Love and Rockets
Maserati’s v-8 engines create a deep, throaty growl, with a hint of a sports car’s high-pitched whine. And when Magnon shows off his collection, he fires them up, one at a time. Each one is slightly different, like the god of automobiles singing scales. He moves through his warehouse adjacent to the Riverside International Automotive Museum in Southern California, which he founded. Magnon has an unwavering devotion to authenticity. It baffles him when someone paints a car something other than its original color. A few years ago, when he found out the carpet that lines the floors of older Maseratis was no longer available,
he commissioned a loom to re-create the exact pile.
His 1963 Quattroporte is a stunner. But when he found it, the car had sat unused for more than a decade, as its previous owner had decided against fixing its brakes and let it languish. As Magnon restored it, he learned the car had once been painted two colors—blue on one side, cream on the other—so when it was put on a carousel at a car show, buyers could get an idea of what each color looked like. The half-and-half paint job also allowed the media to get shots of a blue car and a white car while only photographing one. The QP still makes a good story: The fastest sedan of the 1960s, it carried Maserati’s first production V-8 engine and was the first four-door vehicle Maserati ever made. Around the same time, Ferrari and Lamborghini toyed with the idea of making a four-door. “But at the end of the day, neither dared cross the line,” Magnon says. There were only a few hundred made that year, and according to the Quattroporte registry, Magnon’s is the oldest one in the world.
Next he stops at the brilliant yellow Khamsin. He cranks the engine, lets it warm up for a minute. As he sits in the seat, door open, left leg on the showroom floor, right leg tapping the pedal, the Khamsin awakens into a snarling temper tantrum. This baby is heading out for a ride. Magnon coasts out of the warehouse and into the sunlight, gently maneuvering out of the parking lot and into the street—where he is not so gentle. The car leaps from zero to 60. “The performance of this car,” Magnon says above the engine, “stands up to any contemporary car of today.”
To prove his point, at 70 mph, he steers with only two fingers on the wheel and the toes of his flip-flops on the gas, brake, and clutch. Brakes are usually only worth mentioning when they do not work, but the Khamsin’s brakes catch like a fall into a hammock. Sixty to zero is as much fun as zero to 60. Well, of course not. But the brakes really do work nicely.