Rare Rides: The 1976 Maserati Kyalami, Obscure Italian Luxury
Today’s Rare Ride is a very luxurious Maserati which flew in under the radar and was offered by the Italian firm for a short while. A four-seat coupe, it was named after a race track in Africa.
Let’s find out more about Kyalami.
Though Maserati had a history of coupes, its subset of dedicated four-seat vehicles were few and far between. Before Kyalami arrived for the 1976 model year, the brand had offered only two four-seat coupes in its history, the Mexico and Indy. All its other two-doors were either two-seat, or less practical 2+2s.
Maserati was in the midst of a new life when the Kyalami came along, and the model bore the special distinction of being the first developed by Alejandro de Tomaso, who’d helm the company from 1975 through 1992. De Tomaso took a look at the Maserati financials and saw some dire straits. The company needed a new flagship car to supplement the front-drive Quattroporte, the 2+2 Khamsin and Merak, and two-seat Bora. But how does one build an all-new car with the smallest possible cash outlay?
By using a car that’s already in existence, of course. De Tomaso borrowed the platform from the Longchamp, a coupe bearing his own brand that was on sale since 1973 (and selling very slowly). Longchamp itself was a derivative of the Deauville sedan platform of 1971. The Longchamp’s Tom Tjaarda design was passed over to Pietro Frua, who was tasked with a money-saving rework to turn the Longchamp pumpkin into a Kyalami squash. Frua generally softened the square jaw looks of the Longchamp and replaced its singular headlamps with more Italian looking quad beams. Kyalami ended up larger in all dimensions than Longchamp and sat lower to the ground. Inside, typical Maserati accouterments were used in place of the De Tomaso ones, borrowed from Maserati models already in production. The interior was very plush and featured Connolly leather trim to support the car’s grand touring mission.
The Ford V8 power of the Longchamp simply would not do for a Maserati, so those engines were cast aside in favor of a 4.2-liter Maserati V8 from the Quattroporte. Initial horsepower was 261, which increased to 276 in 1978 via an enlarged version (4.9L) of the same engine. Transmissions on offer were a five-speed manual from ZF or a three-speed auto from Borg Warner.
But it turned out that Maserati’s sporty customers didn’t want a big, expensive grand touring coupe with styling they’d seen on a De Tomaso years prior. Brand purists scoffed at its lack of originality and heavy, luxurious nature. Between 1976 and its cancellation in 1983, Maserati sold just 200 Kyalamis. Maserati attempted a four-seat luxury coupe once more in the late Eighties, with the BiTurbo-based 228. That one went well too!
Today’s Rare Ride was a very early example out of the company’s factory in Modena. Maserati decided to keep it, so it hung around town doing testing duties before it was eventually passed to Alejandro de Tomaso as a private vehicle. The special Kyalami last sold in Germany in spring 2019 for $65,000.
Interested in lots of cars and their various historical contexts. Writing things for TTAC since late 2016 from a home base in Cincinnati, Ohio. You can find me on Twitter @CoreyLewis86, and I also contribute at Forbes Wheels.
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