By on January 12, 2021

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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13 Comments on “Rare Rides: The 1976 Maserati Kyalami, Obscure Italian Luxury...”

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Oh man, that’s beautiful inside and out.

  • avatar

    Lovely car. And proof that Maserati was radically ahead of its time:

    Look at that third switch – crying emojis weren’t going to be invented until after 2000, but Maserati had one in 1976. Way to innovate, guys!

  • avatar

    I remember the styling of these often being compared favorably to the Mercedes-Benz 450 SL. These were never officially sold in the U.S., which did not help sales, but a few did come through the gray market.

    • 0 avatar

      I first saw a Kyalami at an exotic car dealership in Pompano Beach, FL around 1984. It was love at first sight, it had such a presence and just looked so elegant. There were the usual grey market 930s, 500SEC, M635CSi, 308, 512 and, being south Florida in the mid 80s, a Countach. But that Kyalami was my favorite. Haven’t seen one in person since.

  • avatar

    It’s glamours in a 1970’s Roger Moore Bond era way. One of a line of cars parked outside the casino in Monte Carlo. Or being valet parked at a party hosted by a billionaire industrialist with a mysterious past.

  • avatar

    “the brand had offered only two four-seat models in its history, the Mexico and Indy. All its other cars were either two-seat, or less practical 2+2s.”

    Right, and what exactly was the Quattroporte I that sold throughout the 1960s? Four doors, two seats?

    As for booting out the Ford V8 for the Kyalami as a de Tomaso in disguise, damn good move. The Maserati aluminum quad cam V8 was no high strung Ferrari. It had real poke at normal revs, and if you’re going to spend real money, who wanted a pushrod iron Ford? Not those with any taste and the cash to indulge themselves.

  • avatar

    Gorgeous !!

  • avatar

    Africa is not a “country”…..

  • avatar

    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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