GLOBAL GATHERING

MASERATI ENTHUSIASTS FROM AOUND THE GLOBE CAME OUT TO PLAY IN AUSTRALIA

WORDS MARK HIGGINS PHOTOS MARK BEAN

You just know itís a great day when millions of dollars of classic and rare Maseratis are on show to welcome you to your hotel.

The setting was the RACV resort on Victoriaís Surf Coast; the occasion was the start of the inaugural Maserati Global Gathering. In the 104-year history of the brand there has never been a gathering of Maserati owners from around the world until the Maserati Owners Club of Australia organised and ran this incredible rolling motorshow.

Maserati Owners Club of Australiaís John Gove takes up the story: ďMy wife Judy and I have been lucky enough do a number of these events with the UK club, the Norwegian club and the US club around the world and we have got a lot of pleasure from everyone of them.

ďSo we thought it is time to give something back and being proud Aussies, we wanted to showcase our country.Ē

Gove took his idea to Maserati HQ as a global gathering had never been attempted before. Approval was granted followed by two years of planning to bring it to life.

While the total value of the Maseratis taking part is up for discussion, the pleasure they give their owners is undeniable. As Gove puts it: ďItís the desirability of the Maserati, not the cost, where the true value lies. Our Mistral Spyder, that we drive through Europe is now quite valuable and people ask what do you do when you go to the supermarket? I reply that we drive there in the Maserati.

ďYou can put them in a museum and look at them but you are kind of missing the point of the car. It is there to be driven and the beaut thing about Maseratis is they are both practical and exotic.Ē

Headlining the Global Gathering was a stellar line-up Ė a 1956 150S/250S race car; an Allemano body 5000GT once owned by Joe Walsh of The Eagles (immortalised with his lyrics ĎMy Maserati does 185, lost my licence, now I donít driveí); a 1974 Quattroporte 2 built for the Aga Khan (one of only two made); a 2008 Quattroporte Bellagio Touring Ė a hand-built fastback wagon version of the Quattroporte (one of only four); a 1964 Mistral Spyder (one of only 14 right-hand drive examples). As well there were many famous models from the 60s and 70s such as Shamals, Ghiblis, Indys, Boras, Mexicos, Sebrings and Khamsins.

Putting a dampener on proceedings was the refusal of the Australian Border Force to allow a number of cars from overseas to take part, demanding they first be inspected for asbestos, despite paperwork certifying compliance (see separate news item).

While this caused huge frustration, not to mention embarrassment to the organisers, spirits were high as stranded competitors and the media were offered the latest Maserati models including a Ghibli S, Gran Turismo, Gran Cabrio, Quattroporte and a Ferrari engined Levante SUV.

After five days on great roads, with new friends, enjoying fine food, wine and conversation, the Maserati enthusiasts greeted the chequered flag at the Sydney Opera House.

Everyoneís smiles indicated the Maserati Global Gathering was an outstanding success.

ďMASERATIS ARE BOTH PRACTICAL AND EXOTICĒ

1964 MASERATI MISTRAL SPYDER

JOHN GOVE

Mine is a 1964 Maserati Mistral Spyder and one of only fourteen right-hand drive models in the world from a total production of just over 100. My car was originally delivered in the UK and then lived most of its life in the US then Canada and I bought it 10 years ago from a Canadian seller.

We use it reasonably extensively and have been from Melbourne to Canberra and back a few times. We are doing this trip to Sydney and driving it is just a lot of fun. The reason we went for the Spyder was because Judy and I are very much convertible people. We love driving open top cars.

We are wind in the hair people. Iím happy with the Mistral Spyder. Of all the convertibles of all models from 1957 to 1982 that Maserati made, only 25 were right-hand drive Spyders, so weíre very lucky to own it. We were kind of in the right place at the right time. I havenít done very much work on it other than general maintenance and servicing.

Prior to it appearing at Pebble Beach it had a full restoration, with little use since. It came out of the factory as a right-hand drive car and despite its location in the US and Canada it was never converted to a left-driver.

1967 MASERATI GHIBLI

MARK JANSEN

It is a 1967 Maserati Ghibli. It is the first factory right-hand drive Ghibli built and was the star of the 1967 London Motorshow, giving it interesting provenance.

Around 1250 Ghiblis were made with about 10 per cent

I as right-hand drive, making this model extremely rare. It is powered by a 4.7-litre V8 Maserati engine with a five-speed ZF gearbox. They also produced an SS version with a 4.9-litre engine. It is a fairly conventional layout of front engine and rear drive.

It is not a sports car but more a GT car and you can imagine cruising from Rome to Paris across Europe back in the day. That is what the car was built for. I chose the Maserati Ghibli as I have always had a soft spot for this model and wanted one in my collection.

I have had the Ghibli in my list of top cars since I was a kid and I bought this car about 10 years ago, coincidentally from a friend in Melbourne who is also participating in the Maserati Global Gathering.

This car has been in Australia for about 15 years and I am the second owner in Australia and the fourth owner overall.

The only work I have done is the usual maintenance and I cleaned it up as I went along. It was starting to show its age so I had some body repairs done to it a few years ago with stone chips and a couple of rust bubbles rectified.

To drive it is really interesting. It is suited to the open road. As I said itís a GT car and best suited to sweeping country roads not the sort of car to thrash around a track. But for cruising, it is just fantastic.

