1 of 12: 1986 Machiavelli Max

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Usually, when a listing says “not a kit car,” I tend to assume it’s actually a kit car. Perhaps that’s unfair, but even a really, really nice kit car is still a kit car. This 1986 Machiavelli Max is definitely one of the better aftermarket creations ever made, but whether it’s still a kit car versus an actual production model really depends on how you define the term. The Machiavelli was meant to emulate the Ferrari 308 GTS, which it certainly did an outstanding job of, but it was still based on a Firebird WS6 backbone. This example is listed here on eBay where it’s attracted bidders to the tune of $21,000 with the reserve unmet.

Now, the whole aspect of whether a car is a kit versus an assembly-line built model usually hinges on how it arrives to the builder’s shop. Most of the folks in the camp that says it’s not a kit car usually point to there being an actual facility where the cars were bolted together, versus just being thrown together in your neighbor’s garage. For me, it doesn’t really matter who assembled it – if it came in large pieces and was bolted together atop a frame made by a major manufacturer other than the name on the back of the car, I’m inclined to calling it a kit. Regardless of what you think it is, the Machiavelli at least came with a body with proportions that mimicked the real thing, as opposed to looking like a shrunken version of a 308.

Now, here’s where the kit car argument falls apart for me (if you’re in the camp that believes the Machiavelli is not a kit car): you cannot change the interior of the model you’re basing your creation off of. This is one-hundred percent a Firebird underneath, and no amount of sultry bodywork is going to change that. Sure, slather in the wood trim and the attractive aftermarket steering wheel, or the custom-embroidered Ferrari floormats. I’m sure your date won’t notice or care too much that she’s riding around in a fake Ferrari, but the first car guy or gal you see out that night may choose to poke some fun at your expense.

The cars were built by a Florida-based company called Henderson Motor Works, and I kid you not, Phillip Michael Thomas – AKA, “Tubbs” of Miami Vice fame – had an ownership stake in the company. I’m surprised that there wasn’t a rule stating every Machiavelli Max that left the factory had to be painted white in homage to the Testarossa that Crockett drove on the show. The Machiavelli’s close ties to the Firebird were quite clear in the engine bay, too, where the factory fuel injected engine was installed with zero alterations, not even an Machiavelli-branded valve cover. At the end of the day, with the occasional 308 and Mondial still within striking distance of the current bid price, I know where I’d spend my money.

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  1. alphasudMember

    Ferrari looks with GM reliability. Probably the nicest Ferrari kit car I’ve ever seen. Surprised they weren’t sued by Ferrari. Given the choice between this and the custom white Corvette that was posted a couple days ago I think I know which one I would rather be seen in.

    Like 13
    • B-Boy

      Unfortunately, 1980s GM reliability. :)

      Like 2
      • AMCFAN

        I had one of these about 15 years ago. At the time was a pretty sweet ride. The lenses and such were OEM Ferrari The hood and front fenders are aluminum.

        Sorry to break it to everyone but it isn’t a kit car. There was and is NO kit. It was an assembled car. It was sold at a dealership the way you see it. The Premise was to purchase cars from GM and convert them. Sell them as still a new car.

        These are always confused with the lame Pontiac Fiero kit made of fiberglass. They are not in the same league. The whole Firebird conversion was done very well. Very fun car. It fooled a lot of people also ran and handled as one would expect.

        I tried selling mine. I remember listing mine on eBay back in the day and it kept getting thrown off. I could not describe the car as a Ferrari. Say prancing horse. Say Italian Salad dressing etc.

        Seems the Italian company really wasn’t flattered by this. Sad it really was a great concept especially for those that wanted an american car that could take it to any GM dealer. Plus affordable.

        Sadly more attractive and classy than the original Gen III Camarabird it’s based from. To bad GM didn’t get the hint instead of pushing the same old same old out the door.

        Like 9
  2. Matt G

    Wow, if I was Ferrari I would have sued them too…

    Like 2
  3. Daniel Wright

    These apparently came in different flavors including some with the Ferrari-inspired side gills. Please Sir step away from the JC Whitney Catalog and the hot glue gun….

    Like 4
    • AMCFAN

      That is true. Mine had the side gills. Also had black leather seats. The emblems are real oem. I had different wheels. If I had this I would change these billet specials and shead the 1980’s look. Two piece BBS gold with zero offset should do just fine.

      Like 2
  4. KC JohnMember

    I think it would be a cooler car if ya lost all the Ferrari emblems and cheap looking wood appliques. My eye keeps trying to appreciate the lines and then a big fake a** emblem pokes a finger in said eye. Just saying. Lol

    Like 11
    • Dave Mazz

      After ditching the Ferrari labels they could have renamed the car a Firebirdi….In any case, I don’t think Ferrari would have wasted time or money on a lawsuit. I doubt if Ferrari lost any real sales to Machiavelli…..or Firebirdi buyers.

