ONE FOR THE BOYS: Italian sports-car specialist Maserati, despite havig celebrated its centenary, still creates an exciting range of cars. Image: Newspress
It was really sad, as reported a month or so ago on Wheels24, to read that there will be no 2015 Johannesburg International Motor Show in October, an event previously scheduled to run every two years.
In our current financial climate considered it was a little too close to the Frankfurt and Paris shows to justify the vast expenditure/low return of a "wheels" show at the bottom of Africa.
Jims used to have some really marvellous exhibits. I well remember the exotica section and especially the Maserati stand – a name with oodles of heritage and lots of pedigree. I can think of just three other* current automotive manufacturers that were also founded on pure racing heritage: they are, in no particular order, Lotus, Ferrari and McLaren.
GIFTED SON, STAR DRIVER
High above the stand was the Maserati corporate logo, a Trident. The badge thought-up by one of the six Maserati brothers who founded the company more than 100 years ago in Bologna, Italy. Each was a car-racing enthusiast who dreamed of nothing else but winning car races, not only in Italy but also around the world.
The star driver in the family was Alfieri, a gifted son who won the 1926 Targa Florio road race for the company. By then Maserati was producing four-, six-, eight- and 16-cylinder engines (two straight eights mounted alongside each other.)
I don't recall Ferrari or McLaren ever winning Indianapolis – surely the greatest motor race in the world – but Maserati won twice (1939 and 1940) in the skilled hands of triple winner Wilbur Shaw in a Maserati 8CTF.
Yes, I know Jim Clark managed it with Lotus in 1965, but that’s another story!
Carlo Maserati may be singled out among the brothers as the most technically minded, developing first a single-cylinder engine to put in a chassis, also of their own design. His brilliant mind went on to design radial engines for aircraft; other brothers concentrated on manufacturing race-winning cars – for those who could afford them.
CAR OF CHOICE FOR RACING
Today the company is owned by Fiat but the company’s success harks back to having some of the greatest names in motor racing drive its cars. In the early 1950s Argentinian driver Juan-Manuel Fangio successfully raced for the company that had now moved it HQ from Bologna to Modena.
The celebrated Maserati 250F was the car of choice if you wanted to win races and emulate Fangio’s success when he became World champion in 1957 in one.
Times were, however, starting to prove a little tough for Maserati and from 1957 Modena started to produce road cars instead of pure racing machinery that carried such wonderful names that only the Italians create: Sebring 2+2, Mistral and, in 1963 and 1967, the Quattroporte and Ghibli coupé respectively.
Each had a five-litre Ford V8 under its bonnet.
French car company Citroën took the reins in 1968 but the oil crisis of the early 1970's (was it really that long ago?) saw Maserati once again for sale, this time bought by De Tomaso, an Argentinian race driver and highly successful entrepreneur.
BACK HOME - BUT WITH FIAT
Under his care Maserati - still with a trident as its badge - produced a third-generation Quattroporte and the Kyalami – again V8-powered but this time around it was an all-aluminium in-house engine.
Fast forward to 1993 and Maserati was again up for sale, this time around back in its home country and bought out lock, stock and barrel by Fiat. Although Ferrari remained the flagship sports-car brand, the feeling was there was still room for another!
Today Maserati produces rather of a limited range but does offer the connoisseur a two-door touring coupé to rival Ferrari in looks and performance - though with a far more reasonable price.
The exclusivity remains, the heritage and pedigree stand, but above all the magical name Maserati continues to trade!
*There may well be others, so feel free to drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org if you care to jolt my memory!