Year of manufacture1961
In November 1958, Reza Pahlavi, the Shah of Iran, met with Maserati executives Orsi and Alfieri and outlined his concept for a new supercar. Envisioning an automobile befitting his Imperial Highness, the Shah expressed his desire to have a luxurious gran turismo, similar to the contemporary 3500 GT, fitted with the powerful V-8 engine found in the 450S sports racing car. Accepting the Shah’s request, Maserati created one of the most extraordinary automobiles of all time: the 5000 GT, known internally as Tipo 103.
At the heart of the 5000 GT was a magnificent five-liter engine equipped with exotic dual-overhead camshafts, hemispherical combustion chambers, and twin spark ignition. Though the first two examples had slightly detuned 450S engines, Maserati further developed the powerplant for road use, revising the internal dimensions and replacing the noisy competition-spec gear drive with more conventional timing chains. A more notable change was the introduction of Lucas mechanical fuel injection, which replaced the 450S engine’s Weber carburetors. Although it was relatively complex, the fuel injection system made the engine more user-friendly and improved throttle response across the entire power band.
The 5000 GT chassis was based on the 3500 GT, but specially engineered to handle the increased power and weight. A ZF manual gearbox and twin-plate clutch delivered power to the rear wheels, while state-of-the-art Girling disc brakes helped slow the car from its astonishing 150-plus mph top speed.
Between 1960 and 1965, Maserati built just 34 examples of the 5000 GT, with eight different Italian coachbuilders – including Allemano, Frua, Touring, Ghia, and Pinin Farina – supplying their own distinct designs. Priced at a staggering $14,000 when new, the exclusive 5000 GT was a direct rival to Ferrari’s 400 Superamerica and attracted an elite clientele. Notable customers included Fiat-boss Gianni Agnelli, American sportsman Briggs Cunningham, Italian industrialist Ferdinando Innocenti, actor Stewart Granger, and King Saud of Saudi Arabia.
Of the 34 Maserati 5000 GTs built, surely the most famous and desirable are the three examples bodied by Carrozzeria Touring of Milan. These magnificent Touring-bodied 5000 GTs are often referred to as the ‘Scia di Persia,’ because the first produced, chassis 103.002, was delivered new to the Shah of Iran in October 1959. The second example, chassis 103.004, was displayed at the 1959 Torino Motor Show and sold to its first owner in South Africa in March 1960. The car presented here is the third and final Touring-bodied 5000 GT built; it has had a long and fascinating history, which has been carefully documented by Maserati historian Dott. Adolfo Orsi.
Completed in spring 1960, this 5000 GT was retained by the Maserati factory through 1961 and used for a variety of promotional duties, including display at leading European motor shows. It was also the car Maserati used to test the experimental Tipo 104 engine, an all-new 3,850 cc V-8 intended to replace the venerable 3.5-liter twin-cam inline six used in the 3500 GT.
This 5000 GT made its public debut at the Geneva Motor Show in March 1960, wearing light pastel blue paint over a white leather interior. In its original iteration, this car was equipped with wire wheels, a chromed radiator grille with three horizontal trim strips, and side marker lights located between the front wheel arch and door.
After the Geneva show, the 5000 GT returned to the Maserati factory, where it was repainted in a metallic blue called Azzurro Vincennes (Vincennes Blue) and retrimmed with black leather upholstery. At this time, the grille was revised, the side marker lights were relocated, the headlights were placed over a chromed oval plate, and different bumper over-riders, door handles, and windscreen wipers were fitted. In this updated form, the 5000 GT was shown at the Torino Motor Show in November 1960.
It was not until May 1961 that Maserati issued a Certificate of Origin for chassis 103.010, hence the 1961 model year. At this same time, the 5000 GT was officially sold to Fonderie di Modena, a Modena-based company owned by Antonio “Umbertino” Orsi, a cousin of Omer Orsi, who controlled the Maserati company. The car was then registered in Modena as ‘MO 66158’ and presented to Antonio Orsi on June 3, 1961, at the conclusion of his wedding lunch for use on his honeymoon.
Later that year, Antonio Orsi and his wife Claudia entered the 5000 GT in the Concorso d’Eleganza at Rimini, where it was reportedly declared Best of Show. By the time of this exhibition, the 5000 GT had already been modified again, having been painted metallic red and featuring other cosmetic changes, including new fog lights in lieu of bumper over-riders.
