It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new life.
Despite inheriting a company saddled with debt, Alejandro de Tomaso was determined to get Maserati up, running and back into a profitable state. It helped, of course, that Maserati had an image and reputation to fall back on, and that the Citroen-developed models were solid bases to work on. But reheating the leftovers wasn’t a viable long-term option – new models to ensure Maserati’s survival were required.
Given de Tomaso already owned his own car company (no prizes for guessing which one that was...), it was understandable that the decision to base this new breed of Maserati on existing de Tomaso chassis was made. The age of De Tomaso-based Maseratis began in 1976, with the launch of the Kyalami four-seater GT – a car that was, in essence, just a De Tomaso Longchamp with a few subtle styling changes and a Maserati engine under the hood (the Longchamp, in comparison, was powered by a big-block Ford V8). As competent as the Kyalami was, it wasn’t exactly a massive sales success.
However, it was a competent platform on which to build another new Maserati: the third-generation Quattroporte. Plans for a Kyalami-based Quattroporte had been circulating from the moment de Tomaso assumed his role as Maserati’s CEO – by 1976, a pre-production prototype was already being shown off behind closed doors. However, it wouldn’t be until 1979 that the Maserati clientele would be able to get their hands on this new luxury sedan. Despite being rebranded as the ‘4porte’ (the name reverted back to ‘Quattroporte’ in 1981), the new four-door wasn’t particularly adventurous – as perhaps expected, from a car based on a De Tomaso that had already been on sale for seven years prior to the Maserati’s release.
In fact, it was eerily similar specs-wise to the original Quattroporte. Both cars, for instance, had engines that could pump out either 255hp or 280hp, and each could be paired up to a five-speed manual or three-speed automatic gearbox. Even the curb weights (1,780 kg for the third-gen, 1,757 kg for the first-gen) were pretty much on par. Appropriately, then, the Quattroporte Mk III ended up being a nice, much-needed shot in the arm for the company. Like the Mk I, it wasn’t a massive seller by Maserati’s standards (especially when the incredibly popular Biturbo was added to the range), but the package it offered was appealing enough to over 2,100 buyers.
Enough buzz was generated by the Mk III QP, in fact, that De Tomaso decided it would be a brilliant idea to replace the standard model in 1987 with a more luxurious ‘Royale’ variant. Being a built-to-order car, it’s unsurprising that the Maserati Quattroporte Royale only accounted for a small chunk of Mk III sales (out of the 120 planned examples, only 53 were ever built). It was, though, a very special model to top off the Maserati range – four electrically-adjustable leather seats, a 300-hp 4.9-liter V8 and even a mini-bar in the back were some of the many enhancements made to the Quattroporte in ‘Royale’ guise.
Once Quattroporte Royale production ended in 1990, Maserati was a vastly different company to the one de Tomaso inherited in the mid-1970s. Finances were under control, sales were pouring in and a swathe of new, predominantly Biturbo-based models meant that Maserati, despite all the bankruptcy-induced hardships, now had a future. De Tomaso himself would stay in charge of Maserati until 1993, when he sold his 51% stake in the company to Fiat (which already owned 49% of Maserati by 1989). And, as with all the other post-Orsi owners of Maserati, Fiat was determined to bring the Quattroporte name back from the dead.