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  • Writer's pictureMatteo Licata

Remembering The Last Car Of The 1980s

Given the festive period, I thought to revisit a car introduced to the public just ten days before Christmas, on December 14, 1989, meaning the fearsome Maserati Shamal is the last car of the 1980s.

The Shamal (which means "North" in Arabic) was named after a northwesterly wind blowing over the Persian Gulf, thus marking a return to the old Maserati naming tradition of exotic winds.

But, as Alejandro DeTomaso's automobile empire crumbled under a load of debts and broken promises, the new model had to be developed on a shoestring budget, meaning the naming tradition wouldn't be the only thing the Shamal inherited from the past.

The Shamal was yet another derivative of the 1981 Biturbo, whose angular shape was by then very, very outdated indeed, leaving legendary designer Marcello Gandini little choice but to turn the ridiculousness up to eleven.

With its extremely wide box fenders, the Shamal looked like a tuner car straight out of the factory. It was a bully that punched the oncoming air into submission rather than glide through it.

The Shamal was based on the Biturbo Spyder, whose wheelbase was eleven centimeters shorter than the original coupé.

The Fiat 127 headlights used on the Biturbo were replaced by modern projector beam lamps. Apart from the exaggerated wheel arches, the Shamal's defining styling features were the phony roll-bar finished in matte black and the weird spoiler at the windscreen base. It disguised the old-fashioned exposed wiper mounts and would be seen on the later Ghibli as well. The Shamal's over-the-top appearance was almost universally panned by the public and critics alike, but the last car of the 80s had one considerable redeeming feature.

few people could look past its cartoonish aesthetics and Maserati's poor quality and reliability reputation

The Shamal's 3.2 liters, twin-turbocharged V8 engine produced a whopping 326 HP and a massive 318 lb/ft of torque, transmitted to the rear wheels through the same Getrag 6-speed manual gearbox used on the BMW 850 and a Ranger limited-slip differential. The suspensions were based on the Biturbo layout, with McPherson struts at the front and trailing arms at the rear, with Koni adaptive dampers fitted as standard.

On a good day, the Shamal would accelerate from naught to sixty in five seconds and pull all the way up to 270 Km/h, but very few people could look past its cartoonish aesthetics and Maserati's poor quality and reliability reputation.

Only 369 Shamals would be produced in Modena until 1994, although the car remained listed until 1995.

Alejandro De Tomaso ultimately sold its remaining stake in Maserati to Fiat in 1993, and the new ownership was keen on severing its ties with the controversial Biturbo era. However, the Shamal's spectacular twin-turbo V8 would be maintained until 2002, serving under the fourth-gen Quattroporte's bonnet and the much-loved 3200GT, the first Maserati of the Fiat era that continues to this day.

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