JUN 20th 2014

Anyone for Citroën hydraulics with their classic Maserati?

‘I TELL MY WIFE OWNING CLASSIC MASERATIS IS SELF-FUNDING’

GRR Maserati centenary tour part five: Tony Bernstein, collector

They are coming to pick up the Quattroporte GTS soon but we have one last port of call: to see someone who has collected classic Maserati road cars for the past 20 years. Tony Bernstein has owned a few, restored a few, spent a packet (but don’t tell Mrs Bernstein) – and do you know what? He’s not cured yet…

Maserati

Tony Bernstein

Sebring, Bora, Ghibli, Khamsin – some of the greatest names in Maserati’s road car past have featured in Tony Bernstein’s motoring life. But he is neither one-eyed about Maseratis – he also owns a brace of Ferraris – nor blind to their faults.

‘The Citroën hydraulics in a car like the Khamsin can be slightly alarming,’ he says. ‘There are dozens of high pressure hoses powering everything from brakes, clutch and steering to the pop-up lights. If you get a leak and have to replace the lot it’s like putting a new central heating system in your house.

‘I suppose I am a bit of a glutton for punishment but the cars are definitely worth it – though it helps to have a few bob spare when the unexpected happens.

‘Overall though I love them all. I was driving the Khamsin the other day when a people carrier came alongside and the occupants started filming me on their cameraphones. You don’t get that in your Porsche 911.’

It was seductive 1960s looks that first turned Tony on to the trident, buying a 3.7-litre, straight-six Sebring to form a delectable 2+2 pairing with his Ferrari 250GTE. The Sebring was swapped for a Bora, Maserati’s first mid-engined road car, 20 years ago. ‘The Bora is fabulous. It has huge torque from a wonderful V8, fantastic brakes, lots of room, is comfortable… and I have never had hydraulic problems with it!’

The downsides, he says, are that ‘when the rear end lets go it does so big time’, and tin worm ‘which in the Bora goes inwards instead of outwards.’ The Bora is now in for restoration.

Tony, who began his motoring in a Lotus 7, snapped up a V8 front-engined Khamsin five years ago. Complex, rare (just 430 made) and very pretty with surprising practicality: ‘With its opening rear window and big luggage deck it’s been perfect for wine-buying trips to France.’

The Khamsin is, however, up for auction as this is written, the proceeds going to fund Tony’s next project. This is a 1970 Ghibli – Maserati’s Ferrari Daytona rival – bought ‘as a total mess’ a few months ago and now in a Welsh bodyshop for restoration. Tony says he is not a hands-on owner – he uses specialists like Alsa Automotive in Wales, and the UK authority on all things classic Maserati, McGrath Maserati in Hertfordshire – but enjoys getting involved in each project.

Will Tony be staying with just the two trident cars? ‘My perfect Maserati garage would have a convertible alongside the Bora and the Ghibli. An early ’60s 3500 Vignale would be wonderful but I can’t afford it.’

So how deep do the Maserati collector’s pockets need to be? ‘Restoration is pretty pricey, but my cars have gone up in value, though more through luck than judgement. Is it self-funding? I tell my wife it is. When my mates ask they get a different answer…’

And a tip for a future classic? ‘A 4200 convertible. It’s a lovely looking car but whether it will ever be a classic or not I can’t be sure. What I do know is that they are very affordable at the moment.’

AND OUR QUATTROPORTE GTS…

Il Presidente was a fine companion for our jaunt around southern England tracking down some truly lovely people. It was certainly very black. Inside and out, with blacked-out windows plus electric rear window blinds for extra anonymity. Put your foot down and you’ll see 62mph in 4.7sec; keep it down and you’ll hit 190mph. The front-of-mind figure on our rather slower UK jaunt was a different one: 21mpg. I know, pathetically good. We wanted to drive this machine so fast we got it down to single figures. But at least nobody recognised us behind all that blacked out glass.

As well as fast, the latest Quattroporte is vast, by far the largest of all of them since the first in 1963. It weighs almost two tonnes, but the mass is perfectly distributed front-rear and the dimensions do translate to lots of cabin room front and back. It’s a quality environment in there too, simple classicism ruling over gimmicks and glitz.

The torque-rich performance is accompanied at revs by exactly the right quality and volume of delicious V8 roar. Better than a lot of turbo’d V8s in the sound department. In performance as ride and handling, the emphasis is definitely on sport rather than limo – even without the Sport suspension mode selected – but it is still a convincingly comfortable and refined long distance express, with formidable pace.

Dislikes? A slightly jiggly secondary ride and some kickback through the steering on bad roads – again the message is clear, this is as much sports car as limo. One thing I didn’t care for was the rather fiddly gear selector. In the face of such fast, classy and characterful transport, I managed to get over it.

LAST TIME: You want me to sell how many Maseratis?

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