Maserati GranTurismo Sport
How Maserati left their track rivalries behind to become one of the esteemed Marques in the world
The story of Maserati is that of a family of engineers, lovers of mechanics and speed who were designing revolutionary engines long before the company that bore their name was founded. The first of the seven Maserati Children, Carlo designed his first single-cylinder engine at 17 and went on to forge a successful racing career before founding his own company in 1909 designing and manufacturing airplane engines.
With the untimely death of Carlo in 1910, the business passed on to the next in line, Alfieri who in 1913 moved to Bologna to open a service centre for Isotta Fraschini, a racing team Carlo was greatly involved with. Despite becoming a worldwide ambassador for the brand, Alfieri soon decided to strike out on his own and in December 1914 created the ‘Societa Anonima Officine Alfieri Maserati’, a car garage and workshop. However before the business could reach its full capacity, war broke out and the Maserati brothers were drafted.
Due to their engineering expertise the brothers were kept far from the front line, giving Alfieri time to exercise his design talent by producing components for aircraft for which he received a patent. After the war, workshop activity was resumed and in July 1914 production of Alfieri’s innovative aircraft components started in earnest.
The brothers Alfieri, Ernest and Ettore worked intensively on the creation of the first Maserati Automobile while Mario, lacking the engineering expertise of the rest of the family, was commissioned to produce the company emblem. Using a symbol characteristic of Bologna, the trident from the statue of Neptune from the fountain in Piazza Maggiore, the now iconic logo used the colours of the City’s banner, which are now recognized more readily as the colours of Maserati.
In 1920, Alfieri went back to racing, but less than exceptional results convinced him more than ever to create the first Maserati. The debut of the first Maserati-built car came on July 24th, 1921 with a fourth place finish at the Circuito del Mugello and two months later claimed its first victory, the first of many.
The first car carrying the iconic logo came in 1925 in the form of the Tipo 26, which met with success by taking eighth place overall and victory in its class. The 13th June the following year saw the company’s first absolute victory in the Speed Kilometer of Bologna. With the youngest Maserati brother, Ernesto in the driving seat the car went above 167 km/h, and astounding speed for the era, leading directly to their first sales.
Now a viable manufacturer, Maserati continued with success after success, achieving their first world records in 1929 which remained theirs for almost a decade. 1930 saw the brand’s first international victory however this year saw a more important event, the first brush with Enzo Ferrari. Despite Maserati’s dominance, this signalled the start of an enduring racing rivalry.
Taking the step from becoming a small-scale artisan workshop to fully-fledged manufacturer was a big decision however in 1937 the Maserati brothers ceded the company to entrepreneur Adolfo Orsi. Maintaining prestigious positions in the company, the brothers were able to use the new resources at their disposal to pursue their dream for Maserati in the world of racing.
The sudden death of Alfieri in 1932 was a blow to the whole of Bologna and the funeral procession through the centre of the city featured the greatest racing drivers of the time. With his brother gone, Ernesto stepped in to the breach and under his expertise the Tipo V5 was born and declared a triumph. The first example from the Orsi-Maserati era, the 8CTF: 8 Cylinder Fixed Head, was finally ready in March 1938, leading to victory at Indianapolis and making them the first Italian manufacturer to win the prestigious title.
March 1946 saw the first GranTurismo debuted at the Geneva Auto Show, the first Maserati designed for daily use off the track. Originally called A6 in tribute to Alfieri, the design and originality were appreciated instantly by the public and production began in earnest, with 1948 seeing the first model A6 1500 equipped with an incredible chassis created by designer Pininfarina.
1950 saw the start of a sporting legend in the progenitor of what would become the Formula One. While they were there from the start, Maserati did not initially meet with much success in the competition however after a radical restructuring of the company they were ready to take on their long-term rivals Ferrari. 1954 saw a number of changes to the rules of the World Championships which could be considered the real birth of Formula One. Maserati returned in force with the 250F, which debuted with immediate victory.
A year later financial difficulties saw yet more changes to the company, this time greatly favouring Maserati. Deciding to focus exclusively on the automobile industry, the brand quickly became one of the most prestigious car manufacturers in the world. This was showcased in the “Shah of Persia”, a collaboration with engineer Giulio Alfieri for the eponymous ruler and, finished in gold and rare woods, was at the time the most luxurious car the world had ever seen.
The idea to mount a Maserati engine in a sedan was suggested by journalist Gino Rancati and at the 1963 Turin Auto Show, the company’s flagship was born- The Quattroporte. The fastest sedan in the world, it was a radical departure from the coupes and spyders from the past, combining the high performance of a sports car with the luxury and comfort of a four door sedan.
Over the next few decades, the concept of the high-performance sedan was a mainstay of Maserati engineering. The Sebring, a sports car with comforts unheard of at the time and the Bora, a collaboration with Giorgetto Giugiario were both received with critical acclaim from all sectors, however it was the Quattroporte that remained the company flagship, synonymous as it was with elegance and style.
For Maserati the future really begins in 1993 with the participation of the Fiat Group. After decades of rivalry, Luca di Montezemolo, president and CEO of Ferrari headed up the final and complete buyout of Maserati by Ferrari, signalling the start of a partnership between the two famous manufacturers that eclipsed their previous competition.
After a brief period of modernisation at the Maserati factory in Modena, the first product of the new partnership was created. The completion of the 3200 GT, a coupe design by Giorgetto Giugiaro saw its debut at the Paris Auto Show in 1998, however was immediately earmarked for a different project. Incorporating an engine produced in Maranello, the Spyder was born.
2004 saw Maserati’s return to the track with the extraordinary MC12. This phenomenal performance of this supercar saw Maserati claim fourteen titles, two Manufacturers Cups, five Driver Championships, six Team Championships and one Citation Cup on top of three absolute wins, a stunning array of victories for a company recently returned to racing.
After the original collaboration with the Quattroporte, Pininfarina returned to put his signature on a new coupe that became the most recent of Maserati’s many successes, the GranTurismo. As well as winning at the Geneva Auto Show, the incredibly beautiful GranTurismo gained critical acclaim, appearing on the front cover of motoring magazines worldwide. Their collaboration with the respected designer has continued even more recently with the arrival of the new Quattroporte. A stunning new vision for the traditional Maserati flagship it is a car that embodies all the qualities that have granted the company continuing success in the luxury car industry.
From a family vision of what a racing car should be, Maserati has grown in scale and prestige over the last century and is now regarded as one of the most esteemed car manufacturers in the world. Their flawless fusion of luxury and performance create vehicles that exude exclusivity, as stunning on the outside as they are under the hood.