Why Australia was ground zero for a Global Gathering of Maseratis

It's the people more than the exotic and (often) expensive cars.

That's the word from John Gove, the president of the Maserati Owners Club of Australia, which spent two years pulling together the first Global Gathering of the Italian sports cars to coincide with the running of the Australian Grand Prix.

While Gove loves Maseratis – the pride of his collection are two Mistral Spyders – he also loves the adventures and the people he meets as a result of sharing a passion for the rare, stylish machines.

"It's the people that make the event, but the cars are the glue that bring those people together," says Gove of the nearly 50 cars making up the tour from Torquay on the Great Ocean Road to Sydney.

"Maserati people I think are a special group of people, they really are very approachable, it's noticeably different to other car clubs."

Head turners

For onlookers, though, it's undoubtedly the cars that stand out.

Maseratis are among the rarest car on the roads, so when there are 30 or 40 in the one place – some classics, others perfectly maintained modern cars – it's guaranteed to garner attention, as we learn at our hotel in Torquay.

The distinctive Trident badge is standing proud. But Gove says Maseratis are different to other supercars.

He speaks from experience: While Maseratis are his preferred ride, he also appreciates other classic European machines, some of which he owns or has owned.

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"I think Maseratis are a fabulous car because they're designed to be driven," he says. "Unlike a lot of Italian exotica you can use them every day. Maseratis are made for grand touring, for using and they're just fabulous at that."

Open house

Owners and members of Maserati car clubs around the world were welcome to take part in this first ever Global Gathering, which was sanctioned by the factory in Italy.

The week-long tour began at Torquay and meandered through country Victoria, NSW and the ACT before ending in Sydney.

Other than ensuring the car was working – hey, many of these are classic cars, so that in itself can be a feat – owners simply had to ensure they arrived at the designated location at the appropriate time.

A road less travelled

It's a leisurely pace of long lunches and varied roads, some of which touch on iconic tourist hotspots, others of which flow through parts typically frequented by locals.

That was part of the appeal for Roger Wheeler, a Californian who loved that the event showed him plenty of Australia you don't see in the brochures.

"The appeal of coming to Australia with Maseratis seemed really cool to do," says Wheeler. "You get to see a lot of the country. It's like a private tour almost."

But Wheeler's Gran Turismo remained at home in America – purely because of the cost and complexity of temporarily importing a left-hand drive car into Australia.

Beware the bureaucracy

That was a familiar story on the Maserati Global Gathering.

The big distance for many to travel to Australia naturally limits how many will head here for an event like this.

And it wasn't all smooth sailing for some of the most interesting Maseratis heading down under.

Many were blocked in customs under suspicion of containing asbestos components.

One of those was a rare 5000GT once owned by Joe Walsh of The Eagles; he even referenced it in one of his songs, Life's Been Good, talking about how it "does 185 [miles per hour] … I lost my licence, now I don't drive".

The random customs checks can involve drilling holes or taking components off to check for asbestos.

Old to new

But it didn't prevent a procession of interesting machines.

One of the most interesting cars on the cruise was a 1967 Ghibli claimed to be the first car to leave the Maserati factory with the steering wheel on the right.

Owner Mark Jansen says it was displayed at the London motor show before being driven in the UK.

The car made its way to Australia around 2005 and has been meticulously maintained since.

Fast forward

Our ride was less interesting but more comfortable – and, likely, faster.

As well as the latest Levante S – the twin-turbo V6 version of Maserati's first SUV – we got behind the wheel of the updated Ghibli S.

It's a mid-sized sedan that offers a brisk alternative to German luxury cars such as the Mercedes-AMG C63 and BMW M3.

The Ghibli S shares the same basic engine with the Levante, each of which has been boosted by 19kW, for 321kW in total.

It's a brisk device and one that works nicely with the eight-speed auto transmission. Key to its character is flexibility and punch across its rev range.

Sound off

Less impressive is the noise, which is a muted V6 sound that lacks the character of so many Maseratis.

New electric power steering makes for good response and feedback, although our drive didn't explore the full dynamic limits.

Which in some ways is in keeping with the Global Gathering.

Rather than attracting unwanted attention, it's about enjoying the drive and driving cars that so often are kept in garages.