Journal: The Ghibli Helped Save Maserati

The Ghibli Helped Save Maserati

By Alan Franklin
May 1, 2013
8 comments

Few would argue that 1960s Italian design wasn’t among the best the world has ever seen. This incredibly fertile age gave rise to countless beautiful consumer goods and near-perfect cars. Just close your eyes for a moment and picture the soft, organic curves of a TZ, the elegant detailing and spot-on perfect proportions of the Miura, or the boxy yet beautifully wrought Alfa and Lancia sedans of the period—what could be better? I simply can’t think of another time when the industrial design of any single nation churned out so many lovely things for such an uninterrupted stretch.

Conceived at the height of this era in 1966, the Ghibli was among the best of the best during a time when beautiful lines were a given for new high-end Italian machinery. Maserati, in honor of long-standing company tradition, was facing imminent failure in the mid 1960s, and the Ghibli can largely be credited with avoiding that sad fate. It was their most successful car ever at the time, and outsold the Daytona and Miura by a large margin.

Styled by Giugiaro, perhaps the greatest and most prolific body artist of all-time, the Ghibli was much more of a Grand Touring car than its aforementioned cross-town rivals, with a generally more subdued though no less striking overall appearance in comparison. Its graceful, tapering, and razor-sharp nose flows into incredibly long and flowing fenders—so long in fact that they appear to be identical in length to whatever car remains aft of the A pillar, an area dominated by what was and remains a huge and airy greenhouse for such a low-slung car, made all the more remarkable by its perfect implementation, remaining cohesive with a type of body more frequently adorned with very little glass.

Details like the horizontal venting between the front wheel housings and leading edge of the doors help break up the Ghibli’s mass into more easily visually digestible pieces, while others serve less practical functions and are simply gob-smackingly gorgeous for the sake of being so. Witness, for example, the reversed C-pillar venting, each delicate impression housing symmetrical fuel filler doors giving access to twin 13 gallon fuel tanks—the quad cam, 4.7 liter, 330 HP (200 CC larger and 5 HP more powerful in SS form) V8 living underneath that runway-length hood was thirsty even by the lax standards of the day, returning single digit fuel economy if asked to perform anywhere near its limits.

Inside, in typical fashion of the day, one finds gauges and toggle switches strewn about a long and flat metal dash, interrupted by a wide and high-mounted center console running the length of the cabin. A wood-rimmed steering wheel with tapered and drilled alloy spokes frames a tachometer redlined at 5,500 RPM and a 150 MPH speedometer; adjustable neither in length or rake it necessitated a long arm, short-legged driving position then prevalent in Italian cars—not exactly comfortable, but really, who cares?

Lamborghini famously claimed his Espada was intended to be a sort of Italian Rolls Royce—large, comfortable, quiet, powerful and stately. We like to think of the Ghibli as the Italian equivalent of an Aston Martin, combining all those lovely virtues but with an added reserve of understatement, elegance, and sportiness. The idea of driving one across the Alps sometime in the spring of 1967, en route from Genoa to Monaco with two full tanks and Dusty Springfield on the Becker are imagined memories from a bygone era of style and the kinds of dreams vintage cars hold for those of us afflicted.

Photo Sources: autoqp.ru, thecarnut.com, boldride.com, carstyling.ru

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vedant12345
vedant12345
2 years ago

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Rockdad
Rockdad
5 years ago

I have both a Daytona Spyder and a Ghibli Spyder in my garage right now. The Ghibli engine overheats without adding cooling fans here in SoCal so I added two behind the radiator. The weirdo valves on the York A/C can be a nightmare and the system design apparently changed multiple times during the Ghibli production run. I’ve lowered both cars and have Borrani wire wheels mounted. The rear axle can be a bear to repair. I had to send it out to a rear end shop to dismantle it and they couldn’t even do it until they put the entire rear axle in a cooler overnight and then used a torch. I’ve redesigned the crazy weird headlight lifing assembly so that the lights don’t bounce when they’re up and so that they close properly and line up with the rest of the front end lines perfectly. The seating is so low it’s like sitting in a go kart. The Daytona is twice the car, both engine-wise and handling-wise. I love the looks of both cars!

