By the late 1950s Maserati had been under the ownership of the Orsi family for roughly two decades, this didn’t however dilute the brand’s focus on motorsport by any degree. Its post war roadcars like the 4CLT and the A6 series, though very competent, were still only secondary in importance to the company’s racing program.
The Maserati 3500 GT grand tourer though was a departure from this trend. The company felt that a big GT produced in numbers greater than previously seen from them was the logical progression. So in 1956, Chief engineer Giulio Alfieri set about enlarging the 3.0 litre straight six from the 300S to a 3.5 litre six. The engine was initially designed for endurancing racing in the 350S but certain changes likes a switch to a wet sump oil system and modified engine ancillaries saw it being fit for duty in the 3500 GT. In road going spec, the 12-valve straight-six engine produced 217 bhp with the Weber carburetors and 232 bhp with the Lucas fuel injection setup. The transmission was a 4-speed ZF gearbox which by the end of production in 1964 had been replaced by a ZF 5-speed.
The Maserati 3500 GT sat on a tubular platform chassis of superleggera construction. The front suspension was a double wishbone coil springs setup. The rear saw the use of a Salisbury solid axle on semi-elliptic leaf springs. Anti-roll bars were fitted both front and back. The production run started with drum brakes all around but these were eventually replaced with discs.
The aluminium bodies were coachbuilt, as was the norm then. Of the 2,223 coupe and convertibles produced between 1957 and 1964, most were built by Touring. The car seen here and up for auction at RM Sotheby’s Amelia Island sale though is especially unique, given that it is only one of four Maserati 3500 GTs coachbuilt by Frua. This couchbuilder’s style of intricate detailing can be seen on the delicate chrome accents throughout the car, including miniature Maserati tridents above the quarter windows. Further unique details include the quad headlamps and the thin wraparound bumpers. This car was built in 1961 and shipped to the US in the 70s. It has been restored to original spec and has had a string of known Maserati collectors as owners.
The Maserati 3500 GT is significant for being the first Maserati to have been made keeping a wide audience in mind. To this effect, the present day Ghibli and Quattroporte sedans and the Levante SUV can be seen as spiritual successors to this car. These cars, in vastly different times, were deveoped with similar objectives of making the Maserati brand accessible to more people than before.
Photos Courtesy- Erik Fuller for RM Sotheby’s