standard fitment electronic shock absorbers (although they were a delete option) were, unfortunately, not particularly reliable. Problems with leaks or seized motors are common and they are very expensive to replace.

Externally, the general panel fit and paint was good but not exceptional, and the corrosion protection, while a huge step forward from the Biturbo, will certainly see Ghiblis going rusty in the future.

When running a Biturbo, owners need a sense of humour when it comes to the electrics. Not so with the Ghibli, which suffers very little in this respect. Probiems are confined to external temperature gauges that are next to useless, and occasional stripped window lift mechanisms.

In all other respects, Ghiblis are as reliable as any modern car and can certainly be used as daily transport. The black GT featured in our feature has covered 125,000 miles. Mileages of 80 to 90,000 are becoming commonplace.


HOW TO BUY

Information is power. The buyers must do their research because there is very little information available on these cars, they don't appear in the Glass Guide, for instance. The entire model history must be known before an informed purchase can be made.

Sellers cannot be relied on to know anything about the car. Advertisements appear for cars that cannot be correct; '1993 Ghibli Cup' is a common one. Because of this, price is no indicator of specification or condition. How can you competitively price a car if you don't know what it is? To give an example, a friend purchased a Ghibli Cup in Italy recently from a Renault dealer who had taken the car in part exchange. My friend was astonished at the car's condition for the price being asked and promptly bought it. As he got in to drive it away, the dealer asked him what the Cup badge meant.

Once armed with the knowledge, a potential purchaser must check the car thoroughly and, although every buyers' guide may say so, service history is very important. Not only its frequency, but the quality of the outfit that carried out the work. A sheaf of invoices may initially scare you, but ultimately it gives piece of mind that the car has been looked after.

The mind blowing performance and rear-wheel drive handling have caught out a few owners over the years so an HPI check for accident damage is imperative.

There are few places to buy a Ghibli in the UK. Most of the new range of Maserati dealers will have sold one or two but will be less willing to buy and sell the model as the 320OGT becomes more commonplace. That leaves specialist dealers and, most frequently, the magazine classified pages.

At any one time there are only a handful of cars for sale so the buyers must be patient if they are to acquire a car in the most desired specification. All too often a rash purchase will end in tears and big cheques.

If there are any doubts about condition or value for money then talk to one of the Maserati specialists, some of whom offer a pre-purchase inspection service. The Maserati world in the UK is a small one and most cars are known to one or other of these specialists .


THE MARKET NOW

The Ghibli was certainly a casualty of Maserati's 1998 renaissance. All official interest in the car effectively ceased at that point and those dealers that had taken cars from Maserati UK to sell discounted them heavily to clear their showrooms in anticipation of the 320OGT. Therefore, a year ago a new Ghibli GT could be bought from an authorised dealer for as little as 28,000. The result for the second-hand market was catastrophic. Owners found that the car they had bought only a year earlier had lost thousands of pounds in value almost overnight.

Even the Cup (see best buy) was affected and as for the earlier Ghiblis, they were reduced to Mondeo money in the blink of an eye. The specialist dealers became shy of buying the cars as the uncertainty of what would happen next became a real problem for their bottom line. A year on, the market has calmed down somewhat but has reached rock bottom. The most expensive cars now will be late, low mileage GTs which still command 30,000 price tags at authorised dealers. The cheapest will be left-hand drive 1992/94 cars which can be bought for as little as 10,000 privately.

Everything else falls somewhere in the middle with condition and mileage being far more important than age and number of owners.

As to the future, the Maserati Ghibli will always have a value as it is treated as the ultimate Biturbo. The earliest Biturbos are changing hands for beer money now, the later ones for more and the last ones more still. In the eyes of most buyers, the Ghibli will - quite rightly - always be worth more than a Biturbo of any age and, therefore, prices cannot fall much more than they have already.

Buy a car now and although it will undoubtedly cost more than average to maintain, it will probably still attract the same money when you come to sell.


BEST BUY

The classic of the range in years to come will undoubtedly be the Cup. It offers not only a racing pedigree but also a fantastic driving experience for the enthusiast. It is no more expensive to maintain than any other in the range and due to its rarity will always have a market when you are selling, which you won't want to, of course, because the tactile pleasure of its dynamics makes every trip an occasion and that addiction will be hard to give up. Currently a Cup car is worth 25,000 to 28,000 depending on whether the sale is private or from a dealer. For left-hand drive cars, subtract 8,000.


CONCLUSIONS

Buying a second-hand car is usually a case of comparison, yet the Ghibli does hat fall into this category. You just have to want one. And, if you want it badly enough and are prepared to suffer its eccentricities and undoubtedly high maintenance costs, then you are hooked. If none of the above article fazes you and you just look at the photos with an evil, childlike grin on your face, then you are a potential Ghibil owner. Buy with emotion, however, and the dream could end very quickly Instead, buy with your head but on behalf of your heart.


THE SPECIALISTS

Meridien Modena (Sales, servicing and parts). Tel: 02380 283404

Bill McGrath Maserati (Servicing and parts). Tel: 01438 832161

Autoshield Maserati (Sales and servicing). Tel: 0161 881 3463

Moda Cars (Sales). Tel: 01 787 477970

In addition, call Ferrari & Maserati UK on 01784 436431 for the locations of the official Maserati dealers.

All Ferrari & Maserati dealers in the UK will have experience of the car and regularly offer Ghiblis for sale.


The above article is only an excerpt of the original text that appeared in the November 2000 issue of Auto Italia. The magazine that contained this excellent article in full can be purchased by writing to Alison North at:

 
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