The definitive Gran Turismo of its era, the Maserati 3500 GT debuted in 1957 and was the company's first genuine series-production road car. Maserati's three decades as constructors of perhaps the world's finest racing cars showed in every detail of the elegant Touring-bodied coupe, from its exquisite, race-derived 3.5-liter engine through its impeccable road manners, fine brakes and faultless build quality. Here was a car to rival the best that Stuttgart, Newport Pagnell and Maranello had to offer.
This Norwegian-owned Maserati 3500 GT is an older US restoration, described by the vendor as a totally reliable driver in presentable but not perfect cosmetic condition. The owner has driven the car three times from Norway to the south of France and the only problem he has ever encountered is a windshield wiper blade falling off during a British rainstorm. The car is ideally specified, with carburetors, front disc brakes and a five-speed ZF gearbox. It has alloy Borrani wheels, black carpets and leather upholstery and gunmetal gray paintwork. In 1999 the car successfully completed the Monte Carlo Challenge and is offered here in full working order, with the minor exception of its radio.
|Vehicle:||1962 Maserati 3500 GT|
|Original List Price:||$11,400|
|Tune Up Cost:||$1,500|
|Chassis Number Location:||Firewall|
|Engine Number Location:||Side of the block|
|Club Info:||Maserati Club International, Box 1015, Mercer Island, WA 98040|
|Alternatives:||Alfa 2600 Sprint, Ferrari 250 GTE|
This car sold for $19,562, including buyer’s premium, at the Bonhams Nürburgring auction, August 10, 2002.
Following a disastrous racing season in South America in 1956, Maserati needed a commercial winner to avoid receivership, and the 3500 GT was it. The car became the best-selling Maserati ever for the struggling company.
Underneath the subdued Touring body, the car was classic Maserati: a twin-cam, twin-plug, triple-Weber six-cylinder engine, displacing just under 3.5 liters, and providing adequate horsepower and excellent torque. The suspension was typical for the period, with front coil-over shocks, while the rear had a solid axle with leaf springs and shocks. The frame was tubular, with good brake drums all around, and an underdeveloped and troublesome four-speed gearbox. The evolution of the model was one of those good news/bad news deals: the good news being the front disc brakes and excellent five-speed ZF gearbox that came along; the bad news being the stupid Lucas fuel injection that never worked. With typical Maserati owners’ ingenuity, this marketing aberration was gleefully removed and thrown in the garbage, and magnificent Webers were bolted on. And what you ended up with was a great touring car, having nothing to apologize for to its other Italian rivals.
The selling price of this example caused me to reflect on the price fluctuations of this model over the past few decades, and what those ups and downs tell us about the public’s perception of these noble cars.
When new, and equipped with Borrani disc wheels they had a list price of around $11,400. If you wanted Borrani wires, the price shot above $12,500, making the 3500 GT as expensive as Ferrari’s comparative models, the 250 GTE and Lusso. The 3500 GT outsold them both. In my humble opinion, the Ferrari myth that exists today did not exist then-people bought the cars for what they were, and not for the image they carried. The cars were valued for how well they performed as high-speed GTs and, at least in this case, when consumers voted with their wallets, Maserati came out on top.
In the ’70s and early ’80s, the common models of both premier Italian makes were mostly worthless. Rust, neglect, and a poor to non-existent parts situation were only partially to blame. I think the real reason was that car collecting was in its infancy. Appreciation of these exotics was confined to a small, eclectic but very erudite group of people.
Then came the gold rush of the late ’80s, when everything painted red and ending in a vowel was skyrocketing like a telecom stock. In my greedy heart, I long for those days, when I would buy six 3500 GTs fresh out of an Iowa cornfield (with the driver’s compartments full of corn stalks), gladly pay $120k cash for the lot and double my money in 30 days or less.
But those days are gone forever. Maseratis seem to have fallen irretrievably into the shadows of their 12-cylinder brethren from Maranello, and the extraordinary cost of parts and service on the 3500 GTs, coupled with a low market value, means that we see fewer and fewer of them on the street. “Daily driver” 3500 GTs are far rarer than similar 250 or 330 GTs, and the buyer of a 3500 GT has to be prepared for the life of a collector car ascetic, someone who doesn’t mind being lonely in his passion, and is able to see value where others see only an oddball Italian car.
Assuming the catalog description of this car, as a nice runner with no apparent needs, is correct, then the new owner should be happy. After all, for little more than the price of an MGA, he has a rare Italian GT. However, I’m afraid that when he goes to sell it, he will find offers hard to come by, and they will all be about the same as he paid here. The 3500 GT is an emotional investment, not a financial one.-Raymond Milo