The MASERATI 3500 G.T.I. Sebring 1963ROAD TESTS FROM THE EIGHTIES
Maserati 3500 GTI Sebring
Maserati 3500 G.T. is a well-estallished high-performance car. More recently it has been sold with Lucas fuel injection under the name of G.T.I. (Inezione). Now a new model, the Sebring, has been introduced, which also has the injection engine.
The Sebring, or "S", is 4 ins. shorter in the wheelbase and 8 ins. shorter in overall length. Borrani knock-on wire wheels, with light alloy rims, replace the usual bolt-on discs. This model is distinguished by having four headlamps but, above all, by its Vignale coupe body of surpassing loveliness.
Theoretically, the car is a 2+2, but in practice the rear seating accommodation need not be taken too seriously. The two front seats have adjustable squabs, which are normaIly locked in position but can be folded for access to the back by touching a lever, after which they return to the previously set position. The upholstery is most attractive, the interior of the car being highly luxurious, with soft padding everywhere. A display of proper round dials makes the instrument panel look impressive, and the whole effect is a skilful blending of sporting and luxury features. A luggage boot at the rear is really large, carrying the spare wheel and a superb tool kit beneath its floor.
The twin overhead camshaft engine has a light alloy block and head, with a seven-bearing crankshaft. The drive to the camshafts is by tri plex chains and there are two sparking plugs per cylinder. These are fired by a double distributor and twin Marelli coils, the generator being replaced by an alternator The fuel is injected into the ports, six separate butterfly throttles being instaIled at the remote ends of the ramming pipes. A balance pipe couples the ramming pipes together and is connected to the "brain" of the Lucas injection pump, which is driven by gears from the right-hand camshaft.
A large trunk carries cold air from the front of the car to the ramming pipes. The fan has an electric clutch, a small light on the instrument panel indicating when it is in operation. Air conditioning, including a refrigeration plant, was' fitted to the test car the drive,for this being by twin vee belts from the front of the crankshaft. The engine and its accessories are attractive to look at, having a black crackle finish. An oil radiator is fitted in the nose of the car.
The engine is in unit with a ZF fivespeed gearbox. The open propeller shaft leads the power to a hypoid axle with a banjo-type casing, which looks smaIler than one would expect. The axle is on long, underslung semi-elliptic springs but the torque is taken by a single member mounted well below the right side of the casing. This has an anti-tramp function.
The chassis is tubular with sheet steel reinforcement, to which the body adds rigidity. The front suspension is by wishbones and helical springs, with a three-piece track rod operated by a recirculating ball gear. There are torsional anti-roll bars front and rear and telescopic dampers all round. The Girling disc brakes on all wheels have servo operation.
The seating position is of the straight arm - variety and very comfortable. The drivers view is good except that the mirror might give a clearer image-this is possibly due to the angle of the rear window. The side windows are raised and lowered electricaIly and the steering is pleasantly light. The clutch has a lot of power to transmit and the strong springs are noticeable when one presses the pedal. The gear lever also needs some pressure on occasions and a slightly longer lever might be helpful here. All the controls and pedals are well placed, the horn button on the steering wheel boss being concentric with a headlamp flasher switch.
Before getting into the car I always stood back and admired it, for it is a beauty. This is the kind of coachwork that we usually see only at the Turin show. It has lovely lines, but there is also a suspicion of fierceness about it, to which the wire wheels, with their three-eared hub caps, contribute. The wheels are at the full width of the car, giving it an appearance of broad-based stability, though one must accept a little mud on the paintwork in wet weather.
The engine starts at once, a control for enriching the iniection pump ensuring the right mixture in cold weather. Rather near the ground there are three expansion chambers, and the exhaust, which has a deep note, is not noisy. The unit idles steadily and never tends to wet a plug in the worst traffic jams.
The Sebring is a luxury car and is not light in consequence, but the twin-earn aluminium engine produces enough power to give it a lively performance. The gear ratios are ideal, and though the box seems rather "unfriendly" at first, it becomes easy to handle with practice. It responds best if the lever is not held too tightly and is allowed to line itself up as it enters each gear position. The maxima on the five gears are impressive indeed!
The engine may be run for long periods at 5,000 r.p.m. and taken up to 6,000 r.p.m. for a short burst. As 5,000 r.p.m. on fifth gear is equal to 124 m.p.h., one has a fine motorway cruising speed at one's disposal. The makers claim a maximum speed of 146 m.p.h., and though I was not able to achieve this, it must be emphasized that I retained the ordinary touring tyre pressures throughout my test, nor is my measured strip of road of unlimited length. At 136.3 m.p.h. the engine was turning at 5,600 r.p.m. and as it peaks at 5,500 r.p.m. this was a satisfactory speed.
The power unit gives plenty of torque and accelerates quite briskly on the high fifth gear. The direct fourth is better employed, however, for driving at less than 100 m.p.h. All the gears are quiet in operation and third may be used for miles on winding roads or in traffic.
Again in keeping with the luxuripus nature of the car, the suspension gives a very comfortable ride. Pressed hard on the corners of the Oulton Park circuit, the Maserati tended to oversteer, but some attention to. tyre pressures might have corrected this. It was extremely controllable and some fast laps were achieved. On the road, one does not notice this characteristic except on wet surfaces, when the rear end sometimes tends to break away fairly sharply.
The disc brakes are very powerful indeed and demand only moderate pedal pressure. In wet weather, they should be applied at fairly frequent intervals to dry them out, or uneven retardation may occur, which is a characteristic sometimes found in disc installations. The hand brake has a long travel of the lever but is not very potent. No fading of the brakes was experienced, even on the racing circuit.
As the power unit is smooth throughout its range and by no means noisy, fast cruising is an effortless proceeding. What noise there is must be regarded as typical of an engine of racing ancestry, and there is no objectionable clatter. When cruising at an easy 100 m.p.h. the Maserati makes no more sound than some saloons at 60 m. p.h.
Presumably the refrigerator absorbs some power, as it has twin driving belts. Naturally, there is plenty of power to spare and such a plant would be a godsend in a hot country. The volume of cold air which it can deliver is surprisingly large, and this can be directed where it is required, as in a passenger aircraft.
The Maserati Sebring is a superb example of an ultra-high-performance luxury two-seater. Long distances on fast roads are its metier, and as it pulls
up at its destination at the end of a day, it still looks beautiful though covered in the dust of several countries. The four-head lamp fashion is not necessarily helpful where looks are concerned, but Vignale has overcome the styling problems and produced a front end of great distinction. This is a remarkably well-made car which is practical as well as being an artistic triumph.
The car was submitted for test by Chipstead Motors Limited, of Holland Park Avenue, W.11.