Well that certainly grabbed your attention didn’t it? Here’s the thing though, I’m not just trying to get you with click bait, ladies and gentleman, I’m about to tell you the best story between a man and his car. Forget everything you thought you knew about the Biturbo, because I’m here to set the record straight for good.
The Maserati Biturbo was introduced to the American market starting in the model year of 1984, and was truly the first mass production effort put forth by Maserati. The car at the time featured a 2.5 liter twin turbocharged V6 engine, good for 180 horsepower and was also the first production vehicle equipped with twin turbochargers. Considering these cars weighed just under 2600 pounds, acceleration was fairly impressive for the day.
Not impressive however was the initial issues these cars faced. For reasons unknown, Maserati equipped the Biturbo with a single Weber carb until the model year of 1986 (more on this later) which made for interesting reliability. I’ll say this, I owned a 1985 and it ran approximately three times. Just to adjust the carb, the entire pressure chamber had to be removed. This was the single worst design in automotive history, aside from the first generation Kia Rio.
Also making matters worse was the issue of leaky cylinder liners on the 1984 model year, which had a nearly 100 percent fail rate. The Biturbo was not off to the best start for a new model.
In 1985 the Biturbo E became available, which featured an intercooler system which truly raised power and torque a fairly good amount. Most people will agree torque was raised to the mid 250s from the high 190s. This is a Maserati after all, exact figures aren’t exactly agreed upon.
In 1986 there wasn’t a Biturbo model available aside from the Zagato Spyder, which still unfortunately had used a single Weber carb, so no real improvements were made until...
1987. This ladies and gents, is a very important year to remember. This was the first model year that Maserati decided to do the best thing they’ve ever done in life, and equipped the Biturbo with fuel injection. Intercoolers were now standard, and drivability and power were massively improved.
Early model Biturbos also had the issue of differential failures, the early Salisbury differentials were harsh and about as reliable as that drunken uncle that shows up three hours late to the family reunion. In 1987, the “Ranger” limited slip differential became standard, and they’re known to be rather robust and far smoother.
Additionally, the legendary Si model was available in 1987, featuring a leather and alcantara interior, air to water intercoolers and a sportier suspension. If you want to buy one today, this is the model to get your hands on. I truly believe these will be VERY valuable ten years from now.
Ahh yes, time to get right into my Biturbo, the reason I acquired it, and how I felt about the car.
Ever since I could remember, I’ve wanted to own a fuel injected Biturbo, and I remember when they were insanely cheap too. I remember the days when I cruised Autotrader and would find a few for under $3,000. Those days have long passed us, and just finding an example that is complete is about as hard as trying to find Zima around my parts of Ohio.
I found this Biturbo on Craigslist just outside of Chicago one day, he had it listed as running and driving for $4,000 or trade for an older Jaguar. Ironically, I happened to have an XJ6 with just 60,000 miles that was in showroom condition. I immediately called the man and we agreed to meet.
Now mind you, I had only $700 invested in my Jaguar, but that’s an entire story in its’ own. We loaded the Jaguar on the trailer and showed up on a very cold wintery day. The Biturbo fired up on first crank, the heater and even the windows worked. It definitely had a rough misfire and some rust on the rockers, but we traded even up. I drove the Maserati onto the trailer and we headed home.
To say I was excited is a massive understatement, it truly is. I’d previously owned a very solid 1985 that never really ran due to the carb situation, so I was praying for redemption. Upon getting the car home and inspecting it, I was honestly very surprised at how solid this thing was. The interior was practically mint condition, and the frame was mostly solid. The engine ran fairly well aside from the misfire issue.
As you can see, after some TLC, the interior was very nice in this old beast. The leather surfaces were known to wear very quickly in Biturbo models, and this one had somehow evaded this problem for the most part. After spending a few days just being very anal, I’d gotten the interior to be a solid 9/10, and even the original quartz clock was present and working!
I began to address some of the little issues the car did have. I bought a set of Magnecor plug wires, some good ole NGK copper plugs, a very expensive OEM distributor cap and rotor button. Tuning it up was fairly easy, aside from the back plugs on either side of banks. These were blocked by the “cam box breather system” and made a perfectly good excuse for me to rip out the system and plumb a catch can. These hoses are notorious for cracking and leaking oil everywhere, so I decided to do things smarter.
After the tune up, and plumbing the catch can, the car ran virtually perfect, and miraculously barely leaked oil. If you know anything about Italian cars, they came from the factory with oil leaks, so to this very day I still cannot understand how I got so lucky. Speaking of oil, it was very old, and I decided to change it. The problem here is the oil filter is in a very hard spot, either you remove the sway bar or the radiator to get it out. I elected to remove the radiator bolts and pivoted it out of the way.
