Of course, the cars are the stars at any Concours d' Elegance, but sometimes their back-stories are as interesting as the cars themselves.
Such is the case for a 1977 Maserati Khamsin that will make its appearance at the fifth annual Cobble Beach Concours on Sunday, September 17.
While not extremely rare, neither is the Khamsin anywhere near commonplace. Only about 421 Khamsins were built during its four years of production (1974-82), approximately 155 of which came to North America.
Those cars, of which this is one, were significantly altered in appearance relative to their European counterparts, to satisfy U.S. safety regulations – particularly those involving bumpers and lighting. In addition, their engines were modified to meet American emissions standards.
In spite of those compromises, Marcelo Gandini’s design – the Bertone studio’s first for Maserati – is a stunningly attractive car, its front-mid engine placement enhancing its sleek, long-hood profile.
The Khamsin made its debut as a concept car at the Turin auto show in 1972 and went into production in 1974. As a replacement for the Ghibli, with 2 2 seating, it became the only front-engined GT in the brand’s lineup.
Like several other Maseratis, the Khamsin was named for a wind – in this case, “a hot, violent force that scourges the Sahara desert for two months each year,” as described by Motor Trend at the time.
With its 4.9L, 315-horsepower DOHC V-8 engine, a central hydraulic system inherited from Citroen, Maserati’s owner during its development period, 270-km/h (168 mph) top speed, and $35,000 (USD) price tag – equivalent to the price of a house back then – the Khamsin qualified as a true exotic.
A gift that lasted
It was no wonder then that, when Judy Fay Theriot’s boyfriend of three months took her to the European Auto Imports showroom in San Francisco to window-shop for cars, she immediately gravitated to this Khamsin.
“I’ll take it!” she said, jokingly. To her surprise, her boyfriend turned to the salesperson and said, “Wrap it up. We’ll take it.”
Later, at lunch, she told him that she didn’t know he was interested in sports cars. He responded that he wasn’t but, “you look so good in the car, you should have it.” Then he told her he could ship the car to her home in Louisiana and she could drive it there.
But, he added, “I’d much rather you stayed in California and drive it here. Would you consider that?”
She did and subsequently they married. No wonder, then, that in a hand-written letter to its current owner she described the history of the Khamsin as being, “written in a love story (that) can only be told in that context.
Ms. Theriot coveted the car like a precious gem, driving it only sparingly in the California sun and maintaining it fastidiously during her ownership, which spanned more than three decades.
Throughout their lives, many other things came and went but the pair always kept the car as a symbol of their love. When her husband was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2002, it became too difficult for him to get in and out of, so she put the car on blocks. Two years after his death she sold the car, in 2011.
Its history is well chronicled with a plethora of pictures depicting its striking owner with her objet d’art.
In July 2014, the car, with only 6,950 original miles on its odometer, was acquired by William Halkiw of Toronto, Ontario, following an undocumented period during which it was relocated to Florida. He immediately sent it to McCabe Automotive Restoration of Mundelein, Illinois, near Chicago, where it was treated to a full and complete nut-and-bolt restoration by Skip McCabe, with mechanical sorting by Giovanni D’Avola of Autosprint Chicago.
This meticulous and painstaking three-year endeavour has resulted in the renaissance of what is arguably the most stunning, absolutely correct, and lowest mileage Maserati Khamsin in existence – serial number US 1236. Only a few dozen others are known to still exist.
Last year, Halkiw, a Toronto lawyer and car collector, displayed his Lotus 99 T-5 Formula 1 car, raced by Ayrton Senna, at Cobble Beach. He’s also the operator of Toronto’s Driven Barber, a funky, vintage style barber shop offering premium traditional grooming services for men in an environment of museum-quality automobile and barber-shop artifacts.
His Khamsin will be one of more than 100 distinctive classics – each with its own tale to tell – on display at the 2017 Cobble Beach Concours d’Elegance, held at the Cobble Beach Golf Resort Cummunity, about 10 minutes north of Owen Sound, on Sunday, September 17, 2017.