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ItalianCar | April 25, 2024

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Maserati – Essentials

Key Facts

Date founded 1914
Derivation of name name of founder
Name meaning
Where founded Bologna
Name of founder(s) Alfieri (& brothers Ernesto, Ettore & Bindo) Maserati
First car name Tipo 26 (1st GT = A6)
First car date 1926 (A6 = 1946)
First car top speed/power 100mph;115bhp (Tipo 26)

Brief History of Marque

The Maserati story began on 1st December 1914 when the Societá Anonima Officine Alfieri Maserati was set up in the Italian industrial town of Bologna. However, it was little more than a garage run by a family of motoring enthusiasts who had a tradition of superlative craftsmanship and a passion for cutting-edge engineering. In the early days, the Maserati brothers merely modified the luxury Isotta Fraschinis of the day for road racing purposes.

The first true Maserati, the Tipo 26, did not emerge until the 14th April 1926. Where better to premiere the first Maserati but at the racetrack, where it won the Targa Florio. A year later Maserati won the Italian Constructors’ title and Ernesto Maserati (one of 7 brothers), the Italian Drivers’ title.

The rapid rise to engineering and racing supremacy was celebrated in magnificent style in 1929 when Maserati shattered the world land speed record over 10km with a speed of 246.069 km/h. The car was the V4 powered by an amazing 280 BHP 16-cylinder 3961cc engine and was driven by Baconin Borzacchini. The same combination racked up Maserati’s first Grand Prix victory at Tripoli a year later. Meanwhile, the Maserati operation expanded in all directions. The first Maserati Grand Tourer with a Castagna body made its debut at the Milan Show in 1931. Count Theo Rossi di Montelera also employed a Maserati engine on his powerboat, which went on to win the world water speed record in the same year. This was the first record in a long series of Maserati successes in the powerboat sector.

On land, Maserati cars were winning races on tracks all over Europe and the brand was rapidly gaining a reputation for advanced engineering. Among its innovations, the world’s first hydraulic brakes appeared on the 8C/8CM in 1933. This was the same car that Giuseppe Campari drove to victory in the French Grand Prix and Tazio Nuvolari did the same in the Belgian and Nice Grand Prix. 1934 brought another world speed record (222km/h) in the 1100cc class. The car was the 4CM, the driver Giuseppe Furmanik.

In 1937 the Maserati brothers handed over the financial management of their company to the Orsi family, while keeping their hands on the engineering side of the business. That opened the way to operations on a much broader scale, which bore fruit in two successive race wins on United States soil. In 1939 and 1940, Maserati won the Indianapolis 500 with Wilbur Shaw in an 8CTF. That made Maserati the first and the only Italian constructor to win the legendary American race. Meanwhile in 1939, the firm moved to its now celebrated premises on Viale Ciro Menotti in Modena. It is here that its extraordinary creativity was deployed in the service of the Italian war effort as it converted to the production of machine tools, electrical components, spark plugs and even electric vehicles. Once the war ended, Maserati got it back to its normal business, creating the Maserati A6 1500 Sport, around which Pininfarina built an elegant coupé body. The racing version was the A6GCS, a highly original streamlined barchetta with offset engine and motorbike-type wings separate from the body. This is the car that Alberto Ascari drove to victory on its first outing at Modena.

However, if these were the years of a Maserati revival, they also saw the arrival of a powerful new rival. In 1947, Ferrari and Maserati launched an exciting all-Italian duel on the racetracks all over the world. In 1953, the Maserati A6GCM 2000, with Juan Manual Fangio at the wheel, came second in the World Championship behind Alberto Ascari in a Ferrari.

1954 saw the debut of the legendary Maserati 250F with a 2500cc 6-cylinder engine and transverse rear gearbox unit. This was the car that started out by winning Fangio the Argentine Grand Prix and ultimately the World Drivers’ title. At the same time, several A6G spider and coupé models with bodies by Frua, Allemano and Zagato came out.

