1970 Maserati Ghibli Spyder: Driving under the influence

 

1970 Maserati Ghibli Spyder

1970 Maserati Ghibli Spyder

Summer nights are special magic, a sorcery that suspends time and makes déjà vu the common experience. A web of warmth and darkness and fantasy. The weatherman may say it is warm and humid, but anyone with a soul knows it’s not meteorology, but mood. A time to lower the top of a Maserati Ghibli Spyder and go for a drive.

Ah, summer nights and convertibles.

Add then the ethereal: Make that convertible one of the most beautiful—no, sexy is a classy way—shapes ever to grace four wheels. And color it Erogenous Red, and that’s the Maserati Ghibli Spyder. It’s a heady combination, seductive and intoxicating. They must have summer nights in Modena, too, and it must have been for summer nights that the Ghibli Spyder was made.

1970 Maserati Ghibli Spyder

1970 Maserati Ghibli Spyder (click to enlarge)

Between 1967 and 1972, Maserati made 2,400 Ghiblis. Exactly, or so they say. Almost all were coupes, sleek two-seaters with a fastback roof. But 121 were summer night Spyders and, well, once you’ve seen the Ghibli Spyder, the coupe will never be the same. The hardtop suddenly looks like a tack-on extra, like one of those ’60 fiberglass tops guaranteed to make your TR-4 a genuine grand tourer. The Ghibli Spyder is that good.

The Ghibli is a Guigiaro design and it looks it. From trident to tailgate, it’s one broad, smooth sweep. A chrome bumperette frames the wire-mesh grille. Gentle creases delineate the edges of the hood and the subtle bulge at center hood is flanked by vents, adding accent to the expanse. Along the side, a character line flows from front window to rear where the kick-up over the rear wheels sweeps into the spread of the rear deck.

There is a ragtop, and anyone who has ever owned a Fid Spyder will find it very familiar. Fortunately, like the Fiat’s, it stows neatly under a metal lid. Best if it never, ever goes up. Take the Mercedes when it rains.

Under the steel and aluminum body work is a tubular steel frame, so it’s surprising that the Ghibli Spyder weighs in close to two tons. That’s heavy, even for a car the size of a Corvette, particularly for the era. The front suspension is conventional, with unequal-length A-arms, coil springs and an anti-roll bar, but the rear is conventional to a fault: A live axle, and on leaf springs yet. Only trailing arms and another anti-roll bar keep it from being a Pinto look-alike underneath.

Anything but unsophisticated, though, is the 5.0-liter DOHC all-aluminum V-8 nestled under that long hood. Each cylinder has its own Weber throat: Carburetion is by four Weber 42 DCNF two-barrels mounted in a latticework manifold. If “manifold” is indeed the term for a device consisting of eight short curbed tubes connecting the carb throat to the intake port.

1970 Maserati Ghibli Spyder retractable headlights

The 1970 Maserati Ghibli Spyder had retractable headlights. (click to enlarge)

The engine is dry sumped with a 12-quart reservoir (with the specified 3,000-mile oil change, the oil only gets to run through the engine once). There’s another webbed casting cantilevered out in front of the engine supporting all the ancillaries from alternator to air pump and enough belts to run a turn-of-the-century machine shop. Heaven forbid one should break.

Of course there are those black crackle-painted DOHC valve covers. Gave a pump jockey a thrill, just asked to check the oil.

In Maserati tradition, the engine turns relatively low revs, at least considering its Italian origin. Reline is set at 5500 rpm. Because it doesn’t spin fast doesn’t mean it’s slow, however. Horsepower is 300-plus.

But more about performance later. First step in and close the door. Find a position for the two-way adjustable steering wheel-no Italian bus driver syndrome here-then notice how low in the car one sits. Or how high the car is around. For anyone near normal, the side window sills will be shoulder high. The trans tunnel cum console is at waist level and the shift lever tops out at sternum height. The seats are big and the passenger compartment wide.

And instruments. There are enough gauges and warning lights to make an instrument landing at O’Hare. Here is just a sample: A big tach and a speedo that optimistically reads all the way to 200 mph. Oil pressure and oil temperature and oil pressure light. Alternator light and ammeter. And a riot of rockers in a row.