When you own a Maserati, you learn some crafty things to make servicing it easier, so I had found out that the BMW 320i filter used for the M10 engines is a perfect replacement and is just small enough where you can fish it around the sway bar, this made future servicing of this car insanely easy.
I’d heard some whining coming from the rear differential, so I’d also elected to drain the diff oil and trans oil, and threw Amsoil back in its’ place. After all, this car was going to be my daily driver.
Indeed I did, and indeed it was. After doing some servicing, the car had a very clean bill of health. I had installed a larger intercooler system, twin HKS blow off valves and cranked the boost to 14 psi, because why not?
That’s me at the automatic car wash, I had driven it through the snow and decided it would be intelligent to keep the frame free from salt. In case you’re wondering, these cars are absolutely deadly to drive in the snow, yet it was what I had at the time.
There was a time where the mercury dipped into the -50s, and I still had to go to work. Ironically, my mother had a 2010 Chevrolet Impala that was garage kept. It would not start. It simply clicked and was dead in the water. The Maserati was kept outside. On this day, this is how I walked outside to find my Biturbo.
It was so cold, the car literally was frozen to the ground. To make matters worse, I had used a Geo Metro battery as a lightweight and cheap battery solution. After using rubbing alcohol to de-ice my locks, I gained entry. I stuck the key in the ignition, turned it, and...
It started immediately. Literally, it started and ran perfectly. I could physically hear the water pump crunching ice, but it was running. After much work getting the car unstuck, I jumped off my mother’s Impala and she was able to go to work thanks to the Maserati.
Wrong, my friend. A few weeks later, my daughter fell very ill. She was only about a year and a half old at the time, and she really needed to get to the hospital. Remind you, this was my only car. So we loaded up into the Maserati during an ice storm, and went on about our day. The car made it without any fuss, and my most precious cargo was even in extreme comfort. The heater in the Biturbo was beyond amazing, and worked very quickly too.
I depended on this car on so many occasions, and it let me down zero times in two years. When I say that this was the most reliable car I’ve owned, I truly do mean that. Also, it was the cheapest for me to own. Maintenance was far from expensive, mostly because it required none.
The most expensive part of owning one of these was fuel, I averaged just 10 miles per gallon. That was even driving it like the pope was with me. These cars are just terribly inefficient and you learn to live with it. Otherwise, insurance was fairly cheap, and oil changes were just about all I had to do aside from modifications I chose to do.
Well, we know the Biturbo was more reliable than a Honda Civic I once owned, so shall we cover everything else?
Again, the car had some modifications, including a 3" exhaust from the downpipes back. In lieu of this and a low curb weight, the Biturbo was very quick. It would actually wag the tail once boost came on in third gear, which made for interesting back road bombing.
Sound, oh the sound! This was single handedly the best sounding car I’d ever owned. With the intakes on, the exhaust on, it was just visceral. The sound of the V6, the twin turbos, the whine of the gearbox, I just cannot say enough good things about the Biturbo experience. Unless you’ve owned one, it’s hard to appreciate what these have to offer.
Performance is a 8/10
The Biturbo has a reputation for seeing off road use, mainly because these cars are dangerous if you cannot drive a car with snap oversteer. The little 195/60/14 tires just are not up to the task of handling over 275 lb feet of torque. What happens is, you’re mid corner, roll onto the throttle to power through it, and when the turbos come on, you find yourself doing some hand over hand counter steering.
Once you get used to that, body roll is pretty well managed, and the steering is extremely precise, offering levels of feedback you’re simply not going to get in any new vehicles. Steering response is very fast, and this was my single favorite dynamic of driving this car.
Braking was literally too good, and was known to be an issue. Biturbo models have no driving aids whatsoever, so having the rear end pass up the front is easy to do. Brembo multi piston calipers with large rotors do the braking up front, and in a lightweight car you have to modulate the pedal. This car had VERY capable brakes.
Handling is a 6/10 because these are very prone to snap oversteer
This is where the Biturbo kicks lots of ass, because comfort is what this car does best. Those supple looking seats suck you in, and you find yourself feeling like your sitting in a throne. The Nardi Torino wheel feels very premium in your hands, as it should.
The clutch was definitely heavy to use, but also very easy to use, so no big deal there. The transmission was insanely smooth and easy to operate. Steering was heavy, but not cumbersome by any means.
On the luxury side of things, there’s quite a bit to talk about. Every surface of this car is covered in leather or alcantara, and I mean everything. The headliner, A pillars, B pillars, dash, seats, shift boot, it’s all covered in leather. So that’s obviously a big deal.
The gauges were seriously awesome, you’ll never see another car with blue gauges. The Biturbo just had so much character in my eyes. Oh, every gauge in this car worked. In fact, there wasn’t a single thing that did not work. Also, the car never leaked a single fluid after doing the catch can.
