Beautiful, fast, and sporty. The definition of a Maserati. As we all know, Maserati is one of the best automakers in the world that offers cars that you can actually afford (all right, maybe not in our current economical state, and if the comparison occurs with a Fiskar-KArma, Bugatti or high end Ferrari). They are more fun to drive and ride in (personal experience) than some Porsches, and are really cool. They have cars ranging from $120,000 to $170,000. Are you ready to hear about the long history of Maserati? Well, I’ll take that as a yes.
Rodolfo and Carolina Maserati had seven sons (!) : Carlo (1881), Bindo (1883), Alfieri (1885-1885). Since poor Alfieri died at only five months of age, Rodolfo and Carolina decided to name their next son Alfieri (1887-1953) after him. After Alfieri #2, they had Mario (1890), Ettore (1894), and Ernesto (1898). All of the Maserati brothers except for Mario (who was the artist that designed the iconic Maserati Trident) were involved in the engineering, design, and construction of cars.
Carlo moved from his hometown of Bologna, Italy to Affori (near Milan) to work in a bicycle factory. During his free time, he designed and built a small, single-cylinder engine. Carlo was wooed away from the small factory to Carcano bikes. There, he raced Carcano bikes with the engine that he designed. While there, he won a few races and set a record for 50km/h (31 mph).
In 1901, Carlo moved from Carcano to Fiat, and two years later, he landed a job for the rest of his life at Isotta Fraschini. Because he was a test driver and a mechanic, he was able to get Alfieri #2 a job there as a backup test driver, despite the fact that he was only 16. Carlo had a brilliant, yet short career, dying at the young age of 29 in 1910. But, by that time, Carlo had worked and raced for Bianchi, become General Manager of Junior, and started his own workshop with Ettore, where they made high and low voltage electrical transformers for cars.
In 1908, Alfieri #2 soon emerged as Carlo’s spiritual successor. He had the same extroverted personality, and the same (if not better) skills as Carlo as a driver and technician. Also, Isotta Fraschini gave Alfieri a car of his own to race. Alfieri did well, taking 14th place overall in the 1909 Grand prix for Voiturettes in Dieppe, despite his carburetor leaking gasoline. In the meantime, Bindo and Ettore had also joined Isotta Fraschini. In 1912, Alfieri was put in charge of the customer service division of Isotta Fraschini, after having represented the company in Argentina, England, and the USA. He soon hired Ettore as assistant manager of the customer service division of Isotta Fraschini.
Because of the wide-ranging experiences that he had accumulated through his career, Alfieri convinced himself that it was time to start a company of his own. He wanted to explore his talents and creativity to their fullest extent. It worked. Officine Alfieri Maserati was founded on December 1, 1914.
After WWI, Maserati moved from their bombed-out offices in Via de Pepoli (in Bologna) to brand-new offices in the suburbs outside of Bologna. The Maserati brothers’ main activity was making Isotta Fraschini cars better (more power, better handling, etc). Of course, to earn more money, they worked on other cars. Since Alfieri had begun his career as a race-car driver, he kept on racing tuned Isotta Fraschinis. Diatto offered him a chance to design and race cars with them. He took them up on the racing part.
Unfortunately, in 1924, after having dominated the San Sebastiano Grand Prix, he was banned from racing for five years, even though he had retired from the race the day before. The ban was to last five years, but Alfieri begged hard enough, and the ban was lifted after only four months.
When he wasn’t racing, Alfieri could be found in the shop tuning a Isotta Fraschini for a customer or simply building his own cars. In 1926, the grueling 18 hours every day in the shop payed off, and the first Maserati, the Tipo 26, proudly bore the Maserati Trident. Just to prove how good his car was, Alfieri Maserati drove the car himself for the 1926 Targa Floria. The Tipo 26 won in its class. The Maserati was born and out in the world.
The following year, Alfieri was sidelined after a serious accident involving a Mercedes-Benz. But, even with the great driver sidelined for that race, Ettore won the Italian Constructors’ Championship. Two years later, just to stick their tongue out at the Germans, the Maserati V4 was created. With a massive 10.3 liter V16 producing in excess of 500 horsepower, the V4 dominated the Italian Grand Prix while setting the the world Class C record at 152.5 mph for 10 km.
In 1931, the 4CTR and the front-wheel-drive 8C 2500 came out. The 8C 2500 was the last car to be designed by Alfieri Maserati, who died on March 3, 1932. A crowd of well over 15,000 attended his funeral in Bologna, including factory workers, race-car drivers, friends, family, and just ordinary people who came to mourn the great man who had done so much to promote his company and himself. However, Alfieri’s death did not even come close to discouraging the Maserati family. Bindo quit his job at Isotta Fraschini to race at Maserati. His brothers Ettore and Ernesto took care of business, production, and management.
The following year, in 1933, one of the world’s greatest racers, Tazio Nuvolari joined Maserati as head of the racing division. He made a significant technical contribution to Maserati – adapting the current chassis to the characteristics of the new 3.0 liter in-line eight cylinder engine. To prove just how good it was, he drove it to three first place victories at: the Belgian Grand Prix, Nice, and Montenero. Mercedes-Benz and Auto Union weren’t happy with just second and third-place finishes – they wanted first. So, they started an assault on the racing scene that lasted until WWII. This assault was backed by the Nazis. Of course, this made life very difficult for Maserati, yet they kept winning smaller, national races.
