Maserati GranSport Ownership Experience
By Bruce Lott
I purchased my 2005 GranSport 7 years ago in late 2013, using it for daily transport for part of that time. I now have extensive Maserati driving experience, enjoying 84,000 km on top of the 90,000 km I bought it with. My car was imported from England by the previous owner, a young guy in Melbourne in 2012. He did 12,000 km in 18 months, but needed a cash injection for his business, so I got him at a vulnerable moment. The colour combination is very rare, Rosso Mondiale (World Champion Red) with Avorio (Ivory) interior. It came with an avorio dash which looked quite spectacular, but the glare was killing me, so I had my auto trimmer tone it down to black.
Coming from England it had seven years of salty roads, but its condition underneath wasn’t too bad, so with love and attention I have treated all the areas needed, replacing all the nuts and bolts too.
Like many Italian thoroughbreds, it is true these cars become more reliable with regular use. Taking on a higher kilometre car to start with, meant I wasn’t balancing the usage versus resale value equation. I have no guilt driving it and can just enjoy the car, as I plan to keep it for good. Once I even went from oil service to oil service with no issues between.
I chose the Gransport as I live in Canberra, where there is relatively free flowing traffic, roads in good condition, and quick access to country roads surrounding the ACT. It was a gamble with no specialist Maserati repairer here, so I built up a list of people to help in different areas. Thankfully we had a Maserati dealer open in Canberra in December 2018, so this has saved me some Sydney trips for specialist service. My car does not like Sydney traffic. Each time I take it there I seem to pick up a warning light or some bizarre symptom, so I try to keep it away from there as much as possible. My car was used in the dealer’s gala opening event.
I love the sense of occasion one gets every time you drive the car. I haven’t experienced this with other cars I’ve owned. The V8 sounds could be part of the reason and the engines responsiveness is constantly begging for more. This is not a vehicle one potters around in, but why does every hot VW Golf think they have to race you?
I wasn’t over the moon with the handling or the brakes, so have spent significant sums to improve both. A weeping shock absorber initiated a full suspension rebuild, with all new bushes, front lower control arms, upper ball joints, rebuilt original Sachs Skyhook shocks and fitting Formula Dynamic lowering springs and stiffer anti roll bars. The end result was extremely satisfying handling, except we set the car too low. It looked great but I got sick of scraping on everything, so had it raised up.
I found the ride on the factory 19-inch wheels with the tiny profile tyres too unforgiving, so fitted a set of factory 18-inch wheels with Michelin Sport 4 tyres. They are so much more comfortable.
The brakes received all new rotors from SportsMaserati forum buying group with a higher carbon content, Goodrich braided lines and Formula Dynamic ceramic pads that throw off white residue instead of black. If I win the argument at home to be allowed to compete in Targa type events, I’ll get the bigger brake kit from Formula Dynamics, with bigger diameter disks and six pot calipers.
I’m very fussy with the vehicle’s presentation having competed in all but one club concours and picnic day in the last 7 years, winning my class 3 times and placing most others. Recently I have treated the car to ceramic coating and can highly recommend that too. I have to admit my car was a little tired and rough around the edges when I bought it, but 7 years of progressive meddling has got it where I always wanted it to be. Recently I fitted the leather roof lining that was an option on the early cars. So out came the inerior another time.
TIPS TO KNOW
With my higher-than-normal usage, I have plenty of experience in the issues that are common and obscure with GranSport ownership. Here are some of the hints and observations related to the Gransport ownership I could remember to share. There are others common to all cars, but these are peculiar to ours. More technical people are free to dispute these points.
1. JOIN SPORTSMASERATI FORUM
From the UK, this forum has excellent information on issues and helpful people with experience at whatever the issue. This group has made ownership of an earlier Maserati less scary than it might otherwise have been and certainly a lot less expensive. Some owners have moved on to Astons and say they miss this support group. Some of our club members are active on this forum.
2. F1 RELAY
This is located near the battery in the boot. The factory amp rating is too low at 30 or 50 Amps as I recall. The relay can overheat causing a complete inability for the F1 system to operate and select a gear. My first failure it took 45 minutes for the relay to cool down, so I could at least select 1st gear and make it the short distance to home. Had a second failure much later, even with the higher 70 Amp rating, so I now carry a spare in the boot. You should too. The part is only $15.00 to $20.00 from automotive stores.
