12 cylinder engines of Maserati

The name Maserati conjures different images to different people. If, say, you remember the first Mille Miglia or other races of the day you may remember Alfieri or Ernesto Maserati as builders and drivers of some of the best race cars of the era. For some who remember this era, it was the ever talented Nuvolari who was, the only person able to beat the all conquering Mercedes/Auto Unions, at the wheel of his Maserati. For some the name brings back images of the golden years of F1, the tipo 250f, and all of it's successes. Still for others it was the brilliant GT cars of the sixties and seventies. Exotic, but seemingly very practical when compared to their cross town rivals at the time (Ferrari).

The name Maserati, first and fore most belongs to the family, that produced the Maserati brothers. There were seven Maserati brothers (born to Rodolfo Maserati and Carolina Losi) Carlo b 1881; Bindo b 1883; Alfieri b 1885 (he died in infancy and his name was given to the next son) Alfieri b 1887; Mario b 1890; Ettore b 1894 and Ernesto b 1898 Each brother helped contribute in some way to the company that still bears their family name.

Carlo the eldest brother was the first to actually build a car. This single cylinder engine with the very simple chassis was the first ever Maserti. Carlo worked for Junior, and was the director. He built not only cars but was actually commissioned to build aircraft engines as well. While working for junior Carlo raced cars himself.

Carlo raced a Bianchi at the 1907 Coppa Florio, unfortunately he had to stop often to replace the low voltage ignition breaker arms. He still finished seventh. After that Carlo began replacing low voltage systems with high voltage ones, which alleviated these problems.

Carlo resigned from Junior, and he took over a plant formerly devoted to pharmaceuticals. There Carlo with Ettore converted many ignitions to the high voltage type for private customers. Carlo was working on a radial aircraft engine that he was commissioned to build during this time. Carlo fell ill and died at age 29, the radial engine was never finished.

The birth of Maserati the trademark as we know it happened on April 25, 1926, at the start of the Targa Florio. At that race Alfieri introduced and drove the first Maserati "production" car. This was the first car to bear the Maserati Trident. The symbol was taken from Giambologna's Neptune designed by his brother Mario, and was to become the signifying feature of future Maseratis. Alfieri drove a brillaint races, first in class, and ahead of many other larger displacement machines even though he had to stop once for a burst radiator hose!!

Alfieri had started Officine Alfieri Maserati in 1914, and this is where the brothers continued their car building and race efforts. The type 26 went on to win several races, and I will include a story about the type 26, for its place in Maserati history needs a chapter unto itself. Suffice it to say, Maserati was on the map, building cars for customers and winning races. Thus Maserati started building race cars. Currently only 4 automotive manufacturers exist that were founded on racing. These are Maserati, Ferrari, Lotus, and Mclaren, of these 4 Maserati is the oldest by far.

From 1932 till 1939, after Alfieri's death, Maserati cars were built and raced by Ernesto. Ernesto was also the soul engine designer after Alfieri's death. He drove the cars with some success and this lead to many of his sales his sales.

In 1938-1939 Maserati was absorbed into Orsi Group, this after winning the Indianapolis 500 twice, almost 3 times. The firm was then moved to Modena, where it is still based today. Shortly after WW II The remaining Maserati Brothers left the firm that bears their name and started OSCA.