The Maserati Ghibli AM115 was styled by Giorgetto Giugiaro. At the time, he was on the Ghia payroll. The maestro considered the Ghibli among his finest designs. It is not hard to see why!
Flat out, the Ghibli delivered 165mph. Even at that speed, suspension and handling were solid. And not withstanding its steel bodywork – meaning the Ghibli was no lightweight. Equally impressive were its four potent disc brakes.
Highest-spec Ghibli was the V8-engined SS. As you would expect, its torque curve was out of the top drawer. And from way down low in the rev range, too. A ZF 5-speed gearbox did its best to stay with it. Suffice to say, acceleration was not an issue! Capacity was 4,930cc. Power maxed at 335bhp. Just 1,149 Ghiblis were built. In ’67, the AM115 was a 2-seater supercar. Maserati were on a charge. Ferrari and Lamborghini – take note!
The Italdesign Aztec came with dual cockpits. A 2-seater, driver and passenger were ensconced in separate ‘compartments’. It was a concept car, after all! The Aztec was made to commemorate Italdesign’s twentieth anniversary. Its designers never envisaged it on the open road. A group of maverick Japanese businessmen, however, had other ideas!
Giorgetto Giugiaro was chief stylist for the Aztec. As a rule, his work was far from flamboyant. Indeed, he had penned many a family runabout. Who knows – maybe it was just time for him to let his creative hair down. At any rate, Giugiaro was immensely proud of the Aztec. And – certainly, from a visual point of view – it was nothing, if not striking. Slick and sophisticated – and with a silvery sheen – showgoers’ eyes were riveted. The Aztec’s rear end was seriously high-tech. Wrapped around the wheel arches were ‘service centre’ panels. They housed a raft of gizmos and gadgets. There were coded door locks, built-in hydraulic jack controls and engine fluid monitors – just for starters. Somewhat more down-to-earth features included a torch and fire extinguisher. Not forgetting a petrol cap! The Aztec’s interior was equally cutting edge. Communication between the two cockpits, for example, was via electronic headsets!
The Aztec’s engine was a 5-cylinder Audi unit – turbo-charged and transversely mounted. Transmission was Quattro 4-wheel drive. A dual-canopy body allowed easy access to the bay. The Aztec was unveiled in ’88 – at the Turin Motor Show. Among the enraptured onlookers were the aforementioned suits. They were sure there might be a market for the car back in Japan. With the rights to the Aztec safely in their pockets, they set about putting it into production. 50 replicas of the prototype were due to be built – though less than half that number would roll off the line. The bodies were made in Italy. They were then shipped to Germany. There, they were entrusted to engine tuners Mayer MTM – who installed the Audi powerplants. Finally, they arrived in Japan. When transportation costs had been factored in, the Aztec retailed at the yen equivalent of $225,000. That was a lot of money. Each car, though, came with an added extra. Giorgetto Giugiaro signed every Italdesign Aztec personally. He was indeed proud of his outré creation!
The Maserati Khamsin was the latest in a line of things automotive to reference the weather. Le Mans has a straight named after the Mistral – a cold wind, blowing through southern France. In similar vein, Ford’s Zephyr namechecked the classical breeze, which has meandered through many a piece of poetry over the years. Another car, too, played upon the ethereal theme. The Khamsin was a scorching gust of air, which seared through Egypt each summer. Maserati brought in Marcello Gandini – of design house Bertone – to draft the Khamsin’s super-sharp shape. Its fluid bodywork lines were fabricated from steel. Spanning the back was a glass panel – inside which, tail-lights sat in suspended animation.
The Khamsin was a technological tour de force. Its four-cam V8 engine abutted the bulkhead. Front-engined though it was – with a full tank of gas, weight distribution was 50/50. The motor was an all-alloy marvel. Its 320bhp gave a top speed of 153mph. Torque output was 354lb/ft – at 4,000rpm. The V8’s powerband surged from 800-5,500rpm.
