Part 65 Maserati – The Brothers
The History of the Italian Automobile
Part 65 – The Brothers Maserati
By David Cavaliere
This week we begin our look at one of the most well-known brands of the Italian automotive industry – Maserati. The company is not the first, or even second name to come to mind when luxurious and fast Italian automobiles are mentioned. Most will inevitably answer Ferrari first, Lamborghini second and “Oh that’s right – I almost forgot Maserati!” as the third response. While the Prancing Horse and Raging Bull are known for speed, Maserati perhaps embodies more of the Italian spirit in some ways. Bella Vita – the beautiful life, is not about the wind in your hair, it is about looking good after having the wind in your hair. It is about surroundings that have style and exude class. Sitting in either a Ferrari or a Lamborghini creates a sense of purpose and a power that can barely be restrained. Sitting in a Maserati creates a sense of comfort, of ease, of class. Without being excessive (think Rolls Royce and Bentley), the only marque that comes to mind that parallels this quality is an Aston Martin. Maserati has been around far longer than either of its famous brethren. The company was founded over 100 years ago – on December 1, 1914. As has been mentioned, Enzo Ferrari’s name did not appear on his automobiles until 1947 (Part 34 Ferrari – The Early Years, September 22, 2016), while Ferruccio Lamborghini did not create his automotive company until 1963 (Part 52 – Lamborghini – The Early Years, March 23, 2017). With more than a century of history behind it, the future of Maserati has never looked brighter.\
The five Maserati brothers who were involved in the automotive industry began by making cars for Diatto (see Part 26 Diatto July 21, 2016). The company has had many owners since the brothers formed the company. They sold their shares to the Adolfo Orsi family in 1937. After 31 years of ownership, the Orsi’s sold to Citroën in 1968. The honeymoon didn’t last long. When the oil crisis hit in 1973, Maserati was soon on the financial ropes. In 1975, Citroën sold to Alejandro De Tomaso (see Part 24 – De Tomaso Modena SpA, July 7, 2016). Chrysler bought a 5% share in the company in 1984, upping its stake to 15.6% in 1986, while to complicate matters, in July of 1984, a merger between Maserati and Nuova Innocenti was worked out (see Part 48 – The Story of Innocenti, February 16, 2017). It became effective in 1985. In December 1989, Fiat entered into Maserati’s history. Maserati and Innocenti were separated; Innocenti Milano S.p.A., the company that sold Innocenti cars, continued its business under a 51% Fiat Auto ownership. All of the Modena and Lambrate plants went to a newly created company. In the case of the extant Maserati S.p.A., 49% was owned by Fiat Auto and 51% was controlled by De Tomaso through the old company, Officine Alfieri Maserati. In May 1993, De Tomaso sold its 51% stake in Maserati to Fiat, which became the sole owner. Then things became rather complicated. In July 1997, Fiat sold a 50% share in the company to Maserati’s long-time arch-rival Ferrari and in 1999, Ferrari took full control, making Maserati its luxury division. This was rather bizarre, since Ferrari itself was owned by Fiat. In 2005, Maserati was split off from Ferrari and partnered with Alfa Romeo to create the Maserati and Alfa Romeo group (under the Fiat Group). Five years later, Fiat announced that it had created a new partnership/brand group consisting of Alfa Romeo, Maserati and Abarth.
The Maserati Brothers were involved with automobiles from the beginning of the 20th century. They were born to Rodolfo Maserati and his wife, Carolina in Voghera, Lombardy, Italy. Rodolfo was a railway engineer worker from Piacenza, in the Emilia Romagna region and his love of machinery was passed on to his sons. The couple had seven sons in total, but only six reached adulthood. Alfieri I died when he was only a year old. The next son to be born was also named Alfieri. The six brothers all played a part in the company that would bear their name. The oldest was Carlo (1881–1910). He began as a bicycle engineer in Affori, near Milan, where he developed a one-cylinder internal combustion engine for motorized bicycles. The engine went into production at Marquis Michele Carcano di Anzano del Parcos factory. Carlo raced these primitive motorcycles and won numerous races. When the factory closed, he went to work as a test driver for Fiat (1901-1903), followed by a stint at Isotta-Fraschini (see Part 50 – Isotta Fraschini, March 9, 2017), where he was joined by brother Alfieri. He moved to work for Bianchi (see Part 9: Bianchi and AutoBianchi, March 17, 2016) in 1907, where he raced in the Coppa Florio, finishing 9th. In 1908, he became manager of the Fabbrica Junior Torinese d’Automobili, one of the Ceirano car companies (see Part 16 – Ceirano Fabbrica Automobili, May 5, 2016). While there, he hired his brother, Ettore (1894–1990). Carlo died of tuberculosis in 1910, leaving his brothers to establish Maserati in Bologna in 1914.
The next oldest was Bindo (1883–1980). An outstanding automotive engineer, he was also the brother who was the businessman of the group and became the manager of Maserati. He worked with Ettore at Isotta-Fraschini and although he rarely raced, he did participate in the Mille Miglia in 1927 (driving an Isotta 8A SS). He stayed with Isotta until 1932, joining Maserati as its manager, following the death of his brother Alfieri. After working under Adolfo Orsi’s management (1937–47), he joined his brothers in Bologna (1947) to found the manufacturer O.S.C.A. He lived in Bologna for the remainder of his long life.
Alfieri Maserati was best known for establishing and leading the Maserati racing division. He also worked for Isotta-Fraschini in Milan and followed his older brother Carlo to Bianchi in 1905. He raced and won for the company. He and Ettore rejoined Isotta in 1912 to establish a new market in Argentina, and upon their return, founded the new Milan-based workshop Societa Anonima Officine Alfieri Maserati in 1914. Alfieri and Ettore served in World War I and the workshop was run by his brother Ernesto (1898-1975). The workshop produced spark plugs rather than racing cars for the war effort, but afterwards, a larger production plant was set up in Bologna. After the war, Alfieri won a number of races in the 1920s, but died in Bologna from liver complications related to an accident in 1928.
Between 1914 and 1938, Ettore was in Bologna, involved in business affairs of the brother’s racing car manufacturing. Earnesto’s racing career started in 1924, when he won the Italian driver’s championship in 1927 in the Maserati Tipo 26, in 1930 using the Tipo 8C-2500. After his brother Alfieri Maserati died in 1932, Ernesto became the director and chief engineer, as well as sole racing car driver of the company. The company was sold to Adolfo Orsi in 1937, but the brothers remained on a ten-year contract, Ernesto participating in the design of the Maserati A6 after World War II. He left with Ettore and Bindo (1947) to found the O.S.C.A. car company. He died in Bologna in 1975. The other brother, Mario (1890–1981), was the only brother who had no real interest in cars. He was painter and artist based in Bologna, Milano and Novi Ligure. He did have a lasting effect on the company however; it was Mario who deigned Maserati’s famous trident logo.
Next week, we will begin our look at the Maserati cars. Please send comments to Dave@ItalianTrubune.com.