Forgotten Exotic - Maserati
The 3200 GT
It was a long step out of a Quattroporte parked a short bus ride from the curb that gave pause for thought. This is the result of driving someone else's car and having them watch you park it after a test, we would all rather have a red face from the awkward position a car holds on the road when it is parked but still actually in the road than glare at a scratched wheel cursing the pavement. The owner approached with a beaming smile hoping for every word he had enthused before our test to be echoed as we took a second look back at the paintwork - Neptune Blue - and agreed that in black it would look so menacing many would move out the way rather than risk the wrath of Siciliy, but in the blue, it looked comfortable in its skin, the tan leather contrast gave it a final pinch of class as if this mode of transport was exclusively used for cross-continent travel to fashion shows. Our nodding dog conversation was brief, the test was over, the car isn't perfect, but its flaws form part of the overall character and although justifying the purchase brand new over an M5 was a little harder to muster we agreed that where the Germans delivered speed and precision, they couldn't hope to match this car for an emotive response and despite all the options you could throw at those cars, they remain a more clinical and less opulent vehicle.
Scanning through my notes of the day for the review I got to thinking, so many people would love an exotic weekend car, but how many of them really think of Maserati. Especially the ones that can now be picked up for hot hatchback money. The problem is they will cost a lot more than hot hatch money to run, but Maserati does have a large and dedicated enough following for there to be specialists that really knows their grouse from their hen.
To the classifieds, and with my mind already made up that a manual transmission Maserati 3200 GT would be the subject of this article, not least because I still remember a drive in one a decade ago, and despite their rarity, haven't yet made people lock them away and ask for stratospheric money for them.
The budget will need to be between ten and twenty thousand pounds, with earlier automatics sneaking in just below the ten marker. A really nice clean example can go over twenty but fifteen seems the sweet spot if this is a weekend fun car that you intend to enjoy and park wherever you like without nervously sipping a coffee staring out the window praying no one parks nearby.
What is the allure? Well first off the 3.2 twin-turbo engine may not be the last word in dependability, but it is quick by modern standard with 0-60 in just a touch over 5 seconds and it delivers its powers in the fun way, as opposed to the flat torque curves of a modern hot hatch. Foot to the floor, build-up, boost, and see the scenery start to more a whole lot quicker. Couple this with V8 noise, it doesn't sing quite as well as the naturally-aspirated Quattroporte but even blowing through the turbos there is still an exotic tune to be had. Handling and overall dynamics are not class-leading and those wanting something they can really push on a weekend or won't be able to resist a track day in should probably start to look elsewhere, but the humble amongst us will accept the car is enough for their driving skill when wanting to enjoy a countryside drive or a weekend away. I should mention at this point that this is an Italian vehicle conceived in the '90s, those who aren't the 'Italian proportions' - read as taller and wider - may struggle a little, plus the offset of the controls will mean a stop every hour or so on a long drive is worth factoring for to avoid knee cramp. Our advice would be to go and sit in one first and unless this is to be your only car it shouldn't be too much of a concern. If this is only going to be a cruiser and you really need the footwell space then take the auto box out for a test drive, it blunts the car a little but doing so makes it a more comfortable cruiser than sports car, as the name suggests, this car wants to grand tour.
If the 3200GT doesn't do it for you the successor to the car is the Coupe, which holds a naturally aspirated 4.2 litre Ferrari engine and howls like a wolf pack on a full moon. These can be picked up for a similar price but you'll have to accept there isn't a manual option. Maserati is the brand we all forget about until we see one, if you've overlooked them before, you may want to consider a rethink.
Note From Miles
It's the boomerang lights that still catch my attention. I remember being a teenager and walking along a high street in Bath to see one parked up in a row of rather dull silver BMWs. I just stopped and stared at it for a moment, it had an aura that nothing around it could replicate. Since then the 3200 GT has remained a rare sight on UK roads meaning they still look special today as they age.