100 year Maserati, the trident brand

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This year, Maserati is celebrating its 100 anniversary as a company, and one may wonder whether this is justified.

The first company named Maserati, "SA Officine Alfieri Maserati" - a service garage for Isotta Fraschini in particular - was registered on 1 December 1913, which means that they actually already existed in 2013 100 years.
Depending on how you look at it, the first Maserati car was already built in 1900, in 1920 or only in 1925.

Anyway it is nice to go deeper into his history.

Early years in the service of others
The early history of Maserati is that of 6 brothers, five with technical talent and passion for speed and races, while the sixth had more artistic ambitions.

In 1900 the oldest builds -Carlo his first 19 cylinder engine at the age of 1 and mounted in a bicycle. The same year he won a rally around Brescia, which led to that Fiat hired him as a test driver.

A second 1-cylinder engine is mounted in a wooden chassis, with which the first Maserati car was created with justification.

Carlo Fiat exchanges for 1903 Isotta Fraschini as an employer, where he then his brother 16 Alfieri . In 1908, Alfieri becomes an Isotta 14e in the Grand Prix of Dieppe.
Carlo has since switched to White, where he does technical development work on the electrical system in addition to his work in racing.

Carlo doesn't stay long with Bianchi either: in 1908 he becomes director of Junior Automobili, while he starts his own aircraft engine business a year later. In 1910, Carlo dies of a lung disease.

Start in 1913 Alfieri an Isotta Fraschini dealership in Bologna, shortly thereafter followed by his own workshop. Together with his brothers hector en Ernesto they aim the “SA Officine Alfieri Maserati” on, which is registered at the Chamber of Commerce on December 1 1913. An 4e brother -Bindo- continues to work for Isotta.

During the first world war that broke out a short time later, Alfieri developed a better type of spark plugs, for which he started a factory in a new building.

Racing cars in-house
The 1920 designs in 6e Maserati brother –the artist Mario- the trident logo that until now has been a symbol for Maserati and Bologna.

Alfieri is going to race again - without much success - this time in one SCAT. The poor results led him to build a racing car under his own management, according to some the first real Maserati (although the trident logo was only used in '26). It became a mixture of an Isotta Franchini chassis with a modified Hispano Suiza engine, a SCAT gearbox and Itala axles: a true mishmash.

The whole makes its debut in July '21 during the Mugella race and immediately reaches second place.
Multiple successes followed. After the brothers started working for Diatto in '22 for Diatto, he made the necessary improvements and then renamed him in Diatto Alfieri. During several races the amazing average speed of 69 km / hour is achieved.

After Diatto withdraws from racing in '25, the brothers can buy the 10 Diatto 30 Sport chassis, the basis of the first cars with the Maserati logo: the Type 26.

After a top speed of more than 26 km has been achieved with a Tipo 160, the workshop can barely handle the orders of amateur drivers.
The 16-cylinder V4 model achieves the world speed record with an average of 29 km / h in '10 in a race over 246 km. This record would remain in the hands of Maserati until the end of '37.
Despite the difficult economic times, Maserati continues to race, including the famous Tazio Nuvolari who comes to work for them in '33 after a fight with Ferrari.

Racing cars were built almost exclusively until after the Second World War, although some were adapted for use on public roads.

In the service of the Orsi family
Towards the end of the decade, Maserati is coming under increasing pressure from German-subsidized competition. The entire company (both the racing car department and the spark plug production) is sold to the large industrial Adolfo Orsi.

In doing so, the brothers are relieved of the burden of financial management and can concentrate on racing.
Beginning '40 is moving the workshop from Bologna to Modena where Orsi is concentrating all of its factories. During the war years, racing stops and production focuses entirely on spark plugs and batteries.

After the war, people are racing again soon. In the first post-war Grand Prix - the Nice GP - the victory is immediately won.
The remaining Maserati brothers leave the company after their contract with Orsi to return to Bologna, where they felt more at home than in the "big business" climate of Modena. They started a new company -OSCA- who will deal exclusively with their old love-race cars.
The firm "Officine Alfieri Maserati" (from Orsi) is still involved in races, but without the brothers. With the Argentinian Fangio at the wheel, the first F54 races are won in '1 with a Maserati.
From that moment on, the F1 races will mainly be a duel between Maserati and Ferrari. Whoever wins a race on Sunday can draw the order books on Monday.
In '57 Orsi withdraws from racing due to financial problems and focuses entirely on the production of cars for daily use.

The first models for the public road
Shortly after the end of the war, Maserati presented its first Gran Turismo designed for the road: the A6 1500 with a Pinin Farina bodywork.

The A is a tribute to Alfieri and the 6 indicates the number of cylinders.

In the period from '48 to' 57, various versions of the A6-1500 and (after 1950) A6G-2000 were built with bodyworks from Pinin Farina, Frua, Zagato etc. in total no more than 65 pieces.

