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Parked In ’02: 1985 Maserati Biturbo

Like so many other Maserati Biturbos, this is yet another low mileage example that has been sitting for a few years and needs a thorough going-through to not become a parts car for a running, driving example. With just 63,325 miles on the clock, it hasn’t seen much use – but that’s also partially due to sitting since 2002. I remain curious as to whether these cars are as bad as armchair quarterbacks say they are, or if it’s yet another case of an army of keyboard warriors hearing one rumor and spreading it around as fact every time one of these quintessential 80s coupes comes up for sale. Sure, it’s not Honda Civic reliable – but if a maintained one can be used reliably, are they really that bad? Check it out for yourself here on eBay where bidding is up to $1,525 with no reserve.

Listen, I can already hear some of you flexing your typing fingers, so I’ll quickly say that I know these were not great cars. But similar to how anyone who isn’t a BMW owner looks at my three vintage examples and quickly says something cute like, Oh, BMW – stands for your Bring My Wallet!”, I often speculate that there’s more than a few of these running around with just regular old-car issues, assuming they’ve been maintained. I know of at least one fairly prolific Instagram “influencer” who claims he is daily-driving a Biturbo after performing the basic checklist of old-car maintenance. No, you are not going to hop into one of these and drive it to work every day. But could you sort out the deferred maintenance and use it on weekends? I’m confident you could.

And really, there’s plenty to like if we’re going to discuss the positive aspects of a Biturbo instead of just the negative. The interiors are quite handsome, and downright luxurious when you consider the acres of leather and wood trim they came with. Many were equipped with three pedals (I’d avoid an automatic at all costs) and in general, the Biturbo platform was intended to be a driver’s car. The interior of this California example does show the typical weaknesses associated with the Biturbo’s cosmetics, which consists of sun damage to wood trim, the top of the rear seat and parcel shelf, and some splits in the dash. However, we’ve all seen Biturbos that looked like they were ready to split open inside, so I’d call this one eminently restorable by comparison.

Here’s another encouraging sign with this car: the seller notes after being parked in 2002 as a strong runner, he simply dropped in a battery and fresh gas and it fired right up. The engine bay looks very complete, with no signs of the hamfisted repairs that tend to plague these cars once they fall into the third and fourth generations of owners who frequently don’t have the means to keep such a car running well. Make no mistake: the engineering wasn’t great and the Biturbos were needlessly complicated in some ways, but for the cost of entry here, you’re safely on the side of the investment equation that keeps your risks pretty minimal. Check out the paint on the strut towers – I bet the outside could bounce back that nicely with a buffing. Call me crazy, but I’d buy one as a project if it came with records.

Comments

  1. Johnmloghry Johnmloghry

    I bought an 85 Bi-turbo back in 96 as a project. The engine was disassembled with most of the parts in the trunk. I ordered parts from a place in Washington state and put the engine back together. Valve adjustment is done with caps that sit atop valve stems and must be ground for proper clearance. It was an expensive and painstaking job. I lived in a apartment complex in Naples, Florida at the time and they wouldn’t allow residents to have more than two cars so, I had to find a place to keep it. I rented a storage unit for awhile, but soon tired of that so I gave the car to a man named George that had a big garage on his property and restored sport cars.

    God bless America

    Like 2
  2. Bakyrdhero Bakyrdhero Member

    @Johnmloghry
    I have family in Naples and I’m familiar with a couple of different apartment complexes, the condo association rules and also making car repairs in a storage facility. Between the heat of being trapped in a storage oven, and the 140 degree asphalt, that is no way to fix up an old car! I don’t know too much about Biturbo’s, it sure looks appealing though.

  3. Johnmloghry Johnmloghry

    Yeah, Naples is a beautiful city, but it does get hot in the summer. Still not near as hot as Redding, California where I grew up. Golden gate estates is where my friend George lived. I have a picture of my bi-turbo but I can’t seem to post it.
    God bless America

  4. SubGothius

    The ’86-on ones with FI are the ones to get, and the later the better, if you’re gonna gamble on one at all. Most of the Biturbo’s bad rap came from these early models with the finicky blow-through carburetor setup. FI eliminated all of the problems with that, along with other rolling updates in production as the years went on.

