Via Biturbo

Pierangelo Andreani didn’t necessarily pluck the Biturbo’s bodystyle from thin air. Like everyone else, he was influenced by others, although it must be emphasised, his Giugiaro impression was a showstopper.

1981 Maserati Biturbo. Image: carinpicture

One of the enjoyable things about writing for this site is how much one learns, whether it’s from research for these stories, insights from our incredibly well-informed reader/commenters or occasionally, from random sightings that occasionally take place when carrying out some otherwise unrelated task.

One of the latter prompted this – a chance sighting which led to a question, an inner dialogue and finally, the article you’re reading now. Having written (at length) on the Maserati Biturbo family, (and the 228 model in particular), the thought occurred; wouldn’t it be interesting to trace some of the influences Pierangelo Andreani may have drawn upon when creating these cars? Continue reading “Via Biturbo”

The Faint Trails and the Unearthing

That Maserati Biturbo interior caused some discussion here and I thought I’d present a little gallery of the possible inspirations for the design (of the seats and armrest). 

1985 Maserati Biturbo interior: source

Actually, it is not as easy a search as you might think. The search term is “Italian sofa 1979” and what you get if you Continue reading “The Faint Trails and the Unearthing”

Trident Inversion – 1987 Maserati 228

The Biturbo’s bigger brother appeared very much the sober Italian aristocrat. Unfortunately, both breeding and manners were slightly suspect.

Image: betterparts

The Biturbo could be said to have saved Maserati, yet is perhaps best remembered for its troubled reputation than any commercial, aesthetic or performance-related virtues. Whether such a reputation remains entirely justified is perhaps a question for another time, but what is often forgotten amid the flow of water under the Tridente’s bridge is what a significant step the Tipo AM331 was when first introduced in 1981. Continue reading “Trident Inversion – 1987 Maserati 228”

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 Continue reading “Uncertain Smile”

Ashtrays: 1972 Maserati Indy 4700

It’s nice to think that Giovanni Michelotti spent some of his creative time trying to think of a suitable ashtray for this car.

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He might have sat at his desk with samples from suppliers or he might have drawn some simple sketches and asked the artisans to run up a few prototypes. At some point Adolfo Orsi, the firm’s president, could have been invited to review the shortlist of possibilities. Perhaps he sat in the car and had a smoke Continue reading “Ashtrays: 1972 Maserati Indy 4700”

Smelling The Wind Of Change

It’s time for yet another SUV. And yet another object lesson in why either the modern automobile or myself has lost the plot. 

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Caution: Smelling The Wind Of Change may cause drowsiness!

This time, it’s Maserati’s turn to ‘go Sports Utility’. Which isn’t so terrible in itself – after all it’s a clear case of ‘join ’em in the chorus or die singing your own melody’, but the resultant car, dubbed Levante, is as disappointing as it is dull.

I’ve had the pleasure of seeing the car in the metal (and in quite dimly-lit circumstances) at its unveiling at a local prestige car dealership, which made for an interesting study on the people the Levante has been designed for. Continue reading “Smelling The Wind Of Change”

Parallel Universe Levante – 2

Once you cross a Rubicon, there’s no going back. Maserati probably had little choice but to go crossover, but they weren’t without options. Last week we looked at one. Here’s another.

50% of Bellagio production right there. Image:automotive.com
50% of Bellagio production right there. Image:automotive.com

I think it’s universally agreed most things sound better in Italian. In fact I’d be prepared to wager even the Italian for enema sounds vaguely appealing. A personal favourite however is the Italian term for coachbuilder – carrozzeria. For me it conjures faded monochrome images of artisans hand beating aluminium sheet into something far lovelier than was strictly necessary. Most carrozzerie’s created memorable work, but Touring Superleggera’s back-catalogue of innovative design, spanned from the 1930’s and some of the most significant body shapes created for manufacturers like Bristol, Alfa Romeo, Ferrari, Jensen, Aston Martin and Maserati. Continue reading “Parallel Universe Levante – 2”

Parallel Universe Levante

Wind of change: As Maserati finally reveals its commercially critical SUV in production spec, we take another look at a distant ancestor: 2003’s Kubang concept.

2003 Maserati Kubang concept. Image:Topspeed
2003 Maserati Kubang concept. Image: Topspeed

The Levante has been a long time coming. How long? Well, it’s been thirteen years since Maserati first dipped a hand-tooled loafer in the crossover stream. In the intervening period that’s become a raging torrent, possibly explaining the tougher-looking, higher-riding vehicle we can see and purchase, subject to the mercurial whim of FCA’s masters.

In that time, there’s been two concepts named Kubang to speculate over, the first of which is this 2003 effort, created at a period when Maserati was being reinvented under the auspices of Ferrari’s Luca di Montezemolo; the prancing horse having assumed full control of the Tridente in 1999. Continue reading “Parallel Universe Levante”

2016 Maserati Levante Resign Review

It’s been a while since I did one of these design reviews. It’s the new Maserati SUV which is really a kind of raised pseudo-estate. It still looks good, and far better than I had feared.

