1980s Maserati Biturbo Spyder: Slammed in the Weeds

(NOTE: Another post by my friend in Texas, Lee Wilcox. -TK)

Can’t really say I ever knew much about this little Maserati.  Had heard that they really looked sweet when they were slammed, and in the weeds.  Being of the generation now normally referred to as Geezers I wear my ignorance of what this means with some pride.  Today, however, while driving in a rural area, I spotted one of these that was doing just that.  My innocence is lost.  Hit the break to lose yours.

This majestic sports car, a Maserati BiTurbo is indeed slammed and it is in the weeds and I am grateful that my education has been extended.  If I understand this correctly, it only needs 20’s (whatever that means) to finish it.

Unlike the Dodge panel van that is rusting away beside it, there is no for sale sign on the Maserati.  There is the obligatory Fraternal Order of Police for those times the Highway Patrol manages to catch up.  One can see at a glance that the owner recognizes quality and has no intention of parting with it.  There are blue collar vehicles in the neighborhood as well.  Nothing, however, that is this slammed or as far into the weeds.

20 Replies to “1980s Maserati Biturbo Spyder: Slammed in the Weeds”

  1. AvatarCJinSD

    I’m not sure what putting dubs on it would accomplish. I remember reading the earliest reports of the Biturbo in its planning stages, and thinking that I would realize my father’s dream of owning a Maserati. By the time they got here, I knew enough about cars to know that a Weber carburetor living in a pressurized dome and De Tomaso build quality wouldn’t be a winning combination, but I still ended up going for a test drive in one when a college girlfriend totaled my car. It was quick for the day and had an interior like a leather handbag. I wound up buying an Audi 4000S quattro instead though, because nothing about it seemed built to stand the test of time.

    I used to get my car serviced at La Jolla Independent BMW of Carl Nelson fame. There was a guy who rented space there to buy up San Diego’s Maserati Biturbo population and part them out on the internet. This was around 2003, and he may have been winding down operations as surviving cars at both ends of the business dried up. Legend has it that the Biturbo’s design was an Italdesign proposal for the BMW that became the E30 3-series. I don’t know if that is true, and there is certainly a great resemblance to the Maserati Quattroporte III. Considering what BMWs look like now, it doesn’t seem like such an objectionable idea.

    Reply
    • AvatarJohn C.

      What was the Maserati dealer like in the mid 1980s? Was it just a fly by night operation as in Savannah to deal with the sudden volume? Or was it older guys, who had sold Ghiblis and Boras trying to gauge how to connect with the young fast money crowd.

      Reply
      • AvatarCJinSD

        I only remember going to two new Maserati dealers while the Biturbos were current. The first was on the west side of Richmond, Virginia. I think the Maseratis occupied a small row next to the showroom of a huge VW dealer. I am not certain though, but it was a physically large new car dealership with maybe four new Maseratis in stock. The interiors of the Maseratis impressed me more than anything, and it was sad to see what they looked like as they aged. It was a day when I test drove a Toyota Corolla 5-speed FWD sedan across the street from the Maserati store before buying a Jetta I’d already test driven at a dealer closer to my home town.

        The other Maserati Biturbo dealer was in a showroom in Manhattan, and it was shared with other exotic Italian cars. After all these years I can’t remember if the other cars were new or not, but I don’t think Ferrari or Lamborghini were building many cars for dealer inventories at the time.

        The Biturbo I went for a test drive in about two years later was at a used sports car dealer in Roanoke, Virginia. The guy running it was a PCA driving instructor, and most of the cars were Porsches other than the two Biturbos. Roanoke is the last place you’d expect to find a sports car dealer, but it was just down the street from a time-warp BL dealer that still had all the Triumph and MG signage you can imagine in addition to a showroom full of pristine BL products like TR6s and MGB GTs. It was like a life-sized diorama. Sadly, I can’t find any evidence that either business still exists.

        Reply
        • AvatarJohn C.

          The one in Savannah like in Richmond was a brief sideline of the Porsche-Audi dealer. I wonder how they pried those old dual franchises apart?

          A childhood friend of mine had the idea to try to get his parents to buy a 425, the four door Biturbo to replace the Corolla wagon that he usually drove. They ended up getting a Taurus.

          Reply
          • AvatarCJinSD

            A childhood friend of mine was obsessed with the 430, which was the late-production 2.8 liter variant of the 425. I think it all started the day we saw the dealership in Manhattan. He had some close calls with making the mistake, but today he has two Town Cars for driving around with he two-hundred pound newfie.

            In 1980s Charlottesville, there was one new car dealer that handled BMW, Porsche-Audi, and Triumph. They had a number of TR8s when BL gave up. Later they picked up Daihatsu, and they changed ownership at least twice. Today, the BMW dealer is under one mega-dealer-group while Porsche and VW-Audi are under another. They’re next door to one another though, and Porsche has a separate showroom from VW-Audi at one street address. Back in the day, Mazda and VW shared a building owned by a local family. Now Mazda is where the old Porsche-Audi and BMW dealer was. Meanwhile, Mercedes-Benz and Toyota still share the same store that they have for as long as I can remember.

