So – Why the 87 Maserati Biturbo Spyder?
I have a long history of BMW e30’s. And although I miss them, the values of these classic German rides have risen threefold in the last 5 years with the rise of affluence of the once young gen-x and millennial buyers – especially as they age and can afford toys they once lusted after in their youth.
In my search for alternatives, I discovered values of the similar Maserati Biturbo have not caught up to the more well-known options. This prompted me to search values and availability on AutoTrader.com – as the local classifieds don’t have any listings for such a rare car.
And there it was – 1 of 220 production built Zagato Spiders in my absolute favorite color Red, over a tan interior – in perfect mechanical condition from a caring owner WITH a car phone.
I was Smitten.
But the devil’s advocate in me questioned – why chose a car with such a maligned reputation that caused it to be a sales failure and ultimately led to the failure of US Maserati Distribution for a decade? Fortunately, that little devil on my shoulder isn’t as much of an automotive enthusiast as I. Let me explain – and grab yourself a cold beverage – cause’ this might take a while – but trust me, it’s worth it.
I’ve always found that the process of buying a classic car is convoluted by a cluster of complications. First – and let me be blunt for a second, there tends to be more negative or flat out false information about specific vehicles. Whether it’s due to a corporate or personal bias, or lazy ‘journalism’ – third-hand information about production vehicles tends to be slanted.
This doesn’t provide car enthusiasts with factual data. In fact, most reviews are ‘spun’ or ‘slanted’ in some capacity. Even the all-mighty dollar has an impact on the legitimacy of automotive reviews – especially in today’s digital marketing scope.
Nonetheless, the truth about the integrity or reliability of any vehicle often falls somewhere in the middle.
For many years, the Maserati was aligned with Super Car status. Their mid-engine platform was both sporty, nimble, and agile – had plenty of pep – and a lofty price-tag for that performance. The Biturbo was introduced in 1981 – and was a ‘transitional’ product for lack of a better term.
Like Ferrari in the 1960’s, Maserati realized that creating production vehicles for less than one-percent of the European population wasn’t necessarily the most lucrative business philosophy. So, they decided to shift their development to expand the consumer base.
The solution was a tri-platform Biturbo – which was developed as a luxury sports coupe, a sporty sedan, and a grand touring edition. To say this ruffled some feathers in the automotive industry would be an understatement. Yes – the Italian brand did struggle financially in the 80’s – which eventually lead to a ‘merger’ with Chrysler – which later introduced the eye-sore that was the 1988 Chrysler TC.
But there is something interesting – that was actually showcased in the movie Ford vs. Ferrari that might lend some credence to as to why Maserati’s of the mid to late 80’s was globally dumped upon.
At the time, the head of Chrysler Corporation was Lee Iacocca – the same guy who convinced “the Deuce” or Henry Ford II to attempt to purchase Ferrari in the mid-1960’s to take advantage of that brand’s exceptional reputation for performance.
Well – if you watched the movie (which was exceptionally accurate BTW in many ways – and some – not so much), Iacocca was the “idea man” that created the legendary Shelby GT40 – which is universally recognized as one of the finest performance vehicles ever made. A few years later, Lee was shown the door at Ford – and Chrysler snagged him up.
His vision to take advantage of a strong performance brand to ‘spice up’ a rather mellow Chrysler reputation was a rinse-and-repeat of his failed 1964 Ford/Ferrari coup. As soon as the deal was finalized, many in the ‘industry’ figured that Maserati’s quality would fall – which may have been a genuine concern if Chrysler had anything to do with their production.
But – that didn’t happen till the 88-production year. It certainly didn’t occur in 1987 with the Biturbo Spyder. Regardless, for multiple reasons, many automotive ‘experts’ – especially review “critics” didn’t give provide apple-to-apple reviews on the actual vehicle – but compared it to Maserati’s supercars of the past.
Now – let me be clear – the early 80’s Biturbo’s were not without some glitches in the 1980’s. In fact, the series-one Biturbo’s were plagued with mechanical issues – and produced a less-than-stellar driving experience. The 87 Spyder however is a Series Two production – which improved many of its deficiencies.
