If we know the name of one of these Maserati saloons, then surely the red car in the foreground and its almost identical sister car behind justify together the title of this week’s Snapshot.
The beautiful Italian language is ideal for the description of motor car models, however mundane: 500 becomes Cinquecento; V8 becomes Ottovu; and here a simple piece of information – four doors – becomes the mellifluous Quattroporte.
The Series I (Tipo AM107) cars were built between 1963 and 1966. The body was designed by Pietro Frua, and drew its inspiration from a Maserati 5000 GT created in 1962 for Prince Karim Aga Khan. However, the actual construction of the bodies was entrusted to Vignale.
The car was powered by a 260 BHP 4.1-litre V8, with a manual or automatic gearbox, and was claimed to reach an impressive top speed of 143 MPH. European specification cars had single rectangular headlamps, with twin circular ones being reserved for the USA.
This means that these two British cars must be Series II cars. Built from 1966 to 1969 and still Tipo AM107, they adopted the US-spec twin headlamps, replaced the original De Dion with a leaf-spring-suspended live axle, and received a completely revised interior. A total of 776 AM107 cars were made in Series I and II.
Beauty is naturally in the eye of the beholder, but subsequent Quattroporte models could certainly be claimed to have ‘challenging’ looks. The name was revived in 1974 for the Quattroporte II, but this car was a totally different animal. By this time, the company was owned by Citroën, and this new version was built on an extended Citroën SM chassis, with V6 engine, front wheel drive, hydropneumatic suspension and swivelling directional headlights. The body, very much a product of the Seventies, was a Marcello Gandini design for Bertone. Only 13 of these cars were made, and only one survives in the UK.
By 1979, the company had been sold again, this time to Alejandro de Tomaso, and the third-generation Quattroporte of 1979-1990 reverted to the classic V8 rear-wheel-drive configuration.
The Quattroporte IV (1994-2001) was another Gandini design and formed part of the family that included the Biturbo and Shamal.
It was not until 2003 that Maserati, by then part of Ferrari, produced what are generally considered to be worthy successors to the original car to bear the name. The current Quattroporte, in V and then VI versions (with the 2017 facelift launched just a few days ago in the UK), has been a remarkable success. Once again, it fits the brief of its illustrious forebear: a luxurious, fast saloon capable of eating up the kilometres on the autoroutes, Autobahnen and autostrade of the continent (and providing a cocoon of tranquillity in the traffic jam on the M25).