1960 Maserati 3500GT Vignale Spyder Series 1
Maserati engaged Torinese coachbuilders Vignale to come up with a solution to the demand from the growing North American market for a convertible version of its popular 3500 GT. Designed by Giovanni Michelotti, the resulting roadster was a modern-looking, strictly two-seat GT, its shorter chassis giving it a more purposeful air. Removing 100mm (4in) from the wheelbase also made it stiffer, aided in part by the use of steel for most of the bodyshell.
The underpinnings of the Spyder were largely the same as the coupé: power came from the sweet 3,485cc straight-six in unit with the gearbox, a live rear axle was suspended by leaf springs, front suspension was all-independent with coil springs and wishbones .
Maserati 3500 GT Spyders can be – informally – split thus: ‘Series 1’ (Weber carburettors, four-speed gearbox, front disc brakes, five instrument dials); ‘Series 2’ (fuel-injection, five-speed gearbox, all-round discs, seven instruments). As with any hand-built Italian car of the period, though, minor variations exist. Clients could choose from Borrani disc or wire wheels.
Over a four-year period, only 242 Vignale Spyders were built. At $12,000 when new in the US, it was a rare and desirable European import, a blue-blooded alternative to a Ferrari 250 GT Pininfarina Cabriolet or Aston Martin DB4 Convertible.
Celebrity owners of the stylish and exclusive 3500 GT Spyder included American crooner and actor Dean Martin and the King of Morocco. London-based Greek socialite Teresa Mitarachi bought a pair.
This Motor Car
According to factory records supplied by Maserati Classiche and accompanying the car today, chassis ‘1027’ was delivered on 8 September 1960 to its first owner, the Italian heavy engineering conglomerate F.R.A.M. (Fabbriche Molle ed Accessori per Rotabili SpA), a specialist in the field of railway rolling stock, probably for its chairman. As was so often the case in such circumstances, the transaction was handled directly by Maserati. Delivered to F.R.A.M., ‘1027’ was finished in a rare combination of Nero (black) with Marrone (chestnut brown) leather.
As a first-series Vignale Spyder, ‘1027’ came with triple Weber carburettors, front disc brakes and a four-speed gearbox.
History does not record the name of the car’s next owner, but the third was Swiss Hans Dürst (28 June 1921—25 June 2001), an ice hockey player for the national team who won a bronze medal at the 1948 Winter Olympics. In later years, having become a successful car dealer with a showroom in Davos, he assembled a collection of classics that included a Lamborghini Miura SV, a Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Roadster and a Ferrari 330 GTC.
The Dürst Collection was disposed of at auction in August 1997 and the Maserati’s catalogue text stated it that it had “covered a mere 70,000km, in the hands of three owners”. Accompanied by his mechanics (who tend the car to this day), our client was the successful bidder and became, in all likelihood, only the fourth owner from new.
On purchase in 1997, ‘1027’ was silver with black leather and although in good condition, our client decided to change its colour to what many consider ideal for the model, gunmetal grey – the exact shade coming from a Ferrari palette, 703C Canna di Fucile. The smart grey metallic toned effortlessly with the existing black leather interior. During this period, the opportunity was also taken to revitalise much of the chromework, as well as carrying out service work to the rear axle, brakes and other mechanical parts. A bespoke and discrete hydraulic power-steering system was installed at this point. The fabric roof was relined with grey wool and a neat rear valence – easily removed – was fitted to conceal the exhausts and silencer boxes. In recent times the boot has been retrimmed.
Forming part of a significant collection, ‘1027’ has been used sparingly, but with vigour. The current owner has enjoyed showing the car to fellow connoisseurs of the Royal Automobile Club, both as a central display in the Rotunda in Pall Mall and at a concours event at the Club’s country house, Woodcote Park. Today, the recorded mileage reads just 78,387km. As a measure of its authenticity, Maserati Classiche has issued a Historical Information Certificate (no. 01/2017, dated 9 January 2017). An A/3 FIVA Identity Card dated 14 March 2012 also accompanies the car. It runs on Borrani wire wheels.
Vignale Spyder ‘1027’ has been regularly maintained by the same family mechanics, Robert and Barrie Betteridge, who supervised the purchase of the car in 1997 and are responsible for the vendor’s collection. In conversation with Barrie Betteridge in May 2017, he related enthusiastically that the stylish Spyder, “drives beautifully… a pleasure.”
Presented today in well-cared-for, ‘driving’ condition, ‘1027’ offers a new owner the opportunity to return it to rare ‘as delivered’ Nero/ Marrone. Alternatively, it is ready to be enjoyed straight away, its rasping exhaust and charismatic spit and snarl of triple Webers the exciting soundtrack to a summer of hood-down, open-air adventure.