Expert advice on buying a Maserati Ghibli

Photography Credit: Dirk De Jager

[Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in the March 2020 issue of Classic Motorsports.]

Road & Track’s review of the 1971 Maserati Ghibli isn’t overly kind. Heck, even the deck dished out shade: “A beautiful car that promises more excitement than it delivers.”

A Corvette, the report noted, cost a third as much as the $22,000 Ghibli and did nearly the same thing. “In size, weight, performance and passenger accommodation the Ghibli is indeed close to a Corvette and its V-8 engine doesn’t sound all that different, either. It’s a large, heavy car that is rather clumsy in dense traffic and at its best on the open road, has a big, torquey engine and stiff suspension.”

But these days, don’t think of the Ghibli as an expensive Corvette. Bruce Trenery, owner of Fantasy Junction, pictures it as an alternative to a different front-engine supercar.

The Maserati Ghibli is a lower-priced semi-equivalent to the Ferrari Daytona,” he says. “Daytona is a 4.4-liter, Ghibli is either a 4.7 or 4.9. Both are beautiful, but the Daytona has a transaxle and independent rear suspension, while the Ghibli has a live axle and traditional transmission placement. The Daytona V12 revs significantly higher, but the four-cam V8 of the Maserati harkens back to the 450S sports racer.”

Another nod to the Ghibli: “One area where the Ghibli shines is that it has a telescopic and tilt wheel,” Bruce adds, “and you really sit down in the car, so it fits a large person better.”

Maserati unveiled the Ghibli at the 1966 Turin show. Soon after, Road & Track’s Peter Coltrin hitched a ride with Guerino Bertocchi, the brand’s famed mechanic and test driver: “We hit 150-plus mph at least three times and would have gone faster except for two factors, traffic and salt on the fast lane, put down after a recent snowstorm.”

Shopping Advice

Bruce Trenery
Fantasy Junction

I think Ghiblis are pretty cool, kind of Maserati’s Daytona. The two items that bring them down from the Daytona, to me, are the live rear axle and the low-revving V8. They are large and powerful, kind of a fancy Corvette. Nice gearbox, kind of a rough ride.

The big difference between the 4.7 and 4.9 is that all 4.9s have power steering. The difference in displacement and performance is about nil.

The original Italian lights didn’t meet U.S. requirements, so the 4.9-liter U.S. model has double side lights that, for some people, detract from the car’s looks.

The 4.9 is rarer, so a bit more expensive.

The cars look great in unusual colors-blues, greens, silver-but they also wear red pretty well. However, red paint is probably a bit of a deduction in the market, as are brown and white.

The maintenance is typical of an Italian exotic. Parts are expensive and a bit scarce. Maserati V8s have a goofy water pump drive, and rust can be an issue. I wouldn’t be comfortable doing anything with the valvetrain or cam timing, but I don’t think too much damage can be done otherwise.

As with any other collector car, a serious accident or rust is a deal-breaker. A car that’s missing a lot of stuff, such as an unfinished project will be difficult to complete.

I think with everything available online, there are probably better parts sources now than pre-internet. Even so. there aren’t a lot of Ghiblis compared to Corvettes, Mustangs or other mass-produced cars, so some patience will be needed.

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A Corvette may have done things better back in '71, but it can never match the looks of the Ghibli. I'm curious what Road & Track ​thought of the Iso Grifo, given it's somewhat a hybrid of the two. 

wspohn Dork
5/18/20 12:30 p.m.

There were a trio of great looking Italian super cars in that period, the Ghibli, the Daytona and the Lamborghini islero.

The Ghibli was arguably the prettiest but had a live axle and a relatively low revving V8. The Daytona looked great and had an excellent engine.  The Islero was made in very low numbers so is the least well known of the three but had the most interesting engine, a 4 cam V12 with very good output,  and suspension and brakes that matched it, but the styling was a bit more sedate than the other two.  I owned the Islero and loved it!

The hybrid cars like the Grifo looked great but the low rev American V8s were a let down and they were a half a grade below the thoroughbred Italians (and I don't say that as a car snob - I have owned several big Jensens).

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