I recently had the chance to drive a 1971 Maserati Ghibli , which is generally considered to be one of the most beautiful cars of all time. This is in stark contrast to current Maserati models, which have gotten quite common. Back in the 1970s, if you were cool, you had a Ferrari. And if you were only slightly less cool, you had a Maserati.
This opportunity came about thanks to Tomini Classics in Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates, home to some truly amazing inventory, who let me borrow their Ghibli for the day. As usual, I did my thing: I pawed around the car for a bit; I pressed some buttons, and then I drove the car. And at various moments, I took breaks from filming to look back at the Ghibli and think: Wow, this thing looks nice.
Indeed, its styling made it incredibly cool — and, like I said, it was one of the cars to have back in the 1970s. In Joe Walsh’s famous song, “Life’s Been Good” (which was released in 1978), possibly the most famous line is: My Maserati does 185 … I lost my license, now I can’t drive. That line likely refers to a Ghibli, or possibly the Khamsin which came out right after. I recently saw an interview with Joe Walsh where he discusses this song, and he doesn’t really mention whether he knew that the neither of these cars could actually hit 185 miles per hour — but, indeed they can’t; the Ghibli topped out around 174. That’s beside the point, though. The Ghibli looked like it could do 185 — and beyond.
And it drives like it, too. The Ghibli is a bit of an odd car in the sense that it’s larger than most sports cars of its day — like a grand tourer — but it has only two seats, like a real sports car. It drives like something in between, offering excellent steering feedback and acceleration — but it touts a little more interior room than the angry, aggressive Ferrari models of the time. It was the sports car for people who didn’t want to quite go full sports car.
But it had the design to back up its “Italian sports car” status; the Ghibli was penned by Marcello Gandini, who also gave us the Lamborghini Miura and Countach, and it’s generally considered one of the nicest-looking cars of all time, and certainly of its period. It’s also full of the typical quirks associated with Italian sports cars — like the fact that it has a trunk, rather than a hatchback, but the rear is open like a hatchback. Or the bizarre vestigial seats behind the front seats. They’re used for storage, but it looks like they were initially intended to be actual seats, then shelved at some point during the design process.
More importantly, the Ghibli represents a Maserati that most people still imagine when they hear the brand name. Just yesterday, I had someone excitedly tell me they saw a Maserati out in the wild, surely a modern Ghibli or a Quattroporte. For most car enthusiasts, that’s nothing to get excited about anymore — but for most people, the brand name is still as strong as ever, largely thanks to a history rooted in cars like the Ghibli. Indeed, this is truly the Maserati of yore, when the brand was as quirky and bizarre as any Italian automaker, and nearly as well-regarded as Ferrari. And I thoroughly enjoyed getting in the Tomini Classics time machine just to see what that version of Maserati was like — even if it was just for a few hours. Find a classic Maserati Ghibli 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.