Porte de Javel

Another stylistic dud from the pen of Marcello Gandini, the technically advanced 1974 Maserati Quattroporte expired at birth. We chart its brief life.

1974 Maserati Quattroporte II. (c) carstyling.ru

When the Maserati Quattroporte was introduced in 1963 it became the first Modenese four door super-berlina, offering well-heeled customers the space and practicality of a sedan with the dynamism and vivid performance of a grand turismo. In 1969 however, production of the model ceased, with close to 800 built – a commercial success by Casa del Tridente standards.

A significant cultural shift was taking place at Viale Ciro Menotti by this time – Automobiles Citroën having acquired control of the Modenese carmaker the previous year. With work quickly progressing on a new sub-3.0 litre V6 engine for the double chevron’s forthcoming grand turismo, Maserati engineering chief, Ing. Giulio Alfieri seemingly took a long hard look at Quai de Javel technology, in particular Citroën’s decision to use engine driven oleopneumatic applications for suspension, braking and steering.

With his engineering team at work on the mid-engined (Am 122) Merak, which broadly shared its engine and transaxle design with that of the SM, Alfieri (with the bureau d’étude’s blessing one assumes) clearly saw cost-sharing benefits in adopting a good deal of similar thinking for his forthcoming saloon. Hence the AM 123 Quattroporte would be front wheel drive, employing not only a variant of the Merak’s powertrain, but full Citroën-derived hydropneumatics.

The timelines are a little uncertain at this point, but muddying the waters to some extent was a concurrent commission from longstanding Tridente customer, Shah Karim al Husseini Aga Khan IV for a bespoke four-door saloon. Given a model code (AM 121), this car, based on a lengthened floorpan and suspension design from the production Indy GT model was powered by a 4.9 litre version of Maserati’s mighty V8 powerplant.

Something of a marque aficionado, the Shah had previously commissioned a highly distinctive carrozzeria Frua-bodied 5000 GT which was to form the basis for the first generation Quattroporte’s body styling. Once again, Frua was commissioned, this time producing an elegant, conservative shape, with a distinctively tall, slim-pillared six-light canopy treatment.

Two cars were built (the second was sold by Pietro Frua to King Juan Carlos of Spain) and were believed to have been developed to production standards, so it remains unclear as to why this attractive and comparatively cheap to produce design was not proceeded with. It’s been suggested that pressure might have been exerted from Quai de Javel to employ Citroën hardware, but more likely is that Ing. Alfieri was pretty much wedded to his high-technology Franco-Italian alternative.

Alfieri engaged carrozzeria Bertone to produce the AM 123 body design, which must have been something of a snub for Pietro Frua at the time. Studio head, Marcello Gandini oversaw a modernist three volume shape, which thanks to the SM/Merak powertrain’s longitudinal positioning, mounted well back in the engine bay, avoided the usually unsightly dash-to-axle ratio which otherwise would have dictated the proportions.

Bearing a notable thematic similarity to Gandini’s Jaguar XJ40 proposal of the same year, the AM 123 Quattroporte carries its 1970 BMW Garmisch cues in an even more overt manner, not just in the surfaces and volumes, but in the bonnet and bootlid treatments, which are far more BMW in execution than anything associated with the Casa del Tridente. Only the nose treatment, which combines the fabled Maserati emblem with a Citroënesque six-headlamp arrangement suggests otherwise, although a set of kidney grilles would undoubtedly have sealed the deal.

Unlike the Jaguar proposal, the Maserati was a relatively harmonious form, but in essence, there was, just as with the Browns Lane study, little marque-specific resonance in its slightly bland overall appearance – Gandini again resorting to liberal use of brand iconography by way of compensation.

The cabin too, while distinctly modernist, was not particularly attractive – a massive slab of dashboard with digital readouts for instrumentation and a sprinkling of SM goodness here and there, which combined to offer a rather mixed set of visual metaphors.

The 3.0 litre Maserati V6 was said to have provided less than vivid performance in the heavy Quattroporte bodyshell, but a larger capacity V8 derived from the same power unit was in the process of being developed. However as the car neared production – it had made its world premiere at that Autumn’s Paris motor show – the already precarious financial situation of their French parent reached a tipping point.

Maserati was placed in administration and with full homologation for the Quattroporte incomplete, the programme was cancelled with only thirteen cars built. Three are said to now remain. Under new owner Alejandro de Tomaso, a further attempt was made at replacing the Quattroporte, the resultant Quattroporte III being a hybrid of Tridente and de Tomaso genes, with body styling from Ital Design, itself believed to have been derived from another rejected Jaguar proposal. All roads, it would seem, lead to Browns Lane.

