“Just don’t, Rich”. As a buyer’s guide it was fairly emphatic, if lacking in detail somewhat. A mate who works for Greypaul knows how inept I am with a spanner, and is well placed to advise on the cost and complexity of keeping the cheapest of Modena’s machines on the road. A Maserati Biturbo looks like a great plaything to me and when offered an MOT’d and just about working example for just one thousand pounds I really should have ignored Mr sensible head and bought the damn thing. It’s a classic eighties design with a twin turbo V6 engine and that funky fork on the bonnet. Want.

The Biturbo was launched in 1981 but it had been rushed to market by Maserati’s owners De Tomaso who were nigh-on broke and needed the sales. It did sell well, but build quality was often cack. Owners didn’t let turbos cool, so they went bang, and American cars had iffy cats which caught fire. The factory went on strike a lot. De Tomaso bought the ailing Innocenti business and had them assemble Biturbos instead but they were ill-equipped to deal with such complex models and were also a bit strikey, too. Fiat bought a stake and, when De Tomaso suffered a stroke, later bought the lot. Maserati took them racing. They were explosively quick. And explosive. Today, none of this matters. Most classic cars should be inspected by a professional and judged on their condition. Old Maseratis with a reputation for appalling reliability should just be bought blind, regardless of doom-monger mates in the trade.

The nomenclature is almost as complicated as the Super-Mario plumbing of the induction system. The Biturbo was sold as a two door coupe, a four door saloon, and as a convertible. The name is usually followed by a three digit number. The first digit (a 2 or 4) indicates the amount of doors and therefore body shape, and the second and third digits relate to the engine size (they were all V6s), apart from when there’s a ‘v’ after the third digit when it indicates how many valves the engine had, apart from the xx4v model which had 24 valves, not 4. There were 2 litre, 2.5 and 2.8 litre versions of the same V6. The convertible was built by Zagato and called Spyder, or Spider, or convertible. Most models from ’81-’86 were carburettor fed, some were badged E, S or ES for no logical reason. Look at the photograph of what’s under the bonnet. Look at all those hoses. And wires. Christ only knows what half of it does, and Christ is probably the only person with the divine powers needed to fix it when it borks. Which of the 2-4-6-8-WhoDoWeAppreciate model line-up makes the best purchase today? If you’re asking us – any of them.

This Biturbo 425 I was offered had all the expected issues/charm/quirks one gets with a scarcely maintained dollop of exotica. It’s nearly thirty years old. The suede interior had gotten damp at some stage and had spores growing here and there. The headlining sagged. That chintzy clock told the correct time only twice a day. Only 75% of the doors opened. Owner Chris made no effort to excuse any of this. Due to bagginess the gearbox was no longer dog-leg, but “snake-leg”. On the road it was ferocious. Turbo lag lulls you into a false sense of security before all the torque happens, nose raising skywards and the rear end squirming like a dog with worms. There is movement in everything from the tall-walled tyres though the baggy bushes, springy springs and old shocks. All that drivetrain and suspension slop is transmitted to the driver through the tactile points of the over-shiny wooden ‘wheel and the squishy seating which Chris descried as “like sitting on a fat bird’s lap”. What an experience! I wholeheartedly recommend trying it yourself, although perhaps somewhere less hairy than the Isle of Man’s rainy mountains where we took these rubbish pictures in the rain. What were we doing on the Isle of Man? Big skids.

I have, to this day, regretted not giving Chris a grand and owning my own piece of Modena motoring. I am sure that whoever ended up owning it loves it for all the right reasons; Because it’s beautifully boxy, because it has a bit of a reputation, because of that trident, because it’s not German, because it drives like Buckaroo, because they ignored their sensible friends. Because it’s an eighties Maserati.

Edit – After having written these seven hundred words of regret, still resenting the advice of my sensible friend, I stuck ‘my’ car’s number through the MOT history website. It seems to have been off the road following a whopping MOT failure shortly after I was offered it. I still regret not buying it.

3 Responses

  1. patric

    I too have looked at the 80s goodness that was the biturbo series – and having an extensive mechanical knowledge (well I actually think that a hammer is a complicated, if essential, tool) I too took the advise of a friend (actually many) who chimed in with utterances which sounded very much like “… you must be nucking futs…” along with admonitions to leave well alone. In fact don’t walk away, RUN!

    Like you I’m also torn between feeling glad I didn’t succumb (at least my wallet is happy about that) and sad that I didn’t succumb, I mean to say it was a MAZZER!

    Reply
  2. Ian Smith

    I have had a Spyder for 7 years and never regretted a minute, although my bank balance had dropped somewhat…..still can’t resist that in gear acceleration and noise when the turbos kick in…

    Reply

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