The 87 Spyder receives its motivation by way of a 2.5-liter dual-turbocharged powerplant that is capable of 187 horsepower and 208 pound-feet of torque. It’s a five-speed manual transmission coupled to a standard rear wheel drive. It’s nimble, peppy, and should be extremely fun to drive.
But – here is what’s really unique. It was the first twin-turbocharged production car introduced to the public. It was also the first year that Maserati embraced fuel-injection.
And to be honest – this one is in optimal condition under the hood. But, what about the exterior? How is the paint, does it require paint correction or additional body work before applying a nano ceramic coating? Well – that’s something we’ll explore in the next update. For now, we’ll get on the plane and head out to Hartford. – RW
Day 1 – From Sweet Dreams to Nightmare in 5,280-feet
It’s like I’m a kid anxious for that trip to Disneyland in the morning. I couldn’t sleep all last night as we flew into Hartford ready to pick up my dream car. My heart was beating out of my chest, mainly because I was reviewing every possible scenario in my head – but also from too much of the incredible Tiramisu at Treva that evening.
I also made a $50 bet in supreme confidence with my best friend that I wouldn’t make it out of Pennsylvania under my own power – which had me second-guessing my confidence. Are all those negative reviews about the Biturbo Spyder true? Or is there a possibility that moving parts on a 33-year old production car – that don’t move very often, might end up causing some unexpected issues?
These answers would shortly be answered. But – we’ll get to that in a bit.
The car pulled out of its temporary COVID home at RS Auto Detail/ Ceramic Pro Central Connecticut – one of two locations that Rocco owns in the greater Hartford metro area. I have to say, this facility is top-shelf, and the amazing job his team did on applying the Ceramic Pro 9H Silver Package onto this single-stage red paint and other areas of the car amplifies this statement.
I want to say that people in CT are the kindest and most selfless I have ever encountered. Rocco at RS was incredibly generous with his time. The waitress at Treva had 10 of the staff trying to drive us home when UBER failed us with “no cars available”.
At least 10 people offered assistance as I sat hood up in the Walgreens parking lot including a gentleman Steve in a C7 Corvette whose conscience weighed so heavily on our plight he returned 10 minutes later and offered to let Christy and I stay with him.
Originality in classic cars is extremely important to me and the Zagato Spider looked original down to every hand-built detail preserved by seasonal touring and fastidious care by its second owner of the past 18 years. This thing simply looks sleek and fast – so, let’s take it for a little spin.
We were off! The very first twin turbo production car surged ahead when the turbos came on boil. It was a moment of pure joy, as I thought to myself, “now this is driving excitement.”
And then…. THIS!
Yup, less than one mile down the road the now very sticky 33-year old clutch hydraulics had atrophied from sitting for the past two years. In my attempt to free them up with some firm pressing on the clutch the slave cylinder blew completely out puking its contents all over a Walgreens Parking lot.
I have driven some sketchy cars home in the past, including buying a $500 e21 with a bent frame running on two cylinders, a manual car that would die at idle requiring left foot braking and parking brake to come to a stop, a big turbo sleeper Volvo.
But a car that is stuck in neutral is dead in the water. Cue the VERY VALUABLE AAA premium membership.
To say this day started as a dream and morphed into nightmare scenario would be accurate to say the least. But – all hope is not gone. We still must get this bad boy back home and have plenty of stops to make.
In our next installment, we’ll explore our options, come up with a plan, and hit the road.
Day 1.5 – Time to Make Some Hard Decisions
Not gonna lie – having the Maserati clutch puke on me wasn’t the greatest experience. But it’s not a shock. Let me explain. One of the biggest things most collectible car owners forget is the value of frequent movement – especially with moving parts designed to wear out progressively.
Such is the case with the clutch – especially those rubber seals and gaskets that sit in a garage, collecting dust, and worse – drying out thanks to the toxicity of hydraulic or brake fluids. I should have known better – but it’s a good lesson for those looking to buy a vehicle that’s been sitting for a while.
