The century-old Maserati brand, which continues to command respect due to its legendary history, is now thriving under Ferrari rule. In the early years, the company was owned successively by the five Maserati brothers, founded by the family in 1914. However, a lack of capital during the difficult Depression years saw the company come under the control of the Orsi family in 1937. Thanks to a huge investment by the Italian government, and Argentine Alessandro de Tomaso, Maserati stayed put in Modena, Italy, the Ferrari stronghold. But it was not until Fiat intervened in 1993 that Maserati’s financial health was finally assured.
AN ADMIRABLE ascent
The brand successfully regained its glory by being incorporated into the Fiat group. Ferrari was looking for a more accesible vehicle to market without losing prestige and integrity. It was decided that Maserati would fit the bill. From history we learn that Maserati was born long before Ferrari, in 1914, on the eve of World War I. The company’s trident logo was inspired by the statue of Neptune in Piazza Maggiore, a top tourist attraction in the city of Bologna.
The story of Maserati is essentially the story of a family of seven brothers, five of whom possessed a burning passion for automobiles. Carlo, the eldest, started with a bicycle and motorcycle business, while Alfieri produced spark plugs. This was in 1922. Four years later, Maserati was born, under the leadership of Alfieri and Ettore. At the time, the company had a single purpose: build race cars to establish their reputation. That reputation grew quickly when the Maserati Tipo 26 won the famous Targa Florio race in Sicily, in 1929. The brand saw further recognition with the pride of Modena enjoying back-toback victories at the 1939 and 1940 Indianapolis 500, with Wilbur Shaw at the wheel.
FROM TRACK TO ROAD
In the early 1930s, the Maserati 8CM Grand Prix car was literally unbeatable. The company continued to add new trophies to its roster, and set new world speed records, hitting 243.069 km/h. In Formula One racing, the 250F put Juan Manuel Fangio in the spotlight in 1954 and 1957, while the Birdcage dominated sports car racing. It was during this period that Maserati decided to take advantage of its racing fame, and introduce the production of its first road vehicle: the A6. This was followed by various models that are now highly coveted at exotic car auctions, including the 1957 3500 GT, the Bora, the Mistral, the Khamsin, the Quattroporte, and, of course, the most desirable of them all, the Ghibli, the coupe version of which graced the cover of the 1969 Guide de l’auto. Incidentally, this mythical model resurfaced last year as a sports sedan. Back in the day, I had the opportunity to test-drive a Ghibli on the Terra dei Motori (Motor Valley) in Emilia-Romagna, where the latest creations of the world’s most exclusive car manufacturers, including Ferrari and Maserati, Dallara and Pagani, can be seen flying by at break-neck speed. Test drivers for each of these brands come here to find out whether a new model will satisfy market demands. In the case of Maserati, there is no question that Ferrari is meeting the same high standards as their Maranello cousins.