Uncertain Smile

In 2008 Touring Superleggera showed their reimagining of the 2003 Maserati Quattroporte, the Bellagio.

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Jalopnik calls it station wagon while Superleggera call it a fastback. I would call it a hatchback. All they needed to do to get it precisely in tune with our vexing Zeitgeist is to add 10 cm to the ride height and jam in a 4wd system. That is a distracting comment. As it stands, Superleggera have managed to respectfully turn the very nice Mk V Quattrporte into a believable semi-estate car. Should we tag it “is now” or “was then”? The car is still listed at Superleggera’s website. Other sources (ahem) say four have been built – which is somewhat fewer than I would expect given the general excellence of the basic car, the skill of Superleggera and the allure of the Touring name. While there are not many new cars I’d like to own, I could think of things Touring Superleggera could do to some newish or nearly new cars on my behalf were I to acquire several million euros.

2008 Maserati Bellagio interior
2008 Maserati Bellagio interior: source

Idea one is to have Touring make a Bristol 411 into a shooting brake. That would not be hard as it is a simple design, based on the body-on-frame structure. Idea two is to see what Touring could do with a Citroen XM: either a two-door coupe or a Prestige version with a longer wheel base. Finally, I might be tempted to ask them to make a two-door fastback out of the Lancia Thesis and, yes, please cut some weight out of it while they are working their magic.

I really hope Touring Superleggera can get to apply their name to cars with a slightly higher volume of production. The earlier incarnation of the firm did the Jensen Interceptor, the Bristol 401, numerous Maseratis and some Lancias. It managed to die off before becoming cheapened in the manner of Ghia or disappointing like Bertone or, today, Pininfarina. The firm’s badge still has magic to it. What I experience when considering Touring Superleggera is a certain freedom of imagination – it is a name that suggests grand ideas of a romantic scope.

We had another more in-depth look at the Bellagio here.

[Slide show source here]

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

24 thoughts on “Uncertain Smile”

  1. I am a big fan of the reborn Touring’s output (the Disco Volante is wonderful and the Berlinetta Lusso is magnificent – and this from someone who is completely indifferent about any Ferrari after the 456), but I have never quite been able to muster quite the same enthusiasm for the Bellagio. It is a car I like, but don’t love – perhaps it’s one of those see-in-the-flesh jobs. In profile photos, though, I just feel the trailing edge of the roof ends a touch too abruptly. I suspect a different colour might help.

    Interestingly, the chap behind the Touring revival is one Paul Koot, formerly best-known as the Dutch Lancia importer and the fellow who backed the Hyena. So, the guy has form.

  2. Looking at the Bellagio project I can see some similarities to the Levante, but still I don’t like the Levante’s rear end. From the A-pillar backwards it just looks drab. The Bellagio, on the other hand, looks great, – but I can’t put my finger on why the Bellagio looks so much better than the Levante. Maybe if you liftet the Bellagio 10 cm and added 4WD, it might look like a supercar SUV, – or would it?

    1. The Thesis fastback is the one I’m considering. The roofline has to be lowered a bit. As it’s my imaginary money I’m asking for new doors and a bespoke rear window.

    2. I tried an XM Coupé when I was about 18:

      Looking at it from 24 years distance, I can see that I ironed out the things that today still bother me on the XM: the nose cone and the untidy region below the front bumper. Other than that, I slightly softened all the shapes, and I set the A-pillar back somewhat (both things are not what you would do on an actual conversion, of course). Although I still like colour (especially orange and bright green), I’d probably opt for more, … hm, monochromatic themes today. And I’d use more closed, less soft-edged wheels.

  3. The very best saloons don’t necessarily make for brilliant estates. So while this Bellagio isn’t misbegotten like those Jaguar XJ series III estates, it still serves to illustrate that certain saloons are just ‘right’ to a degree that’s making it difficult to spin off a significantly changed variation with the same success.

    Another question: will Okayama’s Quattroporte V remain the last unreservedly covetable luxury saloon? Despite my soft spot for Jaguar’s X351 XJ, I can’t deny that this Maserati is appealing on an altogether different level. I genuinely want one, which isn’t the case with any of the current (German) super saloons, of the ‘porte VI/Ghibli saloons.

  4. And yes, the Bellagio is infinitely prettier than the elephantine Levante.

    One doesn’t even have to compare that doughy SUV with a shapely estate for it to appear hapless – next to the Maserati, a Porsche Macan or Jaguar F-pace look like masterful. And I wouldn’t want to be seen in either one of those, too.

  5. My issue with this is that it’s not as beautiful as the standard Quattroporte sedan – which, although seductive, is not as cool as its Gandini predecessor, which must be one of the most deliciously menacing sedans ever made.

    The C pillar has proved influential though, hasn’t it? You can see echoes of it in, for example, the latest Astra.

    1. Are people permitted to like the Gandini QP? If so (and it has its charms: compactness) then I like the office block Giugiuario QP. Is it an Italian take on the American car, by chance?

    2. Judging by used car prices, the Gandini QP is not particularly well-liked, no. This is possibly due to ruinous running costs and maintenance outweighing even the hyper-inflation of the classic car market.

      In my opinion, buying one of these would be a bullet proof investment.*

      *Disclaimer: I take absolutely no responsibility for this prediction being wrong.