When the Khamsin entered production – in ’74 – Citroën were still a part of Maserati. A year later – and they were gone. The Khamsin, though, felt the full hydraulic force of the French giant. The steering, brakes and clutch – plus, pop-up headlights and driver’s seat adjustment – were all Citroën-controlled. Rear suspension was double-wishbone. Only the Khamsin’s dashboard let the design side down a tad. Its haphazard array of dials and switches clashed with the simple elegance of the exterior. Unveiled at the ’72 Paris Show, the new Maserati was as stylish as you like. Yet, it was also practical. The huge torque reserves of its V8 powerplant further boosted its already abundant carrying capabilities. And, on top of all of that – as its name suggested – the Maserati Khamsin went like the wind!
The Ferrari 250 GTO was about as focused a car as has ever been built. Designed by Giotto Bizzarrini, everything about it was geared to speed. Its cabin, for instance, was conspicuously spartan. The GTO – Gran Turismo Omologato – was made to win races, not comfort contests! Specifically, races in the World Sportscar Championship. The Ferrari 250 GT had been struggling in said series – mainly on account of poor aerodynamics. Which is where Bizzarrini came in. His brief was to draft a more slippery shape. One that could deliver more than 150mph, at any rate … which was what the GT was currently mustering. Bizzarrini went to work. The grille was made smaller. The headlights were faired in. A foreshortened rear end now sported a spoiler. Ferrari were pleased. The GTO’s top speed was clocked at 173mph.
But, Bizzarrini’s bodywork was just for starters. The GTO had other weapons in its race armoury. Like a 3.0-litre Tipo 168/62 Colombo V12. The 300bhp it produced took the Ferrari from 0-60mph in 6.1s. That called for a stiff chassis. An alloy-tubed frame was duly installed. The aluminium V12 engine was suckled by six twin-barrel Webers. Because it was dry sump, the motor sat lower – as did the rest of the car. More grist to the aerodynamics mill. A 5-speed gearbox turned the rear wheels. Only suspension let the side down a tad – being somewhat outdated. Saying that, it clearly did not hamper the whole package too much. In ’62, the GTO won the World Sportscar Championship. And again, in ’63 and ’64. At Le Mans, in ’62, while it came second in the overall standings, it took the coveted Group 3 GT class.
Bizzarrini also took care that the GTO’s styling was suitably seductive. As well as being one of the all-time great racers, as a roadster its low-down looks were sublime. Ferrari played a bit fast and loose with the facts, however … in true motorsport tradition! They passed the GTO off as just a streamlined GT. That got them off the hook, homologation-wise. Otherwise, they would have had to build 100 GTOs, to go racing. As it was, only 39 were built. In truth, though, the new car was unique. While the GTO – and its GT forebear – did indeed share many components, there was enough that was fresh about the GTO to set it apart. It certainly was a streamlined GT – Bizzarrini’s wind-cheating wizardry had seen to that. But – should there be any doubt that the GTO was special – a price comparison is telling. When Ferrari produced the car – between ’62 and ’64 – it cost £6,000. In 2014 – at Bonhams Quail Lodge auction – one sold for £22,843,633. Which made it the most expensive car ever, at the time. The Ferrari 250 GTO was a one-off, all right!
When Pininfarina consider a design one of the best they ever did, you know it was a bit special! That was the case with the Fiat 130 Coupé. The simplicity of its styling was its strength. The 130 said it all in just a few clean lines. They gave it gravitas – as befitted a first-rate luxury car. Sadly, though – in terms of sales – Fiat simply did not have the cachet of, say, a BMW or Mercedes.
The 130 Coupé’s imposing exterior was matched by the opulence within. Velour seats were drawing-room dapper. Veneer door cappings blended with electric windows. There were dual-tone town and country horns. Plus, acres of space for four well-heeled occupants. Comfort was the Coupé’s stock-in-trade. Power steering pampered the driver. And for the passengers, independent suspension provided a smooth and stress-free ride.
Performance-wise, the 130 was no slouch. Top speed was 118mph. A 3.2-litre V6 gave 165bhp. Torque was plentiful. The gearbox was a Borg-Warner 3-speed auto – with a 5-speed manual available. Mechanically, the 130 was solid, sound and dependable. But, it was aesthetically that the 130 shone. Classic Italian styling cues were written all over it. Commercially, though, the car was hard done by. Had it been built by a luxury car brand per se, the Fiat 130 Coupé would surely have received more of the plaudits it so richly deserved.