“In a time when car races had only one formula, Maserati began using the same engines for the open road.
The GranTurismo was born.”

The history of Maserati spans 90+ years, two world wars, eight ownership groups (including the Italian government); racing glory followed by heartbreak and glory once again; nearly being run into the ground by Argentinian playboy DeTomaso, before finally re-emerging into world-wide glory once again. The story of Maserati’s mass production GT cars begins shortly before World War two, with none other than Ernesto Maserati, one of the founding Maserati brothers. At this point in time the brothers had sold their shares of the company to the Osri family, who relocated the factory from Bologna to their hometown of Modena. Alfieri Maserati died in 1932, but three of the remaining brothers; Bindo, Ernesto, and Ettore continued on in their engineering roles with the company.

The original A6 was the brainchild of Ernesto Maserati, who wanted to put their compact 1.5 liter inline-six engine from the 6CM into a sporty road car with the manners of a daily-driver automobile. The project was given low priority while Maserati concentrated on building their 6CM race car with and their new 1.5L supercharged inline-six engine. The 6CM dominated racing in the “Voiturette” racing class for cars up to 1500cc between 1936 and 1939. Towards the end of 1939 Maserati began toying with a naturally aspirated engine, but then war descended over Europe and car building and racing were put on hold.

After World War II, the return to racing was a slow process. The roads and permanent tracks like Monza were in poor condition, and so temporary circuits were put into use. These circuits were better suited to the Sports Car racing class, rather than the more costly and sophisticated single-seater race cars. In 1946 the Italian Sports Car Commission sought to simplify the racing classes, and divided them into three categories: Touring, Sports Car, and Grand Prix (later subdivided into Formula 1 and Formula 2). Each category was subdivided into engine classes, and superchargers were banned.

In early 1946 Maserati first used the engine known as the A6TR (Testa Riportata) in a Barchetta, in a collaboration between Ernesto Maserati and engineer Alberto Massimino for a loyal customer. The car started the model line that would be known as the A6, constructed in both Touring and Race form. The Barchetta prototype was officially named the ‘6CS/46’, but was more commonly known as the ‘A6 Sport’. The car had a short racing career, but in 1947 Guido Barbieri won the Italian title for the 1500cc class driving an A6 Sport.

Ernesto Maserati, now technical director for the ‘House of the Trident’ decided that the A6TR engine would power a production road car rather than a race car. At the Geneva Motorshow in 1947, Maserati unveiled the A6 as a two-door Berlinetta, designed by Pinin Farina. The A6 heralded Maserati’s entry into mass production, while preserving its racing soul. This project also marked the end of the Maserati brothers’ 10 year contract, who left to start the race car company O.S.C.A. back in their hometown of Bologna in 1947.

The 1946 Maserati A6 1500, with coachwork by Pinin Farina. While this car was the first “mass-produced” Maserati, in reality only 61 A6 cars were built between 1947 and 1950.

During this period, Maserati was increasing its push into the Sports Car racing class, with the introduction of the A6GCS, which eventually led to Maserati’s new road car, the A6G. The new car featured a 2 liter straight six engine, and beautiful coachwork by Pinin Farina, Zagato, Frua and Vignale. (A for Alfieri Maserati, 6 for the cylinders, G for Ghisa or cast iron block, CS for Corsa & Sports)

1951 A6G with coachwork by Vignale

1947 A6GCS Series 1

Maserati had limited success in the ‘Sports Car’ class, and brought in Gioacchino Colombo to help turn around their struggling racing program. Colombo designed the 158 engine for the famous Alfa Romeo 158/159 Alfetta F1 car, and later developed Ferrari’s first 12-cylinder engine for use in their racing and road cars. Colombo modernized Maserati’s technical departments, laying the basis for their success through the 1950’s and 60’s.