    3. I too am an admirer of QP IV, so much so that I even sat in a red V8 in a North London dealer a few years ago seriously considering its potential as a bullet proof investment. Unfortunately the tasteless clock and the shiny wood and light tan leather steering steering wheel, which I would have seen all the time, dissuaded me. Thinking about it I rather wish they hadn’t.

  6. Jacomo: the Gandini QP has an electronic suspension selection system. This must mean it is a likely source of tricky problems. The engine is probably simple enough.

    1. Sean,

      Look out for a QP IV ‘Evoluzione’ (no clock) with dark leather. The electronic suspension could be troublesome, of course, but the normal Konis from the ‘lesser’ models exchange.

      A lovely, much underrated car, imho.

  7. Sean: isn’t possible to jemmy the clock off? I don’t imagine it is fastened very securely. The thing about that QP that would worry me daily would be the fuel consumption. Isn’t as bad as a Peugeot 604?

  8. I admit that I like the Gandini QP very much. I recently read an article about it where it was described along with a Lancia Thesis. I’m not quite sure anymore, but I believe it was said that the QP didn’t have this clock pre-facelift. So apparently, this is the version to go for.

    1. Those are two quite different cars, aren’t they? The Lancia is soft and cossetting. The QP is a bruiser in a smart suit. If push comes to shove, I’d go for the Lancia. Maybe it’s fairer to compare like with like: QP versus a Jaguar XJ-R?

    2. I was surprised to see it. I had thought that the naff gynaecological clocks were strictly De Tomaso era, but it seems customers got it in their minds that they were an essential part of Maserati heritage. I suppose I could have covered the clock and steering wheel with black gaffer tape.

    3. Richard: I think it was exactly the intention of this article to show two very different approaches to Italian luxury. I thought I’d go with the Maserati, but when they showed the figures (the ones with the € sign behind), I wasn’t so sure any more.

  9. Fun fact: Maserati shifted a grand total of 0 cars in the UK in 1996.

    And 1997.

    ‘The Clock’ was banished post-1998 facelift. Odd, that, since it returned – and as a stylistic feature, no less – on the 3200 GT.

    Richard – I seem to recall CAR pitted the Evoluzione V8 against the XJR and the first-generation Audi S8 in a Giant Test. I remember this because I’d just picked up the copy at the airport heading overseas for a holiday, and saw a IV (presumably non-Evo) at the departures drop-off, the first one I recall seeing in the flesh. CAR seemed to like it, although they put it third. But you have to assume this praise was tempered by the knowledge they could hand it back at the end of the week.

    I have always liked the QP IV, haters be damned. But that isn’t the same as being insane enough to actually commit real folding to one. In that sense, it might be the Gamma of its time (and not just because it bears a hint of Kappa.)

    Here’s one I idly kept an eye on the other week:

    https://www.shannons.com.au/auctions/2016-shannons-melbourne-summer-classic-auction/XFMX1BFZ8KD9N6B5/

    AUD$14k is not nothing, but it’s not a vast amount either – about what you’d pay for a basic Yaris or whatever. In other words, not quite “screw it” money, but just cheap enough to be dangerous (as the saying so nearly goes).

  10. Simon: I see what you’re getting at. It’s a credible concept too. It took me until 27 to begin to draw cars reasonably well. It’s still hit and miss for me.
    Why did you get rid of the glazed c-pillar though?

    1. I was quite adept at drawing cars in my teens. I drew all the time in school, all my books were full of cars. My teachers tried to stop this, but mostly gave up after they found out that I was usually still listening and could give smart sounding answers. Nowadays, I hardly ever draw, so the outcome usually isn’t that good.

      But back to the XM: I think two rear side windows didn’t look good – they would remind me too much of all the three-door estates the Germans seemed to like up into the eighties. And a single long window would look strange with that kink in the middle. So, I chose a traditional pillar to optically shorten the rear half of the greenhouse.
      Instead, I used the glass to make the front reminiscent of the SM.

  11. Simon: those three door estates were excellent. What were they but shooting brakes? There was an Escort and a Kadett 3-door estate, I recall. The French didn’t bother with them much.

    Yes: you can draw and listen carefully at the same time. The activities require different hemispheres of the brain. I too was told off for drawing but my teachers were too thick to just ask if I listened.

    I’m tempted to sketch a 3-door XM to see what happens.

    1. I think these estates were terrible. They really looked like two doors were missing. And since estates are supposed to be practical, this is a real contradiction. Now a shooting brake, for me, is a bit different than an estate. I rather imagine something shorter and lower, and it really shouldn’t have only one, elongate, window behind the door.

      By the way, the French actually had some 3-door versions, for example of the Citroën GS. But they were strictly for commercial purposes, no rear seats.

      I’d like to see your 3-door XM. It’s probably a bit more refined than my juvenile attempt.

  12. I was wondering what Touring’s actual production numbers were when, yesterday, in a fine case of coincidence, a blue UK registered Disco Volante Spyder drove past me in Belgravia. Your DTW correspondent, on the ball as usual, reached in his pocket, then realised his phone was sitting over the road in his car with a flat battery. I refer you again to our proud strapline. So you will just have to take my word that, unlike most mid-engined exotica, it looked rather well and seemed less out of place in an urban setting.

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