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I had completed my annual trip to the Chrysler show in Albury. A friend had imported a 1971 Dodge Super-bee (383 Slapstick). He drove from Sydney to Albury and back and I was due to return to Brisbane the next morning.
I had my Dad pick me up to return to his home for the night (where my car had been stored for the weekend). He had commented that he was having difficulty in shifting it whilst he was using it on the weekend. He seemed to struggle to catch a Lexus (SC430 from his description)!! His description was of a “large badge that was a “C” or an “L” and was a convertible full-blown sports car” that he was unable to catch. I informed him it was the driver that was not up to the challenge, not the car.

I left Sydney at 5:00 am to beat the morning rush. Upon starting the car and driving off I noticed the clutch pedal was a little soft with a pick up point almost at the floor. I was going to be cruising home (11 hours of driving ahead) so would be merely using 5th and 6th gear.
Hitting some traffic on the F3 I started to find it difficult to select 4th gear. I would have to muscle the stick and match revs to engage. Changing back to 5th and 6th was still quite easy. I had a full tank of gas, should give a range of 600 km. My re-fuelling stop would be Coffs Harbour.
Just out of Newcastle I decided to pull over and make sure there was not a fluid leak in the clutch system responsible for the lack of pressure in the pedal. Armed with my factory manuals I had a quick read and examined the system from the engine bay and all seemed OK.
I really had trouble selecting first but managed to get moving again. I started thinking of the whole system to determine a short list of items I would inspect if I had to pull over and had an opportunity.
The Pacific Highway is in constant upgrade. Several times I was brought to a stop for road works. From these stops I knew that the clutch was going to need attention but hopefully I’d make it back to Brisbane. My biggest concern was how to drive through Brisbane in peak hour traffic without using the clutch. Brisbane traffic lights do not assist the flow of traffic, rather it seems to bring it all to a stand still.
I battled on, listening to the radio, in particular the discussions of the new workplace laws that became effective on this day.
Once I approached Coffs I hit every red light. There are no by pass routes available with fuel stations so I had to drive through the city centre. I decided to keep the clutch pedal pressed in at each stop and to have first gear engaged prior to stopping as it was nearly impossible to select it once the car had stopped. I made it to the fuel station and filled up. I thought if I could get going and have no stops I’d make Brisbane.
After starting the car I could not select first. The car would creep forward with the pressure required to select first. The clutch would not disengage. I checked the fluid level and it was down. I bought some brake fluid and topped it up but it made no difference.
With the engine off I selected first and started the car. It allowed me to move from the pump to a parking area so I could work out what I was going to do. I’m still 500 km from home.
Looking under the car I could see it was leaking fluid from the clutch slave. I assumed this was the problem. It added up. I looked up the phone book to see if any service agents are in the Coffs area. No luck I called around, Alfa first to see if they service Maserati’s, and then the independents. Only one place said they would have a look to see if they could help. Turns out they are less than 50 meters away. Engaging first I started the car right in queue for the change in lights and drove in first to the workshop. They put it on a hoist and said the slave piston had pushed right out and had leaked all the fluid. They had it out and a new set of rubbers in it in no time and reinstalled it to the car.
Once they started the car all seemed fine until they depressed the clutch and a metallic (spring loose from the clutch plate) sort of sound could be heard. They could not get the car into gear. I was stuck.
They didn’t really know what the problem was and until the gearbox was removed and the clutch could be inspected no answers would be forthcoming. To compound the problem, they didn’t really want to remove the gearbox until they were positive that the clutch kit was available so the car wouldn’t be sitting for a long period of time.
The dealership for Ferrari and Maserati changed hands on the 1st Jan this year. I have tried to get some steering kits previously through the new network but they suggested I remove the rack and joints and take them to a manufacturing business and have them made!
After 4 hours of sitting around we had progressed to – the kit would need to be brought out from Germany and it would take 14 days. I asked to have the clutch reconditioned and a suitable professional was found who could do the pressure plate and the clutch and bearing flown in from Adelaide.
I’d stew over this information with some Guinness from the local pub and stay over night at a local motel. In the morning I contacted the workshop to confirm the items he was ordering were for a Ghibli 2.8 6 speed. His response “oh that’s what it is. I’ll make sure”. I don’t know if they are all the same, i.e. bi- turbo’s, Ghibli 5 speeds and the 6 speeds, but if they take out the box and the components do not fit it could mean the 14 days from Germany. I called a few transport companies. If the car were running it would cost $400 for the trip to Brisbane on a car carrier and $400 for the return flight home. Using a tray back it would be $880 and I’d be able to travel with the car.
I decided to get the tray back.
They didn’t arrive till 4:00 pm that day. They wanted to take the car back to Lismore and sway it over to a smaller truck for the journey to Brisbane. It would mean arriving at around 10 – 11 pm. I arranged with the service agent I am using to open his shop at that hour and he agreed. All seemed sweet but a long day. As we departed Coffs the trucking company asked if I would mind dropping the car off at Lismore transferring it to the new truck and commencing the journey the next morning. I thought about it and must have seemed as if I was going to say no, as they said they pay for my accommodation dinner and grog. How could I resist. There was nothing to be gained from the car arriving so late at night either.
After a few beers and dinner I went to the motel and would see the driver nice and early for the next mornings trip.
It was a fairly fast run home and I had the car unloaded by 9:00am. I finally arrived home at 10:30 am.
Besides the bill for transport, one nights accommodation, beer, the rebuilt cylinder and the replacement clutch (yet to see the cost on that), it was a pretty cheap trip. When all the Maserati criticizer’s find out about this one it will fuel there verbal attacks for months to come.
After the clutch is fixed I can move on to repairing those two leaking cylinders and that irregular idle and it should be a monster again.
Ah the life of a Maserati owner.
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