JUN 16th 2014

In search of Maserati's soul in the il presidente of fast four‑doors

Where to go in a box-fresh 190mph Quattroporte GTS to mark Maserati’s centenary? Ideally a fast trip to a destination quietly classy just like the car. A Ravello rather than a Rimini. And it would have to be a trip with friends: one thing the new, sixth-generation version of the original super-saloon is not short of is cabin room.

Perhaps we could bomb down to Bologna. Throw a euro in the fountain where Neptune still grips the trident on which the Maserati symbol is based. Bologna is where six brothers named Maserati all first dreamed of building a car and going faster than anyone else. Then we could head on to Modena where a very different Maserati exists today, modern and hi-tech and with dreams of not just going very fast but also of selling far more cars than it has ever done before.

But no. All too obvious. The Goodwood Road and Racing Maserati Centenary Tour 2014 is therefore staying closer to home. Why? Because it’s not so much Maserati places we want to see as Maserati people – those who have been well and truly pricked by Neptune’s trident. We are going to tour around in the Il Presidente of fast four-doors, dropping in on people who can shed light on this most evocative of supercar companies.

Time then to sink into the Quattroporte’s Poltrana Frau leather and fire up the twin turbo V8, obligingly assembled for Maserati by their former adversaries, now allies, next door in Modena. That would be Ferrari then. The engine has 530PS (523bhp) and ranks as the most powerful production Maserati engine. Ever.

It drifts beautifully. High speed bends are a joy

First stop: Silverstone, and Maserati racer Adam Painter

Goodwood to Silverstone – not exactly like bombing down to Bologna, the A34 not having that much in common with any autostrada I know. Not much need for 523bhp either. Oh well, at least plenty of opportunity to soak up the Italian sumptuousness. Actually the Quattroporte GTS is far more focused than frilly. Thrills yes, frills, no. Just like the car we have come to see…

It’s the first big Vintage Sports-Car Club meet of the year, and we have an appointment with Adam Painter and his 1935 Maserati 4CS. This distinguished race car, a Mille Miglia class winner in ’35 and ’36, is a huge part of the Painter family.

After being owned and raced by Count ‘Johnny’ Lurani and other great names of the day including Villoresi, the 4CS was put up for sale in 1939. Adam still has the classified ad for it from The Motor. £575 (then the cost of a house) and it was yours. The car found a new owner in the Far East.

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Adam Painter

Thirty years later it was rescued from Singapore in poor shape by Adam’s dad, Ken. Ken restored it, raced it, drove it on the road (‘it was very noisy but still my wife managed to fall asleep in the passenger seat’) and promised it to his son, then aged five. Adam was a little older when eventually he began driving it.

‘The appeal of Maserati for me has always been that they were race cars first and foremost. As such a huge amount of passion went into them,’ says Adam. ‘I have been racing the 4CS now for 25 years and I absolutely love it. It’s light, nimble and drifts beautifully. Just like a 250F. High-speed bends are a joy. It’s quick – drivers of modern cars get a surprise when I use it on the road – and the big hydraulic drum brakes never fade.’ Being up against a lot of faster but heavier prewar racers in historic racing, a certain outbraking ability is a good thing. ‘We have some very close races. I win my class and am generally in the top third of the field.’

The 4CS is a two-seat version of Maserati’s racing voiturette of the time, aimed at the owner/driver. Just 11 rolled out of the Bologna garage, all made at a time when Maserati was run by the Maserati brothers. Originally an 1100, in 1938 this particular car was re-engined with a 1500cc four with twin gear-driven overhead cams and a supercharger.

At about 125bhp the 4CS has a quarter the power of the 2014 Quattroporte that Adam is eyeing up. What does he think about the latest Masers? He is all for them – ‘as long as they retain the passion’. So a new QP in the garage? Perhaps, but a more likely candidate may be the coming new Maserati Levante. He already drives a diesel SUV…

Meantime, Adam’s 4CS will be part of the Maserati celebrations at the Goodwood Festival of Speed in June.

NEXT TIME: the man who’s worked on more Maseratis than the Maseratis ever did

Photos: David Edmund-Jones

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