During this time, the rivalry with Ferrari deepened, and more emphasis was placed on racing than Gran Turismo production. Maserati used the A6GCS for the basis of the new A6GCM race car, to compete in Formula 2 racing. This is the first car Colombo focused on, and after re-working the 6-cylinder engine, and a little work on the suspension and brakes, Maserati had a winning Monoposto by the end of 1952. (A6G + CM Corsa & Monoposto – single seater)

The Maserati A6GCM, an instant success, and the only car capable of challenging the dominance of the Ferrari 500 Formula 2

The A6GCM became the inspiration for the new A6GCS/53, which replaced the aging A6GCS. The incorporation of a World Championship for the Sports Car class of racing in 1953 gave the A6GCS/53 project a big boost. It made its debut at the Tour of Sicily, and showed extraordinary speed and handling capabilities. A long list of drivers had success in National and International racing, most notably Sergio Mantovani, and Luigi Musso who drove 2-liter Maseratis to Italian Championships in 1953 and 1954. (A6GCS + /53 denoting the model year)

All of the 62 A6GCS/53s were fitted with bodies by Medardo Fantuzzi and a few by Celestino Fiandri, with a few exceptions. There were two spyders by Frua and Vignale, and four special Berlinettas and one spyder by Pinin Farina.

The A6GCS Barchetta, with coachwork by Fantuzzi

The A6GCS/53 Berlinetta, with coachwork by Pinin Farina.

This was to be the last Maserati with coachwork design by Pinin Farina, due to Ferrari’s ultimatum of choosing ‘us or them’. Regardless of politics, this car made an impression. The elegant lines created an instant classic, unveiled to the world at Turin’s International Motor Show.

Maserati immediately realized that a hot, noisy, uncomfortable racing-inspired car would appeal to very few buyers. With this in mind, development of the new A6G/54 was focused on creating a Grand Touring car with wider market appeal. The new GT would not yet slow Maserati’s racing program.

At the end of 1953, the International Motor Racing Body raised the maximum engine capacity from 2 liters to 2.5 liters. This resulted in the majority of the 2-liter cars being withdrawn from racing, however many privateer groups continued to race these cars for several years. This change also spawned the creation of the 250F (for Formula 1) and 250S (for sports car). The A6G/54 Coupe also known as the A6G 2000, bodied by Frua and unveiled at the Paris Autoshow in the autumn of 1954. Another 58 cars were produced with bodies by Allemano, Frua, and Zagato.

1957 was an up and down year for Maserati; Juan-Manual Fangio won the 1957 Formula 1 World Championship driving the 250F, while a fatal crash at the ’57 Mille Miglia resulted in the race being banned, and Ferrari being sued. This turn of events resulted in Maserati withdrawing from Factory-sponsored racing, leaving the racing to privateers while concentrating on extraordinarily beautiful and powerful GTs.

Between 1946 and 1957 Maserati built just 137 cars, with a majority dedicated to racing the world’s tracks. In the summer of 1956 Giulio Alfieri began work on the second generation of Maserati inline 6-cylinder automobiles based on the 350S’ 260bhp engine, adapted for day-to-day driving by detuning to 220bhp at 5,500 rpm. The end result was a 3485cc inline 6-cylinder engine, with twin overhead camshafts, 12 inclined valves, a Marelli dual-ignition system, and three twin-choke Weber carburettors mounted to the side. The engine immediately showed its performance mettle delivering excellent torque and power with reassuring reliability.

The styling of the new car, christened the 3500 GT, was entrusted to Carrozzeria Touring of Milan, which opted for a simple shape for the latest status symbol for gentleman of innate good taste and style.

This is a 1964 3500GTI 2+2 coupe

The 3500GT is one of the most important cars in Maserati’s history, with 2226 Coupes and Spyders made over an 8-year period. During this time Allemano, Bertone, Boneschi, Frua, Moretti, and Vignale designed bodies for the 3500, but none achieved the classic lines of the Touring car. In 1959 Maserati unveiled an Alfredo Vignale designed Spyder with a total of 243 examples built between 1960 and 1964. Technical development continued throughout the production run of the 3500, with disc brakes being added in 1960, a five-speed ZF gearbox was offered in 1961, and fuel injection in 1962.

Beginning in 1962 Maserati offered the Vignale designed 3500GTIS, which became known as the Maserati Sebring. The car was based on the 10cm shorter Spyder platform, and sold alongside the 3500GTI. A total of 591 series 1 and 2 Sebrings were sold between 1962 and 1968.

The Maserati Sebring series 1

Following the success of the Maserati Sebring, Maserati unveiled the Mistral designed by Frua at the end of 1963. The Mistral began its life using the same 3.5-liter inline 6-cylinder engine as the 3500GTI, later replaced by a 3.7-liter inline 6, which also found its way into the Sebring Series 2. Towards the end of the production run, the engine was enlarged to 4-liters, making 255bhp. The Mistral was produced between 1964 and 1970, with a total of 828 Coupes and 120 Spyders. With the end of the Mistral run in 1970, the era of the big 6-cylinder Maseratis drew to a close.

