By on November 13, 2015

1984 Maserati Biturbo

This 1984 Maserati Biturbo is the gas station sushi of the automotive world: It sounds like a bargain, but it’s quite possibly the worst idea ever.

I’ll admit, my automotive tastes are varied and odd. While I drive a sensible, reliable minivan, I lust after oddball wagons and pedestrian cars made from unobtainable parts. I often check West Coast Craigslists for old Peugeots — Portland is lousy with them for some reason — that I could fly out and drive home three thousand miles.

Then I stumble upon some truly odd stuff. What could be more “Crapwagon” than an exotic Italian sports sedan sold at an East Philly used car lot that shouts on Autotrader that “EVERYONE IS APPROVED! WALK IN, DRIVE OUT!”

The car still has a Bensi Box anti theft device for the Clarion head unit, fer chrissakes.

In theory, the Biturbo should be a great sports sedan, ranking with the contemporary E30 M3 in performance and collectability. The 185 horsepower out of an exotic twin-turbocharged V-6 sounds pretty stout for the time. Then you look below the steering wheel and notice the choke lever. Yeah, this “exotic” was still sucking the boost through a Weber carburetor in 1984.

The interior is remarkably plush for a down-market car. The wood and leather would not look out of place in a Jaguar or Bentley, though the butterscotch color is not particularly elegant. With fewer than 25 thousand miles on the odometer, the car is basically new. Though knowing period Italian reliability, most of the last thirty years were likely spent broken in the garage, or sitting at a dealer waiting on parts.

I’m a masochist — see above about Peugeot, or my desire to drive a Caterham despite my linebacker frame — but even I have limits, and this one is well beyond.

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41 Comments on “Crapwagon Outtake: 1984 Maserati Biturbo...”


  • avatar
    tresmonos

    The condition of this vehicle really makes me think unreasonable thoughts. On one hand, my last stupidly rare powertrain project car yielded a net $8,000 loss, on the other, rich tanned Italian leather.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    Lol, $8,900. Everyone deserves some fantasy pricing time now and again. The front end is ruined by the badging the previous owner applied which shouldn’t be there. They aren’t even the same size font! Not a particularly interesting exterior color either – which I think is not original anyway.

    Always did like the butterscotch interior. It looks soft and luxurious, but I think these pics didn’t portray it particularly well. There were -no- other color options for Maserati at the time, this was what you got in any of their cars of the period. Also liked the dark blue gauges!

    I especially like the air of quality around the shift boot, which is a little leather bag with a drawstring. Perhaps you could get a replacement in purple from Crown Royal.

    Recalling back to childhood, I would see one or two of these driving around (I think red one and white one) and thought they were a trim level of the 3-Series. It was not until the Internet a few years later that I realized my folly.

    Prediction: Krhodes has had personal experience with these and now has a very strong opinion!

    For my money, I’d rather have a Peugeot or a vintage Citroen.

  • avatar
    pragmatist

    Weber carbs sounds like fun. Though by 1984 they were probably severely castrated by the EPA.

    • 0 avatar
      VolandoBajo

      Although multiple Weber sidedraft carbs can be a bear to tune, I would think that if you knew how to do that, plus rebuilding and re-jetting them, that you should be able to work around any crippling by regulation. The Biturbo was good enough crippling itself. See my other comment.

  • avatar
    NoGoYo

    Looks too much like a BMW for me.

    If I want Italian masochism, I’ll track down an Alfa Milano V6 or 164 Quadrifoglio.

    • 0 avatar
      threeer

      And I’d take a same-year E30 any time…twice on Sunday. I’ve kept an eBay listing open all week of a 1985 325e (yes, I know…the dreaded “eta” engine) with just under 100k on it. Manual, with the cloth sport seats and in dolphin blau. Be still, my heart…the bidding hasn’t moved off of $5k (not that I have $5k floating around right now, so there is that small problem).
      The Biturbo always seemed like a “I want to be a 3 series, but *more*” to me, but it ultimately (see what I did there) failed. Just too many compromises and not enough to really scream “Maserati” to anybody. I think at 15 feet away, most folks would assume it actually is a Bimmer.

  • avatar
    VoGo

    I was just thinking about these. I always loved the look – like a muscle bound 3-series.

    I wonder if an LS-X swap would be possible. Sajeev?

    • 0 avatar
      87 Morgan

      If a LS swap can be done in an MG, it should be no problem for this beauty!

      If ever their was a car that was screaming for swap, this is it. i am generally not a fan of Italian cars but now I am musing of the possibilities.

      • 0 avatar
        MRF 95 T-Bird

        Why not a transplant of the GM 3800SC? (All praise from the church!) This could be a fine home for one.

        • 0 avatar
          NoGoYo

          I’ve always wondered how doable a 3800SC Firebird/Camaro would be, given that you’d have to do some serious rearranging…

          But if you can do that, you can do a Unosupercharger!

          • 0 avatar
            MRF 95 T-Bird

            It is probably quite doable considering there was a 3rd generation version of the Trans Am using the Grand National turbo-intercooled 3.8. The 4th generation F-body has the engine setback low and toward the firewall so a 3800SC might be a tight fit.

