Maserati Ghibli Buying Guide

Ferrari and Lamborghini get all the attention when it comes to classic supercars, but Maserati has something just as desirable. Here’s how to get a good Ghibli

How much to pay

Coupe
• Project £50,000-60,000 • Good £140,000-200,000 • Concours £300,000-400,000 •

Spyder
• Project £350,000-400,000 • Good £700,000-1,250,000• Concours £1,500,000+ •

Overview

Practicality ★★★
Running costs ★★★
Spares ★★
DIY friendly ★★
Investment ★★★★
Desirability ★★★★

Having wind is usually something that’s best avoided, but when it’s of the North African hot dust variety and it wears a trident, exceptions are worth making. Cue the Maserati Ghibli. One of the most usable Italian supercars ever made, it’s a slingshot that’s fast, understated, fabulous to drive and more enigmatic than most of its rivals.

When the Ghibli made its debut at the 1966 Turin Motor Show, Lamborghini had already debuted the rolling chassis of its Miura. The model from Sant’Agata would go on to revolutionise supercar design, instantly making Maserati’s efforts appear lazy and outdated – yet the Ghibli’s understated muscularity now looks better than ever. While the Miura was impractical and not especially well put together, the Maser would happily cross continents in one hit, complete with luggage.

One of the reasons for the car’s mile-munching abilities is the strength of its engine. While powerplants as strong as this usually hail from America, this isn’t a US-Italian hybrid; just about every aspect of the Ghibli is Italian, from its Giugiaro styling to its construction by Ghia. Nestling under the bonnet is no Ford or Chrysler V8 – instead, there’s Maserati’s fabulous quad-cam 4.7-litre unit, shared with the Quattroporte as well as the Mexico, Indy, Bora and Khamsin.

Your AutoClassics Maserati Ghibli inspection checklist

Engine

As long as it’s well looked after, the Ghibli’s 4.7-litre V8 is very strong – although it’ll still be crying out for attention by the time 60,000 miles have been racked up. However, it’s rarely high mileage that kills these engines – it’s more likely to be a lack of activity from one year to the next. The Ghibli buyer can come unstuck very expensively if a few basic rules haven’t been adhered to, with regular use being the most important thing.

The piston rings are liable to shatter upon start-up after a lengthy period of inactivity, but it isn’t immediately obvious when this happens. The V8 will fire up happily enough, but will consume masses of oil – and many of the 310 horses will go on strike.

The problem is that if you haven’t driven a healthy-engined Ghibli you may not realise the piston rings are in pieces, because performance will still be impressive. That’s why it’s worth removing the air filter, along with the breather for the cam box. If things are awry, there will be lots of oil within the air filter after a brief drive – but get a compression test done anyway.

Never trust a Ghibli’s oil-pressure gauge, as they’re notoriously unreliable. If in doubt, plumb in a mechanical gauge to check things; you’re looking for 7 bar when cold, 1 bar when idling while hot, and 3 bar at 2000rpm when up to temperature. Things won’t be helped by the use of synthetic oil; a decent mineral lubricant has to be put in the Ghibli’s sump or the V8 will never generate enough pressure to stay alive.

Keeping its cool was never the Ghibli’s forté, and if the cooling system has been allowed to silt up there’s a good chance the V8 has cooked itself. Make sure the cooling fans cut in, and that the temperature gauge doesn’t give cause for heart failure; ensure the powerplant warms up and that there’s no white mayonnaise on the underside of the oil-filler cap.

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Gearbox

Ghibli buyers had the choice of a ZF five-speed manual gearbox or a Borg-Warner three-speed auto. Back axles were made by Salisbury and, as with the rest of the transmission, they’re very durable. But high-mileage, hard-driven cars will probably need some TLC, and it can get expensive. Parts for the ZF ’box are hard to come by, and so are very pricey; gears aren’t available, but even if just synchro rings and bearings are needed you can expect a sizeable bill. At least the auto is cheap and easy to rebuild.