3. FACTORY DESIGN COMPROMISE
For ground clearance was to flatten the exhaust pipes after the header as they passed under a support beam. A great improvement to performance and breathability of the engine can be had by replacing this front section with Larini brand stainless steel or other brand pipes. They delete one catalytic convertor (cat) altogether, using a freer flowing cat and provide 2 smaller tubes to replace the flattened section. This should have always been the factory design from day one. It is a must do improvement to the car. Do this change before the centre section X Pipe replacement or the Rear Boxes, as it provides the most performance upgrade of the 3.
Note there were 2 designs of headers supplied by the factory for US and European markets. The US received a header with inbuilt cat. This is easily identified as it uses 2 bolts to connect to the front section of the exhaust. This header was less free flowing than the Euro spec version. The US version has known issues where if the cats have failed and being so close to the engine, particles were sucked back into the engine, creating expensive damage.
It is a good move to change to the non-cat 4 bolt design for engine safety and performance grounds. Larini make new headers if you can’t source some original ones from wreckers. I see these offered on eBay quite often. Fortunately, my car came with the Euro spec version which was the luck of the drawer, as the UK and Aussie cars received either version, depending on the whims of the production line.
5. THE CLUTCH
The GS uses the Ferrari F430 base motor with an F360 clutch at the back of the engine, mated via torque tube to an F360 gearbox transaxle at the rear. A badly adjusted clutch will wear quickly and there was a batch of factory supply clutches with weak tangs that failed. This created reports on various feeds about bad experiences and to avoid this model car. My own experience was it took many years and 60,000 or so km to go from 60% wear to 90% when I decided to change. My wear experience may relate to the light traffic conditions mentioned before. I wasn’t experiencing issues but had the opportunity to upgrade to the F430 clutch. An owner I know in Melbourne went through 2 or 3 clutches, then through his relationship with Ferrari privateer racing teams found one type of F430 clutch was identical in size. It is a perfect fit and is so much smoother in operation with stronger tangs. I can’t recommend it more highly, as it should always have come with this. Others in our club have benefitted from this upgrade too. Vic Guidice in Sydney can fit this.
Drive By Wire Enhancement Module is sold by Formula Dynamics in Las Vegas. Visit their website for whatever model you have. I was fortunate enough to visit their store on a trip to the US. The module sets the gear change speed into two choices both faster than standard. A switch to select between modes is provided but can only be changed with the engine off. There is a total disable switch as well to revert to factory settings. I found with the factory programming so slow when selecting 1st gear from neutral at the lights, it felt like the car would have a committee meeting then go into first. This fixes that and sharpens up throttle response too. I highly recommend this upgrade.
7. OIL PIPE SPLIT NUT
At the bottom of the dry sump oil tank is a union where the oil feeder hose to the engine joins. The connector can fail due to the action of 2 types of metals corroding. Hill Engineering in the UK create fixes for many Ferrari issues and for items no longer available. They make an improved design Split Nut. This is on my to do list.
Although it is made by Nippon Denso, no parts are available to rebuilt it, so when it fails, you will have to source the complete unit. They fail as they sit in the V of the engine with heat compounded by the placement of the air induction plenum chamber above them. They get hot.
9. AIR CONDITIONING COMPRESSOR
The Air Conditioning Compressor is wrapped by the exhaust headers and also gets hot and eventually fails. Maserati use two suppliers Sanden and AC Delco. So you’ll have to check which one your car has when ordering. I was able to source new stock from an Eastern European specialist in compressors via the web, very reasonably priced. $800 delivered as I recall.
10. ENGINE MOUNTS
For this model are now out of production. The driver side one accepts the forces of the rotation of the engine and compresses over time. Check the wreckers for low mileage cars they are parting.
Black carpets in particular fade in the Australian sun. I rejuvenated mine with carpet spray paint. I thought they were black until I saw the difference the paint made. Awesome improvement in the car.