It’s probably a good idea to replace moving parts – or inspect them at least for drying, cracking, or aging. This is especially important with tires – as the last thing you want to do is navigate roads at higher speeds, hitting potholes, and take corners on dry-rotted sidewalls and tread.
So – it’s decision time. Here are my options:
Option A: Get the car fixed. The slave cylinder is a fairly simple repair – the problem is that today is Sunday. By the time we get the car to the mechanic, it will be Monday. Then – order parts, which hopefully would arrive on Tuesday – and then, have them installed – by Wednesday if we’re lucky.
Since we have a rather structured time-line and commitments – that’s simply not an option.
Option B: Rent a truck/SUV and a trailer and tow the son of a gun. That’s really the only practical option to stay on track with our schedule. Now the fun begins.
The first stop was to rent the truck/SUV. And – we picked up a nice SUV that has plenty of ponies and torque to tow a car and trailer across country. The next stop was to get that trailer. However, what we forgot was that we needed tow straps and tie-downs – so off to the Harbor Freight.
Once we got everything tied down correctly, it was time to hit the road – only 8-hours behind schedule. We’ll have to skip our trip through the Catskills and Niagara Falls for now.
We drove through Connecticut – through New York, into New Jersey – and deep into Pennsylvania before arriving at 1am at a random hotel for some much-needed sleep.
Tomorrow the plan is to make it to Chicago – where we’ll meet up with a few Ceramic Pro auto salons, try some Chicago pizza, and enjoy this beautiful country.
Day 2 – Headed to Chicago
After what was arguably the longest day in recent years, we woke up in Eastern Pennsylvania. We hit the road – with a goal of ending up in Chicago. For those keeping score, that’s about 700 miles and 11 hours of windshield time.
During the drive, I asked Christy to search some online forums and reviews for shops in the Chicago-land region that specialize in Italian or vintage cars, specifically Maserati. Our hope was to pre-order some parts, so they could arrive the next morning, and potentially, we could get the car back on the road – and our timeline restored.
More on that task in a little bit.
While we were on our revised route, I recognized a town name where one of my newer clients Vallace Hunt has a rapidly expanding ceramic business – Shine Techs. I decided to show up unannounced, which was a bit of a surprise to him. His facility is in a small town of 13,000 people, but he has cut a niche in the area, and found tremendous success with the Ceramic Pro process and line of products.
The next shop stop was to visit our friends at Sweet Cars, a client of mine for seven years in Fort Wayne, Indiana. He had a Ford GT in the shop and has recently applied Ceramic Pro 9H to 4 cars, and even his aircraft.
The final stop of the day was in Valparaiso to surprise Justin Anderson and the team at Definitive Details. They are one of our newest Auto Salon facilities, where the shop is decked out in a Wax is Dead theme – including outdoor poles that are dripping in Ceramic Pro pink.
While I was at the shop, they were wrapping up a Ceramic Pro Gold Package and delivering the finished product to the client. The client was extremely happy and drove 50 miles to this shop due to the exceptional reputation that Definitive Details has established. Justin has seen a rapid growth of Ceramic Pro nano ceramic coating sales in the past eight months. In fact, his sales have jumped by four-times – by following our program.
We eventually rolled into Chicago – where initially, we had planned to stay downtown. However, with the truck and trailer, finding parking in busy Chicago downtown was nearly impossible. So – we booked at The Drake hotel and checked in around midnight – after having dinner at Lou Malnati’s – home of some awesome Chicago-style deep dish pizza – and other great Italian food.
I can honestly say that the last few days have been a roller coaster of emotions – frustration – and flat out second guessing. However, I think we’re on the road to some positive news coming soon, hopefully getting that pesky clutch issue figured out, so we can enjoy this new-to-us Maserati.
See ya tomorrow. Time for some much needed sleep.
Day 3 – Chi-Town to Minnesota with an Unexpected Twist
I just got to say it – my wife Christy is a Unicorn. During this entire adventure, while I’ve dealt with a roller-coaster of ups and downs, route changes, and cautious optimism of repairing this Maserati, she’s been solid, resolved, and flat out amazing – like always.