    Like 5
  5. Chas H

    I worked on a number of these back in the day, mostly ’cause I was the only one that would. Not bad cars, but things can happen that don’t happen to other cars.
    The water pump is driven by the timing belt and the bearings init are not long lived. When the bearings go, the so does the valve timing and it’s an interference engine w/3 valves x 6 to bend. The clutch is too small, although the flywheel could handle a larger disc. When all is right it’s a very nice driving car.

  6. alphasud Member

    I also rebuilt one of these. It was a 89 Spider that someone ran the engine out of oil. Even back in the 90’s the crank was $2500 alone. Has a really stout bottom end where the block is split at the crank centerline. Like the other person commented intake valves ride on the edge of a cam on bucket design so you have to sand the lash caps to balance the clearance. The car had the ZF 5-speed with a limited slip. A really fun car to drive. Yea, spare yourself the grief of owning a carbonated bi-trouble.

  7. H5mind

    I owned and loved many Italian cars back in my single youth, but this model was never one of them. By the time the FI version came along, the damage to its reputation was already done. Even young and dumb I had enough sense to stay away from a Biturbo. Should have bought that Mexico, however.

  8. Mike O.

    Hello all! An actual owner here. I have an ’84 that was acquired a few years ago with essentially 6000 miles on it. Yes, 6k not 60k.

    Being the “entry level” car at a time of turmoil usually means parts bin engineering. The early transmissions were the same used in the Fiat Dino coupes (and others, yes from the ’60s). It is a good gear box but not rated for hundreds of horsepower. Suddenly the rationale for the small clutch comes into perspective. Other such choices resulted in problems. All can be addressed.

    After doing the research and finding the Biturbo Zentrum group it was clear that the three areas the car was weak needed attention.

    Mechanical would entail a few things. 1) The wet sleeve seals. 2) The weak Rube-Goldberg drive line coupling(s). 3) Addressing the lack of proper wrap around the crank of the timing belt (present in later engines). 4) Better bearings in the water/coolant pump (this issue existed in the Alfa V6 too but no one whinged about that). 5) Carb choke linkage mod. 6) Remove the air injection, plug the holes, change the exhaust to a high flow cat.

    Electrical would include: 1) Relays to offload heavy electrical loads from the flexible circuit board in the fuse panel. 2) Battery relocation.

    Cosmetic: Falling roof liners. Weak vinyl in the upholstery. Low quality rubber seals for windows and doors. All a problem. All corrected if you want.

    With those items complete these cars, like the much maligned Citroen SM, are simple and reliable.

    There are many small improvements owners make. Liquid-cooled turbos, exhaust changes, suspension, larger clutch, etc. The later FI cars were purportedly better running. The FI cars share components with upline vehicles so ECUs and other bits are rarified and expensive (generally). This is why I am creating a package EFI MSII+ system for my car.

    Maintenance is like other cars and can be simplified with information. Sanding or grinding lash caps for valve clearance? Yeah, that was a thing back-in-the-day. Now a little research shows the caps are dimensionally the same type used on some Ducati motorcycles engines (and the Maserati C114 V6 used in the SM and Merak, as well as many other engines). Custom grinding is still an option but the graduated caps are available widely.

    These are not investment cars (no car really is unless imbued with value by people). When mine is done I will have an essentially new 1984 Biturbo without the problems that plagued them so many years ago. I won’t have spent much on it and I will drive it mercilessly! Why?

    Why not?

    Like 9
  9. t-BONE BOB

    Time left: Time left:9h 36m 57s Today 5:45PM
    Current bid:US $1,525.00
    [ 17 bids ]

    Like 1
  10. No no bi turbo

    really fun to drive when new, really terrible car to own after about 15,000 miles. super cool concept, bad execution. I wouldnt punish myself with another

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