Has there ever been a car more beautiful than the Maserati Ghibli? Even acknowledging the subjectiveness of the question, few peers come to mind. There’s certainly no disputing its tremendous impact. By any standard, the Ghibli was the most memorable Maserati yet. More than two decades after its late-1966 debut, there are those who say it still is.
Like the Mistral and the later Khamsin, the Maserati Ghibli was named for a famous European wind (reflecting Maserati’s penchant for such names at the time). And indeed, as road tests soon showed, it was a real stormer. But for many, it was enough to simply gaze upon the beast, conceived in 1965-66 by Giorgio Giugiaro, then chief designer at Ghia. No wonder the world motoring press sat up and took real notice of this remarkably gifted young Italian.
Turning to more mundane matters, the Maserati Ghibli shared basic chassis and running gear with the Quattroporte sedan and Mexico coupe (see entry), no surprise coming from a small automaker. Wheelbase, however, was reduced 3.5 inches from the Maserati Mexico’s for this strict two-seater GT.
The Maserati Ghibli thus had the same tubular chassis stiffened by pressings, foldings, and fabrications, and had to make do with a simple live rear axle on semi-elliptic leaf springs. Like the Maserati Mexico, it had disc brakes all-round. If none of this seemed very exciting next to obvious competitors like the Ferrari 275 GTB and Lamborghini 400 GT, nobody seemed to mind, and it didn’t hurt performance or readability one bit.
Fittingly for the prettiest Maserati to date, the Ghibli arrived with the 4.7-liter version of the firm’s excellent twincam V-8 in its most powerful form to date: 330 horsepower. A 5-speed ZF gearbox was standard; Borg-Warmer 3-speed automatic became optional in 1969.
The styling, of course, turned every head. Long, low, and wide, the MAserati Ghibli crouched on the road like no previous Maserati -- which was no illusion. Overall height was only 46 inches, so interior headroom was rather limited, though that didn’t dissuade basketball ace Wilt “The Stilt” Chamberlain from Ghibli ownership. At 180 inches long overall, this was also one of the lengthiest European two-seaters ever built, but the long-hood/short-deck proportions were flawless.
The Maserati Ghibli’s neat, low, hidden-headlamp nose with wide bifurcated grille would show up again on the Giugiaro-designed Bora and Merak mid-engine Maseratis of the Seventies. Some say the Aston Martin DBS of 1967 borrowed some Ghibli details (check the side-window shape and see if you agree), but surely no one except Giugiaro could have produced such an artful yet aggressive car, long on personality if short on practicality.
Some of this applies only to the original fastback coupe, which in 1969 was joined by a spider companion that, if anything, was even lovelier. It was a full convertible, of course, blessedly free of “targa bars” and other excrescences. Its fabric roof stowed completely out of sight beneath a hinged cover behind the cockpit; a detachable hardtop was optionally available for winter driving. At the same time, interiors were spruced up and the dashboard redesigned.
The Maserati Ghibli became even more desirable in 1970, when Maserati substituted its ultimate 4.9-liter V-8 with 335 bhp in European trim. This was mainly a concession to emissions controls for the American market, where output was somewhat lower. Spiders so equipped were tagged SS (which must have irked Chevrolet).
Alas, all good things must come to an end. The Maserati Ghibli’s came in 1973 with the introduction of its direct successor, the Khamsin. Though more technically advanced, it wasn’t nearly as inspiring to look at. Which means that the 1274 Maserati Ghiblis built still aren’t enough to go around.