Back in July I was invited to join fellow members of the Biturbo Club Italia and other Maserati enthusiasts at the 2nd Marco Turci Memorial Meeting which took place at Mirandola, a small historic town about twenty miles north of Modena.
Knowing that the meeting included a tour of the Maserati factory in Viale Ciro Menotti, I telephoned the factory the week before and asking permission to take some photographs inside the factory on behalf of the Maserati Club website. Normally taking photographs inside the factory is strictly prohibited, so I was delighted to be given the go-ahead.
My wife and I decided to make it a long weekend, so we flew over on the Thursday, thanks to a cheap flight with Ryan Air, to Brescia Airport near Verona. There we hired a Ford Fusion from Hertz and made our way to the Bellerive Hotel at Salo on Lake Garda. From there I telephoned my friend Rossano, of RepartoCorse fame, and he kindly agreed to take me to Modena in his Biturbo Si.
The inaugural Marco Turci Memorial Meeting held last year was organised by Davide Zacharelli to commemorate the life of his best friend Marco Turci, a young man who tragically lost his life at the wheel of his beloved Maserati 2.24v.
Early that Sunday morning, Rossano and I met up at the autostrada exit at Desenzano and we were soon on our way in his Biturbo; I had asked him for a lift fearing that my arrival at the factory gates in a Hertz-hired Ford Fusion wouldn't go down too well with the 'establishment' or the Maseratisti present. I have to say his car drove very well and I was most impressed with the engine modifications he had recently made. Needless to say we arrived at Viale Ciro Menotti a little early so we just about had time 'per un capuccino e un brioch con la marmelata!'
Fully refreshed we made our way to Maserati's multi-storey car park where parked on the second floor we found a splendid rare little OSCA "1600 GT 2" Coupe. It turned out that the second floor was reserved for classic Maseratis, third floor for new generation Masers and fourth floor for the poor old Biturbos. It's so nice to be wanted!
By nine o'clock most of the Maseratisti had arrived and we made our way down via the security turnstiles to the Maserati showroom for refreshments as we waited our turn to tour the factory. Looking down on entering the showroom, one is greeted by a huge red trident announcing your arrival at the 'Casa del Tridente'.
The design of this showroom was entrusted to celebrated designer, Ron Arad. Arad designed the interior that as its centrepiece has a futuristic blue loop - a huge, parading circular work representing the traditional oval of the Maserati badge. Its construction was complex as it is composed of 21 separate sections and was built on a wooden frame with radiating branches, similar to the wing of an aircraft. The whole loop is coated in a unique mix of fibreglass and carbon-fibre. This structure is 80 metres long, 33 metres of which are taken up by the main axle alone. It weighs all of 10 tons - most of which is suspended and self supporting. I have to say it's pretty impressive!
The complete Maserati range including a new Quattroporte, a GranSport, a Spyder, a Coupe and the truly stunning MC12 are displayed on the loop and the showroom floor. There is also an Officine Alfieri Maserati personalisation area, and a merchandising area where clients can take delivery of their cars if they wish.
When it was our group's turn to enter the factory. Our guide, Sig. Manicardi, gave us a most interesting tour of today's factory and explained in detail the changes that have taken place over the years.
In recent years, the marque’s old red-brick factory was completely renovated in a project that transformed it radically in the space of just four months. Now on entering the factory one can't help but be impressed by the spotless almost clinical environment, there literally isn't a screw out of place. Overhead are signs displaying a recently discovered star constellation 'Tridente' and preaching the new gospel, "Sentirsi Maserati" ("Feel Maserati") and "Costruiamo il futuro" ("We are building the future"). It certainly looked like a nice place to work, in fact I would have been more than happy to roll up my sleeves and get stuck in!
On one of the most advanced production lines in the world, a new Quattroporte is now being produced every 25 minutes. The cars, for example, are transported on automated cradles which also rotate the cars to make them more easily accessible during especially complex assembly operations, thus ensuring perfect execution of even the most difficult parts of the job. The line consists of a series of stages, at each stage a team of technicians are given 25 minutes to carry out their tasks. As a car arrives at each stage, the cradle is lowered and the team carry out their work. Once the stage team has completed its work, they raise the cradle signifying their work has been completed. When all the cradles have been raised the line is moved forward to the next stage. Thus at the end of the line a car is completed every 25 minutes.
In order to exercise maximum control over every single aspect of the production process, Maserati now carries out a rigorous quality check programme that includes controlling individual components, the use of automatic control stations along the assembly line, and the rolling road for vibration tests which gives the car a complete check-up before its road test.
In the Engine Bench Test Area, there are five climate-controlled test benches in which a complete, automatic dynamic hot running test is run on every power unit before it is mounted in a car.
The bodyshells are made at ITCA in Turin, the new Maserati V8 engines are built and the bodyshells are painted at Ferrari in Maranello and the final assembly takes place in Modena.
Being the only visitor present allowed to take photographs on behalf of the Maserati Club back in the UK and the tour being conducted in Italian, which I do not fully understand, I busied myself taking photos of the collection of rare engines including the 1926 Tipo 26 engine that Alfieri Maserati drove to a class victory in the 1926 Targa Florio.
The visit over, I thanked Sig Manicardi for his help only to be 'confronted' by a burly policeman who, thinking I was an official Maserati photographer, asked if I would be kind enough to take a photo of him alongside the MC12. The photo shoot over, he asked when the photos would be ready and was quite taken aback when I explained that by Tuesday I would be back in England.
From here the Maserati convoy drove under police escort the 20-odd miles to Mirandola where the cars were displayed in the main Piazza.
Having parked our car Rosanno and I wandered around catching up on news of our fellow members and admiring the broad range of Maseratis on view. I had started taking photos when my friend Daniele invited me for a drink in a nearby bar. This photography lark is quite thirsty work you know! Our aferetif or two consumed we joined our fellow Maseratisti for a very enjoyable lunch in the air conditioned marquee.
Lunch over I decided that I should carry on with the photographic work. Oh no! The sun has now moved across the piazza and the classic Masers are now partly in the shade which makes half decent photography nigh impossible. However, trooper that I am, I continued 'snapping away' only to be interrupted when I was called over to attend a club meeting. It was then that along with event organiser, Davide Zaccarelli and Walter Gualdrini, the well known Maserati model collector, I was presented with honorary membership of the Biturbo Club Italia. It came as a great surprise and I was deeply honoured!