Once upon the time, Italy was full of thoroughbred sports coupes for every kind of customer. Of course, there were expensive Ferraris or Lamborghinis, but still, for a lot less, you could find beautiful Alfas, Lancias or even two-door sporty Fiats if you were really on a budget. Unfortunately, those days are gone, and if you want proper Italian GT with gorgeous looks and power to match, most would assume you cant really find one without spending at least six digits. Or can you? Perhaps this Giugiaro-designed Maserati V8 might tempt you…

A new chapter for Maserati

Despite being one of the famous names of the Italian car industry, Maserati wasn’t doing so well in the early `90s. The Biturbo era was ending and the company was left with outdated models, without much new tech in the pipeline or money for development. In fact, in 1993, the situation was so bad that it was just a matter of days before this legendary brand was going to be forced into liquidation.

The saving grace was in fact Fiat, which bought the Maserati and immediately invested its larger resources into building a new model. After five years of development, in 1998, the first model under Fiat ownership was revealed, and it was of course the fantastic Maserati 3200 GT/GTA (automatic).

3200 vs. 4200 GT/Coupe

The Maserati 3200 GT and 4200 GT and Coupe looks pretty much the same, but their actually very different cars. The main differences are the engine and the chassis. The 3200 GT has 3.2-liter twin-turbo V8 with 370 HP, which is an old Maserati engine used in the days before Fiat ownership and the 4200 GT/Coupe has a Ferrari-developed, 4.2-liter naturally-aspirated V8 with 385 HP (400 HP from 2004 model year).

The 3200 GT was introduced in 1998 and sold until 2001, and the 4200 GT/Coupe was an immediate successor that was unveiled in 2001 and discontinued in 2007. Also, the newer 4200 GT/Coupe was equipped with a transaxle gearbox, which improved handling and traction while the earlier models had a conventionally mounted gearbox. In terms of design, the 3200 GT had a pair of very cool-looking “boomerang” style tail lights while the 4200 GT/Coupe had ordinary-looking triangular ones.

Performance

Due to the fact that both models have similar power output, the performance is very close, and earlier cars with a 3.2-liter twin-turbo engine are capable of reaching 60 mph in just over 5 seconds with a manual transmission while the automatic-equipped 3200 GTA is considerably slower at 5.7 seconds. The 2001 to 2007 models with the 4.2-liter naturally-aspirated V8 can go from 0 to 60 mph in just over 5 seconds.

All models can reach a top speed of 170 mph, not extremely fast but more than enough for most buyers. The main advantage of a later model is the availability of the Cambiocorsa automatic transmission, which was a more modern paddle-shift, computer-controlled unit capable of relatively fast shifts.

Problems

Right from the start, you might say that the 3200 GT and 4200 GT/Coupe are delicate cars. This means that some of its components are sensitive, and both models require thorough maintenance like most thoroughbred Italian GT in fact. The twin-turbo models are known to have problems with engine electronics and failing throttle bodies as well as failing LED bulbs in the characteristic “boomerang” taillights. The newer cars are somewhat more dependable in terms of engine problems but can give you a hard time with the Cambiocorsa automatic transmission.

Even though it was one of the best units on the market when it came out, the electronic settings and delicate internals are known for failing after 60 to 70,000 miles. Of course, as with any older sports car, pay attention to the condition of the suspension, brakes, and clutch since the they’re all pretty expensive to replace.

Production

The 3200 GT was produced in 4,795 examples till 2002 and only in coupe body style. However, with the introduction of the 4200 GT/Coupé in 2001, Maserati released a beautiful convertible, appropriately named the Spyder. The 4200 GT/Coupé proved to be a more popular model, with 13,423 cars made until 2007. In most markets in the world, Maserati sold this model as the 4200 GT, but in official literature, it is also called simply the Coupé. Apart from the road cars, Maserati also made a small number of racing cars for its factory-backed cup championship.

Prices

You might be surprised to know that you can find a 3200 GT on sale today for as little as £10,000, especially if you know that the car cost £65,000 when new in 1998, over £110,000 in todays money. However, stay away from cheap examples with shady service history or too many owners. The cars you want are one or two owner, fully documented low mileage examples which start from around £16,000.

Interestingly the later 4200 GT/Coupe models are in the same price range, and you can find relatively solid examples for about £13,000. Our suggestion is to look for the manual transmission model not just because of a purer driving experience but because the manuals are less problematic and cheaper to maintain. If you want the best of the best, be ready to spend around £20,000, which still seems like a bargain.

Should you buy one?

Its not as dependable or cheap to maintain as some of its competitors but the Maserati 3200/4200 GT is still an astonishing machine. Obtainable for a fraction of the cost of similar Ferrari or Aston Martin, this Italian GT is a charming long-distance cruiser with a fantastic engine, wonderful soundtrack, and typical Italian style. Its performance is still thrilling, its design has stood the test of time so far and values haven’t really changed in 5 years, so it’s unlikely to depreciate much during ownership.