Earlier today, I wrote about Maserati’s Project Rekall — a cyberpunk re-imagining of the Maserati Shamal, a handsome-looking coupe from early ’90s. I don’t think about the Shamal often, but when I do it tends to be the highlight of my day.
Because the Shamal doesn’t consume much space in my noggin, I tend to forget its little quirks, like its Gandini-fied rear wheel arches and bulbous decklid that always seems to rise higher every time I see a picture of it. I also forget about the windshield appendage, and today that’s exactly what we’re going to talk about.
Now, if you’re aware of the intended purpose of this piece, you know it 1) isn’t really a windshield spoiler and 2) doesn’t do anything for the vehicle’s aerodynamics. But to the uninitiated, a spoiler is much what it looks like. Why else would you graft a diffuser-looking thing with visible air passage and supports at the far end of a car’s hood? I’d never considered it until today, and I was puzzled.
As I learned, this part’s existence has nothing to do with performance. It’s all about channeling airflow to keep the windshield as clean as possible, though how the piece actually achieves this seems to be up for a little debate.
EuroClassix, in its writeup about the Shamal, explains it like this:
“An interesting note: the ‘spoiler’ on the hood of the car is not for aerodynamic purposes, but to actually help windshield wiper performance by deflecting water and air away from the windscreen.”
Sounds reasonable enough, but CarBuzz’s explanation says it’s less about directing particles away from the glass and more about focusing air onto it as a way to help the wipers stay pressed to the glass for optimal liquid sweeping:
“There’s also another front spoiler in front of the windshield, an unusual feature used on the redesign of the DeTomaso Pantera. Its aim was to direct airflow across the windshield and to push down the wipers at high speeds.”
Indeed, the late-model DeTomaso Pantera 90 Si did incorporate something similar, which I was initially unaware of because I didn’t even know this iteration of the Pantera existed until today. It looks like a precursor to the Venturi 400GT. Anyway, the windshield-wiper helper is gigantic on this car, standing out way more prominently than the Shamal’s sleeker rendition:
Having never driven a vehicle with such a device, I’m honestly curious as to how much of a difference it made. One could surmise not much, considering windshield “spoilers” clearly never caught on with mass-market cars and 30 years later, they’re mysterious enough to explain in a blog. If nothing else, at least they looked rad enough to convince me they served a sportier purpose.