‘I’ve got a surprise for you, my friend’, said Akis in his congenial tone and that enamoring Greeko-Italian accent. He had a mischievous grin splattered across his face as he uttered those words. I witnessed that distinct chirp to his voice and an apparent radiance on his visage every time he talked about the said surprise – ever since we started talking about my trip to Italy. He has been cooking something wicked, or he wouldn’t have mentioned it so many times. And every time he mentions it, I anticipate a gratifying conspiracy.
Images: Akis Tempiridis
Akis, by the way, has to be one of the nicest human beings you would ever come across. And I say this after having travelled the world and seen mortals of all shapes, sizes, colors and intents. He’s a man who has traversed the entire globe on his Land Rover Discovery over a period of three years, with little money and a mountain of sheer will. A rare few would have seen the world as closely as he has, and even rarer few would manage to be as grounded and considerate as him after having achieved what he has. A genuine guy worth his weight in diamonds!
He wants me to meet Franco, the man at Maserati he asserts has helped him tremendously settling down in Modena. We’ll have a tour of the Maserati factory, and see exponents of unadulterated Italian excellence in design and engineering such as the Maserati GranTurismo, GranCabrio and the laser sharp Alfa 4C being made. What a fantastic idea! For what a monumentally wrong day! Its wife’s birthday on the same day, and she’d likely feed me to dogs if I tell her that I’m trading my time with her for a tour in a car factory.
A conspiracy, with Akis’ wife Vula in full connivance is hatched, dispatching wife for shopping in a nice mall, and I get about half a day. The consequences of this felony may be dire, but good things in life don’t come easy.
As we enter the hallowed gates of Maserati factory at Viale Ciro Menotti in Modena, I see a Quattroporte parked in the open area –resplendent in blue and adding marvelously to the façade of the factory’s immaculate exterior. What a view!
Inside the lobby, we are greeted by Franco – a tall, fair, middle-aged and incredibly knowledgeable man who’s waiting to pounce at all sorts of questions about cars – Masers or otherwise. Articulate, with profound knowledge about the art of automotive design and engineering, Franco comes across as a deeply professional man from the very first moment I meet him. One wouldn’t expect anything less from someone who has worked alongside the likes of Giorgetto Giugiaro.
He presents to me a paper to sign on at once. I wonder to myself as to what indemnity do I need to provide for taking a tour of a car factory. As I read the contents of the high-quality paper, I realize that it’s essentially a license to drive a V8 powered, 530bhp Maserati Quattroporte in Italy for as long as I intend to. The car is filled up, cleaned, scrutinized and ready to roar on the streets of Modena and beyond. What the hell!?
I look at Akis, who’s is trying to put a straight face. But I can clearly see the puckish sparkle in those eyes. He smiles, I get handed the key to the super saloon by Franco, and then I pinch myself. I have the stupidest look ever on my face for those few moments. I don’t know how to thank this bountiful Greek enough. Only yesterday, he took me out for a tour of Maranello, showing me around the Ferrari factory, arranging for a ride in the Ferrari F458 Italia, taking my family to the delightful town of Emilia–Romagna, and now, provisioning for a 1.3 crore rupee car to be driven on the sanctified streets of Modena. Damn! Suddenly my being away from wife on her birthday appeared a 100 times more justifiable.
Now make no mistake, even with all those flouncing Italian Stallions underneath, and boasting credentials for being the most desirable super saloon on the planet, the Quattroporte is a proper luxury limo. Once behind the steering wheel, the bonnet seems to be ending at the horizon, the width of the car is enough to deter you from taking to narrow lanes and the less you talk about its girth behind your back, the better. And yet, it doesn’t take more than a few yards worth of movement before the exquisitely crafted limousine, which intimidated you from the outside, tightly wraps you in its loving arms. There is an uncanny feel to the steering wheel, it’s perfectly weighted and the communication through the leather wraps onto my palms is intriguing to say the least.