Rare Rides: The 1976 Maserati Kyalami, Obscure Italian Luxury

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis
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.

[Image: Maserati]

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  • Guy08 Guy08 on Jan 13, 2021

    Africa is not a "country".....

  • Johnnyz Johnnyz on Jan 13, 2021

    Would that be considered a shooting brake? Check out hoovies garage- he scored a really nice Countach. He shows the contortions he has to make to barley fit inside. Funny.

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  • MaintenanceCosts Still can't get a RAV4 Prime for love or money. Availability of normal hybrid RAV4s and Highlanders is only slightly better. At least around here I think Toyota could sell twice the number of vehicles that they are actually bringing in at the moment.
  • Tree Trunk Been in the market for a new Highlander Hybrid, it is sold out with order time of 6 months plus. Probably would have bit the bullet if it was not for the dealers the refuse to take an order but instead want to sell from allotment whether it fits or not and at thousands over MRSP.
  • AKHusky The expense argument is nonsense. My mach e was $42k after tax credit. Basically the same as similarly equipped edge. And it completely ignores that the best selling vehicles are Rams, F150s, and Silverados, all more expensive that a bolt, MAch e or ID4. As an owner, I'd say they are still in second car territory for most places in the country.
  • Johnster I live in a red state and I see quite a few EVs being purchased by conservative, upper-class Republicans (many of them Trump-supporters). I suspect that it is a way for them to flaunt their wealth and that, over time, the preference for EVs will trickle down to less well-off Republicans.
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