“The most prestigious sports car combining top performance with comfort and reliability” – A caption from Maserati’s brochure for the Mistral coupé and Spyder.
The Maserati Mistral
After the two Vignale-styled series of Sebrings (based on the 3500GT Vignale Spyder’s shorter chassis) came the first of Maserati’s ‘wind cars’, the Mistral. It was an exciting and busy time for the great Modenese company as, during 1964-1965, it was delivering five models: the 3500GT, 3500GT Spyder, Quattroporte, and Mistral Coupé and Spyder.
Pietro Frua was responsible for the new coupé’s lines. His work had been admired by Maserati’s famous technical chief Giulio Alfieri and the new Mistral – named on the suggestion of Colonel Simone, the French Maserati importer, after the cold dry wind that blows through the Rhône valley to the French Riviera – was a classic design, fit for the 1960s and featuring an innovative glass ‘hatchback’ boot. Mistral Coupé and Spyder production was to last until 1970.
For the Mistral, Alfieri installed the classic Maserati straight-six in a traditional ladder chassis with live, leaf-sprung rear suspension and a five-speed German ZF gearbox. The steel coachwork to Frua’s design, with aluminium boot, bonnet and doors, was constructed by Maggiora of Turin. The Mistral had everything the typical Maserati buyer wanted: understated yet elegant looks; more than adequate, 140mph+ performance; tried-and-tested mechanical components and a luxurious, very high quality interior. It was Italy’s answer to Aston Martin, even more so with the optional small rear seats.
With production of the coupé well underway, at the Geneva Motor Show in spring 1964 Maserati launched a convertible, named simply ‘Mistral Spyder’. The Spyder’s styling surpassed that of the coupé, yet retained the practicalities and unique desirability of Maserati ownership so beloved by enthusiasts of the Trident: a lavish interior with sumptuous seating now only for two, a generous boot with spare wheel underneath, and twin fuel tanks for effortless long-distance cruising.
The Spyder went into production as a 3.5-litre, but was fitted later with the 3.7-litre and 4.0-litre engines of the coupé. All were fuel-injected with twin-plug heads – proper racing practice. A three-speed automatic transmission was an option and, while most Spyders ran on Borrani wires, attractive Starburst alloys were available, as was an alloy hardtop.
Just 124 Mistral Spyders were produced until production halted in 1970. Famous first owners included British heartthrob Laurence Harvey and Italian actors Alberto Sordi and Ugo Tognazzi.
With its ageless styling, the Mistral Spyder spanned the eras of the typical late-1950s, early-1960s front-engined Italian Gran Turismos and the coming tide of mid-engined supercars such as the Miura.
Now, five decades on, the car is as desirable as ever, heir to the more numerous 3500 Vignale Spyder and worthy of comparison with other desirable convertibles of the period such as the Aston Martin DB6 Volante or Ferrari 275 GTS.
This motor car
Chassis AM 109 S1 *635* was delivered new in 1966 to a typical Maserati client of the period, the young scion of a Greek shipping family, Basil Phrixos Papachristidis. The Hellespont Group began life as Papachristidis Maritime Inc., a Montreal-based, Canadian-flag deep-sea and Great Lakes shipping company. It was founded by Basil Papachristidis's father, Phrixos B Papachristidis in 1946.
The spyder came with the desirable 3.7-litre engine, Borrani wire wheels and a five-speed manual gearbox. The colour of Rosso Capannelle – a name inspired by the deep red wines of Chianti – set off Pietro Frua’s masterpiece of styling to perfection, contrasting wonderfully with the interior in crisp Bianco.
Papachristidis's Mistral Spyder was registered in Bologna, Italy on ‘EE’ (for Escursionisti Esteri, temporary export) plates as ‘EE 02396’. These were valid for no longer than one year.
In 1985 the car was exported to the USA, where the current Italian owner bought it in 1998. Since than it has been well maintained and benefits from ongoing sympathetic and gentle maintenance. It currently runs on Weber carburettors.
Currently presented in cared-for but not concours condition, the elegant convertible is in fine mechanical fettle and represents an opportunity for sun-seekers to enjoy the Dolce Vita in true Italian style.
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