2016 Maserati Levante: source
2016 Maserati Levante. It looks like a nice estate from this angle: source

Maserati call this a cross-over, making it somewhere between an estate car, hatchback and SUV. Whatever it is called it looks purposeful and is much the most successful Maserati design since the second last Quattroporte. Recent cars have been rather busy and fussily detailed. This one is calm with enough subtle touches to explain its purpose without drifting into the realms of cross-over cliché. Continue reading “2016 Maserati Levante Resign Review”

Maserati: Flying High in April, Shot Down in May

It’s probable Frank Sinatra’s 1966 standard, ‘That’s Life’ currently plays on repeat at Trident Towers, given Maserati’s latest reversal of fortune. But how bad is it looking for Modena’s second son?

Maserati and Alfa Romeo CEO, Harald J Wester. Image via autoapassionati
Maserati and Alfa Romeo CEO, Harald J Wester. Image via autoapassionati

A year ago, we reported on Maserati’s unexpected sales success with an element of scepticism, but for a brief time it appeared as though CEO, Harald Wester’s plans for the Trident were working. With plans for additional new models including the now ubiquitous SUV, volumes in the region of 75,000 per annum by 2017 looked entirely feasible; catapulting Maserati into the luxury car mainstream while creating a buffer for FCA’s loss of Ferrari revenues. But since spring, reports have hinted at slowing demand which a recent Automotive News piece appears to confirm. Continue reading “Maserati: Flying High in April, Shot Down in May”

Theme : Hybrids : The French-Italian Connection

Cars no longer differ from country to country, but once they had definite national characteristics. What happened when two nations met – collaboration, collision or confusion?

Maserati Khamsin

We now seem to have reached a consensus that the type of car most should be is ‘Germanic’, being lazy shorthand for something efficient, hard riding, fast enough and, usually, a bit clinical. Some sports cars remain, possibly, more traditionally ‘Italianate’ in spirit, being nervy, noisy and involving to drive. Nowadays, though, car making is truly a global industry where an Italian car maker might produce a model exclusively in Poland, and where the designers and engineers come from scores of different nations. Nearly fifty years ago this wasn’t the case. Continue reading “Theme : Hybrids : The French-Italian Connection”

Theme: Evolution – Adaptation, Diversification, Survival

Maserati’s natural history came to an abrupt halt in 1975. Survival meant change – not just a new model, but an entirely fresh approach.

For a Hybrid, it's a fine piece of work. The 1976 Maserati Kylami
What expediency looked like in 1976. For a Hybrid, it’s a rather fine piece of work. Frua’s Tipo 129 Maserati Kyalami. Image: maserati-alfieri

It’s tempting to view evolution as a continuous series of gradual mutations, but events throughout history have demonstrated it only takes a single catastrophic event to send it in an entirely different direction – or stop it entirely. The 1973 oil embargo for instance was the motor industry’s very own fiery catastrophe and 1975 the year when the conflagration really took hold, consuming a swathe of specialist marques including Jensen and Iso.  Continue reading “Theme: Evolution – Adaptation, Diversification, Survival”

Something rotten in Denmark: 1993 Maserati Biturbo

Today´s weekend morsel is an example from Maserati´s darker days of recent times. It´s a 1992 Biturbo, yours for about €20,000 (if bought in Denmark).

1993 Maserati Biturbo
1993 Maserati Biturbo

The first Biturbos date from 1981. Maserati hoped that the car would gain sales from that champion of small, sporty saloons, the BMW 3-series. To do this, Maserati equipped the two-door, four seat car with a 2.0 V6 engine, larded up with two turbos. Depending on which way you look at it, by 1993 Maserati had either ironed out all the problems or else got bored making the Biturbo. Certainly by 1993 the car had come a long way from its origins as a neat, rather conservative little vehicle modelled on its Giugario-styled relative, the QP. This car is encrusted with a set of rather crude modifications -all done by the OEM – such as that incredibly complex front bumper and some nasty sill extensions. Is that windscreen still held in place by a rubber seal? Continue reading “Something rotten in Denmark: 1993 Maserati Biturbo”

Fiat Punto 1.3 “Alfa Romeo”- edition, engineered by Ferrari

How much can  a brand be stretched? Should Alfa Romeos carry an “engineered by Ferrari” badge? Or shouldn´t AR engineering speak for itself?

Image: thanks to Autocar. They seem to have put a huge card saying "Autocar" inside the test car.
Image: thanks to Autocar. They seem to have put a huge card saying “Autocar” inside the test car.

While trawling other news sites, I read at Autocar  that Alfa Romeo´s forthcoming SUV will be based upon the Maserati Ghibli. That bit doesn´t surprise me so much as the remark that “….there have also been unconfirmed rumours that the top of the range Alfa engines will feature ‘developed by Ferrari’ sub-branding.”  This has all the hall marks of an idea designed to appeal to Sergio Marchionne. It also reminds me of Silvio Berlusconi´s idea that Fiat could sell more cars by badging them as Maseratis. You might as well scribble “£10” on a £5 note. But is this such a terrible idea? Let´s put  on our white hats and consider that Porsche came to no serious harm by allowing Seat to place “Porsche Design” on the tops of their Ibiza engines.  I seem to recall that Ssang Yong were permitted to associate their very excellent Musso with Mercedes due to the shared engines. While we are here, lets´s take a moment to reflect on Ken Greenley´s contribution to Korean design which was much more than the superb Rodius as he penned the Musso too.

