The Kyalami
"Kyalami ...a motor racing circuit in South Africa."

Information and photos courtesy of DeTomaso Automobili and Dr. George Lipperts.

For the origins of the Maserati Kyalami we must go back to 1972. That year, at the Turin Motor Show, DeTomaso Automobili launched their 'Longchamp', a two-door coupé, to accompany their 'Deauville' four-door saloon. DeTomaso called on American Tom Tjaarda, chief designer at Ghia (at that time also owned by DeTomaso) who produced a conservative looking design with a sharply angled front grille, two large rectangular headlights (a la Ford 'Granada') and wrap-around front and rear bumpers. The Longchamp was a four-seater coupe, powered by a 5.8-litre V8 Ford 351 Cleveland engine.

1972 - The DeTomaso 'Longchamp'

Pictures courtesy of DeTomaso


1980 - The DeTomaso 'Longchamp GTS' - note the flared wheel arches and wider wheels.

Pictures courtesy of DeTomaso


In 1974 after a period of financial turmoil, Citroën, the then owners of Maserati, placed the company into liquidation. By 1975, Maserati was in the hands of a partnership berween Alejandro DeTomaso and GEPI (an Italian state organisation whose sole purpose was the protection of Italian jobs). DeTomaso's Longchamp had not proved the success he had hoped and sales were low. During this time of re-organisation, DeTomaso was desperate to produce a new flagship Maserati. Given Maserati's financial restraints, his solution was to call in Pietro Frua's design studio in Turin to re-style the Longchamp and so was born the Kyalami.

The production Kyalami by Pietro Frua

Classic elegance from this under-rated Maserati

The Kyalami, factory designated the Tipo 129, was launched at the Turin Motor Show in 1976. The Kyalami didn't follow the Mistral, Ghibli and Khamsin tradition of naming models after a wind, but followed another tradition of naming its cars after the scene of its racing successes. This model was named after one of the world's great race tracks, Kyalami in South Africa, where in 1967 a Maserati-engined Cooper, driven by Pedro Rodriguez, won the South African Grand Prix; the Cooper Maserati was powered by Maserati's 12-cyl Tipo 10/F1 engine.

The Sebring - In 1957, Juan Manuel Fangio and Jean Behra won the Sebring 12 hours in a Tipo 450S.
The Indy - In 1939 and 1940, Wilbur Shaw won the 'Indianapolis 500' in a Maserati Tipo 8CL.
The Mexico -  In 1966, John Surtees won the Mexican Grand Prix in a Cooper Maserati.
The Kyalami -  In 1967, Pedro Rodriguez won the South African in a Cooper Maserati.

Sig. Frua's changes improved Tjaarda's design considerably. His design was some 25mm lower (largely due to its lower waistline), 50 mm longer and 20 mm wider than Tjaard's. He gave the front a softer look by replacing the two large rectangular headlights with four traditional round headlamps and designing a slimmer front bumper. He rounded off the corners of the new shallower front grill and introduced two more character lines on the full width rear opening bonnet allowing excellent access to the engine. At the rear new slimmer wraparound chrome bumpers, new wraparound rear lights, ventilation outlets either side of the rear window. These changes enhanced its classic elegant appearance; the end result was an overall design reminiscent of Vignale's Mexico.

The steel chassis of the Kyalami

Low, wide and elegant, the Kyalami

The power unit chosen was the 4.2-litre version of the four overhead camshaft V8 engine with a capacity of 4183 cc developing 270 bhp @ 6000 rpm. This was tied to a 5-speed ZF S5-24-3 gearbox and a limited-slip differential with a final drive ratio of 3.54:1. Self-centring ZF power steering was standard.

A 3-speed Borg Warner automatic transmission was available as an option.

A road test carried out by Autocar magazine in July 1978, gave the Kyalami a top speed estimated at 147 mph in fifth (they recorded 134 mph in fourth). Acceleration from zero to 60 mph in 7.6 seconds and from zero to 100 mph in 19.3 seconds. The same year, Autosport magazine recorded similar figures.