The Maserati Mistral

The final car to be launched under Osri control would be the 1967 Maserati Ghibli. This new car debuted at the 1966 Turin Autoshow, and featured a design by Giorgetto Giugiaro. This car was originally sold alongside the Mistral, but later replaced that car and by 1973 1274 Ghiblis were sold, including 125 Spyders. The Ghibli originally featured a 4.7-liter V-8 engine based on the 450S racecar’s power-plant, and made 330bhp. Later on in the Ghibli SS, the V-8 was enlarged to 5-liters, and made 335hp.

The Maserati Ghibli.

In 1968 Maserati was sold to Citroen, with new models and increased production numbers. These new models included the mid-engined Bora and Merak, as well as the Khamsin which replaced the Ghibli.

The Khamsin was a 2+2 coupe designed by Bertone and unveiled at the 1972 Torino Autoshow, going into full production in 1974. The Khamsin was powered by the 5-liter V-8 engine, which produced 320bhp and 354lb-ft of torque with a five-speed ZF transmission. Between 1973 and 1982 only 435 of the mighty Khamsins made it into production.

Unfortunately the 1973 oil-crisis put the brakes on Maserati’s now ambitious expansion. In 1974 Citroen went bankrupt, and the PSA Peugeot Citroen group put Maserati up for liquidation in 1975. Italian government funds kept the company alive until Alessandro De Tomaso arranged for Benelli motorcycles, a company he controlled, to purchase Maserati and install him as head. In 1976 new models were introduced, including the Kyalami and the Quattroporte III.

The Maserati Kyalami: 155 produced between 1976 and 1983. Originally offered with a 4.2-liter V-8, and later a 4.9-liter V-8.

Maserati followed these cars up with the BiTurbo, Shamal, and Ghibli II. The Ghibli II was a two-door 2+2 coupe, with a 2.0-liter V6 BiTurbo engine, followed by a 2.8-liter V6 BiTurbo in 1994. The Ghibli II was built until 1997, when it was replaced by the 3200 GT.

The Ghibli II, based on the Shamal

In 1984 Chrysler, run by DeTomaso’s friend Lee Lacocca bought a 15.6% stake in Maserati, and they jointly released the Chrysler TC by Maserati. This car was essentially a shortened Dodge Daytona, although most people considered the car an overpriced LeBaron and it was cancelled in 1991.

In 1989 Fiat bought a 49% stake in Maserati, as well as a 51% stake in Maserati Milano where the cars were assembled. The early 90’s were a period of disarray for Maserati, with the BiTurbo showing its age, and Maserati’s increasingly demanding customers’ needs were no longer being met by it. On top of this, DeTomaso fell seriously ill, and on May 19,1993 was forced to sell his remaining 51% share in Maserati to Fiat.

In 1997 Fiat sold 50% of Maserati to Ferrari, whom it also owns, and two Italian automakers that had been in direct competition for so many years were now partners. Ferrari inherited two models in production; the Ghibli II, and the Quattroporte III based on the Ghibli II platform. They also inherited the 3200GT in it’s development phase.

At the Paris Autoshow in 1998 the new 3200GT was unveiled to the public, and was an instant hit. The Giorgetto Giugiaro body and BiTurbo V8 launched the car into showrooms in the Spring of 1999, the same year Ferrari took full control of Maserati. This new car launched Maserati into the new Millenium and completely did away with the rather square form of DeTomaso’s years. A new factory was built, becoming one of the most modern in the world.

The Maserati 3200GT, with distinct hood vents and ‘boomerang’ rear tail-lights. 4795 cars were built between 1999 and 2001.

Production of the 3200GT was ended in 2001, for two reasons: The engine needed to be updated in line with modern pollution control laws, and it was time for Maserati to re-enter the United States market.

The Maserati technicians with a little help from their friends at Ferrari created an Aluminum 4.2-liter V-8 engine. The Giugiaro design was refreshed and paired with this new V-8, and had its world debut at the 2002 Detroit Autoshow. The Coupe was followed by the Spyder, and later by the GranSport and GranSport Spyder, with production lasting until late 2006.

And the rest they say, is history.

Want to know more about the history of Maserati? Here are some great links:
http://www.maserati-alfieri.co.uk – Enrico’s Maserati Pages. One of the best sources for Maserati history I’ve come across.
http://www.maseratilife.com – Enthusiast forums