5 things you didn't know about Maserati

As you might expect, surviving in the automotive industry for 100 years brings some unusual tales of triumph and tribulation. We've compiled some of the lesser-known facts from Maserati's past...

Making waves

Maserati engines had been used to power nautical racing machines since the 1930s, when World Champion powerboat racer Count Theo Rossi fitted them in his specially made boats – one of which used a pair of Maserati V16s. The 50s and 60s saw Maserati’s six- and eight-cylinder engines increasingly used by the powerboat gentry for their racing runabouts, a likely factor being that engineer Giulio Alfieri (previously a maritime engineer) was now on board. 

Motorbikes... and gender-specific scooters

When, in the early 50s, the Maserati group of companies was divided between the Orsi siblings, an oversight by the notary meant the division which manufactured spark plugs was allowed to continue using both the Maserati name and the Trident logo. Along with a variety of motorcycles, Fabbrica Candele e Accumulatori Maserati also produced a 50cc scooter with gender-specific frame styles: the T2/U (U for Uomo, or man) and the T2/D (D for Donna, or woman), the latter having a step-through frame.

The gangster's choice

It seems that an unusually high proportion of on-screen gangsters have shown a penchant for Maseratis, perhaps tempted by the combination of power and understated luxury. Devious drivers include Johnny Sacrimoni and Christopher Moltisanti from The Sopranos (the same 4200 Coupé), while the villains in Licence To Kill's tanker chase opted for a 425 Biturbo. You can also see a Merak parked next to Tony's Porsche 928 outside the shady Babylon Club in Scarface, and both The Godfather III and an early episode of Miami Vice saw prominent underworld characters  chauffeur-driven in Quattroporte IIIs.

Mussolini's Maserati

It's well-documented that Ferry Porsche designed a car at the behest of Adolf Hitler, but lesser-known is the tale of Maserati's comission to build a V16-engined town car for the personal use of Benito Mussolini, presumably using the engine from the V4/V5 racing cars. The project was abandoned before it came to fruition – perhaps the reason behind Mussolini's preferential switch to Alfa Romeo. He can be seen behind the wheel in the picture above, meeting Tazio Nuvolari (centre) and the rest of the Alfa Romeo racing team.

Beaten by gentility

Some readers will already be familiar with this tale, but as an act of gentlemanly behaviour, it's as good an example of changing times as the Ferrari-Maserati relationship itself. In one of the most thrilling races of its era, the 1956 Monza GP saw legends Moss (Maserati) and Fangio (Ferrari) contesting the season's showdown, with the drivers’ title still to be decided. Fangio’s car encountered mechanical trouble, so his English team-mate Peter Collins gave up his car for him (after his Italian counterpart Luigi Musso had refused), despite being in contention for the Championship himself. The Argentinean’s resulting second-placed finish allowed the pair to split the points, earning Juan Manuel Fangio the title. However, Fangio would bring the Championship trophy to Casa del Tridente the following year.

Photos: Museo Casa Enzo Ferrari; Maserati; Artcurial; IMCDB; Getty Images