Yeah, About That Ghibli. . .

There were a lot of beautiful cars at last week’s San Marino Motor Classic, and one that Tonyola chastised me for giving the short shrift to was a burgundy Maserati Ghibli coupe. I assured him that there was something about this big Italian GT that caused me to set it aside for its own special post. Go ahead and click through the jump to find unlock this Ghibli’s dark secret.

The Ghibli supplanted the Mistral as Maserati’s grand touring marque leader, and its long and low Giorgetto Giugiaro-penned lines were both contemporary and timeless. While the Mistral was powered by the company’s double over-head cam straight six, much like its competitors from Jaguar and Aston Martin, the Ghibli rocked a V8 under its hood; a new 4-cam 4,719-cc engine topped by a quartet of Weber 38DCNL carbs.

Introduced in 1966, the Ghibli attempted to compete with 12 cylinder cars from Lamborghini and Ferrari. What the eight lacked in piston count was made up for in number of ponies, and for even more the later SS model gained 200-ccs and 15 horsepower over the standard car’s 335.

Beautiful trident-reminicent alloy wheels added some bling to the relatively unadorned Ghibli, and the car looks best in my opinion in dark colors such as this burgundy. Inside this one it’s all buttery cream-colored leather covering every square inch, and that, along with  a proper three-spoke alloy and wood steering wheel should provide plenty of tactile enjoyment. The restoration of this Ghibli’s interior is impeccable, however the large and somewhat incongruous shift knob is the first clue that everything is not as it seems on this Maserati.


As I had noted, the Ghibli came with a 4-cam V8, and engine that produced copious amounts of horsepower, and sucked a commensurate amount of gas, necessitating two 13.5 gallon fuel tanks, accessed through sail panel mounted flaps. This car has a V8, and it was built by a company with an ‘M’ in its name, but it’s not the Maserati V8 under that hood. No, this Ghibli comes with an engine built by Mercury Marine, and which could originally be found under the hood of another sports car – that of the ‘King of the Hill’ Corvette ZR1.

At 5.7-litres and 375-bhp, this fuel injected beast is larger and more powerful than the original Ghibli motivator, and the builder of this Anglo/Italian melange has done an admirable job in its disguise, placing a trident on the intake plenum and having MASERATI script etched into each cam cover. The transmission behind the American mill is the ZF 6-speed, also from the Vette.

There of course exists a long history of Italian car makers looking to the U.S. for motivational power, everyone from Iso and DeTomaso doing it at the time this Maserati was built, and even more recently the Qvale. Ghibli coupes – and Maseratis in general – don’t seem to command the kind of fervor or prices as do their Prancing Horse-badged counterparts, so any sacrilege imagined here may be muted. But that’s not to say it wasn’t a shock to watch the hand-beaten hood being popped open only to discover a Mercury Marine living beneath. Mama mia!

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24 responses to “Yeah, About That Ghibli. . .”

  1. tonyola Avatar

    This Ghibli is something of an iconoclast, but it's undeniably a beautiful car, and with the MM engine it's probably more reliable than original, too. Still, I wonder what motivated the swap? Did the original V8 get lunched out beyond repair? And since the owner was going the resto-mod route, why not go all the way and swap out the original live axle and leaf springs for something IRS?

    1. CJinSD Avatar

      Looking at the stance and the way the rear wheels are out at the edges of the fenders, I'd say there is a good chance that this car has Corvette IRS. It certainly doesn't hang over its wheels in the manner of every other Ghibli I can find photos of.

  2. Jennings R. Scroggs, Jr. Avatar
    Jennings R. Scroggs, Jr.

    Fact of questionable worth: The quad-cam V8 that originally powered this Ghibli, and every other V8 powered Maserati built between 1966 and 1990, can trace its lineage to the V8 found in the Maserati 450S of the late 1950's.
    <img src="; width="500" height="369" alt="57 sebring 12hrs jm fangio maserati 450s">
    photo of JM Fangio at the 1957 12 Hours of Sebring taken by Bernard Cahier from the Maserati archive.

  3. Alff Avatar

    This was an upgrade for both the car and the motor.

  4. P161911 Avatar

    I'm not sure that LT5 engine is going to have much better parts availability than the Maserati V-8 in a few years. From what I've heard GM parts are already getting scarce for those.

  5. Maxichamp Avatar

    Doesn't seem right to me. I'm more of an originalist than Clarence Thomas.

  6. muthalovin Avatar

    Clean and sexy. I love the color, and the swaps. I doubt, however, that this Ghibli sees many miles these days.

