Officine Alfieri Maserati was founded on 1 December 1914 in Bologna, Italy. Since then, Maserati has played a consistently important role in the history of sports car culture and its development.
Nearly a century of activity has brought with it glorious achievements both on the road and the track as well as more challenging times, which have helped forge the company’s character and personality.
The seven Maserati brothers were born in Voghera to Rodolfo, a train driver, and Carolina Losi.
Carlo, their first son, was born in 1881, Bindo in 1883 and Alfieri in 1885. At just a few months old, Alfieri sadly passed away and his parents decided to name their next son, born in 1887, after him. They were to have three more children: in 1890 Mario was born, followed by Ettore in 1894 and Ernesto in 1898.
All of the Maseratis were involved in the engineering, design, and construction of cars, except for Mario, who was a painter and is presumed to have invented the company trademark, the trident, borrowed from the statue of Neptune in the square of the same name in Bologna.
The first of the brothers to become involved with engines was Carlo, who worked in a bicycle factory in Affori, near Milan. He designed a single-cylinder engine for a velocipede, which was later manufactured by the Marquis Carcano di Anzano del Parco. Carlo Maserati also raced on Carcano bikes equipped with the engine he had designed, winning a few races and setting a speed record of 50 km/h (31 mph) in 1900.
Carlo moved to Fiat in 1901 when Carcano closed down and then, in 1903, to Isotta Fraschini, where he worked as a mechanic and test driver. Thanks to his help, Isotta also employed his brother Alfieri, despite the fact that he was only 16 at the time. Carlo had a brilliant but ultimately short career, dying when he was just 29, by which time he had worked and raced for Bianchi, become General Manager of Junior, and started up his own workshop with his brother Ettore to manufacture both low and high voltage electrical transformers for cars.
Alfieri soon emerged as Carlo's spiritual heir, with the same extrovert personality and skills as a technician and driver. In 1908 Isotta entrusted a car to him which he brought home in 14th place in the Grand Prix for Voiturettes in Dieppe, despite his carburettor breaking. In the meantime, Bindo and Ettore had also joined Isotta Fraschini, where Alfieri had started out as a mechanic and progressed to driving. In 1912, after having represented the company in Argentina, the USA and Great Britain with his brother Ettore, Alfieri was put in charge of Isotta’s customer service structure in Bologna.
The wide-ranging experience he had built up during his career convinced Alfieri that he was ready to explore the possibility of going into business in his own right to exploit his talents and creativity to the fullest extent. In 1914 he rented office space in Via dé Pepoli, in Bologna’s old town centre and this went on to become the first headquarters of the Società Anonima Officine Alfieri Maserati.
The beginning. 1914 to 1937.
After the war, the company moved from Via dé Pepoli to new offices in the suburbs of Bologna.
The Maserati brothers’ main activity was still tuning Isotta Fraschini cars, but they also worked on other marques.
Alfieri began his career as a racing driver and soon proved his worth, winning on the Susa-Moncenisio, the Mugello Circuit and the Aosta-Great Saint Bernard. Diatto offered him a chance to design cars for the company and even to race with them. Unfortunately, in 1924, after having dominated the San Sebastiano GP, he was disqualified for five years, even though he had retired, for having replaced the 2-litre engine in his car with a 3-litre unit. The penalty was lifted a few months later.
Away from the racing world, Alfieri completely dedicated himself to the workshop and in 1926, after leaving Diatto, he produced the Tipo 26, the first all-Maserati car, and the first to sport the trident badge. The Tipo 26 won its class in its debut race, the Targa Florio, was driven by Alfieri Maserati himself.
In 1927 Alfieri had a serious accident in the Messina Cup at the wheel of the Tipo 26B, after taking third place at the Targa Florio. But even with him sidelined, Maserati still won the Italian Constructors’ Championship. In 1929 the V4 appeared, with a 16-cylinder engine, making its debut at the Italian Grand Prix and setting the world Class C speed record over 10 km at 246.069 km/h in Cremona, with Baconin Borzacchini.
The record set by the V4 helped to further enhance the company’s image and guaranteed a considerable influx of funds, allowing the both company and its activities to expand. In 1930 the V4 driven by Borzacchini won Maserati’s first outright Grand Prix victory in Tripoli.
In 1931 came the 4CTR and the front-wheel-drive 8C 2500, the last car to be designed by Alfieri Maserati, who died on 3 March, 1932. An enormous crowd attended his funeral in Bologna, including workers from the plant, famous drivers, and ordinary people, who all wanted to show their affection for the great man.
Alfieri's death did not discourage the Maserati brothers; Bindo left Isotta Fraschini and returned to Bologna to continue the great venture began by Alfieri, alongside Ernesto and Ettore. Maserati's racing activities continued to be both intense and successful; an 8-cylinder, 3-litre engine also appeared.