In 1955, an aerodynamic 250F with a wrap-around body was created for the Italian Grand Prix at Monza. In the meantime, Maserati was experimenting with advanced engineering systems like disc brakes and fuel injection. Maserati brought its Grand Prix career to a glorious finale in 1957 at the end of a triumphant season, which started out with the first three places in Argentina and ended with Fangio’s world title in the 250F. That same year Maserati designed a 12-cylinder 2500cc engine for Formula 1 and previewed the 3500GT 2+2 seater sports coupé at the Geneva Show. It was the start of a new era for the trident marque – concentrating on producing the worlds best coupés and sports saloons.

The 3500GT remained in production until 1964 and was responsible for introducing a whole series of important innovations, such as twin-plug ignition systems, disc brakes and fuel injection. Maserati’s advancement in technology on the racetrack was the start of using racing experience for future road going motor vehicles.

Even the departure of the official Maserati team from racing did not end the firm’s interest in motor sport and in 1958 it launched the Tipo 60-61. It was nicknamed the ‘Birdcage’ after its revolutionary chassis that was constructed out of a trellis of slender tubes. When a special 500 mile invitation race was organised on the Monza high-speed track for Indy specialists, Maserati was there with a special car (the Maserati Eldorado) with a V8 engine driven by Stirling Moss.

That same engine appeared on the 450S powerboat, which ruled the waves in its day and also powered the prestigious 5000GT with touring body that was created for the Shah of Persia. In the sixties, Maserati expanded its GT operations as the Sebring (the final development of the 1962 3500GT) was followed by the Mistral in 1963. Named as the fastest saloon in the world, the Quattroporte was also introduced in 1963.

However, while officially retired from motorsport, Maserati had not stopped engineering racing cars, which included special Berlinetta models for the Le Mans 24-hour race. This included the Sport Tipo 65, with its rear-mounted engine and the highly original transverse V12 engine it created for the Formula 1 1500. In 1966, the Ghibli coupé, the first Maserati entirely designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro, went into production and a new 3-litre 12-cylinder Formula 1 engine was developed. In the first year of the new formula, the Cooper-Maserati driven by John Surtees won the Mexican GP, as well as taking second and third places in the World Championship.

In 1968, Maserati turned out a record 733 cars and acquired a new shareholder in Citroën. That same year, it launched the Indy 2+2 coupé and started production of the new V6 engine. This was the engine that powered the revolutionary Citroën SM that went into production in 1970.

At the 1971 Geneva Show, Maserati launched the Bora, a two-seater, mid-engined Grand Tourer that gave way to the very similar Merak 2+2 seater with V6 engine a year later. That same year, the SM won the Moroccan Rally, giving Maserati its first ever success in that type of race.

In 1975, the effects of the oil crisis forced Citroën to draw in its horns, which meant abandoning Maserati which was then sold to Alejandro De Tomaso’s GEPI. Under its management, the firm produced a 2000cc version of the Merak and in 1976 it launched a new version of the Quattroporte. This went on to become the best selling Maserati of all time. The Quattroporte was also famous for being the vehicle of choice for successive Italian presidents.

The eighties brought many changes, not least the creation of a model destined for mass production. That was the surprising Biturbo, a performance saloon with a 2000cc V6 engine that was launched in 1981. In 1984, an impressive 6,000 Biturbos were constructed. Further development of the turbocharged V6 engine led in 1989 to the launch of the Shamal that featured the first Maserati V8 adopting twin turbos.

In 1993, Fiat Auto acquired the entire share capital of Maserati, which was later put under the full control of Ferrari in July of 1997. Work began on the new Maserati factory on 1st October 1997 and the Quattroporte Evoluzione came out in 1998. That same year the 3200GT coupé was launched at the Paris Motorshow. It was both the first Maserati of the new era and a revival of a 4-seater Grand Tourer tradition that began forty years earlier with the 3500GT. The 3200GT was first shown to the Australian public at the 1999 Melbourne Motorshow. The 3200GT instantly captured the attention of Australian automotive aficionados, as the entire yearly production set aside for Australia was sold even before a single test drive took place.

The new millennium opened with the complete reorganisation of the Maserati sales network. In 2001 the Viale Ciro Menotti factory underwent major expansion work – at an estimated cost of 25 million Euros, the plant was expanded to 51,000 square metres including 30,000 square metres of buildings. The latest Maseratis are now produced at this new facility.