The 5000GT
"... tailor-made for a King."

Photos courtesy of Sig. Ermanno Cozza.

The Maserati 5000 GT sports car was truly a car 'Fit for a King', for it was the Shah of Persia, now Iran, who instigated the making of this true supercar.

Although Maserati had won the Formula One World Championship in 1957, they were desperately unlucky not to have won the World Sportscar Championship that same year. Leading the Championship going into the final race, a series of disastrous events at the Venezuelan GP, when three of their cars were written-off, cost them the Championship. Matters were made worse by the fact that the two 450Ss destroyed in that race had already been 'pre-sold'.

In 1958 the regulatory body of motor sport, the FIA, decided to reduce the maximum engine size for the World Sportscar Championship to 3-litres. Maserati, who had had a real championship contender in the 450S, were left with many 5-litre V8 blocks on their hands. Moreover, the same regulating body had 'moved the goalposts' for the F1 Championship with new fuel regulations which for Maserati would involve costly investment they could ill afford.

The 5000 GT #103-002 with coachwork by Carrozzeria Touring

The front grille of the 5000 GT #103.090 'Scia di Persia'

Financial difficulties brought about by a combination of the FIA ruling, the total loss of the two 'pre-sold' 450Ss in accidents at Caracas, the loss of lucrative bonuses from their failure to secure the World Sportscar Championship and the inability to secure the settlement of large debts owed them by the Argentinian government after the fall of the Peron regime, forced Maserati to officially withdraw from motor racing; however unofficially it continued to support its 'privateers'.

Maserati's financial position had greatly improved; the Omer Orsi had sold off some of his personal assets to pay off debts and the 3500 GT was a world-wide success bringing much needed income. Meanwhile, Ing. Alfieri put his thoughts to making use of the many V-8 blocks standing idle at the factory and a project that would solve this problem was just around the corner.

'Reza Khan Pahlavi, the Shah of Persia and a great Maserati enthusiast, had apparently been greatly impressed with the performance of the 3500 GT after being taken for a drive by Maserati's test driver Guerino Bertocchi and it was the Shah who gave impetus to this project.'(La 5000 GT secondo Allemano by Ermanno Cozza [ILTRIDENTE April 1990])

During a visit to Livorno in 1958, the Shah asked for a meeting with Omer Orsi and his Chief Engineer, Giulio Alfieri, to discuss the building of a rather special sports car. The Shah had seen leaflets about the 'retired' 450S in the back of a Maserati 3500 GT catalogue. He wanted a very special Gran Turismo, powered by the 5-litre race engine of the 450S sports racer, a car that would be in keeping with his high status.

The interior of the 5000 GT by Touring

This car became known as the 5000GT 'Shah of Persia' and gave rise to a limited production of 'custom made' 5000GTs designated Tipo 103 by the factory.

The 5000 GT (#103.006) with coachwork by Monterosa.

Giulio Alfieri decided that it made more sense to modify and reinforce the chassis of the 3500 GT rather than modifying the chassis of the 450S racer, after all the components of the 3500 GT were already tried and tested. While the Shah was taking delivery of his 5000 GT (#103.002) in Teheran, Maserati were diplaying a similar 5000 GT 'Scia di Persia' (#103.004) at the Salone di Torino. This car was purchased by Basil Read, a South African businessman and owner of the Kyalami race circuit.

The first two 5000 GTs were powered by an engine virtually identical to that which powered the 450S race car the only modifications made were a reduction in the compression ratio from 9.5:1 to 8.5:1 and a slightly larger bore (93.8 mm to 98.5 mm), resulting in an engine capacity of 4935 cc against 4477.9 cc for the 450S. These changes reduced power output from 400 bhp @ 7200 rpm to a more civilised 340 bhp @ 5500 rpm.

The camshaft gear driven engine of #103.002 and #103.004

The 5000 GT (#103.008) with coachwork by Pinin Farina

The unmistakeable rear view of Pinin Farina's 5000 GT

The centre console of the Pinin Farina 5000 GT

The interior of the Pinin Farina 5000 GT

The chain driven engine of the later 5000 GTs

Subsequent 5000s were powered by a modified engine in an effort to make the car more user friendly. The engine's bore was decreased by 4.5 mm to 94 mm and its stroke increased by 8 mm to 89 mm giving the engine a capacity of 4941.1 cc. The four twin-choke 45 IDM Weber carburettors were replaced by a Lucas indirect fuel injection system and the engine's rather complex overhead camshaft gear system was replaced by the quieter and simpler chain system. The result was a decrease in power to 325 bhp @ 5800 rpm (#103.006 was the first 5000 GT to be fitted with the Lucas indirect fuel injection system).

