Maserati Khamsin – 1974

At last, even if not by intention, a woman’s supercar — a high-powered car that didn’t need the strength of Hercules to handle it. It can take real brawn to operate the hefty clutch in a high-performance car because the pressure needed increases directly in relation to torque; but, thanks to Citroen hydraulics, the Khamsin’s clutch could be engaged with the lightest of touches. The rack-and-pinion steering was also power-assisted (using the same recently developed DIRAVI system that was in Citroen’s flagship SM model).

All this hydraulic help ensured that the Khamsin was eminently handleable by any competent driver. Styled by Marcello Gandini at Gruppo Bertone, the Khamsin was an exceptionally low, long-nosed unibodied steel wedge with crisp lines and Gandini’s trademark asymmetric bonnet vents. The back panel below the rear window was glass (a repeat of Gandini’s design for the Lamborghini Espada) which gave unusually good reverse visibility. The engine was the same 4.9 litre quad cam V8 as some Bora models but this time it was front-mounted.

The only slight niggle in the design is that although the Khamsin is notionally a 2+2 GT coupe, in reality back passengers are squashed into an unrealistically narrow, cramped perch. Like all Maseratis, the Khamsin is a sensational drive. The exhaust emits a knee-trembling roar as you take off from standstill to 100 mph (161 km/h) in less than 14 secs, and you could (if it were legal) cruise quite happily at 140 mph (225 km/h) without feeling remotely out of control.

But just as the Khamsin went into production the oil crisis hit Europe, threatening to bring Maserati juddering to a halt and precipitately ending the vogue for supercars. Only 421 of these exquisite machines were ever built and they are beginning to be regarded as highly desirable collectors’ cars.

COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: Italy

FIRST MANUFACTURED: 1974 (until 1982)

ENGINE: 4,930 CC V8

PERFORMANCE: Top speed of 160 mph (258 km/h); 0-60 mph (97km/h) in 5.6 secs

YOU SHOULD KNOW: Like the Ghibli and Bora before it, the Khamsin is named after a Mediterranean wind. (The word khamsin comes from ‘fifty’ in Arabic. The wind blows from the Sahara for 50 days).

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