We’ve touched upon the subject of Clarkson, Hammond and May’s ‘killings’ of modern classic cars before. The motors the trio used - and usually destroyed - for challenges were getting uncomfortably good toward the end of that era of Top Gear, culminating in a Porsche 928, Lotus Esprit and Ford Mustang suffering rather badly on the Patagonia Special, even before the mob intervention.
So, when seeing that the latest episode of The Grand Tour was to going to feature three boxy old Maseratis - one Bi-Turbo and two Bi-Turbo derivatives - I wondered what sort of shape they’d be in by the end of the episode. And with about 5 minutes to go until the end, I was pleasantly surprised.
Other than a few inevitable scraps and the rubber penis being drilled onto the steering wheel of James’ 430, the cars had actually fared quite well. Until that was, Jeremy’s Bi-Turbo S fell off the back of a recovery van, and James’ then de-penised 430 was shot into the water at “the company yacht”, in what felt like a rather gratuitous scene. And it irked me a little.
Yes, this might seem rich given that I write for a publication that deliberately killed an old Mercedes C-Class by starving of oil recently, but it is (or rather was) a generic mass market car that was already dying when we got hold of it. The Bi-Turbo range might represent a low point in Maserati’s history, but it’s still a Maserati, and an enthusiast car that’s on the verge of dying out.
There are only 22 Bi-Turbos left registered on UK roads according to howmanyleft.com, and just six 430s. Of course we don’t know if any of the Maseratis featured in TGT were already at death’s door (Clarkson’s Bi-Turbo seemed particularly ill at the beginning of the episode), but getting spares for cars like these is usually a nightmare, so at the very least you’d hope for star cars to be fit enough to be used for parts to keep other examples ‘alive’, rather than being in bits at the bottom of the English Channel.
Not long ago I was talking to the owner of one of the last Alfa Romeo 164 Cloverleafs in the country. He told me how it was necessary to buy up any 164 spares he saw regardless of whether or not he needed them at the time, just in case. He’d even had bits shipped over from Japan. That’s what it’s like keeping an ‘endangered species’ of a car alive, and he was understandably miffed to see Top Gear hack a 164 Cloverleaf in half and weld it onto Saab 9000 a few years back.
If any of the owners of the few remaining Bi-Turbos have seen the latest TGT episode, I’m sure they felt the same. Cars may get killed for TV and films all the time, but you’d hope a car-loving show would be a little more sympathetic toward the more special cars it features.
Am I being too precious about this? Should you be able to do what you want with a car you’ve bought, free from the threat of some pedantic bloke on the Internet having a moan? I’m curious to hear your thoughts…