“To quote the late Peter Coltrin who was among the first non-works personnel to ride in a Ghibli: “The Ghibli differs from many cars of the same performance in that it is as equally suited to going to the opera as blasting down to Palermo on the Autostrada.” I certainly agree with that and would simply say that the Ghibli, and the spyder in particular, is one of the most agreeable cars I have ever driven.” Jeremy Coulter writing about this very example in Classic Cars magazine, April 1983.
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 Sahara Desert wind, the Ghibli rivalled the Ferrari Daytona for straight-line performance – its top speed was close to 170mph (275km/h) – while beating it for price and – arguably – 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 rather the lack of it.
The Ghibli used a tubular steel chassis with a live rear axle, leaf springs and a single locating arm. 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 This was used in 4.7-litre form up to 1970 when it was superseded by the 4.9-litre ‘SS’ version.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 Spyder models 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.
We believe that this is probably the finest Maserati Ghibli Spyder in existence. Having owned and restored the example which holds the current auction record for the model (Gooding & Co. Scottsdale auction, 20-21st January 2012, sold for $880,000) we can compare that benchmark example with this car, which was restored by many of the same craftsmen but with more time at their disposal and benefitting from the technological advances made over the past five years such as stripping using water rather than sand.
We have known and coveted this rare right-hand drive Ghibli SS Spyder for a long time, having organised its sale at auction in July 1996 and followed it ever since.
Why is this Ghibli SS Spyder so special? First of all, rarity: almost the same number of Ghibli Spyders were built as Daytona Spyders, but very few Ghibli SS Spyders were built to European specification, without the ugly add-ons required by US safety and emissions authorities, and this car is the rarest of the rare as a right-hand drive manual SS Spyder (one of four). Secondly, its provenance: this Spyder was built for the London Motor Show display in an unusual livery intended to catch the public’s imagination. A small detail known to few buyers, late Ghibli Spyders such as this car have a more attractive central dash layout, with chrome bezels surrounding rocker switches rather than plainer lever controls. Thirdly, the car is very well documented, thanks to careful previous owners who kept good paperwork, diligent research and factory assistance. The period letters make fascinating reading, accompanied by build sheets, order correspondence, factory certificate of origin and old magazine articles. Finally, and most importantly, the depth and quality of the restoration by the best craftsmen in the business is second to none. Each has major international concours credits to his name (Villa d’Este and Pebble Beach), and they were given a free hand on this car.
The extent of the project is too detailed to list here, but this was not a commercial restoration: it was a ‘ground up’ rebuild to cover every single aspect of the car, supervised by Carrozzeria Cremonini with close follow up in person and nothing compromised, no corner cut and no expense spared to return the car to its 1970 London Motor Show appearance and function. The car was stripped by pressurized water to the bare chassis, re-jigged and rebuilt with fanatical attention to detail, down to the tiny Campagnolo stickers on the alloy wheels. All the body panels are numbered and original. Carrozzeria Cremonini’s hours alone totaled 1,379.
The engine and gearbox were completely rebuilt by ex-Maserati race mechanic Giuseppe Candini, as were back axle, suspension, exhaust, brakes and steering. The original pistons, quieter and better quality than modern reproductions, were found to be in excellent condition and therefore saved. The engine was dyno tested and fine tuned upon completion. All running gear is ‘as new’. Total hours spent: circa 600.
The electrics were completely renewed by Modenese expert William Gatti and all instruments and switchgear restored. An Autovox radio of the original type was sourced, restored and fitted. Total hours spent: 368.
Interior leather of the correct texture and colour, very hard to find now that Connolly is no longer in business, was sourced and used in the cabin retrim. The hood is new and all carpets too. The rare, patterned boot lid lining is original. Specialists Maieli of Mantova, whose credits include cars from the Bookout Maserati collection, performed a beautiful job. Total hours spent: 320.
All bills are available (try to find another car restored in Italy about which that can be said!) plus professional photographs showing every step of the rebuild. A substantial leather bound history and restoration file accompanies the car, which is English registered and freshly MoT tested. There is also a tool kit and workshop manual.
Since completion of this work in October 2012 this exceptional Maserati Ghibli SS Spyder has been test driven in varying conditions by Giuseppe Candini and is now ready for next summer- and many more- in a collection where only the very best is good enough.