Quattroporte II (c) wheelsage

Marque aficionados remain divided on the subject of the Quattroporte II. Simply a four-door Citroën SM as some dismissively assert, or a technological pathfinder of a new, less traditionalist direction for il Tridente? It’s difficult to be certain, but its technical specification certainly lends it an element of intrigue lacking in many of its stablemates.

There remains one area where it’s possible to speak with more clarity however. Because what Quattroporte II’s styling abundantly underlines is not only that carozzeria Bertone’s resident design genius had more than his share of off-days, but that the fabled Italian design houses really struggled with the concept of the upmarket luxury saloon.

Author: Eóin Doyle

Founding Editor. Content Provider.

46 thoughts on “Porte de Javel”

  1. Have a look at the QP’s engine bay

    and see the striking similarity to the SM’s

    In typical French manner the engine was mounted more or less between the feet of the front occupants and woul dhave been nearly impossible to fit an additional pair of cylinders of a v8 there. This unique six cylinder DS gives an impression of how a v8 QP II would have looked

    1. The two inner pairs of headlamps were swivelling and self levelling and used the SM’s mechanicals.

  2. Can one beg to differ? Certainly, it was not a success in sales terms but I believe the styling is bold and pleasing. It is similar in some ways to the BMW E38 7 series, predating it by about 20 years. All a matter of opinion, of course.

    Having had a couple of articles on Gandini designs that did not meet with strong approval, could we please provide a little balance with something on, say, the Maserati Khamsin?

  3. I don´t find much about the car that could not be a Maserati. It does however have a whiff of Jaguar about it. Yet again I am puzzled that ItalDesign were so short of ideas they could not think of something else. The number of possible car designs far exceeds the number of designs executed. Was it really so hard to get a rather different scribble out of the pen-wielders? Or was there a lot of effort sunk into existing models? Or is there also a possibility that dominant trends limit the perception of what is possible? Maybe the ideal QP is a lot like a Jaguar: long, low, sporty. If you add those proportions to the typical style of the day you might just get something like this.

    1. The Bertone/Gandini design is certainly interesting, but some details are rather poorly resolved, like the heavy-handed and fussy C-pillar treatment:

      The tail end is capping is very makeshift, more kit-car than carrozzeria, although I’m irrationally fascinated by the origin of the tail lights. They’re more 1980’s geometric in design, so I’m struggling to place them on an early 1970’s mainstream design.

      For my money, the Frua design is far more elegant and appropriate for a luxury saloon. Its DLO is most unusual, with that reverse-rake on the trailing edge of the rear door frame:

      Incidentally, the monochrome staged publicity shot above appears to have a miniature golfer standing on the edge of the open boot lid. How did that escape the attention of the photographer?

  4. I just noticed from the first photo in the article that it has three windscreen wipers! The clamshell boot is also unusual.

  5. Actually like the looks of both the Frua and Gandini designs of the Quattroporte (AM 121) and II, however with the caveat the latter could have done with a bit more refining and the fact it was NOT a true Maserati but in retrospect should have served as a replacement for the Lancia Flaminia (albeit in slightly shortened lightened form).

    The unbuilt 4-litre v8 prototype engine derived from the 3-litre Maserati V6 was IMHO one of the biggest missed opportunities, not sure to what degree the 3.2-litre twin-turbo V8 used in the Quattroporte IV, Shamal and 3200 GT was a distant relation of the former though it is interesting to note how much of a leap forward it appeared to be over the 4.1-4.9-litre Maserati V8 it was said to be loosely derived from via the Maserati V6 (also read the old V8 had scope for enlarged to around 5.2-litres with plans for the V6 to be enlarged to about 3.2-litres).

    Am intrigued by the origins of the Maserati Biturbo, have read DeTomaso encountered a 150 hp 2.5 Maserati V6 that was later developed to feature Twin-Turbos as well as the chassis itself being very inferior for a car considered a challenger to the BMW 3-Series (due presumably from featuring lots of carryover mechanicals / etc from the Deauville, etc). Would have been interesting to see whether Maserati under Fiat instead of Citroen could have produced a better Biturbo analogue, a cut above the similarly sized Fiat 132/Argenta and carrying over the Maserati V6.

    1. Someone I know has an SM with an engine enlarged to 3.2 litres. At least it can be done and gives the SM the power it always deserved.
      The unbuilt V8 surely is not a missed opportunity because the V6 was troublesome enough.
      Just look at the secondary camchains which were a permanent cause of trouble in addition to the primary chain’s fault prone tensioner.

      The later engines from the DeTomaso era had nothing to do with these old Maserati power units.

