1970 Maserati Ghibli 4.9 SS Spyder
A strong contender for the ‘most handsome car of the 1960s’ title, Maserati’s Ghibli debuted at the Turin Motor Show in November 1966. Styled at Ghia by the young Giorgietto Giugiaro and named after a Saharan Desert wind, the Ghibli rivalled the Ferrari Daytona for straight-line performance – its top speed was close to 170mph (275km/h) – while arguably beating it for looks. More than fifteen feet long and nearly six feet wide, the Ghibli occupied an inordinate amount of space for a mere two-seater, but perhaps the most startling aspect of its appearance was the height, or lack of it.
The power unit was Maserati’s venerable four-cam, 90 degree V8, an engine derived from that of the 450S sports car and first seen in road-going guise in the 5000GT. This was used in 4.7-litre form up to 1970 when it was superseded by the 4.9-litre ‘SS’ version. Power rose to 335 bhp and performance was stunning, with 100mph (160km/h) attainable in under 16 seconds.
Even more sensational was the handsome Ghibli Spyder, launched in 1969 and the direct rival of the Ferrari Daytona Spyder. Giugiaro’s styling for an open-top version was arguably even more successful than the coupe and is regarded as a classic of sports car design. Ghibli production ended in 1973 after 1,149 coupés and just 128 Spyders had been built. To settle the debate over Spyder production breakdown, these figures come directly from the factory archive:
4.7 litre: Total of 82 cars built (56 manual, 26 automatic)
4.9 litre ‘SS’: Total of 46 cars built (39 manual, 7 automatic)
Like the open Daytona, the Ghibli Spyder sold well in the USA: 70 cars were destined for that market (40 with the 4.7 litre engine, 30 the 4.9 litre ‘SS’ engine). To summarise, of the 39 ‘SS’ Spyders with manual gearbox, 24 went to the USA, 1 to the Lebanon and 14 Maserati Ghibli SS Spyders were built to European specification with manual gearbox: 10 LHD and 4 RHD.
Chassis ‘1053’ is one of those ten left-hand drive European cars to the ultimate specification and was supplied new to Dr Alfredo Belponer, president of the Scuderia Brescia Corse racing team which at the time was campaigning Ford GT40s and Ferrari 512Ss. Dr Belponer was no stranger to exotic roadgoing machinery, having commissioned a Maserati 5000GT and later purchasing the sole Lamborghini Miura Jota, although it was destroyed before delivery. For his new Ghibli SS Spyder he chose a handsome light metallic blue livery combined with black Connolly leather upholstery and matching hood, all of which are still the originals 44 years later. From Dr Belponer the Ghibli SS Spyder passed to an Italian client who spent time between his home country and the USA, and from him it was acquired by the Candini family of Maserati fame, who for years had looked after it for him. They cherished the car, enjoying and showing it regularly, before it was acquired by the present German owner.
With its clean, svelte lines uncluttered by US sidelights or other addenda, the more powerful SS engine and much sportier manual gearbox, not to mention power steering, Autovox radio and alloy wheels, this Ghibli SS Spyder ticks all the boxes for a collector and would be equally at home tackling a mountain pass or the fast lane of the Autostrada as it would gracing a world class concours d’elegance. EU registered, it is ready to be enjoyed by its next custodian and will probably always represent the ultimate open Maserati granturismo.