By on September 18, 2014

08 - 1981 Maserati Biturbo Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinYour typical Maserati Biturbo isn’t worth much these days, which means that the cost/benefit analysis of one sitting under a tarp in the driveway often results in a trip to the nearest wrecking yard. In this series so far, we’ve seen this super-rare ’86 Biturbo Spyder, this not-so-rare ’84 Biturbo, and today’s first-year ’81 ’84 Biturbo. All three of these cars were photographed in California, one in Los Angeles and the other two in Oakland, and it’s a safe bet than none of them had driven on the street in the decade prior to arriving in the wrecking yard.
03 - 1981 Maserati Biturbo Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinNot even 75,000 miles on the clock.
07 - 1981 Maserati Biturbo Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe hood-release mechanism was broken and I didn’t feel like futzing with it in order to see if some local tuner kid had grabbed the turbochargers.
04 - 1981 Maserati Biturbo Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThere are valuable Maseratis, and then there are cars like this one and the Chrysler TC By Maserati.

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62 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1984 Maserati Biturbo...”


  • avatar
    CaptainObvious

    I thought these were kind of cool when they first came out – in a quirky kind of way. Of course, I had no idea that they were pretty unreliable.

    • 0 avatar
      IHateCars

      Same here…I remember reading a road test of a Bi-Turbo in C&D or R&T back in the day…apparently they were notorious for catastrophic overheating issues.

      • 0 avatar
        MattPete

        As a kid in the late 80s, I remember trying to talk my Dad into a BiTurbo because they were such a ‘steal’ (this was a used model in Knoxville, TN). Wise move to stay away on his part, as I’m sure the repair bills would have been astronomical.

        I still think they are super cool, and if I had cubic dollars, I’d rock one today.

      • 0 avatar
        koshchei

        I looked up a Maserati buyer’s guide after reading this article. In addition to overheating, the cars:

        1) like to catch fire for no apparent reason, due to electrical faults
        2) leak coolant into their oil due to bad gaskets
        3) haemorrhage oil onto the ground around warped turbo charger shafts due to premature failure as a result of inadequate cooling.
        4) seize up the rear differential in the early models, destroying the transmission and driveshaft spline.
        5) Start only 3/10 attempts due to the awful two barrel carb, force fed by the turbos.
        6) Inhale and then choke to death on disintegrating under-hood insulation.
        7) Rot after any exposure to the elements due to the total and complete lack of any rust protection whatsoever.
        8) Oil starve and seize the camshafts, snapping the timing belt and destroying the engine.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Noooooooooooooo (the 240 beside it).

  • avatar
    Acd

    It’s most likely a 1984 which was the first year they were sold in the US. In 1985 most of the non-S coupes were automatic and in 1986 they were concentrating on 425 sedans.

  • avatar
    gear-dog

    I still feel guilt about it but last summer I saw a red convertible Biturbo in a mall parking lot. (with custom speaker enclosures, sheepskin seat covers and gold interior accents!) It had been a while since I saw one on the road so I was doing a walk around when two men walked up, one of them clearly the proud owner. He asked enthusiastically if I was interested in buying it. I replied , “no. I already have one project car in my garage. But I am impressed you have kept it running.” Then I realized that the other guy wasn’t his friend but a potential buyer. I am pretty sure my comment scuttled the deal right there.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      My uncle is has a pretty eclectic car collection that includes a tastefully modified ’88 Bi-turbo. The car is clean and fast, but he’s beed trying to sell it for about 5 years with no success. A ton of tire kickers, but no takers because of that big Masterati maintenance and reliability question mark.

      • 0 avatar
        mike89

        Late ones are starting to appreciate in Europe.

        From Hemmings :
        “By most accounts, model year 1987 is the first reasonably reliable year for the Biturbo: Fuel injection became standard, the IHI turbos were now air-to-water intercooled and liquid-cooled, the fusebox issue was sorted, wheels switched to a five-lug pattern, and interiors were significantly upgraded. A bump to 2.8L in displacement, and a 225hp power rating, spiced things up nicely.”

    • 0 avatar

      Well what kind of jerk would [enthusiastically] ask someone else if he’s interested in buying it *while* he’s with another potential buyer? I mean, it’s common knowledge that you want as many people as possible clamoring for your car so that they drive the price up for the person who actually buys it…but usually a seller will have the decency not to flaunt that desire in front of buyers.

      If it scuttled the deal, that’s what the seller deserved.

    • 0 avatar
      matador

      I don’t think you ruined the deal.

      When the Maserati broke down in a cloud of steam, the deal would have fallen through anyways.

    • 0 avatar
      iantm

      Funny, saw one of these being dragged by a flatbed today. Assumed it was headed to a salvage yard (there was a mangled e46 with insurance auction stickers on the windshield on the bed of the tow truck as well). Never really saw these up north, but down in Florida – the only ones I see are on their way to their date with destiny.

  • avatar
    Crabspirits

    I still long to find a nice looking body shell (with that sweet butterscotch interior) to sully with all Japanese mechanicals.

  • avatar
    Superdessucke

    It’s bi ;-)

  • avatar
    TheyBeRollin

    Ahh, the era of the 55mph speed limits and “unleaded fuel only” markings.

    What’s the deal on the stick/knob under the tach? Dash brightness? At first I thought maybe some kind of tach calibration, but it’d need to values and you wouldn’t need access to it while driving.

    Then again, Maserati.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    Eh… it should have been named Maserati “Burrito”. Phooey.

    Next, Please…

  • avatar
    CoastieLenn

    Just because I’m curious… what was actually so terrible about these cars?

