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80s Maser BiTurbo --- engine swap ideas?

Discussion in 'Maserati' started by James in Denver, May 9, 2007.

  1. James in Denver

    James in Denver Formula 3

    May 23, 2006
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    Centennial Colorado
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    James in Denver
    I know the reliability factor on the 80s BiTurbo models .... suck.... so-to-speak. But from what I've read here, the reliabilty isn't just the engine, but the electricals and other parts.

    Anyway, I really like the body style of the coupe or convertible. Would it be possible to switch the twin turbo V-6 for something more reliable (maybe including all/part of the wiring harness)? Its pretty cramped in the engine compartment from pictures, but I've never been under the hood of one so I dont know how much space there really is.

    I was thinking an older japanese engine v6 or transverse 4 (via honda), maybe a late mercedes v-6, even a GM 3.8 V6 that they put in every car in the early 2000s.

    Any idea if its even feasible and if so, would it increase reliability/drivability?

    James in Denver
    PS Sorry for crossing forums, I usually hang in the 308/328 section of FChat :).
     
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  3. 2NA

    2NA F1 World Champ
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    Dec 29, 2006
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    Tim Keseluk
    #2 2NA, May 9, 2007
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 7, 2017
    Probably any of those could be made to fit (ever seen an episode of "Monster Garage"?).

    I'm not sure why you'd want to. It wouldn't be a Maserati anymore and you'd have thrown away all the neck snapping performance that the BiTurbo was known for.

    If you dropped in say the heart of a twin turbo Nissan 300ZX you'd have something. It would probably make more sense to just leave it in the car it's already in.


    It might be a fun challenge but the car would most likely be worth even less than before.

    I see this former 928 around town occasionally.
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  4. Simon

    Simon Moderator
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    Aug 29, 2003
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    The engine's not the problem, its the rest of the car. Rust, electrical gremlins.
    Keep the engine, change the car :)
     
  5. Ron S

    Ron S Karting

    Nov 20, 2006
    159
    Raleigh NC
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    Ron Scarboro
    +1

    I had an 84 BiTurbo for two years between 1990 and 1991. Paid $8,500, spent $5,500 sold it for $3,500.

    Only about $700 had to do with the engine (mostly maintenance or solving problems that turned out to be electrical) and was relatively simple to work on (did most of the work myself). The only real design flaw I remember is having the starter mounted under the intake between the cylinder heads (melted the starter wires on a fairly regular basis).

    I had numerous (defined as $1,500) electrical problems (some of which looked like engine problems - low boost pressure non starting, etc.), the interior rotted out of the car ($1,800 in material and upholstery labor), almost every electrical gauge was rebuilt and I had to custom make a number of brackets that Maserati chose to make out of plastic. This all on top of the routine service which wasn't cheap.

    Biggest problem with all but some Maserati is that it has to be a labor of love. You get so "under water" so fast it will not be remotely funny. Get a late model if you do (225 or 425) and obviously convertibles hold their value better than sedans.

    It was pretty though. Mine was a beautiful maroon with a beautiful leather interior (before it rotted).

    Regards,


    Ron
     
  6. staatsof

    staatsof Seven Time F1 World Champ
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    Short and succinct, a very dumb idea.
    Move on to your next idea and don't look back.
    Your perceptions of these cars are wrong and taking the engine out of a Maserati removes the most important reason for owning one.
     
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  8. flaviaman

    flaviaman Formula Junior

    Jul 26, 2005
    297
    Vernonia, OR
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    Gregg
    I was a Maserati Service Manager / Warranty Manager when Biturbos were new, only time in my life I was threatened by a client!

    The only good Biturbo is a squashed Biturbo. They are crap, trash, rot and garbage. They make a 1984 Hyundai Excell (or what ever they were called) seem magnificent. I suspect a 1974 Austin Marina is a better car (for those who can remember).

    Whenever I see some magazine piece about "the bargain Maserati you can own for the price of a Pinto (sic)", I want to barf. I would like to pelt the author with the 100's of fusebox's we replaced under warranty, or the dead speedo heads, or the cam box gaskets, or the distributor pick-ups, or the steering racks, or the wheel bearings, or the noisy rear-ends, or the noisy transmissions (Maserati once sent me seven (7) ZF 5 speeds before I got a decent one), or the crappy seatback material, or the heater controls, or the relays, or the ECU's for the Marelli Weber management, or the air injection rails, oil pump o-rings, crankshaft oil seals, liner seals...and these were faults on cars under warranty! I shudder to think what the few, remaining "survivors" are like.

    75% of the 1986 Biturbos we sold were bought back by Maserati under "Lemon Law", and we were considered a "good" dealership at fixing cars.
    Maserati used to send us cars other dealers could not (or would not) fix.

    Granted, the later injected cars were better...but then that is like George Bush is less of a threat to world peace than Dick Cheney.

    I once met the chief engineer of Maserati while in Modena, I complained bitterly about the faults of the 2.5 motor...he looked me in the eye, shrugged his shoulders and said "what faults, we have no faults here...all the problems are in your country". This was an interesting comment as at that time the 2.5 motor was primarily for N.A. and CH.....
     
  9. Simon

    Simon Moderator
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    Flaviaman just curious, what were the engine problems with biturbos?
    I know the rest of the car was basically crap but apart from the early carb cars the engines were basically sound.
     
  10. flaviaman

    flaviaman Formula Junior

    Jul 26, 2005
    297
    Vernonia, OR
    Full Name:
    Gregg
    Early 2.5 engines had problems with leaking liner seals, the liners would leak coolant into the oil, the oil becomes thin and rod bearings wear. We did numerous sets of liners. This is one problem that was fixed on later cars.