In 1933 Tazio Nuvolari joined the team, making a significant technical contribution, particularly in fine tuning the chassis, adapting it to the characteristics of the new engine; Nuvolari won the Belgian Grand Prix, and those of Montenero and Nice. That was when Mercedes-Benz and Auto Union began a sustained assault on the racing scene, making life difficult for Maserati in the more important races.
In spite of this, the company continued to notch up victories in more minor, national races, and this led the brothers to concentrate output in this area. In 1936 they found a patron in Gino Rovere who invested a great deal in the company and appointed Nino Farina, his ‘protégé’, as Chairman. The 6CM appeared, which gave Maserati the competitive edge in the voiturette class.
The Golden Years. 1937 to 1967.
In 1937 the Maserati brothers sold their shares in the company to the Orsi family from Modena.
The company relocated from Bologna to the now historic headquarters on Viale Ciro Menotti in Modena. Ernesto had already designed the 4CL and 8CL engines, which powered the cars of the same name in the late 1930s. The Maserati brothers stayed on in Modena as chief engineers until 1948.
The company dominated the racing scene again, despite strong competition from Mercedes. On 30 May 1939 it scored an important victory in the Indianapolis 500 with Wilbur Shaw at the wheel of the 8CTF, a feat it repeated the following year.
During the Second World War, Maserati adapted its production accordingly, turning out machine tools, electrical components, spark plugs and electric vehicles, but returned to its original activities after the war, with a new GT car, the A6 1500.
The A6G CS successfully debuted on the Modena circuit with Alberto Ascari at the wheel; and in those years its racing rivals were the Alfettas, Ferraris and Talbots. After several wins, life became less easy for Maserati in the 1950s as Alfa Romeo and Ferrari were extremely competitive. In 1953 Gioacchino Colombo was appointed Chief Engineer and modified the A6GCM. The team was also strengthened by the arrival of drivers of the calibre of Fangio, Gonzalez, Marimon, Bonetto and de Graffenried and brought home some important victories in the 1953 season; in fact, Fangio won that year's Italian Grand Prix ahead of Ascari’s and Farina’s Ferraris in race that was only decided after the final corner.
Colombo also laid the foundation for the Maserati 250F, which was later developed by Alfieri. 1954 saw the debut of the 250F, with which Fangio won the Argentine Grand Prix on its debut.
In 1955 and 1956, Maserati won other important victories; in 1957 Fangio returned to Maserati and won the World Title for the fifth time – the first time for Maserati - with the 250F.
Although the company announced its official retirement from racing that very year, it never withdrew from the scene completely because Maserati continued to build racing cars like the Birdcage and other prototypes for private teams, and to supply engines for the Formula 1 cars of other constructors, such as Cooper, for which it developed a 12-cylinder, three-valve engine with triple ignition in 1965.
Production of the 3500 GT, which was launched in 1958, began at the start of an important new era for Maserati and consequently the plant had to be expanded. Production cars and sales became the main goals and Maserati’s racing activities became of secondary importance.
The Sebring was presented in 1962 and the Quattroporte in 1963, the first Maserati 4-door saloon with a 90° V8 engine and a displacement of 4,136 cc.
The recent years: from 1968 to date.
The big news came in 1968, when Citroën bought out the Orsi family's shares, although Adolfo Orsi remained the company’s Honorary Chairman.
The Giugiaro-designed Bora, the first mass-produced mid-engined Maserati, was presented at the 1971 Geneva Motor Show; Maserati also built the occasional racing car engine, and that same year, a Citroën SM with a Maserati engine won the Morocco Rally.
With the launch of the Merak and Khamsin, Maserati’s production continued apace. But in 1973 the Yom Kippur War sparked the Oil Crisis, making life increasingly uncertain for the company, although it still had enough vitality to introduce both the Quattroporte II prototype, bodied by Bertone, and the Merak SS.
The situation worsened, and on 23 May, Citroën announced that Maserati had gone into liquidation (the French car maker had signed an agreement with Peugeot but had lost interest in Maserati). Pressure from the industrialists’ association and the local and provincial councils succeeded in persuading the government to intervene, and Maserati avoided closure by handing over control to GEPI (a government agency that financed companies in difficulty in order to save jobs).
In an agreement signed on 8 August, 1975, most of the company's share capital was acquired by the Benelli company, and Alejandro De Tomaso, a former racing driver from Argentina who had also competed for Maserati, became Managing Director. De Tomaso managed to get the company off the ground again, albeit with difficulty, and by 1976 he had launched a new model, the Kyalami, presenting the Quattroporte III, designed by Giugiaro, soon after at the Turin Motor Show. By the end of the year, output had significantly increased.
The 1980s saw the production of a new type of car, with a relatively low purchase price but impressive performance: the Biturbo, of which over 30 different versions appeared, in coupé, 4-door saloon and spyder forms.
