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Automotive History: Maserati Is 100 Years Old

100 Years of MaseratiMaserati is one of the oldest Italian car companies still in existence.  In December they will celebrate their 100 year anniversary, which is quite an achievement considering the majority of other automobile companies who were around at the beginning are long forgotten.  What began as a bicycle fitted with a one cylinder engine is still exciting.    Maserati AlfieriPhoto: Maserati Just last weekend Maserati won the design award at the esteemed Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este for the Maserati Alfieri designed as a tribute to the Maserati founder. THE BEGINNING In 1900 at the age of 17, Carlo Maserati designed his first single cylinder engine, mounted it on his bicycle, wins a race and was hired by Fiat.  In Turin he designs what could be considered the first Maserati, with a new one cylinder engine in a wooden chassis.  Next Carlo moves Isotta Franschini, Bianchi, and finally in 1908 the Junior car company in Milan.  Health issues force him to pass the automotive torch to his brother Alfieri who moves to Bologna to open a service center for Isotta Franschini.  Alfieri leaves and along with this brothers Ettore and Ernesto files incorporation papers on December 1, 1914.  Maserati as a company is born. A LEGEND EMERGES In 1920 the symbolic Maserati Trident, inspired by the Neptune fountain in the center of Maserati’s home city, Bologna, was created by yet another brother, the artist Mario.  Mario also selected the colors red and blue, of Bologna as the colors of Maserati.  1925 sees the production of the first cars with the Maserati logo.  In 1926 the first actual named Maserati car was the 26 Tipo. In the beginning it was all about racing.  Maserati achieved their first world record in 1929 which held until 1937 in a 16 cyl. with an average speed over 246 km/h (over 152 mph).  Alfieri first goes up against Enzo Ferrari in 1930 at Monza.  Maserati is on the podium, Ferrari is not. Tragedy strikes when at only 44 years old, Alfieri dies from surgery in 1932.  The company stays in the family.  Brother Bindo Maserati, leaves Isotta Franschini to become chairman and the new Tipo V5 debuts.  After a falling out with Enzo Ferrari, legendary Tazio Nuvolari begins to race a Maserati. OWNERSHIP SHIFTS In 1937 the brothers begin a collaboration with self-made industrialist Adolfo Orsi.  They chose to sell the company made up of the race car division and the spark plug division (the other end of the business which has been around since the beginning) to Orsi, though they remain in place at the company.  The “Boyle Special” wins Maserati their first American race, the Indianapolis 500 in 1939.   Maserati left Bologna for more space in Modena and during the WWII they abandoned racing to concentrate on spark plugs and other items to support the war efforts. REBIRTH AFTER WWII In 1946, the first non-racecar daily use GranTurismo was introduced at the Geneva Auto Show.  However, Ernesto, Bindo and Ettore choose to leave Maserati.  They returned to Bologna and founded Osca.  Maserati Race car1950 marks the beginning of what would become Formula 1 racing.  Orsi shifts the management of his companies to different members of his family, but along with his son Omar, he keeps Maserati for himself.  The 250F debuts with twin Grand Prix victories in 1954 as F1  starts to heat up.  1957 Maserati Sport RacerIn 1956 the town of Modena is divided as Team Maserati and Team Ferrari battle for top position the track.  Despite financial difficulties within the Orsi realm,  driver Juan Manuel Fangio leaves Ferrari for Maserati and wins his biggest and final World Championship at Nurburgring in 1957.  Maserati Tipo 61 Birdcage1960 reveals the famous “Birdcage” or Tipo 60.  However, sports cars were now the focus of Maserati production. TOURING CARS TAKEOVERMaserati GhibliPhoto: Enrico’s Maserati Pages The Ghibli is unveiled at the Turin Auto Show in 1966.  What was originally meant to amount to only 100 cars grew to over 1200 by the end of production in 1972.  The 1970’s bring a partnership with Citroen, the Orsi family leaves and Citroen sells to a company run by Alejandro De Tomaso and we meet the Bora.  In the 1980’s the Quattroporte and Biturbo fill the Maserati stable. In 1993 the beginning of the Fiat ownership which ultimately takes 6 years to complete and ends up with rival Ferrari owning Maserati in 1999. MODERN MASERATI Maserati GransportAfter being absent for 12 years from the American market, Maserati returns with a big gala splash in 2001.  Pininfarina as a design team is back and the Quattroporte is reborn.  In 2004 Maserati returns to the racetrack with the MC12 supercar and wins title after title through 2010.   In 2007 the new GranTurismo is born.  The modern Quattroporte is introduced in 2013 and the Ghibli returns as a sporty yet elegant grand tourer. Maserati Granturismo 2012Maserati has an amazing history, rooted in performance and modeled on tradition. Vintage Maserati Race CarVintage Maserati Race CarThe biggest event will be an official Maserati gathering in Modena from September 19-21, 2014. As many as 250 Maserati models from all over the world are expected to descend on the town, driving routes on local roads and participating in high powered track sessions.  If you’ve a Maserati lover who needs a European outing, make it this one.  If not, I’ll see you at Pebble Beach celebration. To read more in depth about the 100 years of Maserati, check out their anniversary website.


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