Top five Maseratis: the best trident-badged cars of the past 100 years

| 6 Dec 2016

News emerged this week that Maserati will be taking a break from producing sports cars in order to focus on its profitable four-door saloons and ‘crossovers’. The GranTurismo and GranCabrio will soon enter retirement and their replacements not due – at least in the UK – until 2020. 

Rather than lament a great sports car manufacturer turning its attention to bloated and homogenous Chelsea tractors, we thought we’d take a look at some of the firm’s biggest hits from the past 100+ years. 

1. Maserati 8C

Long before the Maserati brothers contemplated creating a road car they had great success at the races. Their first car – the 1.5-litre, supercharged, straight-eight Tipo 26 – won its class at the Targa Florio, driven by Alfieri and crewed by Guerino Bertocchi. By 1928 Ernesto Maserati’s 26B led the field in the Mille Miglia before it retired. 

The emergence of the Alfa Romeo 8C 2300 Monza and Bugatti Type 51 twin-cam in 1931 changed everything, prompting Alfieri to increase the cylinder bore of his 26B engine from 65mm to 69mm and create a more refined, aerodynamic body. The result was the 8C 2800, a stunning biposto that broke the lap record at Montlhery on its debut. Its legend lives on. 

2. Maserati 5000GT

The 3500GT (pictured) was undoubtedly the car that propelled Maserati from a racing specialist into full mass production, with more than 2200 coupé and convertible examples being sold between 1957 and 1964. However, the true connoisseur – led by the Shah of Iran Mohammad Reza Pahlavi – opted for the rarer, more powerful 5000GT. It was the Shah who first had put the idea of shoehorning the Maserati 450S racer’s fearsome V8 into the 3500GT’s chassis, and the resulting car was dubbed the Shah of Persia in his honour. 

The Touring-bodied coupé featured a slightly modified version of the 450S’s V8, increasing displacement to 4940cc, utilising a longer stroke and smaller bore and, by 1961, the addition of Lucas mechanical fuel injection. The cars were sold at around twice the price of the 3500GT, but that didn’t put off a long line of celebrity owners including Aga Khan, Gianni Agnelli, Briggs Cunningham and Ferdinando Innocenti. 

Can’t afford a 5000GT? This gorgeous 3500GT could be just the ticket! Click here to find out more

3. Maserati Ghibli SS

One of the most beautiful grand tourers of the 1960s burst onto the scene at the 1966 Turin Motor Show, penned by a young Giorgetto Giugiaro and sporting pop-up headlamps and a long, sloping bonnet. Technically it was a 2+2 – but only if your rear companions were, in fact, a duffel bag. 

The coupé boasted a powerful 306bhp quad-cam V8 capable of taking the Maserati to 60mph in just 6.8 seconds and on to a top speed of 155mph. But it was the Spyder variants – and in particular the rare and powerful SS – that attracted the world’s glitterati. With a top speed of 174mph, the stunning convertible became the fastest roadgoing Maserati ever produced. Its incredible performance figures were in no small part due to its stroked 330bhp V8. Just 25 SS models were ever built out of a production run of more than 1100 Ghiblis.

Like the look of this stunning Spyder SS? Click here for more information

4. Maserati 250F

Quite simply one of the most enigmatic and instantly recognisable grand prix cars of the 1950s, and a favourite of some of the most gifted racing drivers to ever grace the sport, including Juan Manuel Fangio and Stirling Moss. 

We could drone on about the 250F for days, so instead let’s soak up the majesty of El Maestro showing us how it’s done at the Modena Aero-Autodrome in 1957. Click here to watch the video.


5. Maserati Tipo 61 ‘Birdcage’

Maserati’s Tipo 61 – or Birdcage – sports prototype was one of the firm’s most successful racers, and a technological tour de force that influenced the design of countless future models. The car took its nickname from its construction method, which utilised an intricate spaceframe chassis comprising some 200 chromoly steel tubes clothed in wafer-thin bodywork. It was fast, light and aerodynamically efficient thanks to a clever design that skirted Le Mans regulations to recess the windscreen into the bodywork. 

Just 16 original Birdcages were produced and, like the company’s first racing car, it won at its first outing, driven by Stirling Moss at Reims. The Birdcages launched a two-year assault on the top flight of endurance racing spearheaded by the Casner Motor Racing Division and, though it failed to win at Le Mans, the model dominated the Nürburgring 1000km in 1960 and 1961. 

In 2014, Classic & Sports Car returned to the Maserati brothers’ Bologna workshop. 

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