Daytona update: A great drive in the company of a Maserati Khamsin
The Daytona is back on the road
The last time I updated on life with the Daytona things were not so great; an argument with a pothole had resulted in the anti-roll bar bushes requiring replacement. This took a little longer to resolve than I expected as my mechanic Vince had a post COVID lockdown backlog of work from some of his other clients. This meant it was mid September before the car was restored to full health. I did use the Daytona a couple of times in the intervening period but these were just gentle runs out to keep the fluids moving. With the car at Vince's I also took the opportunity to fit the Daytona with black and silver historic plates.
The Daytona was originally registered in September 1973 which was just after the cut off for the black and silver plates that ran up to January 1973, however a recent rule change allows all cars that qualify for the 40 year tax exempt rule to wear these arguably more stylish plates.
With the car back on full song I was now desperate to take it for a decent drive. Most of the cars and coffee style events have been cancelled due to COVID restrictions and even for the ones that were going ahead, I wasn't sure I wanted to mingle with the large numbers of people that may turn up to them. So instead I contacted my friend Richard and asked if he fancied a run out on some decent roads on a Sunday morning and did he want to bring along his Maserati Khamsin?
Over the course of the summer I've run a couple of polls ranking the GT cars of the sixties and seventies, and it is fair to say the Khamsin did not score as highly as I expected. I suspect that this may have something to do with a lack of familiarity with the model?
Maserati launched the Khamsin in 1973 (although production did not commence until 1974) as the replacement for the successful Ghibli. Actually it was one of two cars in the Maserati range that replaced the Ghibli as, a couple of years before, Maserati had also launched the mid-engine Bora. This was a different approach to Ferrari who went all in with replacing the Daytona with the mid- engine 'Supercar' Boxer rather than retaining a front engine Super GT in the range.
Even though it used a traditional layout the Khamsin was a considerable technical step on from the Ghibli. Maserati finally replaced the former's live rear axle with double wishbone independent rear suspension, and the car also made extensive use of parent company, Citroën's hydraulic systems for the clutch, power steering and brakes.
Styling was also a departure as it was the first production Maserati to be designed by Bertone and the work is credited to its then chief designer Marcello Gandini. Gandini is most famous for designing the Lamborghini Countach and was also the (disputed) designer of the Miura. For the Khamsin, Gandini applied, the very en vogue at the time, wedge shape with a lot of straight edges. One notable feature is the glass panel at the rear of the car with the tailights embedded within the pane.
Rear view showing the glass pane
Although there was only a very small window when both cars were on sale at the same time they are on paper quite closely matched. The Khamsin makes use of Maserati's venerable V8 in 4.9 litre form, blessing the Khamsin with around 330hp (the Daytona produces 352hp). That combined with Gandini's slippery shape allowed Maserati to claim a near Daytona rivalling 170 mph top speed for ZF 5 speed manual equipped cars. Unlike the car from Maranello the Khamsin was also offered with a 3 speed automatic from Borg Warner and Richard's car is fitted with this option. His car being a later example also features a revised front end design with three slats added to aid cooling. One other significant on paper difference is the Khamsin comes with a small rear seat making it a nominal 2+2. I've crammed myself into the back of many so called 2+2 cars over the years but the Khamsin really does have the smallest rear seats I have ever seen and they are nothing more than a leather covered recepticle for your briefcase.
With Ferrari moving into Supercars with the Boxer and leaving Maserati to benefit from a potentially larger market you might expect the Khamsin to be a sales sucess? However a combination of Maserati's financial woes and the generally weak global economy in the seventies resulted in only 435 being built by the time production officially ended in 1982. That compares with the 1170 of the previous Ghibli being built. The split strategy of also selling the Bora did not work either as only 564 of those found homes. For reference Ferrari built 1284 Daytona Berlinettas and 2,323 Boxers (in three versions).
Meet at the Shell garage
Back to the drive and Richard and I rendezvoused at the Shell Petrol station in Ripley, Surrey. It is my preferred petrol station to fill the Daytona, in part due to it's proximity to a high performance car dealer. This seems to mean it sells a reasonable amount of Shell V Power and as a result the tanks are stirred regularly and the fuel is fresh. I have had issues with other stations were the fuel has had some water seepage which doesn't do the Daytona any favours.