It’s still possible to get the back axle rebuilt, with GKN able to supply the necessary parts; an exchange unit isn’t at all expensive. Some differentials were fitted with a limited-slip facility, but they’re rare and not especially worth seeking out.

Suspension and brakes

The Ghibli’s suspension and braking systems are a hotchpotch of in-house and British parts, and the Maserati-produced bits can be very costly to replace. The parts-bin stuff is much cheaper, though – but a full rebuild of everything can still be hugely expensive, largely because the major components are generally Maserati items.

Despite the Ghibli’s generally luxurious spec, power assistance for the steering was optional, and not very common. It’s worth having, as the unassisted set-up has 4.3 turns between locks, which detracts from the driving experience on twisty roads. Unfortunately, conversion to an assisted system is tricky because the parts are so hard to source.

Bodywork

You’d be justified in thinking that Sixties + Italian = rust, but in this case such fears would generally be misplaced. The Ghibli’s bodywork is surprisingly durable, which is just as well because there isn’t a single panel available – everything has to be hand made. Even better, any likely corrosion will be visible, because it’s the outer panels that are the most likely to go; particularly the door bottoms, leading edge of the bonnet and trailing edge of the boot.

Unusually, the Ghibli features a bodyshell that’s welded to a separate chassis. While problems are usually not that plentiful, a bodywork restoration will consume plenty of cash. This is largely because of the amount of time spent trying to reproduce the subtle swage lines and contours that are all over the body, but which aren’t immediately obvious.

Interior

The electrical system doesn’t usually give many problems other than bits ageing. The switchgear and instrumentation are all long lived – which is just as well, because finding new bits is pretty much impossible.

Few cars of the 1960s could boast air-conditioning as an extra, never mind as standard, yet all Ghiblis were fitted with it. While systems used elsewhere are frequently ineffective, the Maserati’s set-up is efficient and durable – but it still needs to be checked.

Availability of interior and exterior trim is very patchy. Anything that was fitted elsewhere may be accessible, but parts unique to the Ghibli will almost certainly be extinct. Consequently, while bumpers have disappeared, door handles and lights can be found because they graced other cars of the period.

History

  • 1966: Ghibli makes its debut at the Turin Motor Show, in prototype form.
  • 1967: Production starts and the first cars are delivered.
  • 1969: A Ghibli Spyder appears; 125 are made.
  • 1970: 4.9-litre Ghibli SS goes on sale.
  • 1973: Final Ghibli is built, with the Khamsin arriving the following year. The production run of coupés is 1149.

AutoClassics says…

While some Ghiblis can be money-pits, this Maserati isn’t as fragile as you might think – and it’s certainly stronger than its contemporaries from Modena and Sant’Agata.

However, you need to be very wary of any example that’s been stored for a long period, and many just get passed from one dealer to another without ever being used. Ghiblis that have been cherished and used regularly are few and far between, and very few examples are available at any one time. Of these, many fall into the pass-the-parcel category.

If you look at a car that’s been barely used over recent years, an engine rebuild is pretty much a dead cert, and that’s big money. Restoring a sick powerplant is usually the main expense the Ghibli owner has to face, although a full restoration will run well into six figures. However, big increases in value in recent years help to justify this expense.

For that perfect blend of heritage, looks and performance, the Ghibli takes some beating, but you need to have your wits about you before buying. A sorted example is a great driving machine, but a bodged one could prove to be a financial disaster. That’s why it’s essential that a professional inspection is carried out before purchase; there are so few of these cars around, the experts will know each model individually – so they’ll have a head-start.

Specifications

Ghibli 4.7
  Power 310bhp
  Top speed 160mph
  0-60mph 6.6sec
  Economy 14mpg

Ghibli SS
  Power 335bhp
  Top speed 174mph
  0-60mph 6.1sec
  Economy 13mpg

Picture courtesy of MagicCarPics

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