Friday 23 January 2004 - The Royal Horticultural Halls, Victoria.
I have visited the Horticultural Halls before, usually to attend auctions when various classic Maseratis have been under the hammer, but tonight, I was here to see the latest offering from Maserati. Andy Heywood and I were met at the door by Patrick Stephens, who had very kindly invited us, and a friend.
Walking up the steps into the main hall two shapes were in our immediate view and although covered, their contents was obvious. Further into the Hall a third car had been hidden from view behind some curtains. Drinks were served and with a glass of 'bubbly' in hand we wandered around. Classical music played discreetly in the background and trays of snacks were served to a gathering crowd of potential buyers and dealers. I was particularly impressed by a display of music stands placed strategically near the centrepiece car. Overhead projectors beamed down a virtual picture diary of the car's specifications. The 'pages' would turn and with each new page new images giving yet another insight. Behind this 'orchestra' and projected on to the surrounding walls were movie clips of the all-new Quattroporte in action. The presentation was very clever and epitomised Maserati - it was refined and obviously quite a technical achievement!
As the music increased in volume and the lights dimmed it was obvious that the great moment was fast approaching. Then with a crescendo of music and lights the curtains fell to the floor revealing this new Quattroporte. I must say the Pininfarina design looked very elegant in its silver paintwork. We were then introduced to the senior managers who spoke a few words about the car and thanked us for attending. For me it was a pleasure and no thanks were needed! Finally we were invited to come and take a closer look at the car and discuss its attributes with the assembled marketing people.
After the initial buzz of excitement we returned our now empty glasses to the polite catering staff. Andy and I primed our cameras and started taking photos of this new Maserati. The lack of fussy detail was clear and the flowing lines all alluded to an elegant and exclusive Italian flagship. Being a fan of big cars, I must say that I liked it. The interior was well presented with its subtle use of wood veneer (three different types are available: rosewood, mahogany and brairwood) and lavish use of natural Poltrona Frau leather giving the car a real sense of opulence tempered with durability and functionality. The centre console with its multimedia system (satellite navigation etc.) and a high quality Bose stereo system all added to the luxurious feel. Here was a thoroughly modern car yet still maintaining a connection to its renowned heritage, a lineage that has always prided itself in the use of the highest quality materials and craftsmanship.
Over to the front of the hall food and wine were being served and as some of the assembled guests drifted off for a tasting session Andy and I continued taking photographs. Eventually, the pangs of hunger got the better of us and we wandered over to the buffet. All very Italian and quite nice especially when washed down with a glass (or two) of vino rosso. As we mingled we met some charming people including our distinguished Club President Alexander Fyshe with whom we exchanged some amusing anecdotes. Later, as many of the guests began to disappear out into the London night, I peeled off to take some more photos.
With photos in the bag and a pleasant evening experienced, Andy and I thanked Patrick for his invitation and set off into a wet and cold Friday night for Pimlico tube station for alas we can't afford Maseratis!