    2. Have read of work being done on a 3.2-litre Maserati V6 prototype engine in Maserati – The Citroen Years for the Quattroporte II (possibly in tandem with the V8), in theory a V8 version would come to around 4.3-litres.

      Not disputing the issues of the V6, however in terms of power the V6-based V8 prototype engine appears to match the existing Maserati V8 engines without featuring the excessive near 5-litre displacement of the latter in its most potent form. A 217 hp 3-litre V6 Merak SS spec engine translated to a 3-litre V8 would potentially put out around 290 hp, with a 4.3-litre V8 derived from the unbuilt 3.2-litre V6 potentially matching the 4.7-4.9-litre Bora spec engines.

      https://www.carthrottle.com/post/kgkkx59/

    3. Meant to say “A 217 hp 3-litre V6 Merak SS spec engine translated to a 4-litre V8 would potentially put out around 290 hp,”

      Also had the V6-based Maserati V8 entered production, it would have been interesting to see whether reduced displacement short-stroke versions would have been built thereby inviting further comparison with both the Lamborghini V8 as well as the Ferrari Dino V8 engines.

    4. This SM v8 is interesting because it’s sitting on ultra rare Michelin GRP wheels as can be seen in the video.

      Look at a standard SM engine bay and you see a completely flat bulkhead.

      https://autohaus-offizier.de/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/citroen-sm-restauration-01.jpg.

      This was possible because the v6 not only was exceptionally light at 140 kgs but also extremely compact (due to its camdrive sitting atop the engine instead of at its end).
      Look at the engine bay in the V8 prototype’s pictures and you see a cut out in the bulkhead with the rearmost pair of cylinders protruding into the dashboard/interior of the car. The engine would have been where the accelerator pedal would be in a v6 SM making an Alfasud’s pedal arrangement look luxurious in comparison.

      There wouldn’t have been much sense in developing a fragile v8 when they had a bomb proof v8 available (except for the 4.9 which was prone to overheating). Such an engine also would have been useful only for the QP II. In an SM nobody would have bought it because of the French 33 percent purchase tax on cars above 2.7 litres and for the other Maseratis they already had an engine. Instead of a Merak with C114-derived V8 you simply could have bought a Bora.

      To find out how much power the SM’s chassis could take Citroen developed a prototype in cooperation with Michelin. The v6 engine seemingly was tweaked to 300 hp and the rest was based on the swb rally DS/SM

    5. Would have not put it past Maserati/Citroen to develop tax-special versions for the Italian, French and German markets respectively had the V6-based V8 been fitted to the SM, Quattroporte II and Merak, wonder if turbocharging would have been used for a 2-litre V8 in the Merak akin to the Ferrari Dino V8 engine or a supercharger as used in the Rover V8 for the TVR 2-litre V8S?

      Potential issues asides it would have been interesting seeing Citroen and Fiat’s links translate to the Fiat 130 receiving the V6-based Maserati V8, have heard conflicting accounts of whether a V8 was developed for the Fiat 130 or not (let alone whether unbuilt V8 was based on an existing engine as was the case with the 130 V6)?

      There was also the Panhard Citroen Maserati prototype that reputedly featured a 240 hp 2670cc Maserati V6.

      Am more curious to learn if there was further scope for the Maserati V6 to be enlarged beyond 3.2-litre, given its potential application for the related unbuilt V8.

    6. Developing *anything* would have been beyond the financial capabilities of Citroen as well as Maserati. The double chevron wasn’t rescued by Peugeot for nothing very shortly after the time of the QP II.
      The thought experiments about would have been engines are just as valid as thinking about a helicopter driven SM or a Hovercraft Maserati. Would have been possible but didn’t happen.
      I’ve never heard of an SM engine stretched beyond 3.2 litres. I do not know whether this is limited by the engine itself or parts availability – a 3.2 C114 uses standard pistons from another engine with the C114 con rods and bored out wet liners.
      The Fiat 130 engine was not based on anything already existing. Its head design just follows the same principles as the 128’s but that’s it. Contrary to often ventilated rumours it is *not* based on the Dino V6 which is a completely different engine that just happens to have been reworked by Aurelio Lampredi for ‘series’ production at the same time Lampredi designed the 130 engine from scratch. I doubt that Fiat had plans for a v8 130 because the 130 was precisely what Fiat management wanted – Dante Giacosa didn’t like the car and built it only because he was told to.

