One of the interesting things about Maserati is that every decade or so, they seem to go through a reinvention. In the 1960s and 1970s, they were a sports car brand to rival Ferrari — then things started to fade a bit, so in the 1980s they became a coupe and sedan brand to rival BMW, with Italian heritage. They dropped that, too, in the early 2000s, when they went back to the top of the market with the Coupe and the Quattroporte — and now, in the 2010s, they seem to be headed back in the pursuit of sales figures, headed for BMW and Mercedes-Benz.
The result of this is that there have been a lot of upstart Maserati models: vehicles they made for a time, and they gave up on; vehicles that just didn’t get very popular; vehicles that were canceled quickly after they didn’t go along with the latest version of the brand image. Today, I’m going to show you some of those vehicles: the weirdest, unknown Maserati models of the 1980s and 1990s.
You’ve heard of the 1970s Ghibli, and you know about the one today — but did you know there was a Ghibli in between? It’s true: Throughout the 1990s, Maserati produced a Ghibli model — clearly just a facelifted and modernized version of its famous Biturbo coupe. Surprisingly, a "Cup" version was offered with a relatively raucous 325-horsepower twin-turbocharged 2.0-liter V6, and it went from zero to 60 in 5.7 seconds, which must’ve been strong back then. But just 57 Ghibli Cup models were made; the majority of buyers instead got around 280 horses, and Maserati ended production in 1998 after building about 2,200 examples. Find a Maserati Ghibli for sale
Just like the Ghibli above (and the Shamal below), the Karif was basically a dressed-up version of the Biturbo, with some changes designed to let the driver "feel like a racing driver." Maserati supposedly made only 222 examples of the Karif, and that "racing driver" feeling was reached with a 2.8-liter turbocharged V6 that made about 300 hp. Still, the Karif was relatively quick, as it was a coupe built on the shortened chassis of the Maserati Spyder convertible; period estimates suggest the car did zero to 60 in under 5 seconds. The question is: Are any of these things left running? Find a Maserati for sale
Maserati Quattroporte IV
Although many Americans believe the Maserati Quattroporte that debuted in 2005 was the "first generation" of the car, that’s untrue. In fact, it was the fifth generation, and the Quattroporte initially debuted way back in 1963. I always liked the Quattroporte IV, shown above, the best: It debuted in 1994, and it looked tremendously modern, a result of its design by Marcello Gandini, who also penned the Lamborghini Miura. Still, it’s weird: It uses the usual Gandini slanted rear wheel arch look, which is odd on a sedan, and it’s wildly rare to see this car today; I personally have never laid eyes on one. Power came from a 280-hp V6 or a 330-hp V8, and Maserati made about 2,400 examples through 2001. Find a Maserati Quattroporte for sale
Just like the above Quattroporte, the Royale is an example of another Quattroporte — in this case, the third-generation car, which was sold from 1979 to 1990. The 1980s design did this car no favors, as it’s absolutely massive — and while I’ve never personally driven one, I can’t imagine that it was athletic in the slightest, even with an available 296-hp V8. That was the engine they stuffed in the Royale model (the regular Quattroporte models were 252 or 276 horses). So what exactly was the Royale? Apparently it was a luxury version of the standard Quattroporte, which offered a nicer interior in addition to its extra power. According to Wikipedia, just 53 Royale models were made, along with 2,155 units of the Quattroporte III. Find a Maserati Royale for sale
The Maserati Shamal was yet another clone of the Biturbo, modernized and improved for production and sold with a different name. In fact, I could’ve put several other Biturbo clones on this list (Maserati 228, anyone?), but I decided to stick to just the Ghibli, the Karif and the Shamal. The Shamal, which was sold from 1990 to 1996, was maybe the most removed from the Biturbo, as it featured Gandini styling to widen its hips, along with softened edges and a more substantial, sportier design than the 1980s Biturbo. The Shamal used a 320-hp 3.2-liter V8, and production was "limited" to just 369 examples — by which I mean this is all they could sell. The Shamal was intended to be the top-of-the-line grand tourer (compared to the "lesser" Ghibli — even though they were both based on the same car), and the Shamal could do zero to 60 in 5.3 seconds. Find a Maserati Shamal for sale
Doug DeMuro is an automotive journalist who has written for many online and magazine publications. He once owned a Nissan Cube and a Ferrari 360 Modena. At the same time.