  2. AvatarJohn C.

    I wonder what story this car could tell?

    Go Go eighties guy doesn’t meet his quota and finds Mr. Goodfriend something less than that. So he says goodbye yellow brick road and starts listening to his old man. Still likes to go out and sit between the returning to nature truck of his old man and the yellow brick road Zagato Spyder.

    Solid farm wife who understands what happened in the 80s Hamptons stays there but still likes to view her old gifts when she was young and sexy.

    Reply
    • AvatarCJinSD

      The real story is that it burned its first owner by being completely unreliable and depreciating like a pizza. It burned its second owner by being completely reliable and depreciating like a condom. Its third owner might have been able to make it to work if they’d spent five grand on a solid Pennsylvania Golf instead of a seven year old Biturbo, but they were blown away by the borderline eroticism of a low mileage, garaged Maserati interior of tufted leather, rose wood, and an oval timepiece. They abandoned it at an independent repair shop after seeing the estimate for fixing the IHI turbochargers and the electrical harness, and a few years later the repair shop gave it to a towing company rather than file for a mechanics lien. The dumbest employee at the impound lot thought having a Maserati would make women materialize. He was wrong, and so it sits in his yard.

      Reply
      • AvatarJohn C.

        It is kind of cool that somebody was still making a living keeping Biturbos going in 2003. Sure they made 40,000 of them but very few after 1990 and many or even most stayed in Italy. They went to Coke and bonus guys not people who have maintained exotic cars so know and can afford what they were in for. Given the resale and complexity a 15+ year life is pretty good. More than a few of todays biturbos are not going to make 15 years.

        Reply
        • AvatarCJinSD

          I would be shocked if the guy made a living via his parting out of Biturbos, particularly considering where Carl’s shop was located. It was probably someone who lived expensively close by and dismantled Maseratis to hide his car habit from his wife. I only saw him working a couple of times, and I was there fairly often from 2002-2004. When I moved back to the neighborhood three years later, the space was occupied by three Vixen motorhomes in various states of disrepair.

          Reply
    • Avatarstingray65

      I suspect the real story of this car is that the celebrity owner found out his Maserati did 185, then he lost his license a could no longer drive. He then bought a limo and rode in the back, and locked the doors in case he was attacked.
      Just goes to show that its tough to handle fortune and fame because everybody changes including the the condition of the languishing Maserati.

      Reply
  3. AvatarJohn Marks

    When I returned to Providence, Rhode Island, from Nashville (in 1979), perhaps owing to Providence’s “Crimetown” Mafia reputation, the Biturbo had the reputation as a goodfella’s “girlfriend’s” car.

    I knew a real high-nosed itchbay who had one. Not owned one; had one.

    The Biturbo also had a reputation for fuel pumps that might make you want to make a quick exit.

    I loved the styling, though.

    jm

    Reply
  4. AvatarJohn C.

    In 2016 I was in Paris on vacation and saw a Citroen SM that was parked in front of a Paris cafe a few blocks from the Arc de Triumph and had everyone including me swooning. This was an unreliable car that Idi Amin owned and toured East Africa in with his third wife suicide Sarah. Don’t ask what happened to his earlier wives or her former boyfriend. Yet it clearly, despite its iffy parentage and gross first owners, has earned it’s classic bona fieds.

    Here was a car, the first twin turbo, that sold in far better numbers and involved greats like de Thomaso, Gandhini and Zagato and just got faster and faster over time. Yet it is not recognized because allegedly the ownership experience was more Maserati than Honda. In modern times, are we actively trying to kill anything interesting?

    Reply
    • AvatarCJinSD

      How much of the SM’s celebrity status in France is down to lack of alternatives? The French had a great tradition of building powerful luxurious cars that was assassinated by their government. By the time the SM came along, Bugatti, Delage, Delahaye, Facel, Salmson, and Talbot-Lago were all long defunct. The SM was as good as it got for fans of French luxury in the ’70s. Even if it was such a turd that garages the world over are squandered on low mileage projects that will never again turn a wheel under their own power, very few of those garages are in France. They were punitively taxed in their home market, so most ruined owners’ lives elsewhere.

      The Biturbo, on the other hand, is from a country where luxury cars are a primary export, so there is no reason to cling to the existence of a dud. They were marketed to people who generally couldn’t shrug off a useless piece of junk as easily as a Khamsin or a DB6 buyer could. Too many Biturbos didn’t share three-car garages with a Town Car and a Wagoneer. They were breaking down on people who extended themselves to buy them as primary transportation in the first place. They were also sold in markets with far more memorable and desirable Italian cars, whether they worked much better or not. Why celebrate the Biturbos when there were cars like the Ferrari 328 GTS and 355 for fans of Italian exotics?

      Nobody expected the Biturbos to work as well as Hondas. They would probably be remembered fondly if they’d been as durable as 1986 Hyundai Excels and as reliable as 1986 Volvos.

      Reply
  5. AvatarSigivald

    Looks at last photo.

    “So, it’s a Golf Cabriolet mixed with a 318i convertible?”

    I kid except it does look exactly like that.

    Reply

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