Maserati Centenary at Casa Enzo Ferrari – Modena (I)

Earlier in the year, I paid a visit to the Casa Enzo Ferrari, a spectacular new museum opened in a striking new building adjoining the restored house that was the birthplace of Enzo Ferrari, right in the centre of Modena. Only a few weeks after my visit, I saw some press items that reported that in honour of the Maserati Centenary, a special exhibition would be put on in the building, replacing the Ferrari theme. It was scheduled to run from mid June 2014 until the end of January 2015. With most of the cars sourced from private collections, this promised to be quite some display, as indeed those initial reports suggested, so I made plans to return to the area to see for myself. A planned trip to the unmissable Auto Moto d’Epoca in Padua in late October seemed like the perfect opportunity, and sure enough, the day after drooling over all sorts of rare classics at that event, I pointed the rental car west for the short journey from Bologna to Modena. What I found was a display, beautifully laid out, as indeed the Ferraris had been earlier in the year, with a careful selection of cars from the marque’s illustrious history, many of which I had never seen before. The museum was not even very busy. To say I was not disappointed would be an understatement. This display would have been worth the trip in its own right!

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Even in the foyer, my appetite was wetted by a couple of splendid cars. First up was a 1937 6CM. “A car that made me feel confident – even certain – of victory.” So said the great Gigi Villoresi of the 1493cc straight-six car with its cutting-edge independent front suspension. Despite only 27 examples being built, it was dominant in competition, clocking up three Targa Florio victories as a sports car.

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Joining it was a road car, a 1956 A6G/54 Cabrio Frua. This lovely car has a Double Overhead Cam Engine, and is one of the cars that Frua made based on the A6G chassis. Allemano and Zagato also bodied the cars and a Zagato car was in the main display. Frua made just 5 closed versions and a number of Cabrio, and this is one of the first of the second series cars. A further claim to fame is that it is one of the first cars featured in colour in the renowned Italian motoring magazine, Quattroruote.

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As well as cars, there were two boats on show. The newer one has a Maserati connection. Dating from 1959, it is a Motoscafo Timossi-Maserati. Used for racing from 1959 to 1969 in the class for 800 – 900kg boats, this impressive device won 11 consecutive world titles.

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An earlier racing boat was this 1953 Arno XI Ferrari Hydroplane. Built for the 800kg racing class, it claimed a World Speed Record of 241. 708 km/h in 1953, using its 4493cc V12 Ferrari engine which was derived from a unit that powered Formula 1 cars of the era.

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Appetite duly whetted, it was time to enter the main display. There was a slight pause, as every 20 minutes, the museum darkens and a very well put together video is projected onto the main wall of the curved building, and whilst it is playing, the security guard discourages people from opening the doors. I knew what this was from my previous visit: a tribute to what Enzo achieved and it is something that you really should see. There are no spoken words but there’s lots of stirring Italian music to accompany some period footage. It truly does pay tribute to an incredible man. Needless to say, everyone stops to watch. Video clips from a snowy Modena, town of his birth through his racing career to the success of the road cars all feature, and it ends with Puccini’s Nessum Dorma blasting out of the sound system and the simple words “Grazie Enzo” on the screen. It is impossible not to be moved by it when you see it. In fact, as well as the tribute to Enzo Ferrari that I had seen last time, there was also a special feature on Maserati which also played while I was there. Anyway, pause over, it was time to see what treasures lay within. And they were marvellous, all of them.

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Although the Maserati company was founded in 1914, the first cars to bear the famous name did not appear until 1926. Fittingly, that is why it is called the Tipo 26. 43 of these cars were made, with a variety of engines from 1100 to 2500cc. This is a Tipo 26B and dates from 1929.

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One of the most impressive feats of engineering was to be seen in this, the Tipo V4 Sport Zagato. This car has a 16 cylinder engine, created by Alfieri Maserati combining two of the 2 litre engines from the Tipo 26. Signor Borzacchini secured a World Speed Record, driving one of these at 246 km/h in the flying 10 kilometres at Cremona in 1929. These cars generally were not raced, though. This particular example was built in 1932 for a Dr Galeazzi, who had it rebodied with a Zagato body in 1934.

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The 1934 Tipo 8CM was the last car to bear an engine designed by Alfieri Maserati, who had passed away in 1932. A 3 litre, it put out nearly 250 bhp, which was an impressive output for the day. Not surprisingly, this car enjoyed much success on the race tracks, and was piloted by one Tazio Nuvolari.

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Things moved on with the 1935 V8RI. The first Maserati explicitly designed for a Grand Prix, this car had a V8 engine and weight was confined to 750kg. Just 4 were made.

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The Tipo 8CTF, dating from 1938 was widely regarded as being the only car capable of beating the Germans in 1938 and 1939. Designed by Ernesto Maserati, this car was successful in the Formula Grand Prix for 3 litre cars.