1957 saw with the launch of the 3500 GT - nicknamed the "White Lady" - the first serious attempt to enter the GT models market. With this, the following year a production of more than 100 units was achieved for the first time.

Although Maserati itself no longer participates in races, affinity with racing remained. This resulted in "60 in the"Type 60", also "Birdcage" called.

This was made available to various non-factory teams, including the victory of the Nurburgring 1000 km race as a result.

During the Turin Motor Show of autumn '63 two successors for the 3500 GT were presented: the six cylinder Mistral coupé and the designed in collaboration with Frua Quattroporte, the fastest sedan in the world at the time. At the same time came the 2 + 2 Sebring in production that was in fact a further development of the old 3500 GT.

In the mid-sixties, a close collaboration with the upcoming bodybuilder Giugiaro began. The first result was the 8 cylinder Ghibli which was presented at the end of '66. Initially a series of 100 units was planned, but when he was taken out of production in '72' the counter was on 1295 (Coupé and Spyder).

Troubled years under Citroën and De Tomaso board
Towards the end of the sixties, cooperation is started with Citroën, initially with the aim of developing a Citroën top model with a Maserati engine: the Citroën SM. Soon it became Citroën majority shareholder and ultimately even full owner of Maserati.

below CitroënThe influence of the organization is organized much tighter. A whole series of new, mid-engined Giugiaro models was released, all named after named winds: the V8 Indy ('68), Explore ('71) and Khamsin ('74), as well as the V6 Merak ('72).
You cannot call these models really successful. The production fell to a few dozen cars per month (and a good 100 engine), which implied to the 700 employees a lot of under-utilization. The company suffered heavy losses and was de facto bankrupt at the end of '74. After Citroën in May '75 was taken over by Peugeot, it was decided to liquidate.

The Italian state-owned company GEPI was found to be cooperating with the Argentine industrialist Allejandro De Tomaso Let Maserati make a restart. For LIT 210.000 - around € 100 - Maserati was acquired after Citroën had written off his debt of approximately € 4,5 million.
The number of employees was promptly reduced to a more realistic 200.

Starting from the earlier Giugiaro show models, De Tomaso led the Quattroporte Royale developed which was presented at the end of '77.
The angular styling of this model is strongly based on the Maserati, released a year earlier Kyalami, in fact a De Tomaso Longchamp with a V8 Maserati engine.
The Italian president Pertine chose the QP Royale as official official car. He even used it on a visit to Maranello, where Enzo Ferrari refused to meet him.

In the early eighties, Maserati entered a new market segment with the compact Biturbo coupé and sedan, powered by a completely newly developed, turbocharged 2 liter V6 engine. The mid-engine structure is abandoned.
This was a resounding success, especially in Italy. In 10 years, about 37.000 units would be built - in multiple versions, from sedan to spyder - the highest production number ever for a Maserati model.

Maserati president Allejandro De Tomaso had been friends with Lee Iacocca for a long time, who was Chrysler's 80 chairman in the mid-years. This friendship resulted in a collaboration with Chrysler in the development and production of the Chrysler TC by Maserati.
This Italian-American crossing - composed of a Dodge platform, Chrysler, Mitsubishi and Maserati engines and bodywork built by Innocenti - was assembled in the Maserati factory ...

In calmer water under the Fiat umbrella
After having had an attack in '93, De Tomaso withdrew from business and Maserati and Innocenti Fiat which the CEO of Ferrari -Luca di Montezuma- heads. Under his leadership, the production of the outdated Maserati factory is moved to the Ferrari factory in Maranello for six months.

The old factory is being modernized and equipped with up-to-date production lines.
Arch rival Ferrari takes complete control of Maserati in 2 steps.

The first product from the renovated factory is presented in '98, the one traditionally designed by Giugiaro 3200GT Coupé, the model that is essentially made to date. In 2001 the spyder version is equipped with engines from Maranello, which makes the integration with Ferrari final.

From 2004 Maserati returns to the circuit with the specially developed for that MC12 with a chassis derived from the Ferrari Enzo.

2007 saw the arrival of Quattroporto V, with which the collaboration with PininFarina is resumed after more than 50 years. Just like its predecessor from the '70 years, it is chosen by the Italian president as his car.
The GT is also given a new look by PininFarina.

Last year –2013- a new Quattroporte is presented again, while at the end of the year also a “compact” sedan sees the light: the Ghibli. With some good will, this can be seen as the successor to the Biturbo from the 1980s.

Text: Ronald Ackema; Images: R.Ackema archive; Archives Maserati


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  1. Small correction: Although Alfieri started IF service in 1913 after returning from Argentina, it was not until December 1, 1914 that the Office Alfieri Maserati officially went to the Bologna Chamber of Commerce. The processing date is December 14th = official founding date. See the photo of the memorandum of association on page 15 of Maurizio Tabucchi's book “Maserati”

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