At the dawn of the 20th century, the Maserati family were already experimenting with the new passion for internal combustion engines. Carlo Maserati, the oldest son in railway worker Rodolfo's inventive family, designed and built his first single-cylinder engine at the age of 17, mounted it on a bicycle, and used it to win a 1900 rally with a route from Brescia to Verona and back. In doing so, he was noticed by Fiat, and the company took him on as a test driver. While he was there, he built another larger engine, putting it into a car with a wooden chassis. He later moved to Isotta Fraschini with his brother Alfieri in 1908, first as a mechanic and then as a driver, but he was an entrepreneur at heart and in 1909 he founded his own company for the production of an aircraft engine. His career was terminated by a premature death in 1910.
Alfieri, who had remained with Isotta Fraschini, moved to Bologna to set up a service branch for the company, but soon decided to set up on his own. With his brothers Ettore and Ernesto, he founded "Società Anonima Officine Alfieri Maserati," a garage and workshop in Bologna, with the incorporation papers dated 1 December 1914. They enlisted another brother, Mario, who knew nothing about engines but was a skilled artist, to design the logo. He was inspired by the statue of Neptune in Bologna's main piazza, and the trident became the company's trademark, along with the colours red and blue, from the Bologna flag.
From the start, Maserati was a racing marque. The first car branded Maserati was the Type 26, which immediately won its class in the year of its introduction, 1926. The Type 26 was put into production for the 'gentleman drivers' who took part in races of the day. Another model, the 16-cylinder Maserati V4, set the marque's first world record, an average speed of 246 km/h over a 10-kilometre course. The record would stand for another eight years.
In 1933, Tazio Nuvolari began racing for Maserati, driving the 8CM, with which he won the Belgian GP, the Ciano Cup, the Nice GP, and the Tourist Trophy.
More victories followed. The 8CTF (8-cylinder fixed head) won at Indianapolis in 1939, the first Italian marque to do so. They repeated the feat the following year. In the same period, the company moved to new premises, in what were then the outskirts of Modena. Now it is one of the few automobile companies to be a part of a historic city, close to the centre. After the war, Maserati presented the first Pininfarina Gran Turismo (a car for everyday use, not for racing). Pininfarina's superbly modern styling, and the brilliantly-engineered 6-cylinder engine, quickly won appreciation from the public.
Maserati was still present in racing, and accompanied the birth of Formula 1 in 1950. Four years later, Juan Manuel Fangio won two Grand Prix races driving Maserati, in Argentina and Spa, and in 1957, he definitively left Ferrari and began racing for Maserati. He won four titles in 1957.
Meanwhile, production of cars for the road continued, with the 3500 GT winning a place in the hearts of automobile enthusiasts all over the world. The version built for the Shah of Persia was fitted with the racetrack 8-cylinder engine, plus a lot of valuable timber and gold, making it the most luxurious car in the world at the time.
In 1963, the Mistral was the first Maserati named after a wind; the next was the Ghibli, an 8-cylinder car with design by Giorgetto Giugiaro, introduced in 1966 to immediate success. Those years saw another important innovation: the Quattroporte, the fastest sedan in the world.
The Maserati of the 1980s was the Biturbo, a high-performance car with tough looks and a 6-cylinder power plant that gave it a top speed of 215 km/h. It became the Maserati with the highest production figures ever, with 37,000 units built over a ten-year period.
In 1993, Maserati and Ferrari changed from rivals to partners, in a business agreement that began with the purchase of Maserati by the Fiat Group in 1993. In the subsequent development, Maserati returned to racing in 2004, with the spectacular MC12, a supercar designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro and Frank Stevenson. The MC12 won an incredible number of titles from 2005 to 2010, and spawned the MC Stradale, an exciting car built for the road and inheriting all of its racing heritage.
The GranTurismo, presented in Geneva in 2007, immediately became an iconic model. Designed by Pininfarina, it became an instant success story, and it was followed by the new Quattroporte, also by Pininfarina.
A century from its foundation, Maserati continues to be a brand whose success is equalled only by its ambitions. From the 6,750 cars built in 2012, the new plant in Grugliasco, near Turin, will help bring production capacity to 50,000 cars per year by 2015, including the new crossover Levante. The future of Maserati looks as exciting as the present.
Info on the Panini Museum:
The Panini Museum is on Strada Corletto Sud 320, Cognento, near Modena. The collection can be viewed exclusively by booking, in March, April, May, June, July, September, October.
Visiting hours: Monday-Friday, 9.30 a.m.-12.30 p.m., 3.30 p.m.-6.30 p.m.
Saturday 9.30 a.m.-12.30 p.m.
Closed on Sundays
Further information: +39 059 510 660