Weekly Historical Car
The Maserati Khamsin (Tipo AM120) is a Gran Turismo automobile produced by Maserati between 1974 and 1982. The Khamsin had no direct successor, with Maserati not making another V8 grand tourer until the 1990 launch of the Shamal. Following Maserati's tradition it was named after a wind: the Khamsin, a hot, violent gust blowing in the Egyptian desert for fifty days a year.
The Khamsin was introduced as a Bertone prototype in Autumn 1972 at the Turin Auto Show. Designed by Marcello Gandini, it was Bertone's first work for Maserati. In March 1973 the production model was shown at the Paris Motor Show, wearing Maserati badges. Regular production of the vehicle started only a year later, in 1974. The Khamsin was developed under the Citroën ownership for the clientele that demanded a front-engined grand tourer on the lines of the previous Ghibli, more conventional than themid-engined Bora. In 1977 a mild facelift added three horizontal slots on the Khamsin's nose to aid cooling. Inside it brought a restyled dashboard and a new padded steering wheel. One Khamsin was delivered to Luciano Benetton in 1981. Despite the many improvements over its predecessor, the Khamsin didn't replicate its success; partly due to the concurrent fuel crisis that shrunk demand for big V8 grand tourers. Production ended in 1982, with 435 vehicles made (a mere third of the Ghibli's 1274 examples production run) - 155 of whose had been exported to the United States.
Combined with the wide, almost all-glass rear hatch this gave exceptional rear visibility in comparison to most cars, especially similar sports cars. Cosmetic triangular vented panels are inlaid in the C-pillar, with the right-hand one hiding the fuel filler cap. Another distinguishing feature is the engine bonnet, pierced by asymmetrical vents. Design features as the wedge body, glazed tail panel and the location of the fuel filler cap all carry Gandini's signature, as they were all present on his earlier Lamborghini Espada. Despite being marketed as a 2+2, the leather-trimmed rear seats, nestled between the two fuel tanks, were found too lacking in headroom and legroom to be usable. The complete instrumentation included gauges for speedometer, tachometer, water temperature, oil temperature, oil pressure, voltmeter and a clock.
The Khamsin used an all-steel monocoque construction, with a rear Silentbloc-bushing insulated tubular subframe supporting the rear suspension and differential. Suspension was double wishbones all around - a major improvement over the Ghibli's leaf-sprung solid axle - with coaxial springs andshock absorbers (single upfront, double at the rear) and anti-roll bars.
The front-mid mounted engine gave the car a 50/50 weight distribution; it was pushed so far back towards the firewall that the full size spare tire could be stored beneath the radiator in front of it, thus freeing up space in the boot. Apart from the adoption of Bosch electronic ignition, Maserati's 4.9 L (4,930 cc) DOHC, 16-valve V8 engine was carried over from the Ghibli SS and delivered 240 kW (330 PS; 320 bhp) at 5500 rpm and 482.0 N·m (355.5 lb·ft) of torque at 4000 rpm. It was fed through four double barrel 42 DCNF 41 Weber carburettors and used dry-sump lubrication. As on the Ghibli the fuel tanks were two, one left and one right, with a single fuel filler on the right hand side. The double exhaust system ended with two resonators, each with twin exhaust tips. Power was routed to the rear wheels through a 5-speed, all syncromesh ZF manual gearbox with a single-plate dry clutch; a 3-speed Borg Warner automatic transmissionwas also available on request. Khamsins rode on 215/70 Michelin XWX tyres on 7½J 15" Campagnolo alloy wheels.
Having been developed under the Citroën ownership, the Khamsin made large use of its high-pressure hydraulic systems. The power steering used the Citroën SM's DIRAVI speed-sensitive variable assistance, which made steering lighter for easier parking and decreased its intervention with speed. The all-around venteddisc brakes and the clutch command were both hydraulically actuated and assisted. The adjustable seats and the pop-up headlights were also hydraulically actuated. An adjustable steering column (an innovative feature at the time), air conditioning, electric windows, a radio and full leather upholstery were standard. Maserati claimed a 270 km/h (170 mph) top speed for the European-specification model.
Khamsin models destined for the United States were subject to significant design alterations to comply with newly enacted legislation with respect to bumper height/strength and placement of tail lights. Maserati and Bertone designer Marcello Gandini strongly objected to the NHTSA's decision prohibiting tail light assembly fitment in the rear vertical glass panel. After a lengthy and unfruitful appeal process, Maserati ultimately capitulated to obtain federalization of the Khamsin and introduce it to their most vital export market.
The federalized Khamsin went on sale in 1975. These models required fitting a solid version of the glass tail panel. The tail lights had to be moved downward, to the rear bumpers' former location; the new, protruding bumper was mounted below the tail lights. This new configuration of components left the exhaust tips unable to clear the bumper, a problem resolved flipping the exhaust resonators upside down. The front bumper was also replaced by a bigger one. Square side markers found their way on the front and rear wings. The engine had to be revised too, gaining smog control equipment (air injection, thermal reactors in the exhaust manifolds, different carburettors and leaner fuel mixture) and losing 5 hp.
American automotive publications and the buying public found this visually awkward arrangement to be an unattractive compromise compared with the intended design available to the rest of the world.