Although Maserati or the “Societa Anonima Officine Alfieri Maserati’’ to give the renowned producer of luxury sports cars their full title, was generally regarded as being the life’s work of one man, Alfieri Maserati.

In truth, the company’s remarkable rise to success and global recognition was the result of the combined efforts of five of the six Maserati brothers, Alfieri, Bindo, Carlo, Ernesto and Ettore.

Alfieri was the brother who established Maserati, having gained some very valuable experience in automotive engineering working alongside his brother Bindo, firstly at the recently founded Isotta-Fraschini car manufacturing plant in Milan.

After a short spell at Isotta-Fraschini Alfieri and Bindi left to join their older brother Carlo at Milan based motorcycle manufacturer Bianchi.

This was to prove a short term stay as they were soon on their way back to Isotta-Fraschini together with yet another brother, Ettore, taking a long sea journey to help the company establish a plant in Argentina.

In 1912 the brothers Maserati returned to Milan, continuing his association with Isotta-Fraschini, but this time operating an independent service centre on behalf of the company, based in Milan.

Initially, Alfieri worked on his own at his service centre, although it was only within a short time that he became inundated with work, and he gradually enticed two of his brothers, Ettore and Ernesto, both of them skilled mechanics in their own right, to join him in the workshop.

Things continued to flourish at “‘Societa Anonima Officine Alfieri Maserati’, meaning that all five of the Maserati brothers, at one or time or another, were involved with the company, as the flow of work continued unabated.

Soon the Maserati workshop became one of the first places to call on to solve any problems associated with Isotta-Fraschini cars.

In answer to a string of requests, the brothers began to prepare Isotta-Fraschinis to participate in road races that were becoming a significant event in and around Milan.

The brothers themselves were all keen on road racing, which added even further mystique of the company.

Soon the Maseratis were regular participants in racing events, with Alfieri and Ernesto, who had served as a test driver for Isotta-Fraschini showing particular promise.

As the family business flourished, larger premises were found that cleared the way for several other diversifications, a particularly profitable one being the manufacture of spark plugs that were in particularly short supply, especially during the First World War.


With Maserati having come out of World War One in a strong position and the brothers who had served in the Italian army returning home unscathed, the way was set for Alfieri to fulfil his dream of producing a race car under the Maserati label.

The process of building took a lot longer than anyone could have imagined, mainly because Alfieri, to produce the car of his dreams decided to form a collaboration with Diatto, a well known and respected Milanese coachbuilder.

Unknown to Alfieri, Diatto were in dire financial straits meaning that they were unable to meet their financial obligations, leading to a protracted hold up of the project.

In 1925, Diatto went into liquidation, a situation which actually turned out to be a blessing in disguise for Maserati, as the brothers, with the help of some colleagues in the auto production industry, were able to acquire several Diatto produced sport chassis at a knockdown price.

A few months later, the first Maserati, the Tipo 6, was unveiled., making its race track debut at the Targa Florio just a few months later. Driven by Alfieri, and proudly bearing the company’s Neptune's painted on the car by yet another Maserati brother, Mario, the car came first in its class.

Following the success of the Tipo, Maserati began to focus their attentions on building racing cars, releasing a number of new models during the next few years that continued to win races and enhance the company’s reputation.

With the future looking increasingly brighter for Maserati, tragedy struck. While taking part in a race event in Bologna, Alfeira was involved in a serious accident and suffered severe internal injuries.

Although he initially recovered, Alfeira’s health was never the same, and he passed away four years later, aged just 45, from complications caused by surgery to repair his badly damaged liver.

As is often the case, the surviving brothers rallied together to help the company get through this challenging phase, remaining undeterred in the drive to not only produce the finest of track racing cars but also to take in part in events in honour of Alfeira’s memory.

As the Thirties progressed and the dark shadow of Fascism began to pass over Italy, bringing with it a steady decrease in interest in track racing, the company’s profits began to falter, and severe cash flow problems began to set in.

The surviving Maserati brothers found it increasingly difficult to cope with the excessive pressure of keeping the company afloat, and, in 1937, took the wise decision to sell their shares in the company to wealthy Italian industrialist Adolfo Orsi.

It soon transpired that Orsi had his own vision for Maserati, and that was to create a luxury sports car, in the mode of Ferrari.

As part of the terms of the acquisition, the four surviving Maserati brothers were contractually bound to remain with the company for ten years to help Orsi to produce the cars that he foresaw would change the future of “Societa Anonima Officine Alfieri Maserati” and only for the better.

The first step that Orsi took was to bring his son Omer to run the company, with the next being to transfer all of the Maserati production facilities to Modena. Not only was Modena the Orsi family home town as well as home for the cream of Italy’s luxury car producers DeTomaso, Ferrari and Pagani.

Possibly to act as a wedge between the Maserati brothers and his son, Adolfo Orsi successfully “ headhunted” the talented engineer Alberto Massimino from Ferrari.

Adolfo Orsi’s “ Ten Year Plan” to take Maserati to the pinnacle of the luxury sports car niche did not go anywhere near as planned.

To begin, in 1940 Italy found themselves embroiled in Word War Two, suffering a humiliating defeat.

Almost as soon as the declaration of surrender was signed than Orsi began the process of setting his various industrial concerns back to work. However a series of financial problems and industrial disputes saw production being frozen one again.

It wasn’t till late in 1946, with the Maserati brother’s contractual obligations rapidly running out, did the “Societa Anonima Officine Alfieri Maserati” succeed in launching their first production car, the A6.

When the A6 unveiled at the Geneva Car Show of that year, it did not exactly set the heather on fire in terms of sales.

Instead, it did send out out a simple message – that the company was serious in their intentions to establish a presence in the luxury sports sector.

During the Fifties, Maserati, with the brothers now having left the company, the company continued to consolidate, releasing one or two models that showed that the potential was there, although the company’s development was still far away from being what Adolfo Orsi had hoped for.

As the decade proceeded, Orsi’s decision to acquire Maserati was looking more and more like a mistake, especially as the remainder of the family’s business empire was struggling financially.

By 1957 the situation for the Orsi family had become untenable, bringing the decision was made to split the business into parts, with each family member taking responsibility for each division.

As Maserati was Adolfo’s “ baby” he was handed the task of taking the company forward, a move that proved to be remarkably successful.

Focusing their attention on producing passenger vehicles, Maserati began to create increasingly attractive cars.

During the Sixties, with most of their problems behind them, Maserati finally began to produce cars that would go on to become classics- the first being the 3500 GT, which was released in 1959, although updated several times during the Sixties.

In 1962, the first Maserati classic, the Mistral, lighter, sportier and more powerful, setting the standards for Maserati during the Sixties, which was to be a fabulous time for them.

With sales and demand at record levels, the Orsis had proved their point with Maserati, even more so when French auto giant’s Citroen came calling in 1968, presenting a very tempting offer to buy them out, they put up only a token struggle.

How shrewd a move that was only became evident around five years later, when as was the case with almost all of the company’s competing in luxury sports sector, the Seventies was a completely different scenario, with the major financial downturn, driven by a major increase in fuel costs, a double-edged sword held over Maserati’s head.

Citroen didn’t have the ability or desire to lead Maserati away from the abyss, and the company was passed on to state-owned holding company GEPI, who eventually sold it Ferrari, who not long later were swallowed up by the ever voracious Fiat group.

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