27th May 2022

Automotive brutalism: The Maserati Shamal

The architectural style of brutalism has seen something of a comeback recently. Take London’s Barbican Centre for example; the 1982 development is regarded today as one of the UK’s architectural treasures, described as “one of the modern wonders of the world” by none other than Queen Elizabeth II. Not bad for a structure that was once voted Britain’s ugliest building.

The term brutalist is now being used to describe cars, too. Eighties design classics such as Alfa’s SZ and DMC’s DeLorean are now putting the label to good use – and if brutalism’s back, the Maserati Shamal is hot property.

Launched in December 1989, the Shamal’s design was divisive from day one. Its release date likely earns it the title of the last car of the eighties; even for the decade known for excess all areas, it was quite the curtain call.

Consider Maserati’s dire financial situation in period, and it seems incredible the Shamal exists at all. The trident’s turbulent time under De Tomaso ownership is worthy of a War & Peace-style effort - suffice to say that the Shamal could not have arrived at a worse moment. Just months after launch Maserati would receive a partial bail-out from Fiat, but a truly unhappy workforce meant the impact would be felt for years to come. Over a sizeable six-year production run just 369 Shamals were built.

The design is unmistakably the work of Marcello Gandini; a man whose CV already included the De Tomaso Pantera and Lamborghini Countach. It was loosely based around Maserati’s existing Karif coupe, a shortened Bi-Turbo derivative, but despite a relatively humble platform Gandini’s dramatic new design was anything but. Defined by wild trapezoidal rear wheel arches and a lower front windscreen spoiler, the result shared only a pair of doors with the Karif. Although elements of Shamal can be seen in the 1992 Ghibli, there is nothing else quite like it.

The Bi-Turbo’s 2.8-litre 90-degree V6 was also tossed aside in favour of a new 3.2-litre V8, which was then blessed with a new pair of turbochargers. This meant 326bhp - which might not sound much to the average Golf R owner – but in 1990, it was enough to blow a contemporary Ferrari 348 into the weeds. Gandini’s masterpiece had supercar performance to go with its jaw-dropping design, but it still wasn’t enough to create a sales success.

Today there’s thought to be around ten UK examples in existence, none of which were for sale at the time of writing. Find one and you’ll need in excess of £100,000 for a clean example, which admittedly sounds punchy if you aren’t a fan of the way it looks.

Regardless, if cars could have ‘listed’ status the Shamal would surely have it. Like London’s Barbican Centre, it stands to divide opinion for decades to come.

Maserati Shamal – love it or hate it? Let us know either way in the comments below…