Thought lost, this one-off Ghia-built 5000 GT could be the most special Maserati ever

1961 Maserati 5000 GT Coupe by Ghia front 3/4

When a major discovery of some long-lost car finds its way into the public eye, I’m always surprised. How is it that so many historic cars are unfound and continually turn up? Well, they’re out there, and the recent emergence of the only Ghia-bodied Maserati 5000 GT proves miracle survivor stories can still happen.

For nearly 50 years, this spectacular, one-of-a-kind Maserati was parked in Saudi Arabia, slowly withering away. It was literally marked for the crusher, until the late owner’s family moved it inside. Instead, this utterly unique 5000 GT will come to auction at RM Sotheby’s Monterey sale, where it’s projected to sell for $500,000–$750,000.

On its own, the Maserati 5000 GT is a special car. First built as a custom project for the Shah of Iran in 1959, it took the concept of Maserati’s own 3500 GT and turned the wick way up. Using a reinforced chassis, Maserati engineer Giulio Alfieri dropped in a 5.0-liter V-8 engine based on the one used in the brand’s 450S race car. The dual-overhead cam motor made 325 horsepower with four Weber carburettors, or 340 hp with Lucas mechanical injection.

It was about twice the price of a 3500 GT, and as such became an in-demand alternative to the Ferrari Superamericas of the day. Famous owners included Birggs Cunningham, Aga Khan, and Gianni Agnelli. All told, 34 examples of the 5000 GT were built—most bodied by Allemano—by eight different coachbuilders. In Excellent (#2-rated) condition, Allemano 5000 GTs command $1.5M, on average.

1961 Maserati 5000 GT Coupe by Ghia
RM Sotheby's Courtesy of Nicolas Maier

For chassis AM103 018, however, coachbuilder Ghia took on the project. Commissioned for Lambretta scooter magnate Ferdinando Innocenti, 018 would become a 5000 GT unlike any of its brethren. It premiered on Ghia’s stand at the Turin Auto Show in 1961, painted in stunning silver over black.

Innocenti sold the car at some point thereafter, and the car changed hands around Italy and eventually went to Saudi Arabia. After that, people thought 018 was just gone. It turned out that Saudi Arabian car enthusiast Rubayan Alrubayan bought it at some point in the 1970s, having no idea about its true significance in the Maserati pantheon. He parked it. And there it sat. RM’s online catalog indicates that Alrubayan passed away several years ago, and his heirs—presumably also unaware of the car’s real place in history—decided to move it inside to prevent further deterioration. Evidently it was just in time, because 018 was marked for the crusher in Arabic on the side. Close call.

So how big of a deal is this Ghia-bodied 5000 GT? Frank Mandarano, a longtime Maserati enthusiast, expert, mechanic, and restorer of more than 350 examples from the marque, could at first hardly find the words to articulate it over the phone. “It has to be among the top two or three coachbuilt Maseratis ever built,” Mandarano finally said. “The details on this car are just over-the-top beautiful. And it’s the sheer volume of those one-off elements that makes this stand out from any other Maserati ever built.”

Granted, the car looks like hell right now. But underneath all the rust, the dirt, and the tattered interior, there is a remarkably complete car with bespoke design and detailing that would take your breath away. Let’s take a closer look.

1961 Maserati 5000 GT Coupe by Ghia engine
1961 Maserati 5000 GT Coupe by Ghia interior

Up front, staring right at you, is a bespoke Maserati trident logo set against a mesh grille, framed within an oval piece of metal unlike any used on Maseratis before or since. The quad headlights are beautifully done, with lovely metalwork connecting the inner and outer lights, the latter of which is further subdivided into unequal semicircles. The flat hood stretches out a long way and at a downward angle, and in the middle of the hood sits an elliptical Maserati logo inscribed inside a teardrop-shaped hood groove. The wheel wells are uniquely shaped, as are the chrome side marker accents and the quad-straked accents behind the front wheel. Around back is a flat trunk lid that sits neatly inside the rear fenders. Even the bumpers are both entirely bespoke.

The story continues inside, with the irregularly shaped instrument panel, gauges, and Art Deco-like switchgear—not the diamond-shaped knobs that would have matched the much larger shift knob on the original car (absent in the current photos but visible in the photos of it on the Ghia stand in ’61). Everything about this cabin is above and beyond, down to the vertical sliding door on the glovebox and the chrome bar on the door cards, from which originally hung matching leather pouches for storage.

According Mandarano’s cursory study of the images provided, the door handles are maybe the only thing “off the rack,” as it were, aside from the Borrani wire wheels and, of course, the complete chassis and running gear.

“It’s absolutely outstanding. Probably the most significant Maserati to come to auction,” Mandarano said. “Some might say the exception to that would be the more popular Zagato A6G54  coupes—especially those with racing history.”

1961 Maserati 5000 GT Coupe by Ghia profile
RM Sotheby's

When asked how much it would cost to restore, Mandarano said if it was done in Italy, probably $450,000–$650,000. The engine and components are all there, and there’s enough of the interior and historical photos to go on. Mandarano said that this looks like it would be a fairly straightforward restoration. “Problems arise when things are missing, but in this case it’s all there. Especially the glass—that’s a biggie,” he noted. “I’ve seen a lot worse.”

Hopefully someone with the money and vision for what a special vehicle this could be once more puts in the investment. For less than $2M, the car has the style, swagger, and story to one day be a real contender at Pebble Beach.