The History of Maserati: From Race Track to Road
The famous Maserati trident badge made its debut on the Tipo 26 race car launched in 1926. This car was developed from the Dietta Tipo 20 that Alfieri Maserati had helped to develop and race earlier in the decade. The car won several grand prix and other races, setting the company’s course for the next few decades.
Among the race cars that followed on from the Tipo 26 was the legendary 250F. Famous drivers of this car include Stirling Moss and the brilliant Argentinian Formula One driver Juan Manuel Fangio. Fangio won the 1954 World Driver’s Championship partly in a Maserati 250F. In 1957 he returned to drive for Maserati and completed what many regard as the finest Formula One drive of all time at the Nurburgring. Following a bungled pit stop Fangio found himself 50 seconds adrift of the race leaders. He then proceeded to break the course lap record no fewer than ten times as he overhauled the other competitors and won the race by a three second margin.
Maserati withdrew from racing in the mid-1960s due to dwindling finances. The final series of Maserati race cars until the MC12 in 2004 were the Tipo 61 and Tipo 151-154 cars. These were given the nickname Birdcage because they had a spaceframe chassis mad from a complicated series of welded tubular steel sections.
The first Maserati road cars appeared in 1946 in the shape of the A6. These had a variety of different bodyshells from coachbuilders like Zagato and Vignale as well as the standard style set by Pininfarina. The Maserati A6 series for sale was followed by the bigger selling Maserati 3500 grand tourer. More than 2,000 Maserati 3500 cars were built bringing the marque to a much wider audience than before. The 3500 GTi introduced in 1961 was the first Italian production car to use fuel injection.
In 1968, Citroen bought Maserati and began using the technical expertise of their engineers to improve their cars. The futuristic Citroen SM has a new V6 engine designed by Maserati’s Giulio Alfieri. In return, Citroen components began to find their way into Maseratis. The Maserati Merak, for example, used the same V6 engine as the SM along with various Citroen hydraulic systems.
Produced between 1971 and 1978, the mid-engined Maserati Bora supercar also included Citroen hydraulics. The car’s V8 engine gave the Bora exceptional performance by 1970s standards. The various adjustable controls and effective noise-proofing ensured that the Maserati was also a more comfortable place to be than its supercar competitors.
Citroen’s ownership of Maserati was short-lived – by 1976 Maserati was in the hands of De Tomaso. Maserati continued to produce GTs and sports saloons like the Biturbo until it was bought up by Fiat in 1993. The manufacturer now sits in the Fiat Group as a luxury sports brand.