  7. Tim Odell Avatar
    Tim Odell

    For a half second, I thought it was an LT1, arguably the engine I hate most. That fit of rage avoided, I'm now kinda torn.
    The shifter and new stereo look awful, but otherwise it's a pretty clean install in a beautiful car. Definitely faster and more reliable than the original, but that's not really the point, is it?
    Assuming this is the result of some kind of barn find or maybe a lunched 4.7L, I'd have to wonder what I'd do in the situation. I'm not sure I can come up with anything better, aside from maybe ditching the GM EFI setup for this:
    <img src="; width=500>
    …because the LT5 with a cross-ram setup definitely clears my weirdness threshold.

    1. Van Sarockin Avatar
      Van Sarockin

      Would there be enough hood clearance? Because one thing that isn't happening is cutting a hole in that hood. Nobody better make me cross the country to protect this sweet filly. Ah well, even though I'm not too sure about the engine camouflage going on, at least they didn't put an enormous bow tie decal on the rear window.

      1. Tim Odell Avatar
        Tim Odell

        If the pseudo-tunnel ram that the LT5 runs fits, then these should too.

        1. dragon951 Avatar

          This may be the worst (or best) idea ever, but I might like to see it with 8 barrels sticking straight up out of the hood. It would give it a Road Warrior quality if it also came with a patina.

  8. facelvega Avatar

    Thinking of Giugiaro's work around '66-68, I think the Ghibli edges out the Iso Grifo, but that the Bizzarrini GT Strada is the best of the lot:
    <img src="; width="600">
    <img src=""&gt;

    1. raphaelinberlin Avatar

      You're probably right, but I just can't help but list two wonderful runners-up: the DeTomaso Mangusta and the fantastic Bizzarrini Manta.
      <img src="; width="500">

      1. facelvega Avatar

        The Mangusta is grand, for my money right on a level with the maybe more gentlemanly Ghibli. The Manta is absolutely wonky, but since it was just a show car, it's kind of cheating to count it. Also somehow it reminds me more of Gandini's Espada than the other Giugiaro supercars of the period.
        As long as we've got photos of the others up, here's a Mangusta too:
        <img src="; width="600">

        1. raphaelinberlin Avatar

          I've got to say, Ghia is one of the more interesting carrozzeria in terms of history. Going from period pieces like the Dual Ghia to the Gilda to more timeless work int he 1960s with Guigiaro, and then being incorporated into Ford, where they produced all manner of futuristic, out-there designs before fading into obscurity is quite the roller coaster. I don't know Ghia's financial situation through the years, but there must have been some very engaged dealing to try and build up partnerships and contracts like the more successful pininfarina.

        2. raphaelinberlin Avatar

          here's an example of what Ghia was up to a decade after the Mangusta, the Ford Megastar:
          <img src="; width="500">

          1. raphaelinberlin Avatar

            I find Ghia to be one of the more interesting carrozzeria in terms of history. They went from very time-piece designs like the supersonic cars and the Dual Ghia, to more timeless designs with Guigiaro and finally to ownership by Ford, making all kinds of futuristic designs. Under Ford, they just seemed to fade away. I don't know what Ghia's financial situations were through the years, but I imagine they worked hard to secure some of the partnerships and contracts on the level of pininfarina.

          2. zaddikim Avatar

            My life is not enriched by being exposed to that…thing.
            I'm not really sure what the objective was in designing that car, but I'm sure "Jump in and drive it like you stole it" isn't one of them.

          3. raphaelinberlin Avatar

            I think, "jump inside so you no longer have to look at the outside" is high on the agenda of Megastar drivers

      1. facelvega Avatar

        I actually like the SX4, both to look at and behind the wheel. Giugiaro has done a lot of everyman cars as well over the years, perhaps most notably the original VW Golf. But if you're asking what has the old man done for us lately, how about the Alfa Brera and 159?
        <img src="; width="600">

  9. nofrillls Avatar

    I have to say, I think this combination works, aesthetically and otherwise, much more that I'd like to admit. More often than not I think it's really vulgar when an American V8 gets stuffed into a car of a different nationality, and of a completely different character, but…I think this works! It's gorgeous.

    1. FuzzyPlushroom Avatar

      I agree. To me, the only travesty here is the undisguised modern head unit.

  10. From_a_Buick_6 Avatar

    Normally, I absolutely detest Chevy Small Block swaps, especially in cars that had a special powertrain to begin with. It's just so overdone, even a Windsor seems original by comparison.
    But a quad-cam LT5? In a Ghibli? That's pretty inspired, and really fits the car. Now, about that shift knob…