Maserati Biturbo, beautiful, “bad” and unlucky

The Biturbo is one of the most interesting chapters in Maserati’s rather troubled history: since its birth in 1914, the Modenese house has gone through many dark phases, several changes of ownership and various attempts at rebirth, the last of which today, with Stellantis, it finally looks the good one. But there was a more dramatic moment than the others that gave us a family of models that were unforgettable in their own way.

The genesis of the Biturbo dates back to the period of management by Alejandro De Tomaso, who wanted to introduce a compact, high-performance coupé into the Trident range, but with a price that was not too exclusive. So it was: produced since 1981 in over 50 variants and derivatives, the Biturbo was Maserati’s flagship model for about 20 years, despite the many problems that the car has suffered over time, including a production capacity not up to par. of requests.

The Biturbo technique

The Biturbo was developed on a body close to 4.20 meters in length, with McPherson front suspension and rear longitudinal arms, rear wheel drive and Torsen self-locking differential. The real protagonist, however, was the engine, a 6-cylinder in a 90 ° V shape with a displacement of only 2 liters, to avoid the increased taxation reserved for cars with larger cubic capacity, but which on export models was raised to 2.5 and then 2.8 liters.

This engine, derived from that of the Merak, had however, one overhead camshaft per cylinder bank and three valves per cylinder (two intake and one exhaust) while supercharging, key to high performance, was ensured by two small IHI turbochargers, a cutting-edge solution at the time, with which it developed 180 HP in the first versions.

Maserati Biturbo (2)

A nice line

Times have always been an Achilles heel for this car: after the announcement at the Turin Motor Show in 1980, which aroused great curiosity and expectation, it was necessary to wait until the end of the following year for the official presentation, which took place. in December 1981 with marketing started in 1982.

The design, the work of Pierangelo Andreani, met with great success thanks to the taut and angular, aggressive and dynamic lines, while the interiors, spacious in consideration of the external dimensions, sported leather and wood even if the quality of the finishes was not always at height of expectations.

Maserati Biturbo (4)

The attempt to make it accessible was only partially successful: the initial price of 22 million lire, which immediately caused orders to rise, was increased by almost 20% a few weeks after launch, introducing mandatory options, dissatisfying many customers and cooling the enthusiasm. As did some construction defects attributable to the inaccurate set-up due in turn to the rush to go into production.

Maserati Biturbo (7)

The evolutions

The Biturbo has remained “indirectly” in production for over 20 years through its various evolutions, which have taken on different names over time but kept the same settings. The first generation of the Biturbo for Italy, introduced in 1982, therefore had a 2-liter, 180 HP carburetor engine: in 1986 the Biturbo i made its debut, with injection fueling and 187 HP of power.

In 1983 the Biturbo S arrived, more aggressive already in the look distinguished by the contrasting colored band on the side and the two unmistakable Naca air intakes on the bonnet. Thanks to the intercooler added to the supercharging system, the power increased to 205 hp, 220 for the 1986 Biturbo Si injection model.

Maserati Biturbo S (1)

1988 saw the arrival of the Biturbo 222, with 220 HP of power, then flanked by the 2.24V Biturbo with four-valve cylinder head and 245 HP of power. Since 1991 the catalyst has been introduced to reduce emissions and on the 2.24 the power has dropped to 240 hp. The Biturbo 420 appeared in the price lists of 1985, a 4-door version with a wheelbase lengthened by 10 cm but with the mechanics of the basic model.

In 1988, the 420 was succeeded by the 422, subject to a slight aesthetic restyling and with mechanics derived from the powerful 220 HP 420 Si. Since 1990, the Biturbo 422 has received the 245hp four-valve cylinder head engine.


The open versions

Maserati also marketed two convertible versions of the Biturbo starting from 1984. The main difference from the closed version, apart from the roof of course, was the reduced wheelbase from 2,514 to 2,400 millimeters, while the mechanics remained the same. The model, initially baptized Biturbo Spyder, then became simply Spyder with the third series.


The other Biturbo

The list of other models derived from the Biturbo starts from the 228, an elongated 2-door version, destined to face the German competition, and continues with those with performances such as the 1988 Karif, with 2.8-liter engine and shortened wheelbase, and the Shamal, with a very aggressive design and a 326 HP V8 engine. In 1990 Maserati Racing arrived, the sportiest Biturbo ever, on which the 2-liter 6-cylinder reached 283 HP while the line was made more aggressive.

Maserati Karif (2)

The experience was completed by the 1992 Ghibli II, which took up the name of the historic two-seater from the 1970s and adopted the 306 HP 2-liter V6 with a deeply revised line characterized by very wide trackways. Last act, the worst Ghibli of all, the 1995 Ghibli Cup on which the V6 was raised to 330 hp and which was built in only 60 units. The production of the Ghibli ended in ’97 and with it, the Biturbo lineage.

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