12 REVERSING BEEPER
Early cars, late 2004 and 2005 with this option fitted, had the reserving beeper installed in the passenger footwell where it is difficult to hear. 2006 models onwards had it fitted on the rear parcel shelf. I refitted mine to centre console near the hand brake lever, while I had the carpets out. I can hear it now.
13 HEATER MATRIX
If you smell anti-freeze fluid in the cabin or have a sticky wet patch in the passenger footwell then your heater matrix is leaking. Another sign was my radio had poor AM function due to fluid dripping on it. This is a dash out job. I fixed this myself using instructions from SportsMaserati Forum. I bought the Alfa Romeo identical part for $200 vs $1,200 in a Maserati box. US correspondents report a Volvo heater matrix which is completely aluminium also fits. I took the opportunity to replace the fan as well as it had faltered from time to time.
Dash out, follow the steps & label all the wires
14. STICKY BUTTONS
Unfortunately Maserati and Ferrari during this period put a rubberised surface treatment on buttons and plastic interior components that becomes sticky if cleaned with anything other than water. I removed all my vents, buttons, air cond and headlight controls and sent them to Lorenzo in Florida to fix. He is on the SportsMaserati Forum and the US forum – MaseratiLife. Someone has started a business doing these in the UK again on SportsMaserati Forum. They also have do it yourself guides.
15. GLARE FROM STEERING COLUMN
I had my auto trimmer recover the console in suede to stop the summer reflections in the instrument panel. Big improvement. So the suede doesn’t fade prematurely I had them also make a cover for the console when I park. Photo also shows rest pedal in alloy and carbon fibres paddles I obtained.
16. RE-ORDERING THE BUTTONS LAYOUT
I found the centre console confusing while driving, so changed the order of the buttons from factory. I wanted separation between front and rear fog lights which you do use in Canberra and to move the Ice Mode to the back as it is never used. I also changed the lower dash buttons layout from left hand drive bias, where the Start button was on the passenger side. I changed mine to the driver’s side where it should be.
17. BATTERY RESET
From time-to-time Italian electrics need a reset to clear random problems. The factory has kindly provided a round knob in the boot to make this easy. What isn’t commonly known is for the next 100 kms after a reset, the computer will learn your driving style. So if you drive like a Grandpa, it will remain that way. The secret is to drive like a bat out of hell after a reset to establish a “normal“ setting again.
18. BBS WHEELS
The factory supplied 19-inch wheels are made by BBS in Germany. Unfortunately, they use a soft composition and can crack too easily. I cracked one rim on a club weekend away at Katoomba. Thankfully it took time to be a problem and didn’t strand us. EuroSpares in the UK now market pattern wheels stronger than the BBS ones.
19. HEADLIGHT LENSES
Unfortunately with exposure to the Australian sun over extended periods they can go milky on the inside of the lens, as well as the outside. This is a big job to tackle as it involves removing the bumper bar to gain access to remove the light pods. The lenses are factory glued into a U-shaped channel. Muttering and swearing are useful tools, with picks and blades.
20. BOOT ACCESS
A good practice is to lubricate the lock barrel and use your key in the boot lock from time to time to maintain freedom of movement. Tens times out of ten owners use the key fob button instead. The one time I needed to use the lock, it was frozen solid. I had disabled the battery and left the boot lid open. My family closed it thinking I had forgotten. With no battery the interior boot release button wouldn’t work, nor the key fob and as you heard the key would not turn in the lock. I had to Dremel one of the retaining allen key bolts in the number plate light bar to gain access to the cable to pull it.
21. REBUILDING THE FACTORY SHOCKS
My suspension guy knows the Sachs importer in QLD (?) and found he will remove the top of the sealed unit, thread the outside body, rebuild the innards and screw a cap on to reseal it. Everywhere else around the world, the message is you must replace the shocks. So Australia benefits from the tyranny of distance and just finds ways to fix things.
22. ENGINE RE-MAPPING
A Melbourne firm Auto Racing Technik can load a new tune to your engine management system bringing power lower down the rev band for more acceleration. They can adjust throttle response and gear change times just like the DBWEM mentioned before. They were the ones to discover the F430 clutch upgrade.
I hope these insights may assist your enjoyment of these cars.