Prestige car auctions offer a rare glimpse at classic exotics too old, rare or obscure to be on the regular radar. This is partly because the cars that change hands at these sales are the best of the best. They’re the ultra-low-mileage, heated-garage type of meticulously maintained classics that are as gorgeous now as they day they were born.
Two such examples surfaced recently for the first time in nearly 35 years at [RM Auctions: a flawless 1969 Maserati Ghibli Spyder and a stunning red 1971 Maserati Ghlibi 4.9 SS. Celebrated at the time of its debut, the Ghibli faded from center stage with the introduction of the next big style step-change: the 1970s wedge supercar.
Does the Ghibli deserve to be a side note in car history, or was it actually a masterful 1967 execution of an ultra-fast, sleek and luxurious Italian pony car?
Please follow the jump for a deep dive into two true Maserati classics with a full image gallery, original brochures and some highlights in the evolution of the Ghibli’s performance.
The exterior of the Ghibli has decadent proportions, a very low nose and hood line, and a long fastback profile. Styled by a GHIA employee named Giorgio Giugiaro ahead of the 1966 Turin motor show, the design is a perfect time capsule for the year. The shape is classic front-engine, four-seat GT car in the template of the soft and curvy Ferrari 275 GTB/4 Berlinetta and Lamborghini 400GT 2+2 .
The year the Ghibli came out, it changed the agenda toward sharper surfaces, defined corner edges and near-flat glass for the windows. Instantly visible on the 1968 Lamborghini Espada and 1968 Ferrari 365 Daytona , the look was hot and everyone wanted in. The Ghibli nailed the new shape and paired it with some exotic features like hidden headlamps and magnesium alloy wheels.
The 1968 Ghibli Spyder added to the coupe’s glamor by removing the chunky roof line that almost overwhelms the side profile of the hardtop. The factory-made spec of the RM Auctions Spyder is notable because only 125 total Spyders were ever produced, including the 25 Spyder SS models from 1973. Losing the roof really liberated Giugaro’s delicate, long profile shape from the visual mass of the big c-pillars.
The front of the Ghibli is a total departure from all the cartoon-soft noses of the 50s and 60s racing scene. The hood of the car extends all the way to the very tip of the nose, where it immediately chops downward. The entire front fascia of the car is contained in the broad horizontal grille, with spaces of color underneath it adding elegance to a brutal visage. A more shark-like nose would take 20 more years to arrive and that came from the BMW 840i .
The pop-up headlamps are stowed when not in use, but when open, they show the massive, Le Mans-style round lamps that were, at the time, pretty cutting edge. The hood of the Ghibli broke new ground with its integrated center bulge vent (to fit over the hemi induction and four tall Weber carbs) as well as rear-facing hood vents like on the 2013 SRT Viper GTS. Tasteful chrome-trimmed side vents appear midway down the car’s front flanks ahead of the doors, emphasizing the front-engine proportions.
The interior is a truly classy environment for high-speed cruising, with the two show cars demonstrate beautifully via a pure white leather interior on the Maserati Red SS and black leather in Graphite Metallic Sypder. Both cars share the gorgeous, thin-rimmed wood steering wheel in a stunning golden lacquer finish. The wheel itself is a moment in time, with throwback racing spokes but the large, round central steering boss in the center a futuristic touch.
The dashboards are fully trimmed in leather and actually share some of the drama from the Ghibli’s nose. The sheer top surface of the dash ends abruptly, and below that sharp cutoff are all the switchgear, vents and console items. The effect is fantastic for creating a deep, enveloping driving position befitting the car’s status on the road. From inside, the hood’s wild vents and bulges are even more dramatic when they’re at eye level right ahead of the windshield.
All the interior panels are fully trimmed in the either black or white leather, showing off the very smart curves of the dash, doors and pillars. The white leather on the SS coupe is really stunning. Looking at the way it tightly wraps all the surfaces, how it is stitched carefully and sparingly, and you just want to reach out to feel the luxury. The interior of this Maserati is so fantastic that it’s easy to see why it still defines the essence of the company’s current Gran Turismo and Quattroporte models.
Plush seats with wide ribs and rounded cushions star in the Ghibli and do a great job making this GT car a swanky playboy’s dream. The Ghibli shows its sense of cool via the reclined driving position. In 1967 as now, nothing beat the low, wide and fast front-engine supercar in terms of cabin glamor and comfort.
