The beginning: from 1914 to 1937
Alfieri began his career as a racing driver and soon proved his worth, winning on the Susa-Moncenisio, the Mugello Circuit and the Aosta-Great Saint Bernard. Diatto offered him a chance to design cars for the company and even to race with them. Unfortunately, in 1924, after having dominated the San Sebastiano GP, he was disqualified for five years, even though he had retired, for having replaced the 2-litre engine in his car with a 3-litre unit. The penalty was lifted a few months later.
Away from the racing world, Alfieri completely dedicated himself to the workshop and in 1926, after leaving Diatto, he produced the Tipo 26, the first all-Maserati car, and the first to sport the trident badge. The Tipo 26 won its class in its debut race, the Targa Florio, and was driven by Alfieri Maserati himself.
In 1927 Alfieri had a serious accident in the Messina Cup at the wheel of the Tipo 26B, after taking third place at the Targa Florio. But even with him sidelined, Maserati still won the Italian Constructors’ Championship. In 1929 the V4 appeared, with a 16-cylinder engine, making its debut at the Italian Grand Prix and setting the world Class C speed record over 10 km at 246.069 km/h in Cremona, with Baconin Borzacchini.
The record set by the V4 helped to further enhance the company’s image and guaranteed a considerable influx of funds, allowing both the company and its activities to expand. In 1930 the V4 driven by Borzacchini won Maserati’s first outright Grand Prix victory in Tripoli.
In 1931 came the 4CTR and the front-wheel-drive 8C 2500, the last car to be designed by Alfieri Maserati, who died on 3 March, 1932. An enormous crowd attended his funeral in Bologna, including workers from the plant, famous drivers, and ordinary people, who all wanted to show their affection for the great man.
Alfieri's death did not discourage the Maserati brothers; Bindo left Isotta Fraschini and returned to Bologna to continue the great venture begun by Alfieri, alongside Ernesto and Ettore. Maserati's racing activities continued to be both intense and successful; an 8-cylinder, 3-litre engine also appeared.
In 1933 Tazio Nuvolari joined the team, making a significant technical contribution, particularly in fine tuning the chassis, adapting it to the characteristics of the new engine; Nuvolari won the Belgian Grand Prix, and those of Montenero and Nice. That was when Mercedes-Benz and Auto Union began a sustained assault on the racing scene, making life difficult for Maserati in the more important races.
In spite of this, the company continued to notch up victories in more minor, national races, and this led the brothers to concentrate output in this area. In 1936 they found a patron in Gino Rovere who invested a great deal in the company and appointed Nino Farina, his ‘protégé’, as Chairman. The 6CM appeared, which gave Maserati the competitive edge in the voiturette class.