The Italian Tradition Started 40 Years Ago By The Maserati Quattroporte
Did you know that the Maserati Quattroporte is the official car of the President of Italy? Just one of those random fact you’ll want to file away under ‘General Knowledge’ for those mid-week pub quizzes, alongside the more common name for La Gioconda (the Mona Lisa), Henry VIll’s first wife (Catherine of Aragon), and the alternative name for allspice (pimento).
But yes, back in December 1979 (14th, if you want those bonus points), Maserati presented then Italian President Sandro Pertini with one of the first production examples of the third gen Quattroporte.
Designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro – the ‘Car Designer of the Century’ behind the Lotus Esprit S1, the Mk.1 Volkswagen Golf, the Ferrari 250 GT, and the DeLorean, among many others – the premium saloon was the first completely new model to be designed under de Tomaso, the parent company of Maserati from 1976 to 1993.
Drawing inspiration from the curvaceous lines (somehow) of the ‘63 original, the 3rd gen saloon debuted in production form in December 1979 boasting “a less sporty and more formal personality”, hence the more refined bodylines. Under the bonnet was a 4.2-litre (4,136cc) V8 that sent 255hp to the rear wheels, while the more, ahem, ‘performance-focused’ buyer could opt instead for a 4.9-litre (4,930cc) version that chucked out a respectable 280hp. Choices for gearboxes came down to a three-speed automatic or five-speed manual.
Updates would inevitably follow. In 1986, Maserati introduced the ‘Royale’ limited edition, restyled to feature softer leather seats, walnut burr panels and dashboard, a radio telephone and a stow-away folding table for rear passengers. Power from the 4.9-litre V8 meanwhile was upped to 300hp, meaning a 230kph top speed was now possible, 10kph more than the original 4.9-litre and a ‘whopping’ 15kph more than its 4.2-litre contemporary. Oddly, and in very Italian fashion, an un-rounded 51 examples were built.
Perhaps more significant though was the bullet-proof ‘Dark Aquamarine’ example built in Modena for President Pertini in 1983. High-strength manganese steel plating worked in tandem with new 31mm, polycarbonate electrical windows. Even the rear bench was modified to accommodate a larger ashtray for ‘il presidente di tutti’s pipe.
Production only ended 11 years later in 1990 after silks were pulled from the fourth generation Quattroporte, by which time 2,145 units had been sold of its predecessor. While not the most memorable of Italian cars from the 1980s, it speaks volumes that, today, 40 years on, a Quattroporte is still the official presidential car in Italy.
Back to the quiz. Who can tell me the capital city of Mozambique?
*Images courtesy of Maserati. Hat tip to Francois Cisco.