The name Maserati serves up images of potent Italian supercars and Grand Prix championships. For most of the last two decades, the name has been much stronger than the cars that carried it. Today, under the marketing and management umbrella of Ferrari, Maserati is positioned to once again to live up to it's famous heritage.
Toy car makers have not been very good to Maserati over the years. My collection has several hundred different Ferrari models in 1:64 scale. Lamborghini models total over 75. Even Alfa Romeo and Fiat are better represented than Maserati. Why has Maserati been so overlooked in the small-scale toy market? Why are cars like the beautiful Ghibli of the late 1960's not even represented? The simple response is that Maserati never has sold enough road cars to generate the interest granted to other Italian super-car manufacturers. With no racing since the early 1960's and few memorable cars since the early 1970's, Maserati has faded as the toy diecast car market has exploded. No 1:64 scale Maserati cars are currently in production but stretching back over the past 40 years, a few special Masers have been produced.
The first Maserati in small-scale diecast came from Matchbox. Number 52 was produced in 1958 and represents the 4CL T Grand Prix car of the early 1950's. Carrying number '52' on the side and with a white helmeted driver at the wheel, it is easy to see Fangio racing at the Nurburgring. It is curious that Matchbox did not choose the later Maserati race car that carried Fangio to a championship in 1957. Still, it is a delightful model. The car pictured is one of the 'Matchbox Originals' re-released in 1993 for the 30th anniversary of the company.
The next two Maserati models appropriately belong to an Italian diecast
firm, Polistil. These are two of the beautiful Penny Car series produced
in the mid-1960's. The first is a 3500GT of about 1964. The 3500GT carries
a lovely design and the Polistil example is quite faithful to the look of
the real car. The second is the Maserati Mistral. While not considered as
beautiful in design by many, the Frua designed Mistral sold well by Maserati
standards. Perhaps the best testimony to the Mistral's success is that it
was also selected by Mattel to be produced as an early Hot Wheel. Complete
with opening hood and engine detail, the Hot Wheel Mistral is one of the
harder early cars to find. This car is the only non-racing Italian car done
by Hot Wheels until the Ferrari 308GTB was done in 1977.
Maserati 3500GT by Polistil (Penny Car) - Maserati Frua Mistral by Polistil (Penny Car) - Maserati Frua Mistral by Hot Wheels
The next Maserati is also the most recent to my collection and one I have wanted for quite some time. The Maserati Indy by Buby of Argentina is a rare model from one of the more interesting manufacturers of toy cars. The Indy is a nice casting with an opening rear hatch. The graphics are unfortunate and the standard Buby wheels leave a lot to be desired but this is the only example ever done in 1:64 scale. From the Indy we move to Maserati's first and only real supercar, the Bora. Matchbox and Yatming have both done the Bora and both are nice examples. The Matchbox model was offered as #32-E in 1972 and later re-issued under the generic 'sunburner' name. The colors are representative of the early 1970's with the purple, yellow and green, a truly bilious combination. The hot rod flamed 'sunburner' is not much better. If ever a casting cried out for re-issue in correct colors, this one does. The Yatming on the other hand has been offered in correct Italian racing red for the early version and more recently in blue.
Maserati Indy by Buby - Maserati Bora by Matchbox - Maserati Bora by Yat Ming
The Bora's baby brother, the Maserati Merak is fortunately available as a Tomica casting. Done in fine style in red and black, it offers an opening engine compartment with Maserati's 4-cam V6 engine, the same engine to power the Citroen SM. This is a must-have car for anyone who appreciates the best of small-scale diecast. A curious generic Merak SS has also been produced in Hong Kong. I found this example loose so I do not know who made it. but the wheels are like those of Yat Ming. It comes with Maserati trident on the hood and is clearly the later SS model. The rear glass is not correct as the Merak did not have an enclosed rear deck. One of the most interesting Maserati models is also the last. Ertl actually produced the Maserati Quattroporte in the early 1980's. Offered in stock form as shown and as a car in the Rocky III series, this V8 sedan is a very nice casting. Perhaps now that Racing Champions has bought Ertl, some of these great 1:64 scale cars will be re-issued.
Maserati Merak by Tomica - Maserati Merak SS (generic) - Maserati Quattroporte by Ertl
Maserati has a new sports car ready for the next decade and hopefully it will be selected for 1:64 scale duplication. Bburago has already done a 1:18 version. Perhaps Maserati has turned a corner and can begin to live up to it's great heritage. The name still has the magic, we can only hope the new cars will too.