    Cam tower gaskets leaked, carb floats melted sometimes causing fires, tensiors were bad (this was changed), the auto choke Weber carb (as used on a 1500cc Fiat X1/9) fitted for the 86 US market cars was a joke.

    I had one client who had an 84 or 85 BiT, he had suffered from the usual problems. Something happened to his car one afternoon and he came completely ungleud, can't say I blame him. The car was still functioning however and he told me he was going to drive the 20 miles across Lake Washington to the dealership, call the local TV stations and then set fire to the car in front of the dealership. While driving across the 520 floating bridge at rushhour the carb float apparently melted away resulting in a carb fire.
    He never made it to the dealership, but he got his TV coverage!

    I had a gal who bought one of the first factory sunroof 425i's in the country,
    she drove happily away from the dealership with the sunroof open. Thirty minutes later there's a rainshower, she tries to close the sunroof, it will not close. I get the call, she is NOT a happy camper...I cannot blame her. The fuse box (which was a total piece of crap) was above the glove box and to access it one had to remove the glovebox...this required a fair amount of strength. So I drive over to car, remove the glove box, all of the fuses are OK. I look in the owners manual for mention of a supplemental fuse, I find no mention. I call Maserati Automobiles, they know nothing. Eventually I find this puny 8 amp fuse that had blown.

    Two days later I get a call from the same gal, she tells me her paint is coming off the car....this I cannot believe. I drive over to her house only to discover the RH front brake caliper (made by ATE) is leaking and brake fluid damaged the wheel and the paint on the right hand side. Over 25 years in the car business, that is the only reasonably new brake caliper I have ever seen leak.

    The third time the car malfunctioned she told me with a very serious look on her face "Every time I see this car, I envision you burning in Hell".

    To which I responded that I did not design or build this car, nor did I recommend she buy it. I don't think I saw her or that car again.

    We sold few of the later 2.8 cars, by that time (88?) word was out that
    Maserati's were evil....

    I believe the importer in Baltimore was caught attempting to import a few 228 Coupes without the mandatory passive restraints and The Feds found out, that as I recall was pretty much the end for Maserati in this country...at least till the New Millenium.
     
  11. senna21

    senna21 F1 Rookie

    Jul 2, 2004
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    Charles W
    What did you think of the Merak SS?
     
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  13. staatsof

    staatsof Seven Time F1 World Champ
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    It sounds like Gregg went through hell with his job as a service manager.
    I'd agree with some of his assessments but my experience with my 84 was
    not as traumatic as everything he listed. I still have the car and it runs very well as well as winning concours prizes every year. But then I maintain the car properly and my hands aren't tied like the U.S. dealers were back then. I could fix/change what was wrong with the car where regulations prohibited them from doing so.

    Most owners and dealers did not maintain these cars properly so mostly it's a bunch of problem cars out there on the market. No one wants to dump the amount of effort and money in these cars to straighten them out. Thus, they end up on Ebay for cheap.

    Outside of the 1986 model which had a horrible intake manifold and carburetor on it the two biggest problem areas were emissions equipment related and yes the early timing belt tension-er. I was a victim of the timing belt tensioner but since it was upgraded I've not had a problem.

    I refer to the emissions equipment because this was a slapped on design which received no testing by Maserati and it caused so many problems with the cars due to heat. The dealers were powerless to do anything about this and once this terrible system was foisted upon them it spelled the end of the car here. This was the biggest reason for the failure of that car and it was all Maserati's doing. Detomaso was cheap and he did a similar thing with the Panteras when he unloaded them in the US. The customer gets to finish the engineering. Once they were in this mess I don't think could dig themselves out.

    I simply removed my emissions equipment and the car has been wonderful ever since. That clearly was not a viable option back then but if you want one of these cars now a number of states will treat the car as a vintage vehicle and not require that blast furnace item the air pump. Forget states like California though.

    I replaced my FIRST fuse-box 3 years ago so I got 20 years out of mine but then it had the proper post modification applied which off loaded the AC circuit.

    Failing ATE brake calipers (mine never did and were rebuilt after 14 years) and ZF 5 speeds happen to all auto manufacturers. They had a slew of defective out of the box ZF units which I can't explain as this tranny was used in a number of other vehicles. I'm sure Maserati was very pissed. They eventually switched to Getrag.

    Simon is correct about the early liner seals so If you should happen to make that leap and buy one make certain that has been remedied. It's a simple fix but a lot of work getting there, a total engine re-assembly.

    Another thing to look hard at is the condition of the turbos. Re-built turbos are anywhere from $450 to $900 a piece and quality of the re-build job has to verified very closely. IHI turbos from that era have a habit of destroying the wastegate ports which a lot of re-builders don't address properly. The early cars had oil cooled turbos and even with good maintenance as well as good operational practices they won't last more than 40K. I switched to the water cooled ones @ about 60k miles and I had a pre/post lube with cooler system on my car. Switch to the water cooled ones.

    So if you still want one of these after the lambasting they received here I'd suggest you go for a really good running car with all the service items mentioned having been addressed. No car at $2-4K is going to be a good buy so for a really good car you should expect to pay more unless you get real lucky. Most Biturbos have been abused or abandoned and are really nothing more than barely running parts cars. You see them all day long on Ebay. Stay away from the cheap ones.


    This is not a car that you can take to a service shop. Most places don't know anything about them and you don't want to be their training ground.
    So you have to be prepared to do the work yourself.

    I still love mine, its damn quick, very comfortable and also some work to take care of.

    Bob S.
     

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