Also in 1961, the car’s experimental Tipo 104 engine was replaced by a 5.7-liter V-8; this was subsequently replaced with the first Lucas fuel-injected Tipo 103 five-liter V-8. Finally, on February 4, 1962, the 5000 GT was fitted with the current engine, a fuel-injected Tipo 103 V-8, numbered AM103.010.
In August 1962, Aurelio Bertocchi, Maserati’s shop foreman and personal friend of Antonio Orsi, displayed AM103.010 at the Concorso d'Eleganza at Rimini. That November, the 5000 GT was sold to former Formula One driver Cesare Perdisa, who served as the official Maserati dealer in Bologna. The car was immediately resold to Mario Pellucchini of Pesaro and registered as ‘PS 31530.’
In February 1963, AM103.010 was sold to Professor Fabio Columella, the renowned Italian brain surgeon who already owned another Maserati 5000 GT, the Monterosa-bodied car, chassis AM103.012. At the time, Professor Columella was performing surgeries at clinics in Bologna and Milan, and he used his high-performance Maseratis to make the commute on the new Autostrada del Sole, reportedly covering the 200 km distance in less than an hour. He retained AM103.010 through fall 1964, then returned it to the factory after an engine bay fire.
In 1965, Captain Sergio Pettenella saw the Touring-bodied 5000 GT at the factory and asked Maserati to refurbish and update the car on behalf of Prince Abdel Magin Ben Saud, a member of the Saudi royal family who was then living in Lebanon. At this point, AM103.010 underwent yet another transformation at the Maserati factory. A new grille, air intakes, chrome side moldings, and 15" Borrani wire wheels were fitted, along with a new exhaust system and other cosmetic updates. Inside, the cockpit was heavily updated with new controls, gauges, steering wheel, passenger headrest, a Frigiking air-conditioning unit, and a high-end stereo system with a built-in record player. Maserati also renumbered the car as AM103.090, perhaps to give the impression that the well-travelled 5000 GT was a much newer car. Completed in November 1965, the updated car was sold for $13,000 and shipped to its new owner in Beirut.
Four years later, the 5000 GT was returned to the Maserati factory by its then owner, Kierun Thompson, an employee of the Arabian American Oil Company. The Maserati remained in the Modena area until 1975, when a Swedish enthusiast named Ian Svanback acquired it. During his ownership, the bodywork was refinished in matte black paint and a Roman specialist carried out a mechanical restoration. Late in the 1970s, Mr. Svanback traded the Maserati to Giovanni Giordanengo, the proprietor of a body shop in Piedmont.
During the 1980s, Sig. Giordanengo restored the 5000 GT, refinished the body in Blue Acapulco, and entered it in the first Carrozzeria Touring Superleggera meeting, held in Bassano del Grappa. From there, the Maserati passed through the hands of two Milanese owners and was shown at the ‘Maserati 80 Anni’ concours held in Modena during 1994. Later that year, the 5000 GT was sold to Italian collector Igor Zanisi who later commissioned an engine rebuild that included new valve seats for improved running on unleaded fuel.
Since 1999, this 5000 GT has been a fixture in a prominent American collection, where it has resided alongside some of the most significant coachbuilt Maserati GT cars. During the consignor’s ownership, much research was conducted into the car’s early history and a comprehensive restoration was started with the goal of returning AM103.010 to its most elegant configuration, as it appeared in late 1961 and early 1962, while under Antonio Orsi’s ownership.
Nice Rides Restoration of LaSalle, Colorado oversaw the cosmetic restoration, which involved stripping the bodywork to bare metal, refinishing it in the proper Azzurro Vincennes color, and preparing the chrome and brightwork. Invoices for this work are included in the car’s file.
As this process was underway, the consignor’s in-house mechanic rebuilt the gearbox, suspension, and braking system in preparation for installation, while a local specialist trimmed the seats and door panels in proper black leather. As the engine had seen little use since its Italian overhaul, it was not rebuilt; however, the Lucas fuel injection system was completely overhauled and bench tested by well-known specialist Kinsler Fuel Injection of Troy, Michigan.
As offered today, this historic Maserati remains in partially restored condition, giving its new caretaker the opportunity to complete this most interesting and worthy project and then campaign it on the international concours circuit, where it is sure to garner serious attention.
As the last of just three Touring-bodied 5000 GTs, AM103.010 is undoubtedly among the most extraordinary Maserati automobiles – a car which represents the zenith of the company’s GT production in the 1960s. Not only is this an exceedingly rare and special machine, its long and fascinating history has