Heritage

A Look Back: Maserati Quattroporte celebrates its 56th birthday with a nod to its royal lineage

Royalty and high-ranking government officials have driven Maseratis throughout the last six decades.

Photo courtesy of Maserati

Italy has been the historical home for luxury performance cars for a century. The Maserati Quattroporte has been around for half that time, serving as a coach for royals and high-ranking government officials since its birth.

The Quattroporte traces its roots back to the Maserati 5000 GT known as The Shah of Persia. Only 34 models of the coupe were produced. The first was delivered to Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, the last King of Iran. Other buyers included Karim Aga Khan, the son of Prince Aly Khan; Gianni Angellini, the head of Fiat; and Adolfo López Mateos, the President of Mexico.

Maserati 5000 GT Maserati traces the roots of its Quattroporte back to the 5000 GT.Photo courtesy of Maserati

Series I of the Quattroporte kicked off production in 1964 and ran through 1966 with 230 units produced. It was equipped with a 4.1-liter V8 engine that achieved 260 horsepower and was paired with a five-speed manual transmission. A three-speed Borg Warner automatic transmission was available upon request.

The second iteration of the Quattroporte, Series II, included many upgrades including twin headlights, a leaf-sprung solid axle, and a completely redesigned interior. The dashboard was now trimmed with real wood fascia. The Series II was offered with the 4.1-liter base engine, as well as a new 4.7-liter power plant that delivered 290 horsepower. The Quattroporte 4700 was equipped with the larger engine and had a top speed of 158 mph making it the fastest four-door sedan in the world at the time. Maserati made 776 Series II models by the time the generation ended in 1969.

The second generation of the Maserati Quattroporte debuted at the Paris Motor Show in 1974 and went into production shortly thereafter. The Quattroporte was nearly dead on arrival. Due to a downturn in the economy and the company's financial woes, Maserati produced just 13 Quattroportes between 1974 and 1978.

Maserati Quattroporte third generation 3rd The Maserati Quattroporte Royale was a luxurious take on the new generation of the sedan.Photo courtesy of Maserati

The Quattroporte made a triumphant return to dealership lots in earnest in the late 1970s. In December 1979 the tradition of Quattroportes being owned by the world's elite, continued with the delivery of a Quattroporte to Italian President Sandro Pertini at the Quirinal Palace in Rome.

This version of the sedan featured a more high-end interior than Maserati's had before. It was powered by variants of the engines available in the first generation Quattroporte. The car was on the market until 1990. Maserati sold 2,145 Quattroporte IIs.

In 1982, an order was placed for an armored Quattroporte for the President of Italy, Sandro Pertini, to use. The model, with a Dark Aquamarine paint job featured a beige velvet interior. Its large ashtray featured a pipe holder between the rear seats, a modification to the original design requested by Pertini himself. There was also a bar cabinet, telephone system, and intercom that could address people outside the car. All four windows were electronically controlled, as was the roof.

Maserati Quattroporte third generation 3rd The interior of the third-generation Quattroporte was significantly more upscale than the first and second generation.Photo courtesy of Maserati

In 1986 the "Royale" version of the Quattropporte was launched as one of the most luxurious to date. It had soft leather seats, burr walnut dashboard and door panels, a radio telephone, and a stow-away folding table. Under its hood was a powerful 4.9-liter V8 engine that achieved 300 horsepower. Just 51 Royale models were built.

The car became more closely associated with celebrities in the 1980s. Famous Modenese tenor Luciano Pavarotti was one of them. Today, the list of celebrities who have driven Maseratis is long. Singer Gwen Stefani, soccer star Lionel Messi, Olympic champion Apollo Ohno, comedian Jay Leno, and Academy Award nominee Bradley Cooper make the roster.

Maserati Quattroporte 3rd generation Luciano Pavarotti poses in his third-generation Quattroporte.Photo courtesy of Maserati

The Quattroporte is still the official car of the President of Italy. Current President Sergio Mattarella used a sixth-generation version of the sedan with a Blu Istituzionale paint job and Black Piamo (black lacquered wood) interior that is paired with Pieno Fiore leather. The model was powered by a 530-horsepower, twin-turbocharged V8.

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Nuts & Bolts

 
 

Walter P. Chrysler stands next to his1924 Chrysler Six, the first car bearing the Chrysler name.

Photo courtesy of FCA US LLC

It's been nearly 100 years since Walter P. Chrysler formed the Chrysler Corporation. In that time, the company has been merged, spilt, sold, and reborn in a variety of forms, but its roots still remain in Michigan where it is known as one of the Big Three automakers alongside General Motors and Ford.

Let's take a look back at the history of the company from its highest highs to its lowest lows, and everything in between.