The turning point for Maserati came in 1993, when the company's entire share capital was acquired by Fiat Auto. A year later the first new arrival under Fiat ownership appeared in the form of the Quattroporte. Designed by Marcello Gandini, it boasted all of the refinement, luxury and sportiness for which the marque was renowned. On 1 July, 1997 Fiat sold Maserati to Ferrari, and a new era began for the company. That year the historical plant in Viale Ciro Menotti, Modena closed temporarily while an ultra-modern assembly line was installed, to produce a new car, the 3200 GT.
This was presented to the public at the 1998 Paris Motor Show, and proved to be a thoroughbred, front-engined GT in the best Maserati tradition. It was joined that same year by the Quattroporte Evoluzione, and production soon exceeded 2,000 cars a year.
The complete reorganisation of the marketing network and the expansion of the plant, where new management offices were built, gave further momentum to the renewal process in 2000. The following year, the new Spyder appeared, and was unveiled for the first time at the Frankfurt Motor Show, during which Maserati also announced its intention to return to the North American market. This decision was confirmed in January 2002, when the Coupé made its world debut at the Detroit Motor Show. Like the Spyder, it introduced a number of important innovations, from a new 4,200 cc 390-bhp V8 engine, to its suspension, chassis and F1-style gearbox.
Besides returning to the most important markets with high-class and sophisticated models, Maserati also made a successful comeback to the world of racing thanks to the MC12 (in the FIA GT and ALMS championships), the Trofeo (in the single-make series for gentlemen drivers in Europe and Brazil) and the Trofeo Light (in the Italian GT and the Grand-Am).
In September 2003 at the Frankfurt motorshow, the car that would be at the centre of Maserati’s unstoppable growth was launched: the Maserati Quattroporte. The new Maserati saloon enjoyed immediate success in terms of sales and has also earned many prizes and widespread praise from clients, readers and journalists around the world.
2005 was a record year for Maserati, with 5,659 cars sold worldwide. This was an increase of 22.8% from the equally impressive 2004, and the natural confirmation of the measures taken in 1998, when only 518 vehicles were sold.
Great satisfaction also came from Maserati’s reparto corse. The incredible work of this team allowed Maserati to claim the Constructors’ Cup and Team Vitaphone (Maserati) the team title. Maserati’s one-two finish at the Spa 24 Hours was truly unforgettable.
The Trofeo Light also secured a number of titles and wins, dominating the GT3 class of the Italian GT championship. The company’s vitality is strengthened by the success of its single-make series, now into its fourth year in Europe and its third in Brazil.
In early 2005, ownership of Maserati was transferred from Ferrari to Fiat, which allowed the two marques to achieve important industrial and commercial synergies with Alfa Romeo. Close technical and commercial collaboration within the group has provided Maserati with the impetus to position itself as the leader in its sector. It has also broadened its presence throughout the international markets thanks to models including the GranSport, the GranSport Spyder, and the MC Victory, developed to celebrate successes in the FIA GT series. In 2007, above all, Maserati’s impressive performance was mainly thanks to the GranTurismo as the accounts once more showed a profit.
The GranTurismo is a car that can be used everyday. It has superb handling and a sporty, captivating ride. At the same time, on board comfort is not ignored and the choice of materials, the attention to detail, and the generous interior space that comfortably seats four adults, are all features that put it above average in its class. The international press deemed the car an immediate success and lavished it with praise as it made the covers of countless magazines.
Maserati continues to excel in the world of competition and recently claimed all four titles on offer in the GT1 Class of the 2007 FIA GT International championship, adding to the Manufacturers' Cup won in 2005 and continuing the winning trend following the Team and Drivers’ titles from 2006.
Maserati’s success shows no signs of slowing down. Twelve FIA GT titles have been won since 2005: 2 Manufacturers’ Cups (2005 and 2007), 4 Drivers titles (Bartels-Bertolini in 2006, Thomas Biagi in 2007, Bartels-Bertolini in 2008 and 2009), 5 Team titles (won by the Vitaphone Racing Team since 2005) and 1 Citation Cup in 2007 courtesy of gentleman driver Ben Aucott (JMB Racing). Added to this haul are the three wins in the 24 Hours of Spa (2005, 2006 and 2008).
On the global market, Maserati continues to attain commercial success and critical acclaim. The Quattroporte, following the launch of the latest version powered by a 4.7 litre engine and featuring an automatic transmission, has collected over 56 awards from the international press. The GranTurismo range has recently been broadened with the introduction of the MC Stradale and is a model that is recognised as being one of the best looking cars of its generation. It is a car that has rewritten the rules in the sports sector of the market with its speed and luxury; it can also carry four adults in total comfort. To round things off is the GranCabrio, the first droptop in Maserati’s history. The GranCabrio has been hailed by the international media as one of the world’s most stunning cars and has recorded sales figures that have equalled, and even exceeded, forecasts in each of the 60 markets in which it is available.
(text source: Maserati)
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