It’s sometimes difficult to imagine the humble beginnings of a brand known for luxury. Maserati was once a family business. A business founded upon the love that a group of brothers had for cars and auto racing. Brothers Alfieri, Bindo, Carlo, Eltore and Ernesto were the most passionate about cars but it was their more artistic brother Mario who invented the image we most associate with the brand—the trident shaped Maserati logo. Mario was regarded as the family artist and he is said to have modelled Maserati’s red trident after the statue of Neptune at Bologna’s Piazza Maggiore.
Shortly after Maserati was established on December 1, 1914 in the town of Bologna, Italy, they began to build racing cars. Two of the brothers were already experienced enough with the fashioning of racing cars that they were able to win the Targa Florio race—an open road endurance automobile race held in the mountains of Sicily—that same year.
When Alfieri died, the brothers sold their shares in the company to the Orsi family but kept their jobs. Few people know that Maserati was commissioned to build a car for the personal use of Benito Mussolini. It was rumoured that Mussolini wanted a car faster than Adolf Hitler’s Porsche. However, Maserati never created a car for Mussolini, who instead drove an Alfa Romeo.
Maserati is a company that changed hands perhaps more than any other in automobile history. In the 60’s Maserati was acquired by the French automobile manufacturer Citroen. In the 90’s it was purchased by Fiat who sold 50% of the company to Ferrari before Fiat proceeded to buy back those shares again a short while later.
In recent times the Maserati has proved to be prominent in pop culture, making appearances in film, television shows and even American music. Two gangster characters from The Sopranos drive the same 4200 Coupe. You can spot a Merak parked next to Tony Montana’s Porsche in Scarface. Underworld characters in The Godfather III and Miami Vice drove the Maserati Quattroporte. US pop star Britney Spears recently sang about the need to “work” if you want a Maserati.
Now, in 2014, the company seems to be undergoing yet another transformation. The recently released Ghibli model, starting around $66,900 USD, opens up the luxury brand to another market of consumers who could never before afford it. One can only wonder how the brand will restructure its ever changing identity going forward.
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