Alfieri Maserati was, like so many car makers before him and after him, a racing driver before he and his brother Ernesto decided in 1926 to form their own company and build their own vehicles. Their ambitions lay in the direction of motorsport, and they were almost immediately successful. Entering the highest planes of circuit racing, they scooped no less than five Grand Prix wins in 1930, their first full season of competition, establishing an instant identity which few makers can equal. When the company was taken over by Count Orsi in 1937 he too concentrated on racing, although there were occasional handbuilt road cars available.
For Maserati, the production of road cars in any volume began with the 3500GT in 1958, following up Fangio’s success of the previous year when he had become World Champion at the wheel of a Maserati and given the company the Constructors’ title as well. The 3500GT was bodied by a wide assortment of specialist builders which included Vignale, Frua, Ghia, Bertone and, mostly, Milan-based Touring.
Even then, Maserati have hardly been involved in anything like mass production, building their range of exotic sports/touring machinery in small numbers and with great care. With their Italian counterparts at Ferrari and Lamborghini, the influence of these sportscars on the motoring world has always been out of all proportion to their number. And, while their products have no real relationship with the kind of motoring most people are obliged to perform, it is by those same people that the Italian sportscars are hailed as ‘real’ cars which, they say, Detroit would do well to observe and copy. However, all that is without regard to the totally impractical nature of the handmade thoroughbred.
For example, the stock Maserati engine which had powered their racing program was used in a more powerful version of the straight-six 3500GT. Designated 5000GT, it was handmade, extremely expensive to buy and even more costly to run, using 5-liter race engines with dual overhead camshafts and 330hp on tap. The first customer was the Shah of Iran.
As the road cars progressed in popularity so the range expanded, although the basic engineering tended to stay the same. The GT series led to the Mistrale, then the Quattroporte and then the first of a line of Maseratis which were far more than simply exotic.
Styled by Ghia and based on the previous year’s Mexico, the two-seat Ghibli appeared at the Turin show in 1966. The Mexico had suffered at the hands of Ferrari and then the newly-arrived Lamborghini and Iso, and the stunning new Ghia design was the Maserati response. Powered by the same basic quad-cam V8, at 4.1 or 4.9 liters, the Ghibli used the same steel hull bolted onto a tubular and box-section chassis, with independent coil-and-wishbone front suspension and a live rear axle.
The Ghibli was a fine car and attracted a great deal of attention and – for the market – lots of customers. More than 1200 were built in its six-year life, and in the end it was the fuel crisis not the competition which closed it off. The Indy was in production shortly after the Ghibli, and lasted two years longer. Basically a derivative of the same series, the Vignale-styled Indy was one of the new 2+2 layout cars, and was the first Maserati to use monocoque construction, which meant that there could be no one-offs or convertibles for wealthy oriental potentates. But the Indy was fast, with a top end around 160mph for ZF manuals and a little over 140mph for the automatics; 60mph came up in about seven seconds, the standing quarter in fifteen.
The Indy sold well, making more than 1100 units up to 1976 when it was axed as part of a rationalization program instituted when the company was sold off. But by then Maserati had been forced to move with the times. Ferrari had established that the mid-engined layout was to be the one which every manufacturer of supercars would have to follow and Giulio Alfieri, one of the few survivors remaining from the Orsi racing days after Citroen took over, designed the Bora accordingly. Styled by Giugiaro, it had the 330hp light-alloy V8 lengthways ahead of the rear wheels, four-wheel coilover independent suspension and a claimed top speed approaching 170mph. This was widely held to be somewhat optimistic, and 160mph would be a more realistic figure.
In ride and handling the Bora was typical of its class – although defining its class simply as ‘supercar’ is rather vague, especially since it was about 30 percent more expensive than its counterparts. The Citroen influence was particularly evident in the use of high-pressure hydraulics to power the brakes, tilt the seat squab (the seat itself had no fore-and-aft adjustment) and adjust the pedals, which slid backward and forward at the press of a dashboard button.
The Bora was joined by the Merak, which was virtually identical except that it made use of the incredibly compact V6 unit Maserati had designed for the Citroen SM. Using this, which produced a respectable 190 (later upped to 220)hp, gave enough room to redesign the rear quarters and give the Merak two very occasional rear seats.
Introduced in 1972, the Khamsin was the only front-engine rear-drive Maserati to survive the period of Citroen ownership; it also had the distinction of being styled by Bertone. Essentially a replacement for the Indy, it used the same basic V8 powerplant and virtually identical running gear, although the live rear axle was replaced by a coil-and-wishbone setup.
Although cargo space was generous thanks to a large platform beneath the tailgate, rear passengers were doomed to discomfort. Like all Maseratis the suspension was uncompromisingly hard and there was little in the way of legroom. Headroom too was virtually nonexistent, Bertone having taken the ‘fastback’ classification to literal extremes.
The Khamsin’s styling, though, was immensely successful, since it was the first conventional-layout Maserati to attain the eyecatching sleekness which is an implicit factor of the mid-engine cars.
The Khamsin stayed as a production vehicle, although Citroen abandoned Italy after the proposed Fiat link-up fell through, and it was left to Alessandro De Tomaso – with the help of government financing – to prop up Maserati, allowing them to fit Maserati engine, transmission and badgework to the big four-seat Long-champs and call it the Maserati Kyalami.
Maserati All Car Models:-
Maserati Quattroporte Reviews
Maserati Granturismo S Reviews
Maserati Bora Reviews
Special Edition Neiman Marcus Maserati Ghibli S Q4 Reviews