1959 Maserati 3500 GT Spyder Prototype by Vignale
$1,500,000 - $2,000,000
- One of a believed three Vignale-bodied prototypes
- Shown by Maserati at the 1959 Turin Motor Show
- A highly compelling example with an important place in Maserati history
220 bhp, 3,485 cc DOHC inline six-cylinder engine with triple Weber 42 DCOE carburetors, four-speed manual transmission, independent front suspension with coil springs, live rear axle with semi-elliptical leaf springs and tubular shock absorbers, and front-disc and rear-drum brakes. Wheelbase: 100 in.
Despite their success in racing, Maserati’s future looked uncertain in March of 1957 when the new 3500 GT coupe was introduced at the Geneva Motor Show. Simply put, Maserati had too much on its plate with entries in a trio of different sports car classes as well as Formula One racing. Maserati needed a commercial success in the form of a road car in order to continue funding the company’s racing exploits and to keep its head above water.
The 3500 GT was intended to do just that. Utilizing the company’s proven inline six-cylinder motor that now had 3.5 liters of displacement, the car delivered at a time when it was needed most and proved to be the success Maserati was looking for. Nearly 2,000 examples were produced over the course of eight years, a massive number for a company previously known for their hand-built, low-production sports cars.
During 1957 and 1958, Frua and Touring individually bodied at least three of the early 3500 GT Spyders, but Maserati was not won over by any design from either coachbuilder and finally decided on Vignale to build their open cars in 1959. It is believed that Vignale produced at least three prototypes prior to regular spyder production, and the car officially debuted at the Turin Motor Show in 1959. The Vignale Spyders were constructed on a slightly shorter wheelbase than the coupes, and they soon became the premium open Italian sports cars of their day, rivaling Ferrari’s 250 GT cabriolets as the most elegant and exclusive sporting convertibles on the road. Just 242 examples of the luxurious Vignale spyder were eventually produced, adding a degree of rarity to their distinctive style.
This particular prototype, chassis number AM101 505, is one of the earliest 3500 GT spyders produced, having been completed in October of 1959. It would be one of two 3500 GT spyder prototypes shown at Turin in 1959 to introduce the model and was displayed at the Maserati stand (chassis number AM101 623 was shown at Vignale’s stand). Visually, it appears highly similar to both AM101 623 and the following prototype, AM101 678. Both cars boast an angular semi-sweep-spear that carries from a vent on the front three-quarter panel to the middle of the door, and both sport additional chrome trim around the fog lights. According to factory records, it was fitted from new with a ZF manual gearbox and finished in Grigio with a Red leather interior.
After its appearance at Geneva, this car was sold new to Franky Watts of Miami, Florida. It would remain on the Floridian coast with its next owner, Desmond D. Bouwler of Ft. Lauderdale, who acquired it in 1965. Bouwler would retain the car for three years, and in 1968, it was sold to an unknown buyer in Richmond, Virginia. In the mid-1970s, the car was sold to an owner in South Amboy, New Jersey, and subsequently sold to Heinz Mallon of Staten Island, New York. By 1980, it was still in New York City and owned by Al Lang, who sold the car to Jeffrey Vogel two years later. He returned the 3500 GT spyder to its native Italy, where it was fully restored by Carrozzeria Campana in Modena.
It is believed that the car was then purchased by an individual residing in Italy in the late 1980s and early 1990s before it returned to the U.S., where it became part of a prominent private collection. In 2002, the car was purchased by its current custodian and has remained largely in storage. Today, the car still presents well in its current color combination of metallic red over tan. An ideal candidate for freshening to modern concours standards, it would surely be a welcome entrant at some of the world’s most selective concours events for its unique place in Maserati’s history.
Distinctly different from the production 3500 GT spyders, chassis number AM101 505 would be the perfect acquisition for the individual looking for a very special open Maserati.