All round independent suspension with front and rear anti-roll bars. Double wishbones and coil springs at the front and a 'Jaguar-style' solution at the rear where fixed-length driveshafts double as the upper link and lower wishbones with front trailing arms: each upright having two spring/shock units (this system was later adopted for the Quattroporte III).

The dual circuit braking system was servo-assisted with all-round 11¼ inch discs, ventilated at the front.

Under the hubcaps, chrome wheel nuts and a trident logo

In 1978 it was available with a 4.9-litre engine, developing 280 bhp @ 5600 rpm, tied to a Borg Warner 3-speed automatic transmission as standard, the 5-speed manual gearbox being optional.

The suede and leather dashboard of the Kyalami

The two plus two interior was spacious, and thanks to the square roof there was ample headroom for those occasional rear passengers. As one would expect, the Kyalami was upholstered in the finest quality Connolly leather with deep-pile carpets. To reduce windscreen reflection, the dashboard was finished in suede.

Despite being flanked by two fuel tanks, with seperate filler caps, and housing the large spare wheel, it still had a capacity of nearly 9 cubic foot. The car came with a well equipped tool kit.

In the UK in 1978, the Kyalami was priced at 21,189.90p including Car Tax and VAT.

The long rectangular instrument panel housed black-rimmed Jaeger instruments. A large speedometer and rev counter, flanked by two vertical rows of warning lights, were mounted directly in front of the driver. To one side was a small oil temperature gauge and on the other side, below a row of six rocker switches, a row of five gauges: for battery condition, fuel level, oil pressure, water temperature and an analogue clock. The leather covered centre console housed two air vents, the air conditioning controls, electric window swiches and the gear lever.

The suede and leather dashboard of the Kyalami

Ample room and easy access for the rear passengers

In its production run from 1976 to 1983 some 200 Kyalamis were built, of which 43 were imported into the UK (almost 25% of its production). The most productive year being 1978.

According to the 'Catalogue Raisonné 1926-1990' by Gianni Cancellieri, 3 Kyalamis were built in 1976, 59 in 1977, 72 in 1978, 24 in 1979, 15 in 1980, 22 in 1981, 8 in 1982 and 7 in 1983.

The mathematicians among you will notice that these figures add up to 210 cars

Many purists still don't class the Kyalami as a 'true' Maserati because of its DeTomaso background. They couldn't be more wrong, for when DeTomaso instituted the changes to the Longchamp, he knew exactly what was expected from the Casa del Tridente by its customers. With Frua's exterior restyling, the spacious and luxurious interior, the power and reliability of Maserati's V8 engine and of course the Trident badge, the Kyalami may not be a classic in terms of body styling, but a Maserati grand tourer it most definitely is!


Body type 2-door 2+2-seater sports coupé

Production years From 1976 to 1983

Engine Front engined V8 cylinder @ 90°

Bore and stroke 88 mm X 85 mm

Engine capacity 4136 cc

Compression ratio 8.5:1

Maximum power 265-bhp @ 6000 rpm

Distribution Four overhead camshafts, two valves per cylinder

Induction system No 4 twin-choke down-draught 42 DCNF Weber carburettors

Ignition Single with Marelli distributor

Lubrification Forced with pressure pump

Transmission Rear wheel drive

Differential ?

Clutch Dry single plate

Gearbox Manual 5-speed and reverse (optional automatic transmission)

Chassis Integral body chassis construction

Front suspension:- Independent wheels, coil-springs,
telescopic shock-absorbers and anti-roll bar

Rear suspension:- Independent wheels, coil-springs,
telescopic shock-absorbers and anti-roll bar

Brakes Hydraulically operated disc brakes on all four wheels

Wheelbase 2600 mm

Wheel tracks Front 1530 mm    Rear 1530 mm

Tyres Front:- 205 x 15    Rear:- 205 x 15

Dry weight 1550 kg

Overall length 4580 mm

Overall width 1850 mm

Overall height 1270 mm

Maximum speed 240 kph

Models constructed 200

Brochure for Longchamp thanks to DeTomaso Automobili

Brochure for Kyalami thanks to Dr. George Lipperts

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