Rare Rides: A 1971 Maserati Quattroporte Prototype, the King's Sedan

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis

Today’s Rare Ride was one of just two finished examples of the ill-fated second generation Maserati Quattroporte. Maserati envisioned a promising future for their large luxury sedan, but the company’s corporate parentage at the time had other (worse) ideas.

And this very car was fit for a king.

Maserati produced its first-generation Quattroporte from 1963 to 1969, a very early example of a brand new class of car: the high-performance grand touring sedan. With a large engine at the front and lots of leather in the middle, it was one of three Sixties sedans from Europe able to meet a 200 kph (124 mph) top speed.

By the end of the Sixties, the original Quattroporte styling was looking fairly dated. Karim Aga Khan wanted a fresher Quattroporte and ordered up a bespoke sedan. Maserati set to work and built a new four-door on the Indy’s platform. Exterior design was handed to Frua, as the first-gen model was penned by Pietro himself. The new Quattroporte used Maserati’s 4.9-liter V8, good for 296 horsepower. Said power traveled to the rear wheels via an unspecified automatic transmission.

The car was production-ready by 1971 and was displayed that year at the Paris Motor Show. Maserati knew there was a market for the new Quattroporte, and sealed its production fate with a new chassis code: AM121. But Maserati’s product plans were no longer their own to dictate, as the company’s ownership had passed from the Orsi family to Citroën in 1968.

Citroën took a look at the very Italian and ready-to-go AM121, and said “Mais non, you will not build this car.” The French brass pressed Maserati to move on in a different direction with Quattroporte – a front-drive direction. The basis for the newly-ordered Quattroporte II (AM123) would be Citroën’s own SM luxury coupe. That one was a big flop but we’ll discuss it in another Rare Rides.

In the end, only two examples of the AM121 Quattroporte were finished. Aga Khan received his (chassis number 004) in 1974. The other finished example was chassis number 002, completed in 1971 and retained by Frua. Frua sold it fairly quickly to the King of Spain, Juan Carlos I. The king’s blue over tan AM121 goes to auction in November at Le Castellet, wherever that is.

Note: Images in this article are of the later 004 chassis, as they were the only ones publicly available for use.

[Images: YouTube]

Corey Lewis
Corey Lewis

Interested in lots of cars and their various historical contexts. Started writing articles for TTAC in late 2016, when my first posts were QOTDs. From there I started a few new series like Rare Rides, Buy/Drive/Burn, Abandoned History, and most recently Rare Rides Icons. Operating from a home base in Cincinnati, Ohio, a relative auto journalist dead zone. Many of my articles are prompted by something I'll see on social media that sparks my interest and causes me to research. Finding articles and information from the early days of the internet and beyond that covers the little details lost to time: trim packages, color and wheel choices, interior fabrics. Beyond those, I'm fascinated by automotive industry experiments, both failures and successes. Lately I've taken an interest in AI, and generating "what if" type images for car models long dead. Reincarnating a modern Toyota Paseo, Lincoln Mark IX, or Isuzu Trooper through a text prompt is fun. Fun to post them on Twitter too, and watch people overreact. To that end, the social media I use most is Twitter, @CoreyLewis86. I also contribute pieces for Forbes Wheels and Forbes Home.

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3 of 9 comments
  • Conundrum Conundrum on Sep 27, 2021

    "Le Castellet, wherever that is". Downtown Pudunk Ohio. Where'd you think it was? This car wasn't a Maserati design. It was an independent effort by Frua on the Indy chassis. The original had the 4.7l V8, the second the updated 4.9l, along with another new chassis for the Aga Khan who also ordered a second. The original sold in Spain has spent most of its life shuttling from one auction to the next. That's this here one. Full story at: https://www.secret-classics.com/en/maserati-quattroporte-ii-frua/ As the Rare Rides guy searching through auction websites for rarities, I'd hope you have more than a throwawy dismissive remark about where Le Castellet is. Sotheby's is running the auction for this featured Maserati and many other cars at the old French Formula One Grand Prix circuit known as Paul Ricard, in guess where? Le Castellet. https://tekdeeps.com/guikas-collection-the-best-cars-in-the-world-up-for-auction

  • Lightspeed Lightspeed on Sep 28, 2021

    A greenhouse big enough for a grow-op

  • Daniel J 19 inch wheels on an Elantra? Jeebus. I have 19s on my Mazda 6 and honestly wish they were 18s. I mean, I just picked up 4 tires at over 1000 bucks. The point of an Elantra is for it to be cheap. Put some 17s on it.
  • ToolGuy 9 miles a day for 20 years. You didn't drive it, why should I? 😉
  • Brian Uchida Laguna Seca, corkscrew, (drying track off in rental car prior to Superbike test session), at speed - turn 9 big Willow Springs racing a motorcycle,- at greater speed (but riding shotgun) - The Carrousel at Sears Point in a 1981 PA9 Osella 2 litre FIA racer with Eddie Lawson at the wheel! (apologies for not being brief!)
  • Mister It wasn't helped any by the horrible fuel economy for what it was... something like 22mpg city, iirc.
  • Lorenzo I shop for all-season tires that have good wet and dry pavement grip and use them year-round. Nothing works on black ice, and I stopped driving in snow long ago - I'll wait until the streets and highways are plowed, when all-seasons are good enough. After all, I don't live in Canada or deep in the snow zone.