The Maserati Khamsin, named after the hot violent wind of the Egyptian desert, bowed at the 1972 Turin show and again at Paris ’73, but didn’t go on sale until 1974. Maserati’s traditional front-engine GT needed freshening again by the early 1970s. The result was a new model effectively replacing both the Maserati Indy and, in fact if not spirit, the Maserati Ghibli.
The Khamsin was as much a departure for Maserati as the mid-engine Bora and Merak. First, it was a cross between the two-seat Maserati Ghibli and 2 + 2 Maserati Indy, a sort of “2 + 1” if you will. Second, it was the first Maserati shaped by Bertone, with Marcello Gandini of Lamborghini fame doing the honors. Last but not least, it was the first front-engine Maserati to bear the unique engineering stamp of Citroën, which then controlled the Italian concern.
Visually, it owed more to the Maserati Ghibli than the Maserati Indy, with the same sort of squashed fastback roof and lengthy hood, though the sharply pointed nose and crisp contouring were quite unique. As he had on Lamborghini’s Espada, Gandini penciled in a glass panel between the taillamps, and it was just as useful in this low-rider.
Following Indy precedent, the Maserati Khamsin employed a unitized steel structure (supplied by Bertone). Some chassis engineering also carried forward, but there were major differences too. Rear suspension was now fully independent (a first for a front-engine Maser), with coil-and-double-wishbone geometry (as on the midships Bora/Merak) matching that at the front. Rack-and-pinion steering was another departure, as was the use of Citroën high-pressure hydraulics to power both steering and the all-disc brakes.
Under the hood and mounted somewhat back in the chassis was the latest version of the familiar twincam V-8. Unlike previous Maseratis, though, all Khamsins carried the same 4.9-liter unit with a genuine 320 horsepower for Europe, 315 bhp in emissions-legal U.S. trim. Transmission choices still comprised the ubiquitous 5-speed manual (preferred by more sporting buyers) or optional Borg-Warner 3-speed automatic.
The Maserati Khamsin was apparently just as slippery as previous Maseratis, for top speed ranged from 140 to 160 mph depending on transmission and engine tune. But less than flat out, it was a curious combination of the traditional and futuristic. The latter was exemplified by the hydraulically powered steering and brakes, both of which took a lot of practice for smooth driving.
As on Citroën’s SM, the steering would self-center even with the car at rest, was fingertip light, and lightning quick at a mere 2.0 turns lock-to-lock. The brakes were just as touchy, easy to lock up with a shade too much pedal pressure. Handling, by contrast, was easy to get used to, and very balanced thanks to the near even fore/aft weight distribution.
Inside, the driving stance was pure Italian supercar, but ergonomics were far from state-of-the-art and the basic climate system was just that. The ride was harsh, rear-seat accommodations the usual token gesture.
With all this, the Khamsin was not a successful effort even by Maserati standards. Had it not appeared on the eve of the first Energy Crisis, which precipitated Citroën’s sudden pullout and several tough years for Maserati, it might have sold better. As it was, only 421 were called for over eight years of production. The peak year was the first, 1974, when a grand 96 were built.