Factory-backed motorsport came to an end in 1957 when the Mille Miglia was banned following a crash in the town of Guidizzolo, where the Ferrari 335 S of Alfonso de Portago/Edmund Nelson suffered tyre failure and crashed, killing the pair as well as nine spectators. Maserati continued making customer cars but the focus at the factory swung to building luxury roadgoing cars. The stance was set in 1957 with the first ground-up grand tourer design and first series produced car, the Maserati 3500 GT, rolling out the works.
From there badges like Vignale 3500GT, 5000GT, Quattroporte, Bora, Merak, Ghibli, Khamsin, Indy and even Kyalami followed. Ownership of the firm moved to Citroën, and then Italian state-owned De Tomaso to Fiat, Ferrari and Alfa Romeo under the Fiat Chrysler Automobile umbrella.
Yes, I’d heard of legends like Fanie Viljoen racing Maseratis here in the 1950s and seen the odd luxury GT at various car shows over the years but as a product of the late 1970s there is only one Maserati that ticks all the boxes – the BiTurbo, built between 1981 and 1994. Under De Tomaso ownership the BiTurbo saw Maserati chucking out the idea of mid-engined cars as well as any remaining bits from the Citroën parts bin and designing a fairly conventional compact four-seater front-engined, rear-wheel-drive coupé. Where the creativity came in was in the power unit. Here a V6 engine, based on the 2-litre 90° Merak unit saw the addition of twin turbos – a world first for a production car. It was also the first production car to sport 3 valves per cylinder.