A Rare ~150 MPH Italian Grand Tourer From The 1970s


The Maserati Kyalami was developed in the 1970s to offer clients of the storied Italian marque a luxurious new grand tourer powered by a quad cam Maserati V8 that was capable of almost 150 mph.

The Kyalami had been named after the Kyalami race track in South Africa where a Maserati-powered Cooper T81 Formula 1 car had won the 1967 South African Grand Prix with Mexican driver Pedro Rodríguez at the wheel.

Fast Facts – The Maserati Kyalami

  • Maserati was sold by Citroën to Alejandro de Tomaso and GEPI in 1975, de Tomaso immediately set about returning the company to profitability.
  • De Tomaso realized that the company needed a new luxury GT car but they lacked the funds to develop one from scratch. Instead he sent the designs for his own De Tomaso Longchamp to Pietro Frua, who modified the design – creating the Kyalami.
  • The new car was longer, wider, and lower than its forebear, and it was powered by the Maserati Tipo AM 107.21.42 V8 in place of the Longchamp’s Ford V8.
  • Despite the promise of the Kyalami it wouldn’t become a success for Maserati. Just 200-210 were made between 1976 and 1983, despite their rarity they remain relatively affordable compared to their peers from the era.

The Beginning Of The De Tomaso Era

The Maserati Kyalami was a car borne from chaos, the Italian company had been sold by bankrupt French automaker Citroën after very nearly collapsing under the weight of the 1973 Oil Crisis.

Alejandro de Tomaso Maserati

Image DescriptionAlejandro de Tomaso has been credited with saving Maserati from almost certain death when he took over the company over back in 1975.

Maserati was bought by Alejandro de Tomaso and GEPI in 1975, the latter was an Italian state-owned holding company founded with the sole purpose of trying to save as many Italian jobs as possible.

De Tomaso set about developing new models for Maserati in the hopes of drumming up sales and getting the accounts out of the deep red and back into the black.

The De Tomaso Longchamp

One of the new models developed under the watchful eye of De Tomaso was the Kyalami.

Maserati most certainly didn’t have the funds on hand to be developing brand new models from scratch but De Tomaso was well-known for his ability to solve problems, and to somehow always land on his feet.

He took one of his own production cars from his namesake automaker De Tomaso, it was called the Longchamp and it had been released just three years earlier in 1973.

De Tomaso Longchamp

Image DescriptionThe visual similarities between the De Tomaso Longchamp and the Maserati Kyalami are clear to see, though there were a slew of changes made.

The Longchamp was a modern, angular two-door GT car that had been styled by Tom Tjaarda at Ghia. Power was provided by an American V8 and performance was ample, unfortunately so was fuel consumption which did the model no favors in the era of the Oil Crisis.

Given the fact that the Longchamp was still a relatively new car, with unibody construction, independent front and rear suspension, and modern styling, it made the ideal platform for modification into a new Maserati.

The Maserati Kyalami

Development of the Kyalami began when Alejandro de Tomaso sent off a De Tomaso Longchamp to Pietro Frua and asked him to turn it into a Maserati.

Though not an easy task Frua excelled at it, subtly modifying the looks of the Longchamp, increasing its width and length, and lowering it slightly.

Maserati Kyalami 5

Image DescriptionThe interior of the Kyalami was beautifully designed, and each car came with air conditioning, electric windows, central locking, and an electric driver’s side door mirror as standard features.

The original rectangular headlights were replaced with four more traditional round headlights, and a slew of other changes were made to the body.

Perhaps one of the most important changes made lay inside the engine bay, the Longchamp’s Ford Cleveland V8 was removed and replaced with the Maserati Tipo AM 107.21.42 V8, a more advanced engine with quad cams (two per bank), four Weber downdraught carburetors, and 266 bhp at 6,000 rpm with 289 lb ft of torque at 3,800 rpm.

The Kyalami was launched at the 1976 Geneva Motor Show and by all accounts its reception was lukewarm. It still clearly had a strong resemblance to the Longchamp, and some went so far as to say it wasn’t a “real” Maserati.

There were many who loved the car, including the 200-210 people who bought them (there’s no universal agreement on production numbers.) Maserati would keep the car in production from 1976 until 1983 with two major versions, the earlier 4.2 liter V8 and the later 4.9 liter V8.

Maserati Kyalami 16

Image DescriptionThis quad headlamp arrangement was seen as being far more “Maserati” than the two rectangular lights of the Longchamp.

Today the surviving examples the Kyalami are relatively rare, no one is quite sure how many have survived, and they offer comfortable luxury motoring at a lower price than many of their period rivals.

The 1977 Maserati Kyalami Shown Here

The Kyalami you see here is an unrestored survivor from 1977 finished in a dark blue metallic over an attractive cream leather-trimmed interior with cream carpets and an extended black leather-trimmed dashboard.

Under the hood you’ll find the Maserati Tipo AM 107.21.42 V8 and it’s mated to the ever-reliable 5-speed ZF manual gearbox. Factory-fitted cabin equipment includes air conditioning, electric windows, a heated rear windscreen, and a full complement of elegant Jaeger gauges.

The car is now being offered for sale on Collecting Cars out of Lenzburg, Switzerland and bidding in the online auction is live at the time of writing.

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Images courtesy of Collecting Cars

Maserati Kyalami


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