One of Maserati’s Originals, and Still the Best

The original Maserati Ghibli is a force of engineering — a grand tourer that’s legendary in both performance and design.

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Khiem Pham

The current Maserati Ghibli is an attractive luxury sedan that stands out in a field dominated by German cars. But some consider the use of the legendary Ghibli name on a sedan blasphemous. To the purists, the name is reserved for the original Lambo grand tourer, and that car blessed the earth with its presence in the late ’60s and early ’70s. The half-century split between the two cars marks not only a gaping time crevasse, but also a fundamental difference in purpose. The current Ghibli is a sporty, luxury sedan. The original car was a sophisticated style statement in the form of a two-door grand touring car, devoid of all practicality and designed only to stoke the flame of automotive desire.

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What It’s All About

When the Ghibli prototype was first unveiled to the motoring public, it took as its namesake a hot North African windstorm that strikes fear into all who cross its path. Consumers and automotive critics alike lavished it with praise. The stunning two-seater, penned by Giorgetto Giugiaro (who at the time worked for Carrozzeria Ghia in Turin), took a mere three months to design, and the car bowed at the 1966 Turin Motor Show in Italy. Giugiaro made an indelible mark with a long-nosed, two-seat grand tourer, accentuated by a huge hood, shark-nose fascia, full width grille and long fastback. The Ghibli took on a look of both aggressiveness and flowing grace. In production form, Maserati added a superfluous back seat, making it technically a 2+2, though not even a circus monkey could ride in the back. And, of course, passengers weren’t what the Ghibli was about. The Ghibli was meant to be a showstopper, with beauty taking precedence over practicality.

In 1969, Giugiaro followed up the Ghibli with a convertible Ghibli Spyder and a bigger-displacement Ghibli SS and SS Spyder. While the coupes were 2+2s, the Spyder remained strictly two-seater to accommodate for the retractable soft top. In its eight years of production from 1966 to 1973, a total of 1,170 coupes and 125 Spyders were built, including the more powerful SS versions. The Ghibli marked a transition from the softer styling of exotic sports cars to the edgier, more dramatic styling of cars like the Lamborghini Countach and the Maserati Khasmin (the car that replaced the Ghibli). But arguably no car after the Ghibli would be as beautiful.

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Technical Rundown

Though the Ghibli couldn’t compete with the V12 of the Ferrari Daytona, the Ghibli’s engine allowed it to get to 60 in under seven seconds, which at the time was an accomplishment. The engine was a 4.7-liter V8 with four Weber carburetors and a total power output of 310 horsepower and 341 lb-ft of torque, all mated to a standard ZF five-speed manual transmission or an optional three-speed automatic transmission. The Ghibli SS’s displacement bumped up to 4.9 liters and the SS cars had 335 horsepower and a top speed of 175 mph, making them the fastest production Ghiblis. For handling, the Ghibli was outfitted with four-wheel disc brakes — not all that common in that day — double-wishbone suspension with coil springs and an anti-roll bar in front, and leaf springs and an anti-roll bar in the rear. The Ghibli had two 13-gallon gas tanks to manage the deep-gulping V8 engine, adding to the 3,637 pounds of curb weight.

The interior was true Maserati. Deep leather sport seats, leather dash and door liners, a beautiful wooden three-spoke racing steering wheel and well-placed, handsome analog gauges with black trim set the Ghibli apart. The wide transmission tunnel and gearshift knob were perfect for an exotic GT car.

Unfortunately, the Ghibli wasn’t without faults. The live rear axle was dated, and the engine redlined at a meager 5,500 RPM, far beneath the numbers from Ferrari. Naturally, performance critiques were made, but it mattered very little in terms of the car’s overall impact. Ghibli owners could track the car, if desired, but the Ghibli manifested itself more as a luxurious GT car than anything created for racing.

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Its Place In History

Much like the Lamborghini Miura that also emerged in 1966, the Ghibli is remembered for its timeless style, and it’s coveted among collectors, especially in the rare SS format. It’s a looker from every angle — low slung, long and a lust-inducing — and it stands as one of the finest GT car designs in automotive history.

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