Missing Maserati surfaces in Saudi Arabia A chance meeting in a Manchester pub has led to the discovery of the long-lost Ghia-bodied 5000GT.
A unique million-pound Maserati that has been missing for decades has been tracked down to Saudi Arabia after classic car enthusiasts were overheard chatting about their hobby in a Manchester pub. Lifelong fanatic Zak Mather comes from a family already involved in brokerage and restoration and was just starting to market a few classic cars himself when he was on a night out with like-minded friends. After they had been chatting for a while, a Saudi gentleman on a neighbouring table introduced himself and started talking about his own collection that included a couple of Aston Martin DB5s and a DB6 Volante.
He then showed Mather a picture of an unusual Maserati on stands, which he looked after but was owned by his brother. It had apparently been given to their grandfather as a gift by his Sheikh employer in the late 1970s when he no longer had any use for it, but was barely used. After the grandfather passed away, the Maserati was moved inside, but little else was done to it.
Mather knew instantly that it was an important find and further research revealed that it was one of only 34 5000GTs. Maserati built the cars following a suggestion from the Shah of Persia that the Modenese company combine its 450S racing engine with a luxury GT. The resulting car was the most expensive and fastest in the world, but its engine was notoriously unreliable, with the crank profiling blamed for its failures. The 5000GT featured in the Joe Walsh song Life’s Been Good, when he sang ‘My Maserati does one-eighty-five, I lost my licence, I no longer drive’. It didn’t do 185mph of course, but test driver Guerino Bertocchi and Hans Tanner reached 172mph and 168mph in two runs on the Autostrada del Sole. Others were owned by Stewart Granger, Briggs Cunningham, the Aga Khan and Gianni Agnelli.
Most were bodied by Allemano, Touring or Frua, but Mather realised that he was looking at the only car known to have Ghia coachwork. It was sold new to industrialist Ferdinando Innocenti and at some point in the late 1960s was in Naples, but the rest was a mystery until Mather’s discovery.
He struck a deal to buy the Maserati and flew to Saudi Arabia. He says: ‘It was terrifying. It was so important and valuable a discovery that I simply had to take a chance on it, but to say I was nervous was a massive understatement. I mean, come on, the whole story – and how I found out about it – is so unlikely that until I saw the car in the metal, I was convinced it was a scam.’
It wasn’t a scam, though, and Mather’s purchase was going smoothly as the car’s significance was confirmed. All the arrangements were made to ship the Maserati back to Europe in spring 2017, but then the Saudi authorities stepped in and blocked the car’s export licence. And that is how the situation remains to this day.
‘I am trying not to get my hopes up,’ adds Mather, ‘but even just the other day I received a phone call suggesting that the paperwork was on the verge of being signed off. Then again, I have been there plenty of times already. If it ever gets approval, the car is mine and we’ll be bringing it back. Until then I am just waiting…’