Maserati: a Company 100 Years Young

A century ago, when Alfieri Maserati opened a small car garage, he couldn't ever imagine that his business would develop into a brand of the most jaw-dropping car models ever. Its history saw triumphs and rigors, but Maserati has survived for 100 years and achieved a status of a legend. It is the only Italian manufacturer to win the Indy 500. It is the company that Benito Mussolini chose to build him a personal car that would challenge Hitler's Porsche. What other facts you didn't know about Maserati?

The First Maserati: a Car Made of Wood

It all officially began on December 14, 1914, when the Società Anonima Officine workshop started operations in Bologna, opened by Alfieri and two of his brothers, Ettore and Ernesto. Actually, there were six Maserati brothers involved with the company, five of which inherited a passion for speed and engineering from their father Rodolfo Maserati, a railroad worker. Mario Maserati was the only one who didn't share his family's enthusiasm for engines, preferring a brush and canvas to valves and pistons. But his contribution to the Maserati history wasn't less significant indeed. It was Mario who created the Trident, the logo that the fastest race cars and the hottest road cars proudly carry. It was inspired by the trident from the statue of Neptune in Piazza Maggiore; Maserati's recognizable red-and-blue color scheme was taken from the banner of the city of Bologna.

Carlo Maserati

The workshop wasn't the very beginning of the story indeed, as the first Maserati was created much earlier. The eldest son, Carlo, designed his first internal combustion engine in 1898 at the age of 17 and that same year was hired by Fiat as a test driver. He constructed the new engine in his free time while being in Turin and put it into a wooden car chassis, which is considered by many car historians as the first Maserati prototype. Carlo Maserati had as much passion for automotive engineering as for racing. In 1908, he took part in the Gran Premio delle Voiturette di Dieppe; his car came the first amongst its four-cylinder rivals. The next year, Carlo shifted to airplane design.

Officially Starting the Maserati History

Unfortunately, his aero project failed to come to life. The world lost a genius engineer who would have brought many fresh ideas to automotive engineering. In 1910, at the age of 29, he died of tuberculosis. Several years after Carlo's death, Alfieri followed his footsteps and opened a car garage, officially starting the Maserati history. The company was also involved in the production of spark plugs, including special spark plugs for aircraft engines, which were used on Ansaldo SVA planes during World War I.

Setting the World Record

The first car to officially bear the Maserati logo was the Tipo 26, designed by Alfieri on the basis of the Grand Prix car that he created for Diatto. The car brought the first victory in June 1926 in Bologna, with Ernesto Maserati behind the wheel, who made it reach more than 103 miles per hour. In 1929, a Maserati car set the first World record, completing the distance of 10 km (6.2 miles) at an average speed of 153 mph. During the next twenty years, Maserati built racing cars only. They became famous for winning a number of races, including the Tripoli Grand Prix in 1930 (the first time Maserati left Ferrari behind) and the Indiapolis in 1939 and 1940 (under the ownership of Adolfo Orsi, to whom the brothers sold the company in 1937). Just before World War II broke out, the company had moved its headquarters to Modena. During the war, Maserati once again focused on manufacturing spark plugs for the war effort.

After the War

In 1946, the A6 model rolled out. It was the first Maserati GranTurismo intended for daily use, not for racing purposes. The vehicle was named in honor of Alfieri Maserati who had died a few years prior, while 6 stood for its 6-cylinder engine. It whipped a flurry of excitement at once, majorly thanks to a sleek body styling created by Pininfarina. That same year, the Maserati brothers left the company completely and went back to Bologna, where they founded the Osca firm and carried on producing race cars. In the 1950s, Juan Manuel Fangio, one of the greatest racing car drivers ever, gave a number of glorious victories to Maserati. He won the World Championship in 1957 for the fifth and last time (the record beaten by Michael Schumacher only in 2003) behind the wheel of the Maserati 250F.

The Race Track Abandoned

After the tragic Mille Miglia accident that took place in 1957 in Guidizzolo, the company retired from racing and centered on the production of road cars. The last racing project was known as the Tipo 60 (or Birdcage due to a unique construction that consisted of over 200 small steel tubes). This car won the 1000 km Nurburgring in 1960 and 1961 but didn't officially participate in racing events under the Maserati name. The first from the new line of street cars was the Maserati 3500 coupe with an aluminum body. The 1960s were the decade of masterpieces that saw the release of the sleek Sebring and Mistral. At the 1963 Turin Motor Show, the legendary Quattroporte was unveiled. Maserati's race engine installed in a sedan body made it one of the fastest sedans in the world. Then the Ghibli followed, designed in collaboration with Giorgetto Giugiaro.

Changing Hands

What started as a joint venture between the Orsi family and Citroen, ended up with ownership in 1968. Maserati belonged to Citroen for seven years until the oil crisis of the 1970s, when the automakers went bankrupt. Gepi, an Italian government company, was what helped Maserati to survive, having directed it to Alejandro De Tomaso, a racing driver and entrepreneur. The models of the time were the Bora, Merak, and Biturbo. 1993 marked Maserati's acquisition by the Fiat Group, which owns the company up until now. The fierce rivalry between Ferrari and Maserati was at its peak in the 1950s. Do you know what the streets of Modena looked like during the 1956 Formula One season? Imagine Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees playing each other every Sunday. Modena was divided, half supporting the Ferrari team and half showing their devotion to Maserati.

In Our Age: the Return of the King

The return to the U.S. market. Maserati had been absent there for 12 years and eventually came back in 2001, compliant with all quality and safety standards established in the United States. Since then, Maserati has been one of the leading vehicle manufacturers specializing in luxury and sports cars. Thanks to its popularity, Maserati caught the eye of numerous manufacturers of aftermarket automotive parts and accessories, and a variety of exterior, interior, and performance modifications for Maserati vehicles rapidly flooded the market. Today you can easily find accessories of any kind on such websites as CARiD.com that offer Maserati accessories from a wide array of brands and ensure their timely and trouble-free delivery. Indeed, with CARiD's selection of automotive accessories, Maserati's design can become even more sophisticated.
The return of Pininfarina. After having designed the first GranTurismo model for Maserati 50 years ago, the Italian coachbuilder renewed the partnership in 2003. The car that the famous design company created after half a century gap was the new Maserati Quattroporte..
The return to the race track. In 2004, Maserati resumed winning trophies with its MC12. From 2005 through 2010, it gave Maserati fourteen titles and nineteen victories in the FIA GT, two Manufacturers Cups, six Team Championships, three victories in the Spa 24 Hours, and more.

Other Lesser-Known Facts

Cars and planes were not the only vehicles powered by Maserati. Their engines were used in racing boats and hydroplanes. In the 1930s, Count Theo Rossi, a powerboat racer, fitted two V16 engines by Maserati in one of his boats. In 1958, Cantieri Timossi won the hydroplane world championship on a watercraft powered by Maserati's V8.
Maserati built a car exclusively for the Shah of Persia, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. It was based on the White Dame, which was the first prototype of the 3500 GT, featured an 8-cylinder engine from the 450 S model, and had exclusive gold and rare wood finishes.
One of Maserati's admirers was Luciano Pavarotti. In 1963, he bought the Sebring and since that time had been loyal to this brand, owning several other Maserati models, including the Quattroporte and Kyalami.

Copyright © 2014-2016 Author: Elena Mikhno