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The 4CLT models first appeared in 1939, and sported many new design innovations, including a tubular chassis. The car continued to be enhanced after the war, and one of the final developments of the 4CL series, the 6CM replacement had a tubular chassis and from 1948 a two-stage supercharger that helped eke 260bhp from the 1490cc straight-four. Popular with Juan Manuel Fangio early in his career, it was also the model that took Alberto Ascari to victory in the San Remo Grand Prix of 1948.

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During the mid 1950s, Maserati produced a series of racing cars where the bodies and engines were frequently changed around, so telling them apart is almost impossible. This is a 300S and dates from 1955. It was the most successful racer of its era, winning many races in the three year period through to 1957, taking Stirling Moss to victory in 9 out of 16 occasions when he drove it. This particular car is one of the first series models, with the short nose.

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In 1960, Maserati produced something quite distinctive, the Tipo 60 “Birdcage”. It is so nicknamed because of the unusual construction, which when you take away the body work does indeed look like a birdcage. Giulia Alfieri designed the chassis. It took Moss and Gurney to victory in the 1960 1000km of the Nurburgring, the most testing race of the year, and the feat was repeated in 1961. This really is a Tipo 60. There was a (better known) Tipo 61, which looks the same, but with a larger engine.

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Final 1950s race car of the display was the one which needs no introduction to most people, the iconic 250F. Truly one of the greatest single-seaters of all time, and unquestionably the best looking with the possible exception of the Lotus 25, it was developed by Gioachino Colombo in 1953, but was continually developed by Giulio Alfieri and Valerio Colotti, which kept it competitive for as long as 2500cc cars could be. Juan Manuel Fangio took two of his five world titles in 250Fs and it was the car which really got Sir Stirling Moss into Formula 1. Sir Stirling is still extremely enthusiastic about this car, rating it above all others, and this is the very car in which he scored his first World Championship points in 1954.

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The first Maserati road car appeared in 1947, the A6 1500. This 1947 in-line six was the first road car produced by Maserati. With Pinin Farina bodywork, the car had been in the pipeline from as early as 1940 and work even continued on it during World Waw 2, but it did not emerge until two years after the conflict ended. There were two prototypes, this one being displayed at the 1st Italian Coachwork Show in the Triennale Exhibition, Milan. Rediscovered in Argentina, this car has since been restored to original condition.

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Maserati launched a new road car range in 1954, the A6G/54. They provided the chassis and the mechanical parts, but left it to a number Italian coachbuilders to provide the body, with Frua, Allemano and Zagato all coming up with their own designs. The last produced just one open topped Spyder model and 20 Berlinetta models, all of the slightly different, some with the distinctive “double bubble” roof.

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The next new Maserati first appeared at the 1957 Geneva Show, the 3500GT. Again, Maserati intended to leave it to the coachbuilders to produce the bodywork, with offerings from both Touring and Allemano on display at that Show. It was the Touring design which was adopted for “mass” production, with its superleggera construction being cited as one of the reasons. The car entered production by 1959, and was continuously updated, with niceties such as disc brakes and fuel injection added before it was replaced in 1964.

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An open topped car was added to the range, with this one, the prototype, being show at the 1959 Turin Show, and production starting in 1960. Styled by Michelotti for Vignale, this is a supremely elegant machine and values are rising accordingly at present.

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Maserati planned to offer a smaller and cheaper car to complement the 3500GT, and they showed a prototype at the 1957 Turn Show, the 1500GT Spider. Using the engine from the 150S race car, it had a stylish body by Fantuzzi, but sadly the car did not enter production.

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In 1958, the Shah of Persia commissioned Maserati to produce the “fastest car in the world”. Taking the engine from the 450S racer, they tuned it down a bit, and working with Touring, built a chassis which was sent to Allemano for clothing in a distinctive body, the 5000GT.

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33 more were made, with bodies by Bertone, Frua, Ghia, Michelotti and PininFarina. This one also has an Allemano body, and was sold new to a wealthy US customer who paid $12,000 for it. It is the first prototype for the models that followed, and was made in 1961.

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When it came to replace the 3500GT, Maserati decided to produce two different cars. The first was a beautiful two door Coupe., the Frua styled Mistral, the first of a series of Maserati models to be named after a wind. It first appeared at the Turin Show in 1963. A strict two seater, it had an opening glass tailgate, which made it surprisingly practical, and with an airier better-sighted and more comfortable cabin than most ifs rivals, this was a true Grand Tourer. Covering the multi-tubular chassis that was constructed to the same principles as the famous Birdcage race cars, the bodies were made from a mix of aluminium and steel The first cars had a 6 cylinder 3500cc engine which put out 235 bhp, and a ZF manual gearbox, giving it a top speed of 140 mph. The twin-plug engine with the Lucas Fuel Injection first seen on the 3500GT grew first to 3700cc and then to 4 litres. This latter could hit 60 mph in well under 7 seconds and would run out beyond 150 mph. An open topped car was launched at the the Geneva Show the following year. It was fearsomely expensive when new, listing in the UK in 1964 at £5685, when you could get a Rolls Royce Silver Cloud for £100 less, or purchase 3 Jaguar E Types, though all Ferrari models of the day were more costly (just). Production continued until 1970, by which time 828 Coupes and 120 Spiders had been, just 20 of which had right hand drive.