The term 'custom made' can easily be applied for no two cars were identical even if these differences were only minor. Some of the world's famous, richest and most influential people wanted to own a 5000 GT, most notably the Aga Khan, Italian industrialist Giovanni Agnelli, American multimillionaire sportsman Briggs Cunningham, British film actor Stewart Granger, Ferdinando Innocenti maker of Lambretta motor scooters and President Adolfo Lopez Mateos of Mexico from 1958 to 1964.

The 5000 GT (#103.018) with coachwork by Ghia

The 5000 GT by Ghia was sold to Sig. Ferdinando Innocenti

The most common 5000 GT, if you can call 22 out of a total production of 34 cars built between 1959 and 1965 common, was the car with coachwork by Allemano. Allemano's 5000 GT was conservative in design when compared with the other examples by Touring (3), Frua (3), Monterosa (2), Pinin Farina (1), Ghia (1), Michelotti (1) and Bertone (1).

The first Allemano bodied 5000 GT, designed by Giovanni Michelotti, was displayed at the Turin Motor Show in 1961 and became known as the 'Indianapolis' in honour of Maserati's victories at the 'Indy 500' in 1939 and 1940. This car is important as it was the basis for the 'production' 5000 GTs. The first Allemano 5000 GT was built in October 1961, one of four built that year. In the following year, the 5000 GT's most productive, 12 cars were built, a further 4 cars in 1963 and another 2 cars in 1964.

The 5000 GT (from #103.020) with coachwork by Allemano

1959 2
1960 3
1961 8
1962 14
1963 5
1964 2
1965 2
Total Production


CLICK HERE to view official production figures.

Whilst being given a test drive on the 'Autostrada del Sole' by Maserati test driver, Guerino Bertocchi, Hans Tanner, the noted motoring author, timed one kilometre at 168 mph and another at 172.4 mph - And where were the Polizia Stradale? It was probably lunchtime!

If you wish to learn more about these fabulous GTs, Maurice Khawam has written Maserati 5000 GT - A Significant Automobile, an informative, well researched and beautifully illustrated book on the subject.

The 5000 GT (#103.016) designed by Michelotti

The 5000 GT (#103.048) designed by Pietro Frua

The side view of #104.004, the 5000 GT by Bertone and a glimpse of the luxurious interior

Another view of #103.018 by Ghia.

The front grille of #103.006.


Body type 2-door 2+2 seater Coupé

Production years From 1959 to 1965

Engine Front engined V8 @ 90º

Bore and stroke 98.5 mm X 81 mm (from 1960 94 mm x 89 mm)

Engine capacity 4937.8 cc (from 1960 4941.1cc)

Compression ratio 8.5:1

Maximum power 340 bhp @ 5500 rpm (from 1960 325 bhp @ 5800 rpm)

Distribution Four overhead camshafts, two valves per cylinder

Induction system Four twin-choke 45 IDM Weber carburettors
(from 1960 Lucas indirect fuel injection)

Ignition Twin through No2 Marelli or Lucas distributors

Lubrification Forced with pressure pump

Transmission Rear wheel drive

Differential ?

Clutch Twin dry plates

Gearbox ZF 4 speed and reverse (from 1963 ZF 5-speed)

Chassis Welded tubular construction

Front suspension:- Independent wheels, coil-springs and
telescopic shock-absorbers with anti-roll bar

Rear suspension:- Live axle, semi-elliptical leaf-springs and
telescopic shock-absorbers with anti-roll bar

Brakes Front: Discs                                         Rear: Power assisted drums.
All-round disc brakes an optional extra, later standard equipment.

Wheelbase 2600 mm

Wheel tracks Front 1390 mm    Rear 1360 mm

Wheels Front and rear:- 5.00 x 16

Tyres Front and rear:- 6.50 x 16 (from 1960 205 x 15)

Dry weight 1600 kg

Maximum speed 260 - 270 km/h

Models constructed 34

4 page brochure for 5000GT by Allemano

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