From its inception as Officine Alfieri Maserati on the 1st December in 1914 in Bologna, Maserati has evolved into a classic luxury sports car marque that has built a reputation which is the envy of Italian sport car manufacturers. Its pedigree lies in 2.0 litre Grand Prix cars built by the Maserati brothers – Alfieri, Bindo and Ernesto – for carriage manufacturer Diatto. The eventual decision by Diatto to stop manufacturing led to Alfieri Maserati leaving the company in 1926 to join his brothers and establish the Maserati marque in earnest. An event that saw Alfieri win the 1926 Targa Florio, catapulting the company into the limelight to become a leading builder of racing cars. Throughout its long and glorious heritage Maserati has achieved many memorable milestones, no less of which was the first when Borzacchini set the land speed record at 246.029km/h in 1929.
Alfieri died in 1932 and the remaining brothers continued with the company until its eventual sale to Italian industrialist Adolfo Orsi, who promptly moved the factory to Moderna in 1940. The brothers continued working within the company and the racing success grew, most notably with back-to-back wins in 1939 and 1940, when a Maserati 8CTF won the Indianapolis 500 – a unique achievement among Italian car manufacturers.
The 1950s became a decade of extreme highs and lows for the company. Juan-Manuel Fangio capped his years of racing for Maserati by winning the 1957 World Championship, that same year saw the company retire from factory racing as a result of the tragic Guidizzolo accident at the Mille Miglia, when a Ferrari left the road and crashed into the spectators. In all, 12 people were killed.
This was the start point for Maserati’s foray into building road cars, of which the 6 cylinder 2+2 3500 coupé was the first and saw their inception of the GT brand, under which a large number of their models were, and still are, categorised.
The following 10 years saw a strong output of classic sports cars from the V8-powered 5000, the Sebring, Maserati’s first four door car the Quatraporte, the timeless Spider and the 2-seater Maserati Ghibli. In 1968, Citroën took over Maserati and whilst this was the start of a number of tumultuous years it is this period of time onwards that has given the marque the strength of character and finesse it has today.
The new relationship all started well with Citroën mass producing the mid-engined Maserati Bora, swiftly followed by the Merak and Khamsin but the advent of the 1973 oil crisis saw the global demand for sports cars decline. Things worsened when in 1974 Citroën went bankrupt and shortly afterwards on the 25th May 1975 Maserati were also declared to be in administration. The company was kept alive by Italian Government funds until its eventual purchase the same year by former Formula One, Argentinian racing driver Alessandro de Tomaso. The output of new models under the new ownership continued unabated, with the release of the Kyalami in 1976 and Quadraporte III in 1979. In the 1980s the preference for producing mid-engined cars was abandoned in favour of the more powerful rear-engined front wheel drive models such as the Birturbo. But it was the Zagato-designed cabriolet Spyder that marked out this particular era of Maserati’s life cycle. During this period the American car giant Chrysler even purchased a stake in Maserati and together the two companies produced the Chrysler TC. Fiat acquired Maserati in 1993, investing heavily in the company – a factor that has undoubtedly contributed to the stable and well-respected position it finds itself in today. From this investment blossomed the 3200GT, Spyder, GranTurismo and GranCabrio – models that cemented Maserati’s credibility as a manufacturer of fine sports cars.
So much so that when Fiat sold 50% of its shares to Ferrari the latter insisted taking over the Maserati marque in entirety, even building a new factory and making it representative of its luxury brand. This new steerage bought with it a fresh impetus to Maserati and they began to sell cars in the USA again. In 2003, Maserati returned to motor racing after a 55 year absence with the production of the Trofeo and MC12 – designed and built around the Enzo Ferrari chassis. Their most notable success was winning the team world FIA GT championship for three consecutive years from 2005 to 2007.
Such was the appeal of the MC12 that it entered short run production in 2004. Only 50 models were ever made available to the public, but such was the demand they all pre-sold at a cost of £450,000 each. In 2005 the ownership of Maserati was transferred back to Fiat, where it has become an independent business within the Fiat Group where it has continued its growth – in 2007 it posted its first profits under 17 years of Fiat ownership.
A Maserati is now deservedly one of the most luxurious and desirable sports car marques. Testimony to this is the fact that it has more dealers and is for sale in more territories than ever before, and the stunning new Maserati Granturismo Sport will unquestionably continue this ascendency for a good few many years to come.