MASERATI KHAMSIN EURO BUMPER CONVERSION
Marc Sonnery 2005
The 1970’s were a cruel time for Modenese sportscar manufacturers, the triple blow of the oil crisis worldwide, the sharp decline in sales and the negative social image which consequently descended on these cars, particularly in Europe, were bad enough.
Then, adding insult to injury the US market cars were disastrously burdened by heavy handed US importation and pseudo safety laws. These included emissions restrictions, which depleted the cars of a noticeable portion of their performance but also amounted to nothing short of the physical disfiguration of a number of cars in the name of safety.
To consider how severe an impact these bumper laws had, one need only look at the photos below, showing how the designs of Pininfarina for the Ferrari BB512, of Bertone’s Marcello Gandini for both the Lamborghini Countach and the Maserati Khamsin were utterly ruined by huge grotesque bumpers more fit for buses and garbage trucks than the delicately beautiful original shapes.
These regulations were so severe that Guy Malleret, President of Maserati from 1968 to 1975 traveled several times from Modena to Washington DC to plead for some sort of dispensation. Not an inch was ever given him by the government bureaucrats.
situation was so grave that Ferrari decided not to import the 365
BB and 512 BB; consequently they were imported on demand by independent
US firms. Self proclaimed safety crusader Ralph Nader had left his
very dubious mark on these cars and as Bob Grossman then importer
of Maserati for the US once told yours truly, the appearance of
the US Khamsin with the ridiculous ugly bumpers totally ruined sales.
In fact the two US market Khamsin brochures printed at the time
carefully avoided showing the rear bumper as much as possible and
some articles in the US press such as that by Car & Driver showed
not one photo of the rear, likely after Grossman pleaded for them
As a result of this only 162 US Khamsin’s were ever built and sold, some of them, via Grossman, to Canada.
In the years that followed most if not all BB512’s and Countaches, were quickly brought back to original Euro bumper design. Many Khamsin’s however still linger with their Nader front and rear “boat anchors”. There might be two reasons for this. The first documented conversion of a US Khamsin to Euro bumpers appears to be that commissioned in 1981 by Don Hughes in Houston Texas for his personal car. The Seattle based MIE Maserati parts supplier developed and marketed a kit soon after that, however this was at least two years after the last US Khamsin was made in 1979 and more than six years after the first US Khamsin’s reached our shores. The fact that no kit was available right away to those who bought Khamsin’s new may explain the much larger proportion of non converted Khamsin’s when compared to BB512’s and Countaches. These remained much more expensive to acquire and were therefore by necessity purchased by individuals with more disposable income to pay for the Euro conversion.