Maserati’s story begins with five brothers who were in love with the automobile industry. Carlo was the oldest, then Bindo, Alfieri, Ettore, and Ernesto, the baby. There were actually two more Maserati boys, Alfieri I, who died as an infant, and Mario, who became an artist and cared very little about the automotive world, though he did design Maserati’s famous trident logo, taking his inspiration from the Fountain of Neptune statue in their home city of Bologna, Italy.
But Carlo, Bindo, Alfieri, Ettore, and Ernesto were all determined to make it in the competitive and burgeoning Italian automotive trade. Carlo began in the bicycle business where he invented a combustion engine that could be used to soup-up bikes and was very popular at that time. Bindo was a mechanic at the once famous Isotta Fraschini car company that went out of business in the late 1990s. Alfieri also worked at Isotta Fraschini with his big brother, who got him the job, and he would go on to become Maserati’s de facto leader. Ettore worked for the Junior car company and Ernesto also worked as a mechanic but had a successful racing career as well.
The brothers founded Maserati on December 1, 1914. The business was a genuine family-run operation with Alfieri at the helm, though all of the brothers participated in the mechanics of their new models and on the financial end as well. World War I slowed things down a bit, as all of the brothers, except for Ernesto, joined in the fight. But the Maserati boys were nothing if not resilient and their little brother kept things at home churning along by manufacturing a sizable amount of spark plugs to aid in the war effort.
Quite a while after the brothers returned from the war, the first car manufactured by, what was then called the Societa Anonima Officine Alfieri Maserati, was the 1926 Tipo 26. True to their roots, the brothers used a chassis from Isotta Fraschini and a transmission from the Società Ceirano Automobili Torino in Turin. It debuted in the Mille Miglia, a famous endurance road race held in Brescia between the 1920s and 1950s.
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Though Maserati was fairly successful in their early years, the company was dealt a crushing blow when Alfieri died on the operating table in 1932, while doctors were trying to address complications he’d suffered from a car wreck some years before. The rest of the brothers sold their shares five years later to Adolfo Orsi, an extremely wealthy Italian industrialist, and the Maserati company began the next phase of their existence.
Why is it called Maserati?
The brothers wanted to stake their claim on the Italian automotive market and turn their name and innovative designs into a legendary brand. Though the name is now synonymous with their mission statement, which is to “Build ultra-luxury performance automobiles with timeless Italian style, accommodating bespoke interiors, and effortless, signature sounding power,” it’s important to remember where Maserati started, with five brothers who loved racing, mechanics, and automobiles more than anything else.
Though the middle brother, Alfieri, gets most of the credit for the company’s success, Maserati was a family business from the start and that commitment to family ideals is still evident in their impressive and legendary cars. Can you think of other popular family-run car companies? Comment below!
Travis McDonald is a professional freelance writer who creates content for a wide variety of clients. He received his bachelor’s in English from The University of Texas at Austin and his MFA in creative writing from Virginia Tech.