Upon leaving the garage we headed down the A3 for a short stretch berfore coming off at Milford and picking up the A286 towards Haselmere and Midhurst. This is a road that may well be familiar to regular vistors to Goodwood as it is one of the many routes there from London. The road was largely free of traffic and also surprisingly of cyclists which are a familiar site on these roads on a Sunday morning.
At Midhurst we turned left and picked up the A272 toward Petworth. This is probably my favourite piece of road in the south east of England with some fast sweeping bends with a little elevation change that are perfect for the Daytona and the Khamsin. The Maserati has a lot of road presence and made quite a sight, filling my rear view mirror Bullitt style as we crested some of the small hills.
At Petworth we ran through the one way system there, with sounds from the Daytona's V12 and the Khamsin's V8 echoing off the walls to Petworth House before picking up the A272 again towards Billingshurst.
In the small village of Wisborough Green we pulled over for a coffee from the excellent Old Mill Cafe and a socially distanced chat. With the two cars together they drew some attention from the passers by. It was clear that most onlookers identified the Daytona as a Ferrari but at the same time the Khamsin was drawing some furrowed brows as to just what it was? I suppose considering its rarity even next to the Daytona this was not surprising but as an observation it did make me wonder if perhaps Maseratis from the period did not have an obvious brand identity?
From 1957 Ferrari used the same Carrozzeria in Pininfarina and even had an exclusivity contract which precluded Pininfarina from working with rival companies such as Maserati (Pininfarina did style a one off Maserati for Gianni Agnelli in the sixties but even Enzo Ferrari was not going to argue if the 'L'Avvocato' wanted something). This resulted in lots of common design clues being incorporated into the different Ferrari models such as the round taillamps and five spoke alloys. Maserati on the otherhand worked with several different Carrozzeria such as Frua, Vignale, Ghia and Touring Superleggera. Using multiple styling houses meant Maseratis of the period do not necessarily have the same common styling themes. The Khamsin being the work of Bertone/Gandini lacks a traditional Maserati grille and could possibly be mistaken for a Lamborghini who also used the same design house. That is not intended as a criticism as there are pros and cons to both approaches, but it is interesting the differing choices that the otherwise close rivals took.
Another difference is noticable when both cars are started up. Both engines have their roots in racing (in the Maserati's case the origins of the engine can be traced back to the fearsome 450S of 1957), but when it comes to road use the Maserati is much quieter and more civilised than the somewhat raucous Daytona. The car in general seems to have a much more laid back character than the Ferrari, and whilst I have yet to drive it, Richard informs me that once you have adapted to the eccentricities of the Citroën hydraulics it is a very easy car to drive, with light controls, and benign handling.
From Wisborough Green we headed up through Alford and skirted Dunsfold, the home of Top Gear. The road from there would normally take you straight into Guildford but we didn't really fancy dealing with stop start traffic from the Sunday shoppers, so at Shalford we pealed off and headed through Albury and up into the Surrey Hills. On the run up to Newlands Corner we encountered a group of cyclists but fortunately the ample grunt of the Daytona allowed me to get past them quickly and easily. From there Richard and I parted ways and, after about 2 hours on the road plus coffee stop, I returned home.
All this added up to the most enjoyable drive of the year even if the competition for that title is somewhat slim. As England heads towards autumn and, as I write this, talk of further COVID related restrictions is filling the news headlines, there will not be too many opportunities before winter is upon us. Worse still COVID has forced the cancellation of my favourite event - Journées d'Automne - in France, although if the restrictions and social distancing allow a few of the U.K. participants are considering a mini version in the UK on the weekend it would have taken place. Whether or not that happens I hope to be able to get the Daytona out a few more times this year and will let DriveTribe know how it goes.
All pictures by me the rear view of the Khamsin was taken on another day but all other pictures are from the drive
The map is a screenshot from google maps.
Would readers like to know what the Khamsin is like to drive and how it compares to the Daytona? Let me know in the comments.