The beginning

1925 Chrysler B70

Photo courtesy of FCA US LLC

Walter Chrysler formed his namesake automotive company in 1925, when his employer, Maxwell Motor Company, was reorganized. A little over a year earlier, Chrysler's first production car, the Chrysler 70 (above), was released and featured several forward-looking innovations. The car came with a high-compression engine that had full-pressure lubrication, an oil filter, and a carburetor air filter.

An early pioneer

Early on, Chrysler pioneered several other automotive features that would eventually take over the entire industry. Four-wheel hydraulic brakes, rubber engine mounts, and more were all Chrysler's inventions. The company also developed a ridged rim for its car's wheels, which was designed to prevent a deflated tire from flying off the rim at speed. It was eventually picked up by the entire global automotive industry.

Introducing ... Plymouth

Plymouth Hotel Algonquin 1935 taxi cab

Photo by Martin Forstenzer/Getty Images

In 1928, Chrysler Corporation introduced the Plymouth brand, which was intended to be a lower-priced alternative. Early Plymouth models were rebadged Chrysler cars with small four-cylinder engines. In the photo above, a Plymouth taxicab is parked in front of the Hotel Algonquin in New York City in 1935.

DeSoto was also unveiled at this time as a mid-range model line for the group. Not long after, Chrysler snapped up the Dodge Brothers auto and truck company.

Hello, Mopar

In a stroke of genius that remains a large part of the automotive world today, Chrysler coined the MoPar brand in the 1930s. As a combination of the words "motor parts," the name is still used to describe vehicles and parts in the Chrysler-Dodge world today.

Imperial, Valiant, DeSoto

By the mid-1950s, Chrysler had spun up more nameplates to join its empire. In 1955, Imperial became a brand of its own after a run as the range-topping Chrysler model, and in 1960 the Valiant brand name came to be. In 1961, Chrysler discontinued the DeSoto line.

Chrysler in space

Saturn 1B Kennedy apollo picture

Photo by MPI/Getty Images

The automaker had a hand in the space program, too. In the late 1950s, NASA contracted Chrysler to build the first booster stage of the Saturn I and Saturn IB vehicles. The Saturn 1B is pictured above on January 22, 1968 launching Apollo 5 from Cape Kennedy, Florida, to complete the first flight test of an unmanned lunar module.

The company built the pieces for the Apollo Program at the Michoud Assembly Facility in East New Orleans, which was one of the largest manufacturing facilities on Earth at the time.

The future is now

1963 Plymouth Valiant

Photo courtesy of FCA US LLC

Chrysler's forward thinking operations continued into the 1960s, when the automaker became the only of Detroit's Big Three to use a unibody design in its vehicles. Today, most passenger vehicles are unibody designs, but it was a novel idea at the time. Around the same time, the Valiant brand was moved back as a subsidiary of the Plymouth brand (a 1963 Plymouth Valiant is shown above), and became the first production car with an alternator.

Ooh, Barracuda

1965 Plymouth Barracuda

Photo courtesy of FCA US LLC

In 1964, the Plymouth Barracuda was introduced (shown above as a 1965 model), almost two weeks before the unveiling of the Ford Mustang. Despite being first, the 'Cuda was outsold by the Mustang ten-to-one in its first year on the market. Chrysler had also set its sights on Europe by this time, and took a majority stake in the British Rootes Group in 1964. The venture was short-lived, however, as financial difficulties in the British company forced Chrysler to sell to PSA Peugeot Citroen in 1978.

Stiff competition, disastrous results

The 1970s proved to be a difficult time for Chrysler, as it was for all American car companies. Cheaper, smaller Japanese and European cars flooded the markets, as the oil crisis drove prices through the roof and made large, heavy cars almost immediately obsolete. Later in the decade, a rush to push new models to market led to massive warranty and repair costs for Chrysler, as its Dodge Aspen and Plymouth Volare were hurried to market with poor construction and an even worse design.

Mr. Iacocca

1984 Plymouth Voyager

Photo courtesy of FCA US LLC

In 1978, Lee Iacocca joined Chrysler as CEO after having been fired from Ford. Because of its missteps with the Aspen and Volare models, Chrysler was hemorrhaging cash at the time. Iacocca started retooling the automaker from scratch, which included many layoffs, the sale of European assets to Peugeot, and the creation of the project that would ultimately lead to the Dodge Caravan and Plymouth Voyager (1984 model shown above). The project was driven by former Ford executives after Henry Ford II denied its forward progress under his watch.

Iacocca realized that the company would not be able to survive without a significant influx of cash to turn its fortunes around. In September 1979, he asked Congress for a $1.5 billion loan, which led to the Chrysler Corporation Loan Guarantee Act of 1979. The military later purchased thousands of Dodge trucks from the company, which helped it recover and avoid bankruptcy.

The K-Car and the minivan

1982 Chrysler LeBaron

Photo courtesy of FCA US LLC

In 1981, Chrysler released the first K-Car platform model - another rejected Ford project. The platform would go on to form the basis of several models throughout the decade (1982 Chrysler LeBaron shown above). In 1983, the first minivan was introduced, the success of which helped Chrysler repay the federal government the same year.