      Like 1
  5. Dallas

    “with the occasional 308 and Mondial still within striking distance of the current bid price”

    Haha… clearly you haven’t looked at the Ferrari market lately. Nice Mondials are double or triple, and 308/328s triple or quadruple, the current bid price for this abomination. Of course there is a roached “project” Mondial for sale by BHCC for $27,500 but I don’t even count that as it’s apparently not even a runner.

    Like 4
  6. Jcs

    I think that it does look surprisingly good and one could do much worse than the L98 4speed OD WS6 underpinnings. Cool car.

    Like 14
  7. Phipps Hadaway

    To me the only acceptable kit cars are AC Cobra based

    Like 6
  8. Gerard Frederick

    Remove the fake emblems, drive and enjoy! Great looking little machine.

    Like 3
  9. Steve

    It’s up to $22,000.00 as of this writing…..

    And it’s still a KIT CAR as of this writing….

    Like 2
  10. Howie Mueler

    The wood interior is not great, but i guess at the right price this could be fun.

    Like 2
  11. Allen L

    Paging Tavarish, paging Tavarish, your next punk the Car Wizard vehicle is here.

    Like 0
  12. Ralph

    There are some things that just should never happen or take place.
    This is one of them…ow!
    Just nuts.

    Like 1
  13. PairsNPaint

    Not a bad looking conversion, although I think the factory-based Fiero MERA was a better replication of a 308. Get rid of the ersatz emblems and what-not and stop trying to pass it off as a Ferrari, and instead enjoy it for what it is, a customized Firebird. You’ll be the only one at your local Cars & Coffee!

    Like 3
  14. KenB

    I consider this one a conversion. It’s not a kit car unless you could actually buy a KIT to assemble it yourself, as in what you do when you buy a model KIT. It’s not that complicated…

    Like 5
    • PRA4SNW

      I guess the seller isn’t lying because he doesn’t say “NOT A CONVERSION CAR”.

      Like 1
  15. Victor Anderson

    I’ve seen one in person before. Most worthless ridiculous thing I’ve ever seen as far as a “kit” that is supposed to resemble another car (in this case a Ferrari 308) — which it looks nothing like. Freakn stupid.

    Like 0
  16. t-bone BOB

    Item location:
    Jupiter, Florida

    Like 0
  17. nlpnt

    In 1986 Jean Lindamood wrote an article about these for Automobile Magazine titled “One Fake Ferrari”. The thrust of the article was how shady the company was and how they were indeed one step ahead of being sued by Ferrari, although she also made it sound like they were one step ahead of being raided by Crockett and Tubbs.

    Like 1
  18. AMCFAN

    In retrospect it is very hard to believe such an endeavor was taken. I never gave it much thought when I had mine of how truly special it was. To me it was just a funky WS6. It is more and should be considered a legitimate replica. Too few were made and even fewer come up for sale. My car was destroyed so one less.

    There are those that like to hate and most likely were looking at a fiberglass Fiero kit car which dilutes the whole Ferrari clone theme.

    I have had many cars in my lifetime and the car above would be the only one I would consider having back. You have to live with it to enjoy it. I did. I am surprised at the 150K plus miles showing with lots of interest in bidding says a lot.

    Like 4
    • Gerard Frederick

      I second the motion.

      Like 0
  19. PairsNPaint

    There seems to be a lot of haters on here regarding the Fiero based FACTORY authorized MERA clones. Just remember that besides being blessed by and sold through Pontiac dealers, they were not only closer in size and proportions to the real thing, they were true mid-engined designs, not some front engined wannabe.

    Like 0
  20. AMCFAN

    Park the above car next to any MERA and the difference is obvious. The car above is a testimate. It has 150,000 miles and still looks tight. The body panels are metal. The fit and finish is top notch as it should be in person as it is in pictures.

    The Machievelly is based on one of the hottest selling GM cars of the decade. It’s bones have a proven track record for reliability and anyone can modify a Chevy V8. Do I have to say LS? I said it. I still see many GEN III Camabirds in the junkyards so parts are no issue even now.

    The truth is if Ferrari had not sued HMW to stop production and let the Max be produced quirky or not there would be a lot more than 12 built. It is safe to say there might have been hundreds.

    Not a hater of the MERA. It has its place too. The only thing I hated about my Max is explaining tho those who questioned if it was a Fiero kit car.

    Like 2

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