  • avatar
    VolandoBajo

    That is a wise decision, Chris.

    BTW, I like the work you have been doing here.

    That out of the way, let me tell you my semi-first-hand experience with this vehicle, while still only a handful of years old. Not that specific Maserati Biturbo, but a Biturbo nevertheless.

    I used to work on a project for the state Dept of Transportation, one of a small team of consultant/”experts” brought in to design and implement a system to inventory and control all the road-related assets of the DOT.

    As you might suspect, in a group of young and youngish consultants making a decent buck, there was an avid and varied collection of car enthusiasts, all of whom advanced their own theory of what represented a good car.

    There was the married couple who owned and raced a Gremlin sleeper. The “head knocker” from the firm that won the contract hired his tall blonde wife as the team DBA. They rolled in a brand new C4 Vette that they were quite proud of. I had my near and dear to my heart 88 Thunderbird SportCoupe, which I recall at every opportunity. I won’t repeat its specs again, but it was a smooth and rapid ride. Another consultant also owned a Vette, one of the C3 series, as I recall.

    And then there was the inevitable independent consultant who thinks he is smarter than all the rest of his peers. And when he started, he didn’t have any kind of vehicle that was unique and desirable as these, as well as a few other cars belonging to team members, were.

    So one day he announced that he had just gotten a great deal on a Biturbo that was just a few years old. Like the owner of a horse or a boat, one of his two happiest days was the day he bought it.

    After that, it systematically and repeatedly found new and unusual ways to breakdown. And when it did, it inevitably would end up costing big bucks for the services of a special factory-trained and very expensive mechanic.

    I don’t think he had a good month with the car for the entire couple of years we were doing this project. I can’t recall anyone who has ever had more trouble with a car, with the possible exception of another person I knew elsewhere, who found a compendium of failure modes for a small Fiat sports car. It has been a while, but I want to think it was a Fiat 124.

    But that Biturbo took a back seat to no one…as far as things breaking go.

    Based on the experiences with the Biturbo that I observed, my advice would be the same as the advice I recall from an old movie “RUUUUN!”.

    Keep up the good work, Chris. You definitely pull up the team average for Team TTAC.

  • avatar
    Pig_Iron

    I remember reading that electronic fuel injection has made these engines more reliable.

  • avatar
    PeriSoft

    What’s up with Maserati’s naming scheme, anyway? Do they even have anyone to name their cars, or is it just like, “F*ck it!”? Oh, it’s got two turbos – call it a Biturbo! It’s got four doors; call it a Quattroporte! Just because your language sounds cool doesn’t mean you can get away with this crap, people!

    • 0 avatar
      Matt Foley

      That’s a great observation. Maybe other automakers should do the same, but only in Italian. For example, my winter beater doesn’t have to be a Saturn SL2. It could be a Saturn Senzagriglia (no grille) or a Saturn Oliobruciatore (oil burner) or a Saturn Corpoplastica (plastic body).

  • avatar
    Joss

    Find a Citroen SM.

  • avatar
    Felis Concolor

    I hope whoever buys that Biturbo is happy with the factory wheels; at 4x98mm, going +1 or +2 becomes an expensive and somewhat difficult proposition. Fiat’s kept the faith in that bolt circle to this day, so you can still find something from the 500 and 500L inventory, though you’ll need to be careful about offset and backspacing.

  • avatar
    ExPatBrit

    When I was looking for some spare instruments for my Triumph Spitfire several years ago I answered a local craigslist ad .

    The guy had transplanted the entire motor and drivetrain from one of these into his Spitfire. It ran but it was no where near finished with of course no wiring or interior.

    Second time I went to see him some guys showed up with a trailer and took the entire project away, not sure if it ever was finished.

    Here’s the ad.

    https://oldcarjunkie.wordpress.com/2012/08/03/crazy-triumph-spitfire-engine-swap/

  • avatar
    heliotropic

    There is no “East Philly”

  • avatar
    Slow_Joe_Crow

    If I had sufficient time and money I’d consider this. If nothing else the idea of rolling to a Maserati owner’s club event driving what looks like an E30 with a trident is good for some shock value, like showing up at a Harley event riding one of the rebadged Aermacchis H-D sold in the 60s and 70s.
    On a pedantic note, that stereo is not a Bensi box, it is a Kenwood pullout unit similar to the one we put in our Audi 4000 Quattro back in 85 when the original Blaupunkt was stolen Bensi box and all (actually the car was stolen, with the Bensi in the trunk, and recovered sans stereo).

  • avatar
    Russycle

    Always thought these were cool, and the that butterscotch interior looks yummy. But carbs and twin turbos? I’ll be seeing this in my nightmares tonight.

  • avatar
    SilverCoupe

    I actually street raced one of these in Northeast Philly back around ’84 in my new ’84 Chrysler Laser Turbo. Who knows, it may have been the exact same Maserati. Though I had previously beaten a Mustang with that car, the Biturbo pulled away from me. Of course, I had expected that before we raced, he had about 45 horsepower on me. I just wanted to see the Maserati go! I gave him a thumbs up at the next stop light for the fun of the race, but he apparently thought I was giving him the finger.

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