Twenty years ago, in December 1996, Brooks auctioned a nice original Maserati 3500 GT Spider for £29,000. In February 2015 Artcurial sold one in similar condition for £620,000. Nevertheless, this model seems relatively inexpensive. Why, you may ask, is the Maserati 3500 GT/GTI Spider such an interesting car? And what is today’s price level of the Spider compared with those of other open-top sports cars from the same era?
Maserati originated in car racing. The brand was founded by four brothers. Until the second world war Maserati mainly made racing cars. As the company came to the end of the 1930s in financial problems, it received the support of Omer and Adolfo Orsi. At the same time they took over the management. Shortly after the war, the remaining brothers left Maserati and founded OSCA. Meanwhile, Maseraty was very successful in racing with the 250F. However, in order to be able to survive, the factory had to focus on the development of a sports car and sell it in larger numbers. The Maserati 3500 GT Coupe by Touring brought this success to the company. It was presented in 1957 at the Motor Show of Geneva.
Starting point was the engine from the 350S racing car. The alloy six-cylinder in-line engine with double overhead camshafts had 220 hp. The maximum speed was approximately 145 mph. All around were drum brakes fitted. Front disc brakes became optional in 1959. From 1960 front disc brakes were standard and starting in 1962 these were around standard. Initially the 3500 GT had three Weber carburetors. Starting from 1961, a fuel injection system made by Lucas was used increasing the engine power to 235 hp. At the same time the name of the model changed to 3500 GTi. These technical changes were also applied to the Spider.
In these years the American market was the most important in the world. Although the Superleggera Coupe by Touring was a great success, in the USA there was also growing demand for an open version. In 1959 Vignale showed a Spider at the Paris Motor Show. This car was designed by Giovanni Michelotti. The 3500 GT Spider was based on a shortened chassis, so it offered space for only two persons. The design of Michelotti was more modern than the Touring Coupe, with a stylish shoulder of the rear fender above the wheel arches. Short time later the Spider was taken in series production. Unlike the Superleggera Coup, the Spider did not have an aluminum coachwork. The body was made of steel. To reduce some weight, the hood and boot lid were made of aluminum. A hardtop was an option and some 40 of these were made. From 1959 to 1964 Vignale built 242 Spiders.
The Maserati 3500 GT/GTi Spider competed with the Aston Martin DB4 Convertible by Touring, the Ferrari 250 GT Convertible by Pinin Farina and the Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Roadster:
The Aston Martin DB4 Saloon was introduced in 1958 and had an aluminum six-cylinder in-line engine with an output of 240 hp. The car reached a top speed of nearly 140 mph. From the beginning, disc brakes were fitted all around. In addition to the Saloon, in October 1961 the Aston Martin DB4 Convertible appeared. Until 1963, 38 Convertibles were made. In addition to the DB4 Convertible with the standard engine, Aston Martin also offered a stronger version, the DB4 Vantage Convertible. Aston Martin made only 32 copies of the last model. In total, Aston Martin sold only 70 open versions of the DB4.
The Ferrari 250 GT Convertible Series II was presented in 1959. In essence the Convertible Series II was an open version of the 250 GT Coupe by Pinin Farina. Its mechanicals were similar to most of the cars in the 250 line. The aluminum twelve cylinder engine had a capacity of just under 3 liters and an output of 240 hp. The top speed was about 140 mph. Just like the Aston Martin disc brakes were mounted on all four wheels. The Ferrari had two seats. Pinin Farina made approximately 200 Series II Convertibles.
The Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Roadster appeared in 1957 on the market. The car had a six-cylinder in-line engine with an output of 215 hp. Top speed was about 135 mph. Just like the Maserati, the Mercedes had initially drums brakes. From 1961 disc brakes were fitted. Later an alloy engine became available. Only 218 cars had disc brakes and an alloy engine and these are most wanted. Until 1963 Mercedes-Benz made 1.858 Roadsters.
The last twenty years all four models have strongly increased in value. But the Maserati is the least wanted. Until 2012, the Maserati’s sold for less than £220,000 at auction. Then the cars increased in value very fast. In 2015 a record auction price was set when converted nearly £900.000 was paid. But in 2016 £650.000 was the most achievable at auction.
The Aston Martin DB4 Convertible was auctioned in far lower numbers. Until 2010 the cars were auctioned for less than £300,000. It layers the cars a bit higher in the market than the Maserati 3500 GT/GTi Spider. After 2010 the value of the Aston Martin DB4 Convertible increased fast. The highest auction result in 2015 for an Aston Martin DB4 Convertible was £964,700 and by 2016 the amount of £1.1 million was reached.
For a long time, the Ferrari 250 GT Convertible Series II performed similar at auction. With one exception, until 2012 this Ferrari reached less than £300,000 at auction. Following the lead of other Ferraris, the Convertible increased in value in short time. The highest auction result in 2015 for a Ferrari Convertible Series II was £1.4 million. In 2016 several cars sold over a million pounds at auction.
The Mercedes was – for a long time – the most sought after and therefore most expensive Roadster. Steadily the 300 SL Roadster increased in value to more than £400,000 at auction in 2010. In 2014 and 2015 up till £1.2 million was paid at auction. Then the price dropped. In 2016 several cars were auctioned for less than a million pounds, a single was sold for more.
While the last three open sports cars sell at auction to over a million pounds, the Maserati sells until now far below.
All four cars perform on paper technically similar. But there is a big difference in production numbers. With this in mind, the Aston Martin (70) should be the most sought after, followed by the Ferrari (200) and the Maserati (242). By far Mercedes (1,858) made the most cars. Nevertheless, the auction results of the Maserati currently tends to be a third lower than the other three cars.
That the appreciation for the Maserati stayed behind, is influenced by a number of factors. But perhaps the most important factor is the image of Maserati since the 1970s versus the strong image of the other brands. However, with the introduction of a new series of sporty models in recent years, the image of Maserati can only improve. This perhaps offers perspective for the Maserati 3500 GT/GTi Spider to catch up in value with the other cars made by Aston Martin, Ferrari and Mercedes-Benz.
1961 Maserati 3500 GT Spider. Geveild door Artcurial in februari 2015 voor € 834.400 (£ 620.000). Foto Artcurial.