The Maserati Coupe You Probably Never Knew Existed

Legendary Italian automaker Maserati had a glorious string of ups and downs in its 107-year (and counting) history. The brand underwent multiple ownership changes throughout WW1, the Great Depression, and WWII. Maserati started building cars in 1914 and has changed hands numerous times from Alejandro Orsi in the 1940s to Citroën, De Tomaso, and Fiat from the late 60s to the early 90s.

It's no question Maserati made some of the best cars known to humanity. Maserati's first production grand touring car, the 3500 GT, was so good that it kept Maserati afloat during its transition from a racing car manufacturer to a series-production automaker. Maserati built 2,223 units of the 3500 GT Coupe and Spider between 1957 and 1964, proving that Maserati's racing heritage is something people want in an everyday road car.

Oh, and who could forget the Quattroporte I (the world's first sport-luxury sedan), Ghibli, and Bora (Maserati's first rear-engined production car)? However, not everyone appreciated the Maserati Biturbo launched in 1981. Still, the Maserati Shamal – the last Maserati under the De Tomaso era and rides on modified underpinnings of the Biturbo — is probably the best vintage-era Maserati coupe that you probably never knew existed.

Maserati Shamal: An Extreme BiTurbo

Drawing its name from a fierce Mesopotamian wind, the Shamal is an extreme variation of its Biturbo predecessor. Besides its exotic name, the Shamal has all the ingredients to make it a tremendous grand-touring sports car.

For starters, it had a gloriously retro body with a short wheelbase, boxy fender flares, a blacked-out B-pillar (that functions as a rollbar, believe it or not), and a wild body kit that includes a quirky spoiler mounted near the base of the windshield. Famed Italian car designer Marcello Gandini, known for designing numerous iconic sports cars like the Lamborghini Miura, Countach, and the hand-bitingly gorgeous Alfa Romeo Montreal, was responsible for penning the Shamal's boxy yet futuristic shape.

If others say the Biturbo is one of the worst sports cars of its era, the Shamal is remembered by many as the most underrated Maserati of all time. The exotic styling is a given, but we haven't discussed the best part yet.

Standard Twin-Turbo V8

Instead of the Biturbo's twin-turbo V6, Maserati shoehorned a larger 3.2-liter twin-turbocharged V8 under the Shamal's angular bonnet. The V8 has double overhead camshafts (DOHC), four valves per cylinder, fuel injection, two IHI turbochargers, and dual intercoolers to pump out 326 horsepower and, more importantly, 320 pound-feet of torque from 2,800 rpm.

Coupled with a six-speed Getrag manual gearbox sending power to the rear wheels, the Shamal can rush from zero to 60 mph in 5.3 seconds and achieves a 170 mph top speed.

Performance and luxury enhancements

The Maserati Shamal is more than just a V8-powered Biturbo in designer clothing with its array of performance-enhancing kits under its wedge-like shape. All Shamals came with bespoke Koni adaptive suspension from the factory, a system not unlike you'll find in a modern sport-luxury car. The system automatically updates the damper settings on each wheel and responds accordingly based on existing road conditions or any of the four available driving modes.

In addition, the Shamal has a Maserati Ranger limited-slip differential (LSD) with six satellite helical gears and a series of central gears working on a common axle, capable of transferring all engine power to a single half shaft. The result is better traction and handling. Furthermore, the Shamal came standard with Meccanica Attiva, an interactive lever system that keeps the lower suspension arm parallel with the steering arm as you drive. The system not only improves on-road handling, but it gives the Shamal the steering precision of a race-bred track car.

Sure, Shamal's interior design is a carryover from the Biturbo. Still, Maserati made sure to imbibe the cabin with generous splashings of premium leather, burled wood paneling, and Recaro bucket seats. There's not enough room in the tight rear quarters, but it doesn't matter. The sonorous V8 and the Shamal's telepathic handling more than make up for it.

However, Maserati only made 369 Shamals, and none made it stateside. This exclusivity makes the Maserati Shamal as rare as the African Forest Elephant. If you happen to see one casually parked or driving by, resist the urge to snap pictures with your smartphone. Instead, take a few seconds to revel in one of the best Maseratis in existence.