Even though the Maserati brothers didn’t need the extra money, they sold all their shares to the Orsi family in Modena, Italy. The company moved from Bologna to the now quite historic headquarters on Viale Ciro Menotti in Modena, Italy. The Maserati brothers stayed on as chief engineers until 1948.
In 1939 and 1940, Maserati won the Indianapolis 500 with Wilbur Shaw at the wheel of the Maserati 8CTF. To this day, Maserati is the only Italian automaker to have ever won the Indy 500 once, let alone twice.
During WWII, Maserati helped with the war effort, making machine tools, electrical components, spark plugs for tanks, and electric vehicles for the Axis. Maserati also attempted to build a V16 car for Benito Mussolini, but the plans were scrapped when Ferry Porsche of Volkswagen built one for Adolf Hitler, and Mussolini never got his V16 towncar because the Volkswagen factory was bombed. However, Maserati returned to their original activities after the war, making the GT race-car; the A6G CS. The car did well on the post-war racing scene, bringing in some important victories such as the: 1949 Modena endurance race (where it debuted), and some local races on dirt tracks.
Maserati was desperately in need of a new Chief Engineer, and Gioacchino Colombo was the man for the job. He retuned the A6GCM, making it THE car to beat for the 1953 racing scene, despite tough competition from Ferrari, Talbot, Mercedes-Benz, and other racing companies.
In 1957, the great Maserati racing driver won the fifth World Title in a row (the first time for Maserati), in the Maserati 250F. This historic win at the Nürburgring in 1957 is considered by very many racing historians to be one of the greatest drives in the history of auto-racing.
Even though Maserati officially announced that they were retiring from racing in 158, they kept making iconic race-cars like the Birdcage for private teams. They also supplied Formula 1 racing engines to other companies who had bodies and transmissions, but not engines. The Birdcage was such a good race-car that the Camoradi racing team with such legendary drivers as: Sir Stirling Moss (when he was still Stirling Moss), Carroll Shelby, Masten Gregory, and Dan Gurney all taking turns behind the wheel at different races. A little-known fact about Carroll Shelby is his last race was at the wheel of a Birdcage! He then went off to start a world-known performance company. Maserati would encounter stiff competition from the Shelby Cobra.
In 1958, Maserati came out with their first road car ever; the 3500 GT. This car helped start a very important, new era for Maserati. Because of this, Maserati’s main goals were sales of road and race-cars, and the plant was consequently expanded by 20,000 square feet. In 1962, Maserati decided to dive into these new waters, and the Maserati Sebring was born. The following year, the first modern sports sedan, the Quattroporte, was on lots. Soon after the Quattroporte, the Maserati Mistral Coupé and Mistral Spider were introduced in 1963, and 1964, respectively. In 1967, Maserati introduced the Ghibli Coupé, and two years later a convertible was on dealer lots.
The year 1968 brought big changes for Maserati. Citroën bought Maserati. Three years later, Maserati introduced the first mass-produced mid-engine Maserati; the Maserati Bora. The same year, a Maserati-engined Citroën SM won the Morocco Rally. Soon after, the Maserati Merak and the Maserati Khasmin came into production. Maserati’s were in high demand then, but the Yom Kippur War of 1973 and the resulting oil crisis almost killed Maserati. However, Maserati had enough courage to build the Merak SS. Citroën signed a deal with Peugeot, but announced the Maserati had gone into liquidation. Italians were enraged. On May 23, 1975, Maserati was taken over by GEPI, an Italian government program. For two long years, Maserati was propped up by government funds, but on August 8, 1975, Maserati was bought by the Benelli company, and Alejandro De Tomaso, a former race-car driver from Argentina became Managing Director.
With some difficulty, De Tomaso was able to get Maserati going again. The Maserati Kyalami and Quattroporte III, were both in production in vast quantities. In the 1980s, a new era came for Maserati. Maserati basically abandoned the mid-engine idea to produce chunky, agressive, fun-to-drive, cheaper cars. Thus, the Maserati Biturbo was born. For almost 13 years, the Maserati Biturbo was in production, with over 30 different variants built, the last being a milestone for the next Maserati’s: the Maserati Shamal and the Maserati Ghibli II. During this time period, a major recession hit the U.S. economy, forcing Maserati and other storied Italian automakers to withdraw from those markets and hone their skills in on Europe. It was in 1993 that Maserati was finally thrown a lifeline. Fiat Auto bought the entire share capital of Maserati. Unfortunately, Fiat “had” to sell Maserati to Ferrari.
In 1997, Ferrari was the new owner of Maserati. Up until a year before, Maserati and Ferrari had both been hotly competing on the street and track. It seemed like they had gotten over their differences, and were lending each other a helping hand. To celebrate, Maserati temporarily shut down their plant in Modena, and reopened it within six months. The new facility was state-of-the-art, with some areas where visitors could literally touch the cars!
Since the calendar year 2002, Maserati’s have been sold in the U.S. The cars that Maserati decided to sell in the U.S. were the Maserati Coupé, and the Maserati Spyder. The following model year, Maserati unveiled the Quattroporte sport sedan.
In 2007, Maserati unveiled the GranTurismo, which has gone on to be one of the most successful Maserati’s of all time. Since then, Maserati has exceeded sales by over 50%, introduced three new models, won many racing championships, and now employs 696 people in 60 different countries. Now THAT’S what I call good!