The cars we loved.
At the height of its prestige and popularity, Maserati could do no wrong. Its cars were requested by royalty and were as high on the glam chart as Ferrari. These reasons were no doubt part of Prince Karim Aga Khan’s decision to commission a special fast four door sedan. The first Quattroporte was a royal ideal whose time had come for the ordinary power brokers of ‘60s era Europe.
In post war Europe there were many new high speed expressways and not so many fast cars to storm them. Maserati like other high end automakers were suddenly in a position solve the dilemma of the rich who wanted to travel quickly with passengers and luggage in tow. Up to 1963, there were not many options outside of big American imports that were sometimes fast, but were not so well suited for narrow European roads.
Maserati’s solution was the Quattroporte. The very word means four doors and up to that point Maserati had been known mostly for fast and comfortable two door GT cars. The Quattroporte was said to be the first large European car designed to travel at high speeds for sustained periods of time. As a 140 mph super sedan, it would open the door to new niche that was becoming a growing segment in Europe as the Space Age evolved.
Designed by Frua, the Quattroporte was built by famed coach-builder Vignale. European cars had rather awkward looking single piece headlights that would give way to the American export version’s dual round setup. Initial cars were fitted with a 4.1-liter V8 with 256 hp. By 1968 a 4.7-liter 295 hp V8 was standard. The overall look evolved slowly with small touches designed to modernize the chrome heavy design. The front end, like many Maserati of the period had a similar grille and headlight structure, much like some Ferrari’s of the day. For a brief period the 4.7 made the Quattroporte the fastest four door sedan in the world. Two types of transmission were available, a 5-speed ZF manual and a 3-speed automatic.
The Quattroporte was known for its luxury as well as speed. The interior featured wood trim and leather. The full instrumentation was very sports car like down to the rising console between the seats. To enhance its role as a long distance grand tourer, the Quattroporte featured two gas tanks with fuel doors or both sides of the car.
The turbulent era of the late ‘60s forced some abrupt changes, starting in 1970 with another special royal order that would be something of a second generation car. The more modern streamlined appearance would serve as the basis for the next Quattroporte’s design. The early ‘70s models that followed were built with input from Citroen, Maserati’s new Owner. The French company insisted that the Quattroporte be built with considerable content from them.
The Quattroporte is still being built today and may be one of the longest running names in the auto industry, not to mention the oldest of the large sports sedans currently in production. Cars like the BMW 7 Series, Mercedes S-Class and Audi A8 owe some of their existence to Maserati who’s Quattroporte made big luxury and high performance synonymous for many European executives.