Getting a foothold into the rarefied world of Italian classic car ownership is a dream nurtured by almost every car enthusiast. But only a handful are able to make it a reality. While there are some who settle for vintage wheels from lesser carmakers, some risk all they've got to get into this exalted group. This is mostly because finding something midway is an extremely difficult proposition. However, the good news is there are a few models out there that will allow you to find this sweet spot, and one of the best options is the Maserati Biturbo, the result of Modena's effort to make a common man's car.
The Biturbo owes its birth to a combination of factors. The global economic slump of the late Seventies forced French carmaker Citroën to shed the excess baggage it had in the form of Maserati. Left in the lurch at a time when supercar sales were taking a hit, Maserati found itself staring down the barrel.
Seeing the need for urgent action, the Italian government commissioned Alejandro de Tomaso, a turnaround guru who had saved many an Italian business from going bust. His answer to the problem was to build a common man's Maserati; one that would be powerful enough to be worthy of the Maserati badge, yet volume produced and reasonably priced.
As the name implies, its all-aluminium 2.5-litre V6 engine had a pair of oil-cooled turbos, which would result in less lag than having a single large turbocharger. And interestingly, it also housed a two-barrel Weber carburettor. Initially available only with a ZF five-speed manual, the Biturbo's V6 was good for 185bhp and 282Nm of torque, which were decent figures in 1984. The interior was also trademark Maserati, with loads of supple leather and wood around. And the fact that it was all packaged in a coupé that had an uncanny resemblance to the E30 3 Series and the same price tag as a Merc E190 made it an attractive deal.
But there was one problem; and a major one at that. The early carburettored models soon built up a reputation for being grossly unreliable and highly expensive to maintain. A fusebox, which constantly blew under electrical overload, a weak clutch and ring and pinion that couldn't take the engine's torque, a plenum that would crack eventually and rusting body parts were just a few of the problems that plagued the early Biturbos. Maserati did sort these gremlins out in the subsequent Biturbos, which included a Spyder variant that came out in 1986 and a four-door version called the 425. In fact, it's the 1987 model year that's considered the first reliable Biturbo. The engine was fuel injected now and capacity was bumped up to 2.8-litres in 1989 with 40 more horses and most of the niggling issues sorted. However, the bad reputation stuck and sales dwindled.
The best bit about the Maserati Biturbo is that you can get an early carburettored example in good condition today for as little as Dh30-35K, while a later fuel-injected Spyder can be had for anything between Dh60,000 to 80,000. So, if it's a project car that you're looking at and your budget is somewhere around 90K, you can very well buy the older one, and use the rest of the money for restoration and maintenance. Either way, it's a cheap ticket to Italian classic car ownership.