It’s been said that all roads lead to Rome — but for the moment, we’re headed in the opposite direction, racing up the autostrade in the general direction of Modena. You could call that part of Italy “Speed Central,” because it’s the home of more high-performance automotive marques than any other city in the world. Ferrari and Lamborghini are the two most likely to come to mind, but not long ago, you’d have also mentioned Maserati. And you may again soon.
There’s a generation of Americans who likely don’t even know the name Maserati. Founded in 1914 by the four Italian brothers who gave the company their name, Maserati earned a justifiably fearsome reputation on tracks around the world during the first half of the century. Piloted by the likes of the legendary Juan Manuel Fangio, Sterling Moss and Phil Hill, its racecars captured a procession of Grand Prix championships, as well as two pre-War wins at the Indianapolis 500.
Even after the automaker abandoned the sport, road cars like the Ghibli Coupe, Quattroporte and Bora created a mystique that made Maserati a favorite among affluent performance aficionados. But the automaker’s fortunes took a tumble in the 1980s and ‘90s. Eccentric owner Alessandro de Tomaso made a series of dubious business moves, including one linking Maserati to Chrysler in an abortive effort to produce a reasonably priced roadster, the dubious TC. Quality problems led to a collapse in sales and a decade ago, nearly bankrupt, the marque was forced to pull out of the U.S. market entirely.