The years 1974 to 1978 were bad for the Quattroporte. Maserati, which had been snapped up by Citroën, based its second generation on an enlarged chassis of the SM saloon. It had a wheezy 185bhp V6 and, worse, it was front-wheel drive -- a dramatic change from its 280bhp V8 rear-wheel drive predecessor. This one was a bad joke.

Fortunately, the third generation saw a return of the classic formula that had made the original such a success; Maserati V8 power and rear-wheel drive was back, and pretty soon those dark clouds that had been gathering over Modena were lifted.

It was thanks to a crazy spending spree by Alejandro de Tomaso. The Argentinian entrepreneur and racing driver snapped up Italian machinery works Innocenti, the Ghia and Vignale studios, the Benelli and Moto Guzzi motorcycle manufacturers, and Maserati. Although the second gen was a disaster, he still felt the Quattroporte was the answer to the needs of customers in the GT market.

He'd be proved right, too, and that short-lived "marriage" with Citroën was soon forgotten once the new model was launched.

The Tipo AM 330, as it was known internally, was designed by ItalDesign's Giorgetto Giugiaro and debuted in 1979. Powered by a 4.2- or 4.9-litre V8 with 255bhp and 280bhp respectively, it could be had with ZF five-speed manual or a Borg Warner three-speed automatic, and reached a top speed of 230kph -- impressive considering it tipped the scales at almost 1,900kg.

It wasn't long before it had re-established itself at the forefront of the world's luxury saloons. Giugiaro gave it a long imposing bonnet, a large trapezoidal chrome grille flanked by a pair of twin rectangular headlights, acute-angled rear taillights and a full-width slanting rear window. It looked elegant and stylish, and the interior was just as good. Trimmed with soft Italian leather and a briar-wood veneer, the cabin had a 'no expense spared' look about it.

With an independent suspension on all four corners, it offered a smooth ride and was a much-loved model, but it was to get better in 1986 when the Royale trim was launched. It received some cosmetic updates that helped soften the angular exterior, a 4.9-litre uprated to 300bhp, and best of all, a redesigned interior; it now packed more luxurious leather seats, automatic climate control, a cigar lighter, portable phone and a bar for back seat passengers, who also had their own retractable wood-veneered tables in the side doors.

Only 2,145 Quattroporte IIIs were produced, out of which just 55 were Royales, making these exceptionally expensive to buy -- if you can find one.