High bid of $1,800,000 at 2014 RM Auctions at Monterey. (did not sell) Coupe
Chassis #: AM103.064
Engine # AM103.064
Racing, as they say, improves the breed and promotes the product. For Maserati, racing had put the company into a difficult financial position. After the company cancelled their storied but expensive racing program after 1957, and with the successful introduction of the road going 3500 GT the same year, the financial outlook for Maserati improved. The 3500 was the company's first true mass-production grand touring car and it competed with Ferrari's 250 GT model. Both Ferrari and Maserati competed for the era's most affluent automotive connoisseurs.
One such wealthy patron with Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the Shah of Iran. He was a long-time auto enthusiast who had a reputation for fast cars and enviable garages. He drove around in Hispano-Suizas during his school days in Switzerland; before his 1979 exile, he filled his garage with a plethora of Rolls-Royces, Mercedes, and Lamborghinis.
The Maserati 3500 GT caught his eye, but he wanted something more; something more powerful and more exclusive. He approached Maserati with hopes of acquiring a very special version of the Maserati 3500, one equipped with the powerful five-liter V-8 that was powering the 450S sports racing car.
With the backing of the wealthy client, Maserati was eager to fill the request. Their engineer Giulio Alfieri reinforced a 3500 GT chassis and dropped in one of the unused 450S motors. The 2,600-milimeter tubular chassis was equipped with disc brakes up front, and Touring of Milan was selected by the Shah to clothe the car with coachwork. The car made its public debut at the Turin Motor Show in November of 1959, and two additional cars were soon construction to the same mechanical configuration.
The first three cars built were considered 'first-series' cars. The cars that followed were modified by Alfieri to make the 5000 GT more agreeable in everyday road going conditions. The bore and stroke were adjusted to a slightly larger displacement, and the Weber carburetors were replaced with Lucas fuel injectors. The noisy gear-driven camshafts were also replaced with a triple-strand chain-cam. The result of these modifications was an engine that was more responsive, smoother, and more appropriately refined for the elite clientele for whom the car was intended.
The Maserati 5000 GT was an exclusive car, guaranteed by its sticker price which was nearly twice the price of the 3500 GT, and bodied by no less than eight different coachbuilders to different exterior designs. The elite field of buyers included Gianni Agnelli, Briggs Cunningham, and the Aga Khan, among other influential buyers.
The final car was constructed in November of 1961. In total, just 36 examples were built, but as two of these were essentially re-manufactured, the total number is more accurately stated as 34 chassis.
This example is chassis number AM103.048 which left the factory finished in gold metallic paint and appointed with an interior of deerskin upholstery. It was exhibited at the Geneva Motor Show in March of 1962. It was the first Frua-bodied 5000 GT and displayed a number of interesting physical differences from the Touring and Allemano bodies that were produced in greater number. The car has an increased use of glass in the canopy, a lower waistline that dipped through the door, and rose at the rear haunch to a higher rear glass piece. In the front is a concave trident badge mounted over the grille.
After the car was put on display at the Geneva Motor Show, it was used by French Maserati importer Colonel John Simone (a partner of Jean Thepenier) as transport from Modena to Sarthe, where the team owner's Tipo 151 Maseratis were testing for the upcoming 24 Hours of Le Mans. Around this time, it is believed that the car was used by the Aga Khan as well, who liked it enough to order his own Frua-bodied example, which was constructed in August.
The car returned to the factory in Modena in September of 1962, where it was refinished in blue-grey metallic paint and then displayed a month later at the Paris Motor Show.
The car returned to the factory in the fall of 1963 where it refurbished by Maserati, and then resold as a new car, now as chassis number AM103.064. The 5000 GT was purchased in October by the owner of the Instituto Farmacoterapico in Rome and was then traded back in January 1966 to the factory, where it was again reconditioned and repainted in ruby red metallic paint, although the unique deerskin interior remained untouched. The car was then sold to Abdel Majid bin-Saud, a Saudi prince who bought the car for his father, the playboy King Saud bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, who was living in exile in Cairo. Later, the car was impounded by the government for tax and import levies, and it remained in storage in Cairo for decades. When finally removed from Egypt and offered at auction in Monaco in 2000. At the time, the odometer shows just 12,700 kilometers.
The 5000 GT was purchased by collector John Bookout, and it soon became the recipient of a four-year restoration. After the work was completed in 2004, the car was shown at the Villa d'Este Concorso d'Eleganza, where it earned a First Diploma and Silver Plaque and was enshrined in the event's Roll off Honour.
Later, the car was purchased by its current owner, who re-finished the car in ruby red metallic paint, as per its livery while owned by King Saud. In September of 2013, it was shown at the Schloss-Bensberg Concours d'Elegance in Germany, where it earned two awards, First Place in the Frua-dedicated class and a special award for Most Thrilling Design.
Recently, the car has undergone a comprehensive mechanical freshening, which included a full engine rebuild.By Daniel Vaughan | Oct 2014