The practical side of the Ghibli was also seen in its large trunks and large twin fuel tanks. The coupe can hold 24 cubic-feet of luggage, while the Spyder a hardly-believable 18 cubic feet. Power steering, a radio, A/C and a three-speed automatic were the primary comfort options available.
The drivetrains the Ghibli share some key elements but are worlds apart in terms of performance. The SS model was a major performance upgrade akin to a new BMW 328i vs. an M3. The table below outlines the mechanical differences that help the SS hit a top speed nearly 30 mph faster than the standard Ghibli. Both engines in the Ghibli are automotive masterpieces featuring:
- Hemispherical combustion
- Four chain-driven overhead camshafts
- Quad four-barrel, twin-choke Weber carburetors.
At the time of pushrods, this was one of the most complicated road-going V-8 engines in existence. The result is intoxicating bellows of engine (not exhaust) noise from the Ghibli as it nears the 5500 rpm redline.
|Ghibli model||Ghibli||Ghibli SS|
|Engine||4.7L V-8 dry-sump||4.9L V-8 wet-sump|
|Peak power||310 net horsepower||335 net horsepower|
|Peak torque||230 pound-feet (Est.)||290 pound-feet (Est.)|
|0-to-60-mph||6.8 seconds (Est.)||6.1 seconds (Est.)|
|Curb weight||3637 pounds||3640 pounds|
|Top Speed||159 mph||174 mph|
The Ghibli coupe excels at high speed and on open, sweeping circuits. Tighter conditions will uncover the slow, truck-like gear change, tall gear ratios, and limited ability to change direction quickly. The video above shows off the Ghibli’s exhaust note then hops on-board for a quick blast down the autostrada.
The two cars featured here sold for wildly different sums, but both are appreciating classics that will be likely rise from their current, just-waking values. The 1969 Spyder sold for $407,000 in 2012, while the 1971 SS earned a modest $151,000 in March of this year.
Both prices are at least triple the average value of a base model, with Hagerty.com listing the current average value of the 1967 Ghibli coupe at an achievable $48,000. Hagerty’s Value Trend tool shows that the value of the best Ghiblis has nearly doubled since just 2006.
Arch-rivals Ferrari and Lamborghini were the Maserati Ghibli’s biggest competitors from 1968 through its final year in 1973. The Ferrari 365 Daytona and Lamborghini Espada both challenged the Ghibli’s unique style and its luxury grand touring mission, but topped its mad V-8 for even madder front-mounted V-12s. Suddenly, the Ghibli’s modest performance was put in a harsh light, leading to the displacement bump for the new-for-1969 4.9-liter SS models.
The Ferrari was nearly a carbon copy of the Ghibli coupe in profile but added a more delicate and memorable nose treatment. Ferrari pedigree via that racing-derived V-12 almost knocked the Ghibli off the map.
Gallery Ferrari 365 GTB4
The Espada also copied the Ghibli’s profile and fastback shape, but did so much less elegantly than the Modenese. The Espada was much larger and heavier than both rivals, and looked worse via the poorly resolved front end and inelegant rear roof line.
Gallery Lamborghini Espada
Rather than lost in obscurity, the Ghibli deserves its rightful place with the best classic cars in the world. The Ghibli was not a Citroen-era Malaise-mobile. It was actually the crowning achievement for the previous caretakers of the brand since 1937, the Orsi family, who presided over Maserati during its true glory years of racing dominance.
By unraveling some of the mystery around the Ghibli, it’s clear as day why Maserati will resurrect this nameplate for its new BMW 5-series fighter. In fact, they even share some mechanical principles via the company’s latest Ferrari -built V-6 and V-8 twin-turbos. While the original Ghibli lacked four doors, and often four seats – the concept translates directly to today’s coupe-like European sedans.
Maserati loves its own heritage more than anyone, and will be aware of the importance attached to the Ghibli Spyder and SS Coupe’s legacies.
2015 Ghibli SS Spyder, anyone?
- Simply breathtaking as a coupe and a Spyder
- Cutting-edge mechanicals and V-8
- Grand touring comfort and high top speeds for the era
- Maneuverability in town or on tight circuits
- Legendary thirst for fuel
- Less than 1300 ever made