    7. Aware of the history of Citroen along with Fiat’s issues in the 1970s, that said am intrigued by the idea of the Pardevi accord eventually becoming an early version of Sevel (that later built the Eurovans) with the possibility of other European carmakers (e.g. Alfa Romeo, etc) becoming involved. Which with different points of historical divergence (e.g. C-60 produced with up to 1.4-litre+ flat-4 and Ami/DS/CX-inspired fastback variant, Panhard 24 features 1.2-2.0-litre flat-4 and 4-doors, etc) is a lot more plausible than a helicopter driven SM or a Hovercraft Maserati.

      Additionally such cooperation between Citroen and Fiat was already underway with the Citroën C35 / Fiat 242, previous articles here linking Citroen’s Project L (which eventually became the Citroen CX) with the Lancia Gamma (down to even featuring a 95 hp 1.65-litre Flat-4) and Citroen’s Project Y / TA with the Fiat 127 (plus other components in common with Fiat prior to Citroen being sold to Peugeot and forming the basis of the Peugeot 104-derived Citroen Axel). Which gives some idea as to how things could have developed in this what if scenario.

      Have seen the Fiat 130 engine being more commonly linked to the 128 engine as opposed to the Dino V6 (though always speculated whether the latter could be enlarged beyond 2.4-litres), leading to whether a V8 could be developed in a similar manner via either the 128 or Twin-Cam units (and sort of foreshadowing the later Fiat Pratola Serra modular engines).

      TBH given Fiat’s record in the luxury car segment (in addition to not looking at a 6-cylinder 125/132/Argenta-based variant) the 130 would have made for a better Maserati Quattroporte II by carrying over the V8 engines (possibly even the V6s) and either the Frua, Gandini or Giugiaro styling.

  6. Agreed about the 604. The design is really a strange amalgam. It resembles something different from each angle. In the top photo, looking at the doors and windows alone, I’d have said Fiat or Alfa. The hubcaps however are pure Citroën. No one else did them quite this way (at least as late as well into the seventies).

  7. In retrospect, the headline was perhaps a little inflammatory. I find the Gandini QP a rather intriguing design, although I would assert that it suffers from some proportional flubs which really ought to have been beneath maestro Gandini. The rear three quarter aspect is particularly weak, combining the rather bland tail treatment and the impression of the bonnet line appearing too low over the front wheels, lending an optical illusion of the wheel leaning inwards.

    Gandini, it seems, liked to play with expectations (in a similar way to Mr. Bangle some years later), so the fact that the QP II is simultaneously harmonious and discordant is not only entirely in character, but is perhaps also an attempt to express this trait which Pietro Frua executed with a good deal more flair with his cars for the Casa del Tridente. Although a little more dated looking by comparison, Frua’s 1971 QP exercise was a good deal more ‘Maserati’ in appearance and presence, and in my view really should have formed the basis for the car they proceeded with. Having said that, am I alone in seeing some Monteverdi in its forms as well?

    What the Bertone design screams to me is a highly plausible proposal for the E23 BMW 7-Series. (Mind you, I can see why SV might suggest Peugeot 604 around the nose). Regarding the tail lamps, while Dave is undoubtedly correct, there is also a strong resemblance to those fitted to the Maserati Khamsin, which are I believe originally Alfa Romeo items. Speaking of the Khamsin, Jeremy, I would suggest that it is the last truly satisfying Gandini design before he went off the boil entirely. We’ll get around to it eventually, I assure you.

  8. ‘Unbalanced’ is the one term I find most appropriate when describing the QP2.

    Some of the graphics are interesting, if a but underdeveloped, the proportions are fine, but the stance is rather weak for what is supposed to be an Über-saloon – that timid ‘French’ rear track width certainly seems inappropriate for a motor car of this class.

    Generally speaking, Gandini seems to have been far more at ease designing two-door vehicles than saloons, which never looked quite completely convincing, coming off his drawing board (I’m excluding the BMW E12 here, as I’m not prepared to believe the tail that MG devised it all by himself some secret shed in Munich-Milbertshofen, as BMW’s own design staff didn’t include a single competent stylist…).

  9. I wonder if the Aga Khan’s or Kings thoughts on receiving the car were ever recorded? Was there a faint smile of praise? An aghast look of disdain? Come on, let’s go forra drive, or get it taken to the underground garage and store it with the rest of them? And what on earth are the commoners doing with something similar to MY motor? I don’t suppose we’ll ever know but it’s kinda fun to think about.

    As for de Tomaso, Autocropley today has an item on their imminent return at the Goodwood festival of Speed. With a Ford V8, no designer mentioned and merely a couple of camouflaged shots to entice us with. To buy the rights to the name cost Hong Kong based Ideal Team Venture just shy of a million pounds.

