The history of Maserati
Although Maserati really came to prominence first in 1926 at the Targa Florio (where Alfieri won his class) their automotive exploits started much earlier. The eldest brother of the family, Carlo, had built engines and then worked for Fiat, Bianchi and Isotta-Fraschini before passing away in 1910. In the latter company he had also found work for some of his brothers, an interest which continued to grow. In 1914 Alfieri opened a garage where he specialised in Isotta-Fraschini's and after the war founded a spark-plug factory initially at Milan, later moving it to Bologna.
It was there that the first race cars were built, using the chassis' from Isotta-Fraschini coupled with aircraft engines. Cars from Diatto were also modified for a short time, but the real route lay in constructing one's own vehicles, and thus they built their first complete car, with an 8 cylinder dohc in-line 1.5-litre engine fitted with a Roots supercharger. This car, the 'Tipo 26' was the one which impressed spectators and competitors alike in the 1926 Targa Florio.
Development continued, and thanks also to the first clients, the cars grew, first 2-litres, then four speed transmissions, then 2.5-litres and so on. A V16 broke the 10km land speed record in 1929 which just added to the growing public awareness of the marque. The Tipo 26M continued into Grand Prix racing in 1930, with the engine growing to 2.8-litres for the following season. Apart from the poor financial condition of the company, it suffered a huge blow in 1932 when Alfieri, the main driving force behind the cars to date, died, aged only 44. Ernesto, Ettore and Bindo continued the work with successful models such as the Tipo 8CM and 6CM emerging under their direction.
In 1937, due to their worsening finances, the brothers were forced to sell their company to the Orsi family but, as stipulated in the contract, continued to work with them for ten years. The Orsi family wanted to build road cars, and thus the families fell out, the Maserati brothers leaving in 1947 to found OSCA. Note should be made of the 1939 and 1940 victories at the Indianapolis 500 with the 8CTF, a 3-litre eight cylinder with twin superchargers. They remain the only Indianapolis victories by an Italian marque.
In the meantime the business was moved to Modena and during and after the war the development of the desired road cars began. The A6 emerged in 1946, followed by the A6G and the A6G54. These cars were still really a sideline to the motorsport side of the business, and were used in many races, as well as forming the basis for more potent competition cars. These years saw the last real effort in motorsport by the Trident, concentrating on the newly formed Formula One championship with involvement also in the Sport category. The early efforts did not succeed as desired, but continual developement saw the debut in 1956 of the 250F which took the F1 championship in the following year. In the Sport they also reached the top with the 300S taking many victories in 1956 and the 450S in 1957.
All this expenditure, however, left the companies finances even weaker than before and so in 1957 they ceased all motorsport activities (apart from continuing to support clients). That year also saw the launch of the first true road car, the 3500GT. This was a luxury GT coupe and was built in much greater numbers than any of the preceding models. Later, in 1964, a variant designed by Vignale became known as the Sebring.
Despite the withdrawal from motorsport, development of some Sports cars continued, with the famous Birdcage series emerging first as the front-engined 2-litre Tipo 60 and 2.9-litre Tipo 61, rapidly replaced by the rear-engined Tipo 63 and 64. For the 1962 Le Mans there was also born the Tipo 151, but it did not achieve its aim.
Continuing with road cars, the 5000GT was introduced in 1959, using a quad-cam V8 in a modified 3500GT chassis, followed by the Mistral in 1963 which used a further development of the 3500GT chassis with larger 3.7 or 4.0-litre six cylinder engines.
1963 also saw Maserati bring out the first of a new family of V8 engined cars. The Quattroporte, as its name suggests, was a large four door high performance saloon. A shortened and slightly developed chassis was used in the Mexico of 1965, a two door, 2+2 coupe, and then again in 1967 when the Ghibli was released with a yet further shortened chassis and a new two-seat body.
The late 1960s saw control of Maserati pass to Citroen who supported the development of the final variant based on the front engined V8 chassis, the Indy. This four seat two door coupe was introduced in 1969. Maserati, with the financial backing of Citroen, then turned their hand to a mid-engined car, the resulting Bora appearing at the Geneva Motorshow of 1971. This used a quad-cam alloy V8, and the following year saw Maserati introduce the Merak, effectively a Bora powered by a new V6 unit, together with some styling changes.
In 1974 the next car, the Khamsin (designed to replace the Ghibli) returned to the front engine rear drive layout combined with a Gandini designed two door 2+2 coupe body. At around the same time a new four door saloon, the Quattroporte II, was developed with a strong Citroen influence, but in 1975 Citroen relinquished control of Maserati, which went into receivership, and the Quattroporte II died. Shortly afterwards De Tomaso took control and began a revival of the marque. A Quattroporte III was released (which continued in production, with much development until the late 1990s) and then came the first new car, the Kyalami. This was actually a revised De Tomaso Longchamps with a Maserati engine and filled the gap until new cars could be developed.
The Biturbo, introduced in 1981, pointed the way forward. A two door coupe powered by a new twin-turbo 2-litre V6 engine, the Biturbo drastically increased the volume of cars produced by Maserati. Continual development saw a Spyder, a four door version (on a longer wheelbase) and an increase of the engine size to 2.8-litres. 1989 saw two events in the history of Maserati, the first was the release of the Shamal, a Biturbo-like car but now with a twin-turbo V8 engine, the second was the purchase by Fiat of 49% of the company. The takeover was completed in 1998 when Maserati was given to Ferrari to turn around, a plan which began with the all new 3200GT and continued with the Quattroporte and then the new coupe, the GranTurismo.
Some sales figures for Maserati cars from the 1960's and 70's.
You can see more pictures of historical Maserati cars at our
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