Journal: In Photos: The Outstanding Maserati Ghibli Spyder

In Photos: The Outstanding Maserati Ghibli Spyder

By Jacopo Villa
March 10, 2015

Photography by Federico Bajetti

In my job, I’ve learned two things: first, always be ready to change your plans. Second, always answer an early morning call from a car photographer–they’re always onto something interesting and if you work with someone like Federico, they often have good news for you.

As I picked up Federico’s call, the only words I heard were, “Maserati, Ghibli, Spider, 1969”. No time to finish my coffee, then…

The Maserati Ghibli is a wonderful object that can make your day, no matter the circumstances. Also, a Spyder, or Tipo AM 115/S to call it with its internal name, is rarer than the coupé version and it seems that this one is about to embark on a one-way trip overseas. No time to lose, then!

We organize quickly and meet in the countryside outside Brescia to meet the Spyder face to face…as soon as we can find it! As you would expect, in the historic Italian countryside we need to dig ourselves into an intricate labyrinth of buildings and garages to finally find it, but this is the sort of a treasure hunt that I enjoy. As we peek our heads out and over a fence, there it is, parked alongside rusty old oil drums—the perfect diamond in the rough that seems to enhance its ‘wow’ factor.

With simple and elegant lines, once in motion it’s clear the Ghibli Spyder is like nothing else on the road. Its design may be the finest of the golden era of GT cars, a point reinforced by this example’s gorgeous color combination of dark blue over cream leather interior.

The Spyder is the rarest of its breed, with just 125 made—less than 10 per cent of the Ghibli’s total production of 1,149 units. Of those, 49 Spyders were ordered with the optional 4.9-litre V8 engine instead of the standard 4.7-litre unit, and only 11 were delivered in European specification. This example is fitted with the more common 4.7-litre unit.

As we lift up the front hood to appreciate the dry sump, quad-cam Type AM115 4.7-litre V8 engine with its factory-observed 310 horsepower, stories of informal road racing contests between Maserati test driver Guerino Bertocchi and Lamborghini test driver Bob Wallace come into my mind—this motor just looks like it’s ready to sing.

As I turn the key, the car comes to life with a delightful rumble. Lift off the heavy clutch with a touch of throttle and the Spyder eases forward with finesse. No hesitation from the V8—it’s just fantastic. Even without flooring the pedal, it’s clear this is one of those cars that falls into the “naturally fast” category: drive it like a normal car and soon you’ll lose track of how fast you’re going…

Steering is quite heavy and low-geared, but it serves its purpose just fine. After an enjoyable blast on the (thankfully) empty roads, we park it in the same place where we found it…between rusty oil drums. Tick, tick, tick, it cools…

Back in the day, the Ghibli wasn’t considered a breakthrough model as it featured dated racing technology under its simple lines, but I dare say that I prefer its charms over the Ferrari Daytona or Lamborghini Miura.

The Ghibli range was assembled with many proven parts, starting with the race-derived engine from the monstrous 450S sports racing car that debuted in 1956. Over the years, it was refined for road use and noteworthy for its smooth and torquey power delivery.

First presented in 1969, the Spyder was clearly a more hedonistic car than the Ghibli Coupé, which debuted three years earlier in 1966. Sadly, the Spyder was introduced in time for a changing world, one with regular protests, more stringent emissions and safety regulations, and political unrest—for many potential customers, owning such a conspicuous object was out of the question.

Anyway, time for a few more pictures and then it’s time to put the Spyder away under its cover, chat with its generous owner, and return to our useful daily drivers…a productive morning, if I do say so.

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2 years ago

I have a client who owns a Miura, a 365GTS and a Ghibli Spyder (conversion). I have worked on the Ghibli on and off for almost 30 years now. I had to redesign the quirky headlight lifting assembly because even the slightest wear in the components allows the headlights to bounce up and down while in the up position. The owner drove the car on the local freeways once to test out some engine mods, while the car had no lights, windshield, side view mirrors, or convertible top. I spotted traffic while he drove so he could safely change lanes. It’s a fun car to own and drive but replacement parts are rarer and more expensive than Ferrari parts.

Neil Saaty
Neil Saaty(@kt100karter)
6 years ago

It seems that the photographer, Federico Bajetti, is amusing himself. In the photo that looks down at the left rear corner of the car, the reflection in the rear bumper should be an upside-down image of the license plate, but the letters and numerals in the reflection do not match at all the letters and numerals in the license plate, shown in another photo.

Clayton Merchant
Clayton Merchant(@mgcam)
6 years ago

Without demeaning the Maserati in any way, (your ground level profile picture (#5) just brought this to mind), it’s interesting how much in common style wise, it has with the ’69 corvette in profile.

Clayton Merchant
Clayton Merchant(@mgcam)
6 years ago
Reply to  Jacopo Villa

I agree that the ‘Vette is much more aggressive, especially towards the front end, and they are definitely very different cars, but if you knock the spoiler off the decklid on the Vette, the rear quarters are a dead ringer for each other, at least from the picture. The photo was obviously taken from ground level so it may appear differently in person. (Just an interesting observation)
I’ve seen both cars before and just never made the connection that this photo made.

Take care.

2 years ago

Side by side, the Ghibli would be much longer than the vette.

Willam Giltzow
Willam Giltzow(@billgiltzow)
6 years ago

Strange business going on in the background, I see Triumph chassis frames and an E Type bonnet. English cars leave deposits everywhere, even Brescia….The wheel design of the Ghibli always impresses me, even if it is cribbed from Buccialli, and the spider really does look better than the Daytona to my eye, not so the coupe. If only it didn’t have a live axle…

Jim Valcarcel
Jim Valcarcel(@ethel19)
6 years ago

Pleasant write up Jacopo. The photos are stunning. Thank you. Also it does beg the question as to when this car will start to trade at the kind of money the Ferrari’s do. It deserves to!