    1. It’s the same outfit that owns the Apollo name.

      A book on de Tomaso is also in the works, I’m told.

    2. Is the upcoming book on De Tomaso by an author called Marc Sonnery, who also wrote Maserati – The Citroen Years?

  10. On the plus side, Gandini did try some new approaches with the QPII apertures. The boot lid and bonnet are clam-shells. If you don´t think they work that well as solutions, it is something of a matter of taste. I don´t think they do but I applaud his willingess to try something else. One question is, what were the advantages of the approach? Were there any? It seems to be the George Laznenby of Quattroportes. Incidentally, if you type in “actors who played” Google autocomplete offers “James Bond” first. I had quite forgotten that Maserati only made 13 examples. Some were sold in Spain – does that mean to the military junta who ruled at the time? And thanks John for emphasising that the QP was Maserati´s only front-drive car.
    And finally, the Lancia 2000 shown is extraordinarily lovely – and it´s “just” a small saloon. It looks so right and so carefully considered. There is nothing on sale like this today. To get the same effect you´d need a Ford Focus-sized Volvo saloon with all the gadgets removed and Qvadrat fabrics used for the seating.

    1. Gandini is the only person to have done two QP´s. PietroFrua, Okuyama at Pininafarina, Giugiario at Italdesign and Ramociotti at Fiat Centro Stile did the others. And that last name explains the disappointing character of the current car. The Pininfarina one is still valid and fresh. They could have carried on with that one. Who buys a Maserati to keep up with fashion?

    2. Of course the unanswered question relating to the QP II is whether Maserati’s customers would have accepted a front wheel drive design, with all the negative baggage it entailed. While the ‘wrong wheel drive’ party line wasn’t fully established during the early 1970s, it might nevertheless have been a stretch for il Tridente’s traditional customers.

      Mind you, they did seem to accept oleopneumatic braking and ‘direction à rappel asservi’ steering (did the Bora and Merak have DIRAVI or was that just the Khamsin?) so who knows?

    3. The Khamsin was the only Maserati equipped with DIRAVI, Bora and Merak had conventional steering.
      But the Bora had fixed seats and used its hydraulics to move the pedals to adjust the seating position. The Merak had conventional seats.

    4. So Richard, if you could have just one, Alfa Romeo or Lancia 2000? They’re both lovely, but I have a slight preference for the Alfa:

      …or the Lancia:

      Bu**er, this is hard!

    5. For me it would clearly be the Lancia. It’s more exotic than the Alfa and has front wheel drive. Plus, the Alfa doesn’t look half as nice as its smaller sister.

    6. I know I’m weird but I can’t help it and would take the Alfa.
      Both cars are crafted rather than produced but the Lancia is old fashioned with curtains for the rear windows and above all it’s heavy and slow.
      The Alfa is around 150 kgs lighter and much faster even if it’s more demanding to drive with its old fashioned road manners.

    7. At least the Lancia 2000 berlina has an idiosyncratic mixture of classic (old fashioned?) exterior and somehow futuristic dashboard

      They did unique dashboards before the Trevi’s Gruyère cheese design and I just noticed how astonishingly similar the Lancia’s centre console is to the one in early beta coupés.

    1. Oh, that’s rather pretty! I’ve never seen it before. It’s sitting rather high on its wheels in the photo, but I guess that’s just the Citröen suspension on a high setting. Here’s a photo of another example on alloy wheels:

    2. These wheels look like alloys but are Michelin RR ‘roues resin’ made from GRP/CRP.
      They were frighteningly expensive and very light at around three kilos per wheel.
      You could buy them as an optional extra for late SMs.

    3. GRP wheels? That’s a new one on me. Thanks for the information, Dave.

    4. These wheels were developed by Michelin for the SMs used in long distance rally sports. These wheels survived events like the Bandama or Safari so they at least are made to last.

      They were made in an injection moulding process to the usual impeccable Michelin standards of precision (no joke) and are GRP only except for small triangular metal reinforcements around the bolt holes.
      Even after forty years of use there are no known problems with these wheels – something that can’t be said of Minilites of Campagnolos of the same age.
      Today you pay between 4,000 and 7,000 € for a set in usable condition if you can get one.

    5. I found the DTW article but was too lazy to link it. And I don’t think that scrambled eggs make a souffle.

    6. Personally, I’m agnostic on the subject of soufflé, but while I greatly admire the engineering of the Michelin RR wheels, I never felt the design suited the styling of the SM. So I suppose that places me in the wheel trim camp. They would however have suited the Quattroporte somewhat better than the wheel trims originally fitted. And Maserati could probably have more readily passed on the cost to the customer.

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