Khamsins don't appear at auction frequently. With less than 300 said to remain out of production of only around 430 cars, it is a legitimately rare bird, though its taste is still too gamey for most collectors
This elegant 2+2 coupe was first shown at Turin in 1972, the work of one of Bertone's more talented young designers, Marcello Gandini. The Khamsin was to be Maserati's answer to the Ferrari Daytona, yet because Maserati was in the midst of its "Citroën era," production of the new model didn't start until 1974, when the Daytona was being phased out.
Using Maserati's proven and powerful V8, this front-engine stunner was capable of 0-60 times in the low six-second range and achieved speeds of 168 mph.
Pop stars and celebrities have long enjoyed the allure of fast cars and this rare, right-hand-drive Khamsin was purchased new by musican Mike Oldfield of "Tubular Bells" fame. The vendor acquired this immaculately-presented Khamsin from its second owner in 1989 and during his ownership it has been seldom used. Its condition is excellent and it has received a thorough mechanical check over.
|1978 Maserati Khamsin
|Original List Price:
|$33,500 in 1976
|Tune Up Cost:
|Chassis Number Location:
|Plate on left hand wheel well in engine compartment
|Engine Number Location:
|Same as chassis, on above plate
|Maserati Club International, 1620 Industry Drive, Suite F, Auburn, WA 98001
|1971-72 Ferrari 365 GTC/4, 1967-73 Maserati Ghibli
This 1978 Maserati Khamsin sold for a market-correct $29,430, including buyer’s premium, at the Christie’s auction held in London, England, on June 16, 2003.
Note that this Maserati’s “provenance” of having once belonged to the man credited with inventing “New Age” music was apparently worth little. The Khamsin’s good condition, resale red color, and relatively low 25,777 miles likely had more to do with this Khamsin’s desirability than any of Oldfield’s four recordings of “Tubular Bells.” That there were two interested parties bidding certainly didn’t hurt the price, which falls right at the top of the SCM Price Guide range of $18,500-$30,000.
Devotees dubbed the Khamsin “the last great Maserati grand tourer” and many hailed it a true supercar, though this claim is somewhat suspect, especially for U.S.-spec cars. Detractors just consider this Maser an odd duck, of little interest to collectors. That it came about during the period of Citroën ownership-and the beginning of the gas crunch-certainly hasn’t helped its reputation.
Neither has the U.S. version of the Khamsin, imported in 1977. It had the worst bumper conversions imaginable, with the taillights moved from their distinctive vertical glass rear panel, ugly black protuberances fitted in place of the svelte original bumpers, and the exhaust outlets modified. Most U.S. cars have been “unconverted” with a Euro kit, which moves the taillights back into the glass panel and relocates the exhaust outlets. The conversion kits run approximately $3,000.
Bumpers aren’t the only problem with U.S. Khamsins, as federally mandated and Italian-designed emission equipment strangled the venerable and reliable Maserati DOHC V8. European models made a respectable 320 hp and a stump-pulling 354 lb-ft of torque, good for that six-second 0-60 time and 168 mph top speed. But period testing of Federalized Khamsins show 0-60 taking more than seven seconds and top speed only 140 mph.
Be patient and find a legally imported European model with the manual transmission, though if you must buy a U.S. version make sure it’s been subject to proper engine tuning to recover the lost power, hopefully including the Euro exhaust headers.
The Khamsin is attractive, as Gandini’s design has many attention-grabbing features. A distinctive asymmetric louvered hood grille was revised for later cars, with the vents lengthened across the rest of the hood to help address cooling issues. An almost horizontal hatchback gives great luggage access, and the aforementioned rear glass panel makes backing up easier than in any other exotic. While advertised as a 2+2, the bolt-upright rear seats are only for small children, medium-sized dogs, or very short trips.
These Maseratis are not without their Citroën influence, which included an infamous hydraulically power-assisted, speed-sensitive steering. While it makes for a light feel, it also possesses an amazing alacrity to self-center. The brakes are also hydraulically assisted, powered by a 2,500-psi, engine-driven pump, making them sensitive to pressure rather than pedal travel.
Before buying any Khamsin, make sure that the high-pressure accumulator spheres have been recharged within the last 10 years, and that the system has always used the recommended LHM, a low-viscosity mineral oil that’s entirely incompatible with regular brake fluid. Though inexpensive to maintain, a complete rebuild of the hydraulic systems can run into the thousands of dollars.
An inspection of a Khamsin should also include a compression and cylinder leak-down test, as Maserati V8s subjected to storage are known for developing stuck (and subsequently broken) piston rings. As with any exotic, a mechanic within 100 miles who knows, understands, loves, and will work on the car is invaluable. Otherwise, a Khamsin can easily become just a beautiful and nearly worthless piece of static garage art.
The market for ’60s and ’70s-vintage Maseratis is far from strong, meaning that sometimes no-reserve cars can fall through the cracks, selling for well under market value. But even paying full price for it, the buyer of this car should consider himself somewhat charmed to have found a nice example of one of just 71 Khamsins built for driving on the wrong side of the road.
Like many cars that trade on the fringes of the collector market, Khamsins don’t appear at auction frequently. With less than 300 said to remain out of production of only around 430 cars, it is a legitimately rare bird, though its taste is still too gamey for most collectors, who tend to prefer Ghiblis, Boras and Mistrals.-John Apen