Designed by Ken Greenley.
Designed by Ken Greenley.

Getting back to the topic,  I wonder how the “developed by Ferrari” sub-branding will go down with Ferrari owners. Is this something they can really do if Ferrari is not owned in full by FCA. On the face of it, Ferrari branding is a drag on Ferrari.  How many Alfa-buyers will be impressed? And how many people will be alienated by the cynicism? That´s an open question as I feel that these days Alfa is not doing well in attracting serious, informed or, shall we say, sufficiently, ABC1 customers. Maybe Alfa buyers won´t care. To be fair, lots of otherwise fine new cars become very attractive to less-desirable groups (seen from a marketing perspective, note) but Alfa seems especially to have the kind of blue-collar appeal that Pontiac managed to claim as its own in the US in the decades before it died.

Another brand mix-up.
Another brand mix-up.

FCA need to be very careful with this little move, if it is indeed more than a rumour.  There is a danger of Ferrari, Maserati and Alfa Romeo getting blended in an uncontrolled marketing storm. Such decisions could be taken and managed if FCA was a stable corporation but the reality is that it seems like one where the revolving doors at marketing provide a lot of air-freshening. What is designed as a carefully evolving ten year plan may end up being managed to destruction as marketing chiefs come and go at 18 month intervals.  Every plan needs the contingency for a change of plan built in.

The Trident Sharpens Its Prongs

Maserati’s 2014 sales gain is astonishing, but is it a false dawn?

Maserati-range-2014

One of the reasons the motor industry continues to be such compelling subject matter is its almost limitless capacity to surprise. Last week, we looked at FCA’s decision to float off Ferrari as a stand-alone business – a move that surprised many – (if not ourselves). Now however, we are compelled to eat a portion of humble pie on the back of sales figures for Maserati that appear to demonstrate the storied brand’s continued growth to be no mirage, despite strong misgivings we expressed on the subject back in May.  Continue reading “The Trident Sharpens Its Prongs”

Theme : Concepts – Essence of Alfieri

Déjà vu on the show circuit 

maserati-alfieri-concept-show-floor-rear-side-view-2

At this year’s Geneva show, Maserati announced the Alfieri concept; a preview for a new Grand Turismo, aimed at the sort of affluent customer who might otherwise choose a Porsche 911, Aston Martin or heaven help us – one of those vulgar new Mercedes-AMG things.

Continue reading “Theme : Concepts – Essence of Alfieri”

Hasty & Superficial: Maserati Quattroporte GTS (2014)

A quick drive in Maserati’s ultimate saloon.

photoToday I had the chance to experience a car I consider to be among the most disappointing of recent years – the successor to the flawed yet glorious Quattroporte V. Gone is the lithe elegance of Ken Okuyama’s styling, making way for considerably more competitive technology, as well as simply gargantuan proportions.

It really is an ungainly-looking barge, trying to marry its enormous size with some stylistic nods to its predecessor. The result I’d consider something akin to Jaguar’s unfortunate X350 XJ – an ill-advised pastiche, borne by the misconception that certain cues are independent of scale and proportions. If I want a giant Maserati, I’d personally go for Giugiaro’s Mk III version instead, in all its Passat-on-steroids glory.

Continue reading “Hasty & Superficial: Maserati Quattroporte GTS (2014)”

FCA – State of the Empire – Part Two

The second of a two part examination of FCA’s European operations and the feasibility of Sergio Marchionne’s four-year plan to revive them.

Part two – There will be blood:

0094f_100mm_raised_soft_plastic_badgeSelling Ferrari
FCA’s presentation made a point of telling the financial and automotive worlds just how much Marchionne is prepared to accept for the sale of Ferrari, suggesting the fabled Marenello concern is for sale; despite firm denials from within FCA itself. Some might say that he would be insane to do so – the ‘Cavallino Rampante’ being probably the most valuable automotive brand in the universe right now. But look at it another way. If we believe the hype, everybody wants to own a Ferrari – and as any petrolhead with rosso corsa flowing through their veins will attest, what could be better than that? Continue reading “FCA – State of the Empire – Part Two”

FCA – State of the Empire – Part One

A two part examination of FCA’s European operations and the feasibility of Sergio Marchionne’s four-year plan to revive them.

A_Pantone_VersionNow that the captives have escaped, the presentations are complete and fruit and vegetables been thrown, perhaps it is germane to take a look behind the figures and statistics at the state of affairs facing Fiat Chrysler Automobiles in Europe as they painfully inch towards their eventual fate.

Continue reading “FCA – State of the Empire – Part One”