The rear seat passengers had their own center HVAC stack, which was pretty unusual for an 80s car. Cruise control worked, all of that as I mentioned. Scoring this car by the standards of the day, it gets an easy 10/10.
EDIT- Someone asked for a quirks and features section, so here it is:
The Biturbo has many quirks and features, I wish I had pictures to highlight it, but I wasn’t writing about cars back then, so I’ll describe it all. First off, each door handle is embossed with the Maserati crown, which I found to be a very cool and interesting touch
Second, the fueling situation. Each C pillar features the Maserati crown, except that the driver’s side c pillar opens when you push the button that looks like a fuel pump in the center stack. Unique and definitely an elegant way to get fuel.
Third is one of the most hilarious quirks, the button in the middle that just says “TEST” like you’re about to give the Maserati a quiz. Simply, it just illuminates the idiot lights for a few seconds and they die off one by one, I assume Maserati did this knowing that their dash lights would fail some day. However, all of mine worked.
Speaking of idiot lights, there’s a picture in this article of the gauge cluster, and you’ll see a light that can light up that simply says “STOP” and I have no idea what that means. What I do know is this, if that light ever comes on, you’re probably about to have a very bad day.
Since we’re talking about the gauge cluster, you’ll notice the oil pressure is in BAR rather than PSI, I always found this to be strange, yet I really liked this quirk. Take notice of the picture of the speedometer, it shows the car moving 10-15 miles per hour, all while the car is stationary. Folks, Italian quirks are the best.
Another strange quirk? The shift boot laces onto the center assembly, literally it has laces and you tie it. Very unique.
My favorite quirk was the quartz clock, these are often stolen or missing, they pull a nice piece of change on eBay believe it or not.
Oh, the horn. Surely you’ve seen Doug Demuro test horns in Ferrari models before, and the Maserati horn is the exact same as any old Ferrari.
The most hilarious and final quirk, is one that nobody will ever know about unless they read this article. My car had the original owners manual and everything, and one day I lowered the driver’s side sun visor. There was a decal that was still in mint condition, it had a phone number for roadside assistance which was included for three years if memory serves me right. If I had the vehicle in front of me, I’d shoot a hilarious video about this.
Features are plentiful. The glove compartment was rather large, and lined in white alcantara. The trunk was also rather large, I easily fit $150 of groceries into it with room to spare.
The front seats were obviously power operated, and both worked like a charm. Oddly, my car wasn’t equipped with heated seats. However, it did have the optional Nardi wheel as seen in the pictures. That actually brings another quirk. Similar to the Jaguar that I traded (it had the same Nardi wheel) the horn button isn’t on the wheel, but rather on a stalk next to the turn signals. To use it, you pressed the end of the stalk, which after a while becomes quite second nature believe it or not.
The door sills were a beautiful brushed aluminum, and of course featured the Maserati crown, because why wouldn’t they?
I believe that wraps up the features and quirks section, I truly do wish I had some pictures of the things I’m taking about, but sadly I do not.
Styling is subjective, but I find the Biturbo to be a beautiful car. The angular wedge styling, the quirky touches like the Maserati crown throughout, I just always loved the way it looked. Personally, I thought the “425i” sedan made better use of the lines than the coupe did.
I got approached any time I drove this car, everyone would stare and wonder just what the hell it was. It was pretty cool to see people notice a car so obscure, and everyone was in love with the interior.
I’ll give styling a 7/10 because I know not everyone shares my sentiments on this car.
As I’ve stated, I daily drove this car for almost two years and roughly 15,000 trouble free miles. I enjoyed every last mile I put on this car, and it costed me nothing to operate it. 10/10 no explanation needed.
For those keeping track, the Biturbo scored an amazing 41/50 in my tests, the highest yet. Although there’s an enormous amount of hate surrounding this model, it will always be my single favorite car I have ever personally owned. I had sold it regrettably years back, and I miss this car every day of my life.
No other car, even my DSM, has offered that weird total package that the Maserati did. To be able to get luxury, style, comfort, performance and everything in between for a low cost is fairly impossible to find. The exhilaration of opening all four windows and just letting it project its’ Italian voice, the feel of driving an old Maserati, it just is something everyone needs to experience to appreciate it.
If you’re thinking of buying one, be sure to stick to model years 1987 and newer for the fuel injection, and stick to the manual transmission. I have zero regrets about owning mine, and have considered grabbing another. The prices have rocketed quite a bit since back then, but even at $15,000 for a perfect example, it’s worth every last penny. Do yourself a favor, and pick one up. Don’t be afraid to drive it. The more you drive it, the more reliable it becomes.
Matthew is an idiot that owns a DSM, and as you can see from this article, has a very dangerous taste in daily drivers. Be sure to follow me on here and read my content. Also, I swear to you I’m serious, buy a Biturbo. Do it, do it NOW.