American Motors Corporation

The late 1980s were a consequential time for Chrysler. In 1987, the automaker was the subject of an investigation over its practice of disconnecting odometers during test drives before being shipped to dealers. The company settled out of court, but suffered a massive public relation hit. The same year, Iacocca led the acquisition of American Motors Corporation (AMC), which brought Jeep into the Chrysler fold for the first time. The Eagle brand was also created at this time.

Chrysler and Fiat Part I

In 1988, Chrysler and Fiat reached an agreement for the American automaker to be the exclusive distributed or Alfa Romeo in the United States, which lasted until Alfas were phased out in 1995. The early 1990s also saw Chrysler making a return to the streets of Europe, first with select Jeep models and then others.

DaimlerChrysler Motors Company

In 1998, Chrysler formed a 50-50 partnership with Daimler-Benz, and the automaker was renamed DaimlerChrysler Motors Company. Though it was supposed to be an even merger, Daimler-Benz was in the driver's seat. Plymouth was phased out in 2001, and the remaining auto brands went on to share platforms and technologies in vehicles that are still seen today. The marriage came to an end in 2007, when DaimlerChrysler AG sold the majority of its stake in Chrysler to Cerberus Capital Management. That sale led to a shuffle in management and a new logo.

Economic downturn

A Jeep sits in front of the empty showroom at Premier Chrysler June 8, 2009 in Chicago, Illinois. The dealership is 1 of the 789 Chrysler dealerships nationwide that are scheduled to close tomorrow. Today the Supreme Court delayed Chrysler\ufffds sale of most of its assets to a group led by Italy\ufffds Fiat. (

Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

The financial crisis of 2008 cut deep into Chrysler's operations and stability. Late in that year, the company announced a 25 percent reduction in its salaried and contract workforce. Sales fell drastically for all automakers at that time, but Chrysler was particularly vulnerable after having been passed around through mergers and acquisitions over the years. In December 2008, President George W. Bush announced a rescue loan for the auto industry, which included Chrysler.

As part of a reorganization, Chrysler LLC and Fiat announced plans to form a global alliance. The agreement gave Fiat a large stake in Chrysler and led to several months of restructuring. By mid-2009, Fiat had taken a majority stake in Chrysler, and by 2014, the company we all know today had taken shape. In December of that year, Chrysler Group LLC's name was officially changed to FCA US LLC, or Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.

Stellantis

New Stellantis company logo revealed ahead of Groupe PSA-Fiat Chrysler merger

Photo courtesy of FCA US LLC

The next chapter of Chrysler is already written. The company will become part of Stellantis, a megacorporation that brings together the holdings of FCA with those of PSA Groupe. The deal closes in January 2021.

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The BMW xDrive system celebrates its 20th birthday this year.

Photo courtesy of BMW

The year was 2001. It was the second year of a new millennium that had gone ahead without much disruption despite all of the concerns about Y2K. It was the advent of modern infotainment systems and BMW was on the cusp of debuting their new iDrive system.

The technology first appeared on the BMW 7 Series, which was ridiculed for a whole host of reasons, with iDrive just another part of what critics thought was wrong with the car.

A new, four-minute video from BMW released to coincide with the beginning of CES celebrates (?) just how far the iDrive system has come in 20 years. Why the question mark? The video is the perfect example of the age old tale of the boy who likes the girl but to hide it he constantly picks on her and shows off in front of his friends, with a smattering of disrespecting your elders.

A story of generations. BMW is a part of CES 2021. www.youtube.com

The entire video takes place in a darkened garage with the 7 Series voiced by an aging male who uses words like "whippersnapper" to ridicule the forthcoming BMW iX, comparing it to a "Tomagachi" and accuses it of being a toy car because it's not in production yet. The iX is voiced by a female who accuses the 7 Series she calls "grandpa" with "sniffing at the gas pumps too long".

The iX accuses the 7 Series of being past its prime, saying that it's impossible to talk to "their generation". The two voices rattle through the various features of their iDrive systems and while the iX's voice goes over that system's, the 7 Series voice replies with a swear word that refers to feces from a male cow.

Then the iX voice explains what infotainment intelligence means to the 7 Series while touting that the iX "knows everything because I'm always online".

BMW iDrive Evolution: BMW 7 Series with iDrive (2001)

Photo courtesy of BMW

After being thoroughly insulted, the 7 Series drives away and the iX seeks them out saying the popular refrain, "I didn't mean it that way" before explaining that without the original iDrive the iX wouldn't exist.

While amusing, the video clearly fits in with social media posts the company has featured recently where they make fun of older buyers, who are also known as the bread and butter of BMW's audience. It's an interesting sales tactic.

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