3 the qualities of the Maserati brothers: courage, passion and the ability to overcome adversity.

Published on 9 Feb 2021
6 minutes

Bolognese by birth, Modenese by adoption, Maserati was an absolute benchmark in sporting competitions and still is today in tailor made luxury motoring.

Maserati logo in the 50s
Maserati logo in the 50s (Credit to Cartype)

To celebrate the first 100 years of history, in 2014 the most iconic Maserati models are the protagonists of several initiatives, which recall the most glorious moments of the past and outline the challenges of the foreseeable future.

Today Maserati is present in more than 70 markets, and is one of the most famous automotive brands in the world. The great fascination exerted by the Trident is also due to the Scuderia Ferrari: after decades of rivalry, the 2 prestigious brands have joined forces, and are more than ever linked by the desire to thrill and amaze the world of 4 wheels.

A family devoted to engines

The history of the Trident begins with Rodolfo Maserati, who passes down to his 7 children his deep passion for mechanics and speed.

And the relationship between the Maserati brothers themselves is exemplary, because over the years they have shown great harmony and have been constantly focused on the goal of designing refined and sporty cars. A passion that, even when the Maserati family leaves the scene, will be passed on to subsequent owners and to an ever wider audience of enthusiasts.

It would probably have been founded by the eldest son, Carlo Maserati, if he had not died prematurely. His innate passion for the world of engines leads him to conceive the first motorized bicycle, to occupy an important role in the design of the first aircraft engines and to be appointed – very young – chief test driver in the Fiat of Giovanni Agnelli, Gianni‘s grandfather.

The baton passes to the 2nd brother, Alfieri. His strong commercial skills, developed at the Isotta Fraschini company, will prove decisive. Together with his brothers Ernesto and Ettore he chooses the historic center of Bologna, precisely via de’ Pepoli, to open the Società anonima Officine Alfieri Maserati on 1 December 1914.

The Maserati brothers in front of the first factory in Bologna
The Maserati brothers in front of the first factory in Bologna (Credit to Maserati)

After just one year it must be closed, due to the outbreak of the First World War. But the brothers, returning from the front, do not lose heart and are preparing for the leap in quality.

From workshop to race team

5 years later it was decided to move the workshops a few kilometers from the center, in the Pontevecchio district on the Via Emilia Levante (which inspires the name of the first SUV produced on a large scale), to a bigger building that the Maseratis also adapt to home and which, step by step, becomes the first production plant.

In fact, it is here that the great tradition of racing cars begins. The sporting competitions in which Alfieri and Ernesto take part, driving Isotta Fraschini cars, are just as many opportunities to acquire technical skills. In other words, precious stimuli to develop a powerful know-how in the field which is then used in design and production. A choice that unites them to Enzo Ferrari, who was also first a driver and then an entrepreneur.

The first real constructive experiments begin with the Diatto, which the Maserati brothers bring to participate in the first edition of the GP World Championship. But in a short time the economic difficulties of the small company emerge clearly, and the sale of 10 chassis is established, which merge into the newborn Squadra Corse Maserati.

The first Maserati to leave the gates of the famous Bolognese workshops is the Tipo 26, with an 8-cylinder supercharged engine (1500 cc), which delivers 120 hp at 5,300 rpms.

And it is also the first to flaunt the trident, designed by Mario Maserati drawing inspiration from the fountain of Neptune, a masterpiece by the Flemish sculptor Jean de Boulogne and one of the main symbols of Bologna. Originally black on a silver background, it represents the stylistic refinement of the car manufacturer in a powerful and unmistakable way.

Il primo disegno del tridente, realizzato da Mario Maserati
The first drawing of the trident, made by Mario Maserati (Credit to Fondazione Leonardo)

The debut at the prestigious Targa Florio of the same year is a great success. The 43 Tipo 26 that will be produced in that period, in several variants, will become the object of desire of gentlemen drivers.

“Making high-performance cars and winning, having a wealth of means and men, is difficult but within the reach of many; building such cars without means, having to do everything by themselves, is a much more difficult thing, which very few have been able to do”.

The first challenges and the first successes

Between the 1920s and the early 1930s, Maserati is the undisputed reference point in the motor racing scene. The record set by the Maserati V4 on the straight of the Cremona circuit in 1929 is one of the most significant example.

Due to an incorrect surgery Alfieri, the main architect of the success of the Trident, passes away in 1932.

After a few years of hesitation, in ’37 the younger brothers decide to sell the company to Adolfo Orsi, a wealthy industrialist active in several sectors, who seizes the opportunity to acquire greater visibility through an already famous brand and 2 years later he decides to transfer the headquarters to Modena.

The partnership with Ernesto, Ettore and Bindo, also by virtue of a clause included in the sale contract, remains strong until 1947. A period during which Wilbur Shaw takes 2 extraordinary victories at the Indianapolis 500 in ’39 and ’40, the most important awards obtained by an Italian company up to that moment.

Maserati 8CTF "Boyle Special" vincitrice della 500 miglia di Indianapolis
Maserati 8CTF “Boyle Special” winner of the Indianapolis 500 (Credit to John Lamm)

While the Maserati brothers will return to Bologna to found the O.S.C.A. (Officine Specializzate Costruzioni Automobili, later absorbed by MV Augusta), Adolfo Orsi will continue the expansion of the Modena car company, starting with the presentation of the A6 1500 at the Geneva Motor Show. The first Maserati designed by Pininfarina and destined for the general public, it owes its name to Alfieri and the number of cylinders. An unprecedented success, the point of no return in the path of ascent of the Trident.

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