Something Rotten in Denmark: 1993 Maserati Biturbo

Today’s weekend morsel is an example from Maserati’s darker days of recent times. It’s a 1992 Biturbo, yours for about €20,000 (if bought in Denmark).

1993 Maserati Biturbo
1993 Maserati Biturbo

The first Biturbos date from 1981. Maserati hoped that the car would gain sales from that champion of small, sporty saloons, the BMW 3-series. To do this, Maserati equipped the two-door, four seat car with a 2.0 V6 engine, larded up with two turbos. Depending on which way you look at it, by 1993 Maserati had either ironed out all the problems or else got bored making the Biturbo.

Certainly by 1993 the car had come a long way from its origins as a neat, rather conservative little vehicle modelled on its Giugario-styled relative, the QP. This car is encrusted with a set of rather crude modifications -all done by the OEM – such as that incredibly complex front bumper and some nasty sill extensions. Is that windscreen still held in place by a rubber seal?

In keeping with the styles of the times, the brightwork is gone or minimised so the car is as unsparkly as a base model Mondeo or 405 – puzzling for a car that cost so much (just to maintain). One of the attractions of the earlier models of Biturbo

You pay for the engine (again and again) and the rest comes for free.
You pay for the engine (again and again) and the rest comes for free.

was the ornate and lavishly labour intensive stainless steel window frames with their visibly hand-burnished welds. Getting rid of these deprived the car of its identity. The headlamps on this vehicle are unusually complicated and fussy where once they were simple glass units. Why did Maserati do all this? To flog a dead horse as they had not the funds to develop a newer car.

Maserati was a cottage industry so the 1981 car had to soldier on as its BMW peer was into its third model cycle. We could have covered this car under the category of facelifts. That said, from the rear the car still has its purposeful stance and attractively stubby tail. It’s a pity about the oddly angled mirrors. Aren’t Italians supposed to be good at making things pretty?

Screenshout.
Screenshout.

The seller of this car is so keen to tell us how good it is, they’ve used a clever ploy of writing most of their ad in upper case letters. The ad shouts as follows: “Note: here there is talk of a truly regular and knife sharp Italian classic. The bodywork is unbelievably good, so good at you’d think it was a lie. If you want a full-blooded Italian for a small amount of money then this example is very much worth taking a closer look at. Please ring for more information…. For this price can you really leave it be?” Let me think about that.

1993 Maserati Biturbo interior.
1993 Maserati Biturbo interior.

Despite the horrible excrescences and doubtful colours inside and out, I find this car much more appealing that its descendent, the present Ghibli. The Ghibli is huge and stupidly complex. I like the idea of the small V6 (and why didn’t we also deal with this during our engine theme of a few months back?). That engine is a very fine thing (six quarts of oil required and it takes time to warm it up) and almost worth the price of purchase.

Setright gave the car his seal of approval, or maybe it was Roger Bell. The neat, chuckable chassis has bags of character. Sure, the car is simply evil in the wet (like a 1981 BMW 5-series) and will spin on its own axis as quickly as you can scream “worn tappets and a huge engine repair bill” but this car reminds me of the homespun charms of Maserati and good solid analogue technology.

And the nice news is that a mid-80s example of this car is far from expensive and has none of the thoughtless styling mods. If I lived in Germany (where this exact model cost half as much as in Denmark) or perhaps the UK I might consider a vehicle like that but here in Denmark the maintenance expense put this car well into the supercar category of cost, despite its simplicity. One to admire from a safe distance I think.

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

7 thoughts on “Something Rotten in Denmark: 1993 Maserati Biturbo”

  1. A friend of mine is a bit of a Biturbo obsessive – alas, his only ever test drive came to an abrupt end when he discovered that he could control the speedometer’s needle through the button which usually operates the electric windows.
    Yet he remains adamant that its engine is a masterpiece, albeit not a particularly robust one. In particularly trouble-prone carburettor-fitted guise, it’s also said to be among the most aurally satisfying of motors.

    Like Richard, I can also appreciate some of the charms of the original, Pierangelo Andreani-penned Biturbo versions. The more the car was fettled with, the worse the results got, which is all the more disappointing as it was no less than Marcello Gandini who was in charge by then.

  2. Goodness, I’d forgotten about that. The car got worse and worse looking as the years went by. The engine though: that’s a real old-school lump of digital-free technology. We really ought to havd included it with the small V6 articles.

  3. Although the Biturbo V6 only derives conceptually from the Alfieri predecessor that powered the SM and Merak, Maserati seem to have been good at making workaday high-performance engines. Although forever tainted by its teething problems with timing chains, these were long ago solved and the Alfieri V6 is actually astoundingly tractable and uncomplaining, in fuel injection form at least.

    The Biturbo V6 apparently has a reputation for consuming little oil but there were too many other things wrong with the Biturbo to suggest that the actual car deserved better, though the concept certainly did. Executed well it could have been a fine car. You can criticise De Tomaso for his wheeler-dealing ways but who else would have kept the company afloat through the 70s and 80s? Also, the Chrysler TC by Maserati was a tour-de-force … of snake oil salesmanship.

    1. Well, De Tomaso certainly knew how to get his hands on Italian taxpayers’ (yes, they do exist!) money – most of his operations were being sponsored by the Italian government, which gave him the kind of funding not even 10.000 Pantera sales could have garnered.

      As a sidenote, every Biturbo was delivered with a note by Alejandro De Tomaso to the new owner, in which he described his thoughts and feelings while designing the car himself.

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