1989 Maserati Zagato
6-cyl. 2790cc/225hp FI Twin Turbo
With an experienced team and a lot of data.
Shortly after Alejandro DeTomaso took control of Maserati in the mid-1970s, he elected to develop a mass-produced and relatively low-cost (by Maserati's standards, anyway) performance car in an effort to keep the company solvent. The result was the Maserati Biturbo, which appeared in Europe in 1981 with a 2-liter carbureted, twin-turbo, 180-hp, 90-degree V-6 based on the Italy-only Merak 2000's normally-aspirated V-6. This attractive two-door, Guigaro-styled coupe was designed and priced to compete with BMW's offerings as opposed to being priced on par with Maserati's earlier and much higher priced cars. The Biturbo’s interior was tastefully equipped in leather, was available with a five-speed or automatic transmission, and the car had performance and handling that was quite good for the period.
The Biturbo arrived in the U.S. in 1984 with an enlarged 2.5-liter, 185-hp version of the V-6 engine, and while the car received decent reviews, its inconsistent build quality, carb/turbo problems, and spotty dealer support conspired to send the car's reputation south quickly. The Maserati Biturbo did benefit from a series of incremental improvements from year to year, with the first round occurring just a year after its U.S. introduction, when its 2.5-liter motor gained another 11 hp as a result of intercooling. The car's four-wheel independent suspension was also revised, allowing for better and more forgiving handling.
A healthy supply of cars on dealer lots kept Maserati from importing any coupes in 1986, but the car was now available as a Spyder and a four-door. The 1987 model year saw the reintroduction of the coupe in America as well as the addition of fuel injection, thus eliminating the blow-through carb arrangement that was often blamed for the car's reliability problems. The 1989 and 1990 Biturbos received braking and suspension improvements as well as an engine size increase to 2.8 liters that yielded 225 hp and performance that was lauded by the auto media at the time. By then, though, it was too little too late, as these 228s and 430s (as the coupes and four-doors were now respectively called) numbered only about 200 of the 5,000 or so cars imported into the U.S. from 1984 to 1990. Importation of these cars ceased at the end of 1990, and regretfully U.S. customers were never able to experience the spine-tinglingly high performing Biturbo-based Karifs and Shamals that came later in Europe.
Most Maserati pundits will tell today's collector to concentrate on one of the 1987 and newer cars with the best choice being one of the few 1989 or 1990 228s or 430s, but the real determinant in preservation of sanity for Biturbo owners is to find a car with a really solid service history and no evidence of deferred maintenance regardless of build year. Confining a search to such cars will yield an attractive and exciting performer at a fair price, and will ultimately reward the buyer.