Maserati Medici I (Italdesign) (1974)
Based on the mechanics and chassis of the Maserati V8 5 liter, this limousine is clearly athletic but not at the expense of interior comfort.
The name encapsulates the project’s ideology, paying homage to the Florentine dynasty that knew how to gain reputation, prestige, commercial acumen, a sense of beauty, and a love of culture and the arts.
The Medici is a luxury car, a limousine known for its balance and elegance more than its profusion of frills.
The formal inspiration is the Asso di Picche, but the architecture, two volumes with a cut tail, is unusual for a sedan of this size and serves to keep the car compact while emphasizing the sporty tone.
The glass roof and light upholstery velvet make the six chairs, four of which are ready to back lounge, incredibly bright. The hood is also curved, but it is the basis for the Medici II, a makeover that will be released in 1976.
The luxury super-saloon is currently regarded as a must-have model by the vast majority of premium manufacturers. Back in the mid-1970s, though, famed designer Giorgetto Giugiaro was hard at work designing an automobile that blended performance and luxury with four-door practicality.
In 1974, Giugiaro, fresh from designing Maseratis Ghibli, Bora, and Merak, embarked on a quest to create a four-door Maserati that combined the luxury of an American limousine with ample power – the latter being noticeably absent in the 207bhp Quattroporte II of the same year. The idea of Giugiaro’s car was encapsulated in its name, ‘Medici’: inspired by the famed Florence dynasty that rose to popularity in the 14th century, thanks to an unmistakable commercial acumen and a love of culture and arts.
The car is built on Maserati chassis and is featured a longitudinally mounted 5.0-litre V8 instead of the Quattroporte II’s lackluster 3.0-litre V6. The car had seating for six people inside, with four ‘living-room’ style chairs facing each other, giving the velour-lined interior the atmosphere of a limousine, as required in the design requirement. Giugiaro aimed for a ‘balanced and graceful’ shape for the car’s body, drawing inspiration from prior work such as the Audi Asso Di Picche concept (with a design language that was also visible in the later B2 Audi Coupé – you may notice some resemblance).
The final result, however, had a bonnet that was too sleek for the roofline, resulting in an awkwardly proportioned automobile – highly un-Giugiaro-like, given that his catalogue raisonné included the De Tomaso Mangusta, Iso Grifo, and BMW M1. Giugiaro, like many geniuses, is immensely self-critical, and even official material from the Italdesign styling business he founded in 1968 recognizes the Medici’s stylistic shortcomings.
Nonetheless, another characteristic of artistic talent is perseverance, which Giugiaro dutifully demonstrated in the years that followed. Indeed, he pulled the blighted Maserati back into his workshop and began work on the Medici II, ‘cutting and patching’ the metalwork to restore the car’s off-kilter proportions from the 1974 Turin Motor Show.