Cars That Time Forgot

Cars That Time Forgot: Maserati Quattroporte II

by Richard Dredge
21 March 2022 3 min read
Cars That Time Forgot: Maserati Quattroporte II

Our two most recent automotive obscurities have been different types of Trident (the Trident marque and the Peel Trident), and here’s a third one for you – the Maserati Quattroporte II. Okay, so there’s no trident in the name, but ask a motoring buff what ‘trident’ represents in an automotive context and you can bet they’ll say ‘Maserati’. So here’s a forgotten Maserati for you: the ultra-rare Quattroporte II which was a production model, but it didn’t quite hit the heights that Maserati hoped for. In fact, it was a complete disaster.

Maserati introduced the original Quattroporte in 1963, and these four-door saloons (well, ‘Quattroporte’ is Italian for four doors…) are still in production, in sixth-generation form. That first car sold in pretty decent numbers, with almost 800 made up to 1969; production ended a year after Maserati was taken over by Citroën. It was this acquisition that would prove to be the undoing of the Quattroporte II.

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The Quattroporte I had featured V8 power and a bespoke platform, but its successor was heavily based on the Citroën SM. Unveiled at the 1974 Geneva Salon, styled and developed by Italian design house Bertone, and codenamed Tipo AM123 by its maker, the second-generation Quattroporte was based on the same stretched SM platform that Citroën provided to coachbuilder Chapron for its presidential SM four-door saloons. As a result, motive power came from a 3-litre V6 rated at 210bhp and 196lb ft of torque.

Cars That Time Forgot: Maserati Quattroporte II

That SM platform meant that the power went to the front wheels instead of the rear, via a five-speed manual transmission with no auto option. As such, it is the only Quattroporte of the six generations to feature front-wheel drive, and it also brought the SM’s hydraulics for the suspension and brakes, while the headlamps turned in sync with the steering direction. As a result the driving experience was far more Citroën than Maserati.

At first glance the plan was sound. Citroën had spent far too much developing the SM, and sharing as many parts as possible with the Quattroporte allowed the company to hopefully amortise those costs. The problem was, the Quattroporte II was launched just as the Oil Crisis was getting into full swing, which made large cars such as this pretty much impossible to sell.

Maserati Quattroporte II

Another problem was the V6 engine, which didn’t provide the Quattroporte II with Maserati-like performance; what was needed for that was V8 power, to allow closer to 140mph instead of the 125mph that was claimed. But that would have made these luxury saloons even harder to sell, so Citroën-Maserati really was in a no-win situation.

Back in 1968 Citroën had intended to significantly increase Maserati production, but by the end of 1974 the French company was bankrupt. Peugeot bought into it, eventually taking it over altogether in 1976. In the meantime, in May 1975, Citroën sold Maserati to Alessandro de Tomaso, who initially decided to continue production.

Maserati Quattroporte II interior

De Tomaso had a major problem however: Citroën hadn’t put the Quattroporte II through the Type Approval process before it went bust. As a result the car couldn’t be sold in most countries; in fact it could be sold only in Spain, the Middle East and South America. Consequently, production figures were significant for being so small.

How many Quattroporte II models were built before Citroën went belly up is not recorded. Similarly, production numbers under de Tomaso are also unknown, which is why by the time the plug was pulled on the saloon in 1978, definitive production figures were not reported. The number varies between five and 13, with the upper figure probably the closest to being accurate. Of those hardly any are still running, so should you chance upon one of these enigmatic saloons, you’re one of the fortunate few.

Read more

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