On that hot/crazy matrix scale – she’s definitely a 10. So – thank you Christy!
Now – let’s get back to the journey.
If you recall, yesterday we planned to find a shop in Chicago that could replace the slave cylinder. Well, we found a great place – Continental Auto Sports, which is a full-service import specialist – making them the perfect option to work on our car.
One simple call to them and they had parts on order and overnight shipped from MIE within 20 minutes. Whenever possible, I always prefer to maintain my car with a specialist that is familiar with the chassis. It just so happens that Scott sold and managed service for Biturbo when they were brand new. Probably the only person within a 500 miles radius that could say that.
That made this our last opportunity to get it operational before heading into cornfields and prairie lands. After dropping it off as soon as they opened, I headed back to the hotel. Christy and I enjoyed the opportunity to take a down day and get caught up on work until mid-afternoon.
After a late checkout we decided to try some local foods we don’t get at home including White Castle (we got one of almost everything). (In-N-Out still wins!) We also had some Chicago Dogs.
I checked in with Continental just before closing time. With a valiant effort of replacing the clutch hydraulics it became evident that it was a deeper issue preventing the clutch form from moving when pressure was applied, which caused them to fail.
Insert the eye roll. But, in retrospect, with commitments, reservations, and lofty travel goals, we accepted the short-term defeat and decided to put it back on the trailer – and continue with our journey.
To make up for lost time and get back on track with our journey, we left at 6pm and drove about 400 miles – about 250 miles short of our target – which would have landed us in South Dakota. We ended up in Minnesota but should make up some good time over the next few days.
For those continuing to keep score – we’ve made it through Illinois, Wisconsin, and now Minnesota. – RW
Day 4 – Big Wheels Keep on Turning Through the Heartland
770 miles of driving in one day – cue cold beer and a soft bed.
After spending most of the day in Chicago having the Maserati’s pesky clutch issues “repaired” – we had a 250-mile deficit to somehow make-up. This means – driving the equivalent of the entire length of California in a day. To accomplish this, we had to make some difficult decisions.
Starting in Minnesota, our goal was to cross into South Dakota and eventually end up in Wyoming. When you think South Dakota – a few iconic road-trips stops instantly come to mind – the rolling Black Hills and Mt Rushmore. Unfortunately, to make up the lost time, we had to skip these two All-American locations.
However, we were able to visit the Corn Palace, an iconic cultural center of South Dakota since 1892. In normal years, nearly 500,000 tourists come from around the nation each year to see the uniquely designed corn murals.
While we in South Dakota, we rolled through Badlands National Park. The vastness of this incredible landscape is difficult to put into words. What we didn’t expect is the amount of wildlife we encountered. Right inside the gates we witnessed a herd of big horn sheep climbing the ridge line to have dinner on the prairie.
Now – it’s not uncommon to see a single or even a few Big Horn along the roads in the Dakota’s, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, or Utah. However, an entire herd a few feet among a group of humans is something entirely different.
But the wildlife adventures didn’t stop with Mountain Goats. While I was driving, I had to dodge a large snapping turtle on the road. Christy suggested that I “save it” – but those sharp claws and powerful jaws were enough to convince me otherwise. I like having all my fingers currently. Further down the road, I saw some Buffalo grazing right next to the road sign.
One of the places we wanted to check out was Wall Drug – an old-school pharmacy & all-in-one shopping center. Nestled in the city of Wall in the western part of the state, Wall Drug has grown from its humble beginnings in 1931 to a thriving oasis.
Wall Drug offers dining, activities, gifts and souvenirs, visitor information and, of course, free ice water. Many road-worn travelers stop at Wall Drug and leave awake and refreshed, just like they did more than 80 years ago.
I hear their freshly made donuts are legendary. But we’ll have to check that place out the next time we buy our dream car and take her across country.
Our dinner stop was in Rapid City. While it’s been a long road trip – especially the past few days, we still had to hop back in the SUV for a 240-adventure to a KOA in Buffalo, Wyoming.
For those keeping count – today we rolled through Minnesota – South Dakota – Wyoming.