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The other replacement was a four door saloon car, the evocative sounding Quattroporte, which of course just means “Four Doors” in Italian. This rapid express was the fastest four door car on the market and sold in surprising quantity becoming the main stay of the range for the rest of the decade.

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Another achingly pretty Coupe arrived in 1966, the Ghibli. Designed by the young Giorgietto Giugiaro who was still at Ghia, this 4.7 litre Coupe gained an open topped stablemate before the engine was enlarged to 4.9 litres making it the SS. This car was a real rival to the V12 Ferraris of the day, though prices do not yet reflect this.

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Bringing things much more up to date was this fabulous MC12 dating from 2006. These cars were always somewhat overshadowed by the Ferrari Enzo, but they were phenomenally successful in FIA GT Championship racing, taking the title from 2005 to 2011.

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For a glimpse into the future, the Alfieri Concept that was first shown at the 2014 Geneva Show concluded the main display. We are promised something very similar in the range in 2016.

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Adjoining the striking new building is the old house and workshop that belonged to the Ferrari family, where Enzo grew up Most of the ground floor has been cleared, though the office remains set up as before. Some of the star Ferrari exhibits that I was able to enjoy in the museum on my last visit were displayed in this building, giving another chance to see them and from new angles.

First car in the display is the 1903 De Dion Bouton, a small car, which was owned by Enzo’s father and which is partly responsible for sparking the initial interest in cars in the young Enzo.

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Not everything else in the display was a Ferrari, either, reflecting the fact that Enzo started out his career as an “employee”, initially of now forgotten marque CMN and then at Alfa Romeo. Although in later life, Enzo’s team would go on to compete vigorously against Alfa, just like any other rival, it is said that he never lost his affection and profound respect for the marque, and when you see the beautiful machines that the Milanese marque produced in the 1920s and 1930s, and learn how dominant they were in motorsport at the time, it is not hard to see why. During the 1920s, Enzo came to realise that his days as a race driver were over, and he set up his own racing team, Scuderia Ferrari.  One of the cars from this era – a personal favourite of mine – was the  8 cylinder 8C2300. On show was a 1932 8C2300 Spider Corsa, the model which won the Mille Miglia in 1932, 1933 and 1934. In his Scuderia Ferrari team, Enzo himself competed in this model in 1931 and was placed second, behind legendary Alfa driver Tazio Nuvolari.

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Placed along side the 8C was an even more important Alfa in the history of Ferrari, this being the 1924 RL Targa Florio. It was the car in which the young Enzo won the Coppa Acerbo in 1924, and which he had driven in the 1923 Targa Florio.

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By 1937, Scuderia Ferrari had designed another legendary Alfa, the fantastic 158. It made its debut at the Grand Prix in Livorno in July that year and continued to evolve, with more and more power being added, until it reached 425 bhp. When you consider how small and light this car is, you can imagine that it was astonishingly fast, and also required some skilled and courageous drivers to get the best out of it. The 158 continued to be developed after the War, culminating in the 159 model which appeared in 1951.

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Long before the emergence of the Alfa 159, Ferrari had achieved his ambition of building his own cars. The first one, called the Ferrari with no name, was the 1940 Auto Avio Construzioni 815. That is not on show at present, so the earliest car with the legendary Ferrari name that you see is the 125S, which first appeared in 1947. As well as being the first car to bear the Ferrari name, it was unique at the time in sporting a V12 engine. It won the first race in which it competed, the 1947 Rome GP. Sadly, this is not the original, which has been destroyed, but this is a very faithful replica of that car.

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The great Alberto Ascari won 11 out of 15 races with this 1952 Ferrari 500 F2, and dominated the sport. Ferrari won the title in 1952 and 1953.

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Ferrari’s dominance of the sport continued throughout the next few years, with a Ferrari  winning 8 out of 10 Mille Miglia between 1947 and 1955, and a roll call of drivers that included Biondetti, Marcotto, Villoresi, Braccio, Cetelotti and Taroffi. This 750 Monza model dates from 1954.

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One road car features, a fabulous 365 GTC from 1970.

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This is the 1987 F1-87 car. It was in this car that, just 28 days after Enzo’s death, the Ferrari drivers of Gerhard Berger and Michele Alboreto scored an emphatic 1, 2 victory in the Italian Grand Prix at Monza. A more fitting tribute to Il Commendatore there could not have been.

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Enzo Ferrari died in 1987, but the firm which bears his name has lived on, and thrived, with ever greater levels of popularity being generated in the ensuing year. 25 years after his death, in 2002, when a new hypercar was launched, it was endowed with his name. A crowd puller even now, 12 years later, there is a 2002 Enzo Ferrari in this display, and it seemed to be a magnet to everyone who was visiting.

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This is an incredible place. There may be only 20 cars on show, but it is well worth the entry fee. If you go to the Galleria Ferrari in nearby Maranello as well, then it is just €13 to get in, and worth every Cent of that. More details can be found on the museum’s own website:

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