    • 0 avatar
      bosozoku

      They’re 1980s Italian exotic (unreliable, expensive, etc) without the right name plate or collector pricing. Were this exact car branded as a Ferrari, it would never have made it to the scrapyard.

    • 0 avatar
      golden2husky

      Well, the build quality was crap. I remember the poor fitting rear decklid vividly. They broke all the time. The timing belt drove a pump (oil or water, don’t remember) and they seized with regularity which broke the belt and grenaded the head and valves. They just sucked pure and simple. Just look at the junk materials that made up the dash. A LeBaron does not look any worse.

  • avatar
    Tim_Turbo

    I always google the VIN #’s when there is a picture of it in these articles, never know what might turn up. So far-nothing.

  • avatar
    MR2turbo4evr

    Why do the speedometer and RPM gauge needles never stop at “0” mark on old Italian vehicles? It makes me wonder every time….

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    So as a child, and before knowing Internets, I would see these.

    My child mind insisted it was a rare variation of the 3-Series. Still when I see them here or other places, the first thing that comes to mind is a 3-Series with a different grille.

    The coupe versions have to be more rare though! And they are always red/black.

  • avatar
    Buckshot

    Nice cars in theory. A competitor to BMW 3-series.
    In reality they were among the most unreliable pos ever built. About the same “quality” as the 80s Alfas and Fiats(disentegrates by themselves)or even worse. I´ve seen 3 1980s Biturbos, 2 of them standing besides the road with the hood up.

  • avatar
    1998redwagon

    during cash for clunkers i saw one of these in the trade-in lot. i thought it was exotic, i thought it was cool, i thought it was a waste of a trade in. i was wrong. it was junk.

  • avatar
    Halftruth

    I see some Peugeot-505-ishness in the dash layout. Loved the 505s. Great cars.
    Sad end to this one.. Low miles too. Surely, it could’ve caused a bit more misery before signing off. No? Even the POS GM products I owned made 75k (albeit barely).

  • avatar
    Lemmy-powered

    I must rig up a “Choke” light in my own car.

    Now I know where to look for one — Biturbo!

  • avatar
    Pebble

    Still a couple of these on the road here in Vegas, plus at least one dead in someone’s yard. These look very much like an Eighties Audi, don’t they?

  • avatar
    Garak

    A Maserati in a junkyard, now I’ve seen everything. You’d get at least five grand for that in Europe.

    • 0 avatar
      NoGoYo

      Funny how a car can be worthless in the US but worth at least a few dollars in Europe.

      Watched an episode of Fast N’ Loud a while ago where Richard bought a thoroughly roached out E-type and still managed to sell it to a UK exporter for like 2 or 3 grand.

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      Back when I was into BMW’s, Carl at La Jolla Independent BMW Service told me that there was a guy that rented a service bay from him for the purpose of parting out BiTurbos and selling the components on the internet. He didn’t seem to have a shortage of parts cars. Last time I was there to check out some 700s for a friend on the east coast, there was no sign of the Maserati dismantling business. I think the customer base has dried up.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        The mechanic here in Maine who maintained my Mom’s BMW for her for 15+ years was and is actually a Maserati specialist. He still has a couple of these that he looks after (and he owns a lovely late Spyder), but the overwhelming majority of them are now Chinese refrigerators, probably with really oddball rust patches.

  • avatar
    Christian Gulliksen

    Fond memories of driving around the desert in a red convertible that was kept at a family friend’s house. Of course I didn’t have to deal with (or pay for) maintenance. It was also the first time I ever drove a car with a dogleg shift pattern — first down under reverse.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    That “MASERATI” door sill needs to be hanging on the wall of a man cave somewhere, PRONTO!

  • avatar
    indi500fan

    Back in this time frame, I had a neighbor who was the sales mgr (son of the owner) of the local VW/Subaru/Maserati(!) store. When he first got one of these he was bragging on it…for about a week…then not so much.

  • avatar
    MoDo

    There’s been one of these for sale locally for about 5+ years. The guy just keeps updating his online ad.

    The best bang for the buck Masi is the predecessor to the GranTurismo – the “coupe” with the Ferrari V8. I see them for sale in the 30K range – BUUUUUUUT you can get a Viper GTS for that too now, and I think I’d go with the Viper.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    The perfect car for the Robert Downey Jr. character in “Less Than Zero”…fueled by coked up dreams and utterly unreliable.

  • avatar
    Brumus

    When I was a kid, the old man had a good friend who was a successful dentist.

    He picked up a new Biturbo and shortly thereafter a used Alfa Spider Veloce. He stubbornly hung on to those wretched cars for years…

    Makes me think of a line from Richard Branson, of Virgin Group fame: “How do you become a millionaire? Start off as a billionaire and then open an airline.”

  • avatar
    Joss

    Yum-e Citroen SM were the previous decades owners. Plunk in a PRV 6.

    Renault tanks for Patton & Purshing!!!

  • avatar
    carve

    I saw one of these parked on the street a few days ago. It looked a lot like the one in the pics, condition wise. Tiny! I approached it from the rear. Their were no badges and at first I thought it was some kind of K-car or Trecel. Bad styling.

  • avatar
    namesakeone

    There is at least one good use for these cars: Brock Yates, in a Car and Driver column in one of its “Ten Best” issues, declared this to be the perfect car to lose in a divorce settlement. Think about it: Leaving your ex with a Yugo or Hyundai Excel means there’s a permanent record that you owned one in your lifetime. The Maserati BiTurbo has a classy enough nameplate, yet is unreliable enough to be a constant headache to anyone who would own one.

  • avatar
    emanistan

    This may be a crappy car in every other respect but that looks like one sweet interior, at least in its day. I’d be tempted to take the seats and the arm rest/console lid…not to mention the grill as wall art.

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