1967 MASERATI MEXICO

IAN CRISP

Itís a left-hand drive 1967 Maserati Mexico with a 4.7-litre V8. The original owner was based in New York and it must have had a hard life originally because I bought it as a full restoration project from Mario Lombardi about three years ago. This car needed a total nut and bolt ground-up restoration. It was a bit of a basket case at first so virtually the whole of the floors and six inches up have been reconstructed, the bonnet and boot lid have been totally rebuilt by hand, so everything on this car has been restored, as I said every nut and bolt.

It has been an interesting project to be involved in and finding all the experts around the place who do up all the parts, supply parts and engineer parts and Iíve had a lot of components made from scratch. The interior was totally restored and the only thing thatís not original on the car is the Italian Nardi steering wheel, but it looks better than the original I think. This car has been restored to the original specification and has matching engine and gearbox numbers. The body, interior and colour are all original as it came out of the factory. It is light metallic silver and at home I have all the factory build-sheets for it and it matches perfectly. The restoration took about three years.

I have been a Maserati fan for a long time and always been a classic car fanatic and I started with a fully restored MGA when I was 18.

I surprised myself with the Mexico as I looked at it and took on the project having never driven one before and it has surprised me as it is such a wonderful car to drive. Itís a real highway cruiser and very luxurious. Itís hard to believe it is 51 years old.

It has tons of power and is an easy car to drive, much easier than I thought it would be. There is so much glass in the car that the all-round vision is excellent. Itís not like modern cars that are hard to see out of. I like Maseratis and Iíd like another project, but they are getting hard to find as most have been snapped up. But weíll see what happens.

1956 MASERATI 150S/250S

ANDREW CANNON

My 1956 Maserati 150S is powered by a 250S engine. A Carol Shelby Maserati engine. In 1956 Maserati built a series of 150 S, 200S and 250S that are almost identical apart from engine size and this is the best of all.

It has the 250 engine, which is the most powerful, and the original shape and is quite a car to drive. It doesnít like driving around the city as itís a race car, with a twin-cam 2.5-litre four cylinder and twin spark plugs per cylinder as well as a pair of massive carburettors, so down low it sort of chokes. But once you get going itís an amazing thing on a race track and because itís light and powerful it handles incredibly well. It has straight cut gears so it makes plenty of noise and itís a real thrill. Iíve had the car about 12 years and bought it from Bruce McCaw (the man who invented the mobile phone) in Seattle. Bruce owned an Indycar team for many years and also an Americas Cup team.

Bruce is a great car enthusiast and after buying it from him I left it with him for many years and raced it all over America.

My strangest memory of the car was in the Colorado Grand with Rick Hall. We were driving an open top car in heavy snow, which is quite extraordinary and we pulled off the side of the road as we couldnít see and there was a bear nearby! Rick always said he wanted to see one but didnít expect it to be there in the Maserati.

The most rewarding time was racing at Road America and Mont-Tremblant in Canada, a beautiful sweeping circuit. Just racing and owning a car like this is wonderful. Once itís set up and warmed up properly, itís actually quite durable. It has beautiful features, even the oil and fuel tanks are works of art.

It has been a real thrill and Iíve always liked the style from the 300Ss that were here, like the Bob Jane car. They were just spectacular and to finally own one is a dream come true.

I started off with a Triumph Herald, so it has been a journey to get a Maserati and fortunately for me I was able to acquire this one. Iíve raced the car, spun the car, been hit in the car and have done tens of thousands of miles in it and you can see by the front of it and all the stone-chips it gets used. I donít race it as often now as I have a Mustang to race in historic events. I have raced a BMW at Le Mans and hope to take this car to Monaco to race in the historic meeting there, prior to the Grand Prix. Many Maseratis compete with some very good drivers, so who knows how Iíll go but I am looking forward to it.

1979 MASERATI KHAMSIN

BRIAN MEREDITH

Only 421 were built and mine is a 1979 model. Itís number 421 but not the last built. Maseratiís number sequencing is a bit strange. The last one made is number 438 that is also taking part in the event. Back in the 70s I was at the Melbourne Motorshow and saw a Khamsin and thought one day I hope to have sufficient funds to buy one and about 10 years ago I found this car.

It took me four years to do a deal with the owner to buy it and from that point on making sure that all the things that are potentially faulty were fixed.

This is the car that was built when Maserati was owned by Citroen.

It has all the hydraulics in it and if they are not working properly you can be in trouble as the hydraulics operate the retractable headlights, the braking, the steering and even the driverís seat adjustment.

We made modifications to stop all the hydraulic leaks, which is just an inherent part of a Khamsin. Back in the 70s people complained about the force needed on the pedal to stop a supercar. Citroen solved that. And the braking is very light. If you touch it too hard you go through the windscreen. The steering is also self-centring and you need two hands on the wheel at all times as if you have one hand on, it automatically straightens up. When you turn the car off, if the wheels are not straight, it self-centres.

Under the bonnet is a 4.9-litre V8 with about 320hp and a five-speed ZF manual gearbox. Itís a cruiser not a sports car. It was designed by Ghandini and he did some of my favorite cars including the Ferrari 308 GT4 and also did the Countach.

It is sensational to drive in terms of a tourer. Donít treat it as a sports car as it doesnít have the power or handling. That said it still handles very well but itís a tourer.

Since I owned it we replaced the headlight hydraulics with Mazda lifters, removed the hydraulics from the seat and in Australia they have an overheating problem, so we put an electric water pump on it and a three-core radiator and that overcame any overheating issues.

I am also restoring another car, an Alfa 1900 CSS, a three-window car.

When I bought the Khamsin it had 44,000 miles on it and it now has 56,000 miles. When the weather is nice we go out for a long cruise.