Ben Erickson
Ben Erickson
6 years ago

Nice article – however, the steering column is in fact height-adjustable.
The dial is visible in this picture of my previous Ghibli SS.

Andre C  Hulstaert
Andre C Hulstaert
9 years ago

The Ghibly is my favorite Maserati and one of the most elegant cars of the postwar era. Its lines were very nicely balanced and full of small details. For example, the roof is not flat nor arced but a very subtle arch form, like a bow of bow and arrow. I was fortunate enough to own not only one but, during a short period of time, two identical ones, a black one and a burgundy one. The burgundy had a double clutch setup. We had to replace the discs and were never able to properly adjust the pressure plates, one has to be adjusted in situ, on the engine while it is out (and no way to do it once assembled) and the second one, the traditional way. We pulled the engine numerous times and never arrived at a proper adjustment. We even went to the factory in Italy. We were welcomed with open arms and they were very friendly and helpful. Even drove us 40 miles further to the racing department, but, sadly, nobody could give us advice.
I always preferred the front engined cars, later I had a Bora, basically the same engine but centrally mounted. It was fun to drive, but I still prefer the Ghibly. The Ghibly was more elegant and refined than the Ferrari’s which were rather heavy and bulky looking. Not that I frown on a Daytona, or a 275 GTB (which I almost bought).
The sound of ths V8 with its four double Webers was music, once one spent the better half of the day synchromising so that all barrels sung to the same tune. The gearbox was a massive ZF which required real muscle power to change gears while still cold. The engine was drysump with, if I remember right, had a capacity 12 quarts. It took about 25 miles before the engine attained its operating temperature. But once everything was in tune and on temperature, it was a delight to drive.
The Ghibly, just as all “pure sang” and especially Italians had its peculiarities. So for example, the brake servo lived in the fenderwell, separated only from the slush ans water by a simple metal baffle. This baffle was sealed by an simple rubber which had the habit of parting company. In normal weather this was not so serious, but, in winter, when it was freezing, another story. Then the servo had the habit of freezing and quitting. I can tell you it is quite an experience to try to stop a high power, 2 ton car with four disc brakes, without the help of a servo. Several times I had to put my two feet on the brake pedal and felt the steeringwheel flexing (and cold sweat running down my back) while trying to stop.
Also, Italians are know for having long arms and short legs, if one believed the seat adjustments of the Italian cars. But here, I do not know what criteria they used to boast it as a 2 + 2. The space in back cannot be called a seat. It is a cushion and the back of the front seats almost touches to it, a few inches at most even if the frontseat is normally adjusted, not for a tall person. But then, the headroom is almost non existent. I had a medium sized dog (a Samoyed) and even she could not sit there without stooping.
But then are those idiosyncrasies not the part of the charm of these, and other thoroughbreds ?
Attached are a few shots of my black one (scanned from old negatives – sorry for the poor quality)

Rip Curl
Rip Curl
9 years ago

Thank you for the most informative piece. I knew little about the Ghibli and learned quite a lot.

Leucea Alexandru
Leucea Alexandru
9 years ago

Now this is why i love Italy. It gave us some of the most beautifully designed cars of all time. And it still does.

Matthew Lange
Matthew Lange
9 years ago

Nice piece on a car I would really like to have a drive of someday. One correction though the Ghibli did not come close to outselling the Daytona. Per Maserati club UK’s website 1149 Ghibli coupes were made and 100 Spyders (although I have often heard the number 125 talked about). That compares to 1289 Daytona Berlinettas and 122 Spyders. The Daytona was also in production for a slightly shorter period. No doubts though that both cars outsold the (admittedly more expensive when new) Miura with 764 made.