Have you ever looked at loveable art and antiques swindler, Lovejoy and thought to yourself, do you know what; if Lovejoy was a car he’d probably be a Maserati BiTurbo coupe? No? Well don’t fret, as we have on your behalf.
What with his roguish antique dealer appearance, black leather bomber jacket and coiffured mullet, there’s no mistaking the fact that if Lovejoy was indeed a motor vehicle, he would be one of the most underrated and valued Maseratis of the 1980s. In its defence, the BiTurbo coupe conveyed a deal more glamour, air of mystique and was countered by a certain degree of mischievousness, rather than the more lock-keeper-ish façade championed by the trickster’s trickster. Moreover, the BiTurbo coupe blended the above with an effortless veneer of sophistication, similar heights the like of which Lovejoy would struggle to scale. And it’s also fair to say the BiTurbo coupe didn’t simply wish to get into Lady Jane Felsham’s knickers at every opportunity; although if it had, then we’re confident that this achievement would be well within its grasp. But nevertheless, it’s our firm belief that had Lovejoy been a car – as opposed to an East Anglian wheeler-dealer of bric-a-brac (with an eye for both the ladies and the next ‘get rich quick’ scheme) - then that car would have almost certainly have been the Maserati BiTurbo coupe; courtesy of many shared characteristics and personality traits.
Take the interior for a quiet start, with upholstery as plush and as chintzy as Lovejoy in his televisual pomp, with a clock at its centrepiece. Clock spelt with an additional letter ‘L’ to clarify. Beneath the bonnet lurked an old 2.0-litre V6 engine lifted from one of the revered models found in the supercar book of genesis, the Maserati Merak; yet which was force-fed by twin Garrett turbochargers, thus making it the first ever production road car to brandish a twin-turbocharger set-up. And if we learned anything about Lovejoy during his late-1980s heyday that was his snug fitting denim-wear was definitely twin-turbocharged. Of course, the BiTurbo coupe’s detractors argued that its exterior aped that of the already existing (and hugely popular) BMW 3-Series E24 iteration a little too closely for their comfort, and likewise fans of Magnum P.I thought there was something hirsutely familiar when they first clapped eyes on Lovejoy and his lady-ensnaring camera flirtation. There were also claims that the BiTurbo coupe’s designer – Alejandro DeTomaso – consciously wished to take the Maser down-market, a notion which might easily resonate with Lovejoy devotees, who instantly fell for his low-rent charms.
But that’s the good bits, what about the less salubrious? Well, there were those who concluded that ‘BiTurbo’ was the Italian for ‘expensive scrap’ and that the Maser coupe was nothing more than the product of a desperate, under-funded company circling the drain of bankruptcy at the time it was cobbled together. Essentially intonating that beneath the comely surface area the rivets were more than a little suspect, as was the welding. Again, the similarities with Lovejoy being nothing short of uncanny. If you wanted to be unkind, you might say that everything that could leak, burn, snap or rupture did so with alarming regularity, and which explains why the BBC eventually culled Lovejoy in 1994, a mere three years after the BiTurbo coupe itself was exterminated. Still, neither the BiTurbo coupe nor Lovejoy were all bad, with the former still being a much sought-after car to this very day, whilst the latter didn’t always feather his own nest, and would often help out those less fortunate by conning unwitting toffs out of family heirlooms and affording those whose backs he watched the financial spoils resultant of his ill-gotten gains.
And finally there’s that whole ‘talking to camera’ bit that both the Maser and Ian McShane acting vehicle, Lovejoy championed with equally advantageous aplomb in their respective heydays (which was, historically-speaking the same mid-1980s to mid-1990s vintage). Only the foolish would argue that the BiTurbo coupe wasn’t a past master at playing up to the lens at it went about its business, affording its adoring audience the most aesthetically-pleasing of glances whenever it was papped out and about (and whether it was being towed away on a flat-bed recovery truck or not). And Lovejoy – as any TV trivia buff worth their Telly Addicts boner will tell you - pretty much cornered the televisual market when it came to the comely nod and wink to the camera whenever the lens was trained on his affable (yet heavily mulleted) visage. So there you go. There’s no doubting in my book that had Lovejoy been a car, that car would have been a Maserati BiTurbo coupe. What’s more, you can pick up a BiTurbo coupe in the automotive classifieds for roughly the same price as an early/mid-19th Century mahogany long case regulator grandfather clock. Knock off, of course.
Join me next time as I seek to determine whether or not Jim Bergerac would have been a Ford Sierra 1.6GL, if the popular Channel Islands sleuth was a car.