Maserati’s history had been one of race cars, sports cars and grand touring cars, but never, never a sedan. But then there on the Maserati stand at the 1963 Turin was just that, a four-door sedan. Considering the momentous nature of the event, Maserati simply named the car the “four-door.” But it was four-door in Italian, and anything said in Italian is sexy and exotic, so that simple four-door became the Maserati Quattroporte.
The why was easy enough. Omer Orsi, who by the late ‘50s was running Maserati, certainly looking across the European automobile scene noticed that Jaguar and Mercedes-Benz, both of which also had racing history and were building sports cars, were making their nut with sedans. Why not Maserati?
Easy to say, it’s harder to do. The Maserati Quattroporte was less than a success, however. Orsi had gone to Carrozzeria Frua for the design, but the result wasn’t universally praised. Reviews ranged from “elegant” to a subtly damning “not inspiring.” Performance was underwhelming, too, with only 290 horsepower from its 4.2-liter V-8, insufficient gumption to move the Quattroporte in true Maserati fashion. The sedan’s numbers fell short of those of the Maserati 3500GT, Maserati’s seductive grand tourer. Fewer than a thousand were produced by 1969.
Its replacement was even less successful. The short-lived relationship between Citroen and Maserati yielded a V-6-powered front-drive four-door that Maserati would rather forget. Only a handful, perhaps 13, was made before the Franco-Italian collaboration met a merciful end.
Alejandro de Tomaso came to Maserati’s rescue, and with the Maserati ‘s junior mid-engine sports car, the Merak, and the Italian government holding off the bankers ,de Tomaso was able to think about a sedan again for Maserati, no doubt with the same rational as Omer Orsi. De Tomaso reportedly was fascinated by a Daimler Sovereign XJ6 he had been driving, so again, easy to do…
The Turin motor show was again the logical place to debut of this new iteration of the Maserati Quattroporte and so it was, in late 1976. The vision of Alejandro de Tomaso meshed poorly with reality, however, and proper production did not begin until 1979.
It was worth the wait. The production model varied little from the show car, a new rear-drive sedan this time styled by ItalDesign’s Giorgetto Giugiaro. It was broad-shouldered and double-breasted, natty as an Italian captain of industry and suitable a reward for business acumen, regardless of the business one might have. Little changed from the ’76 Turin show car, it would stay significantly the same over its lifetime.
Equipped with the 4930cc version of the venerable DOHC V-8, and unusual in that era of new adventures in emissions controls and increasing use of electronic ignition, the four-cammer was still carbureted, and with four dual-throat 42DCNR Webers beside. Part of the reason for using the Webers was tradition, of course, though de Tomaso himself generally had little use for sentimentality. But added to convention was Maserati’s access to Weber’s laboratory for emission testing free of charge.
Those carburetors lived under a huge black-crackle-painted air cleaner that matched the finish of the rest of the engine, the cast Maserati standing out in bold relief from the cam covers. Despite the usual gaggle of belts, tubes and wires required on a car sanitized exhaust, the Modena craftsmen had created a tidy environment under the hood with all the ugly accessories hidden where they were hard to see, and likely hard to reach when service was required. Maserati compensated, however, with quilt-like padded sills that should have been just the thing on which to lay one’s Snap-Ons.
The V-8 wasn’t a radical revver. Increased to 4.9-liters, the engine’s maximum power –288 bhp net—was reached at an almost-leisurely-for-a-four-cammer 5200 rpm, while the torque peak had been shifted down over the years to a more useful 3000 rpm, where a more useable 308 lb-ft is produced. Maserati would no longer offer a five-speed for the Quattroporte. A Chrysler TorqueFlite was standard equipment.
Front suspension was by unequal-length A-arms, coil springs and an anti-roll bar, while the independent rear consisted of lower A-arms, trailing arms, and dual coil-over shocks. Brakes were 11.3-inch vented discs front, and 10.8-inch vented discs mounted inboard at the rear. The 225/70VR-15 tires were considered massive for the time, and were mounted on 7.5-inch wide cast-alloy Campagnolo rims.
Riding on a wheelbase of 110.2 inches, the new Quattroporte had barely grown in size from the original, but weight had grown prodigiously. Curb weight for the third generation of Maserati Quattroporte had swelled to 4650 pounds, which for then was a lot of automobile.
The size of the Maserati Quattroporte paid off inside, however. It was roomy front and rear, with big, plush leather chairs. The back seat area is good enough for chauffeuring without feeling that the driver is getting the better end of the deal. Outboard back seat passengers have their own three-point seatbelts, while the center rear rider had only a lap belt. Pity anyone who has to ride in that part of the seat, as the padding is high and thin, making room for the driveshaft tunnel. What is worse, the console, which contains individual air-conditioning/heater controls for either side of the back seat, runs all the way to the seat. It’s why Maserati honestly calls the seating “four plus one.”