1961 Maserati 3500 GT Vignale Spider ($875,000)
Photography by Nima Salimi
Written by Shayan Bokaie
AT A GLANCE
- Location: Emeryville, CA
- Seller: Fantasy Junction | @fantasyjunction
- Chassis #: AM 101.1051
- Engine: 3.5L I-6 Cyl / #858
- Mileage: 82,701
- Transmission: ZF 4-speed manual
- Color: Metallic Blue / Red Leather
- Production Run: < 250
Maserati. Vignale. Michelotti.
Those are some powerful pronouns when thinking of 1960s automobiles. On a handful of occasions these names came together, and while each collaboration yielded stunning results, one in particular stands above the rest – the Maserati 3500 GT Vignale Spyder.
The story behind the birth of the Spyder is a perfect snapshot of the competitiveness of Italian design in the 60s. In total, there were essentially three Carrozzerria’s in the running for the Spyder: Touring, Pietro Frua, and Michelotti via Vignale.
Keep in mind the coupe version, introduced before the Spyder, was already in production with Touring. It seems as if their strategy was to play it safe and they only removed the top for their submission.
Carozzeria Touring’s Spyder Prototype
Frua (who was actually Michelotti’s predecessor at Stabilimenti Farina) took a different direction with his prototype and departed from some of the cues found in the coupe.
Pietro Frua’s Spyder Prototype
Maserati was unimpressed.
The contract was awarded to Michelotti’s prototype and production began on a slightly shorter chassis. Well fought, and well deserved.
Michelotti’s Winning Design
The 3500s ultimately became the success that allowed Maserati to pivot away from racing.
The 3500 GT is powered by a 3.5L I-6 fed by 3 Weber carbs, which is an adaption of the racing motor found in the Tipo 350S developing 220 HP. Unlike the aluminum coupes, the spyder was bodied with steel in order to strengthen the chassis with an aluminum hood and boot lid for a bit of weight savings. Many of the underpinnings were outsourced; ZF 4-speed transmission from Germany, Borg and Beck clutch assembly, rear differential by Salisbury, and suspension by Alford Adler, all from England.
This blue 3500 GT Spyder we have here was originally delivered to Beverly Hills and in 2009 was owned by Ivan Ruiz, a known Maserati enthusiast/restorer (who actually restored one of Michelotti’s Vignale Spyder prototypes) where he performed additional restoration work. The Borrani wire wheels were an option selected on this car (they look damn good, surprisingly this wasn’t commonly fitted).
- Respray done to high standards
- Straight body panels with good shut lines
- Black canvas soft-top fitted during restoration and in excellent condition
- Windshield appears to be original VIS unit, good condition
- Aluminum Borrani wire wheels on Michelin 185×400 tires in good condition
- Handful of age and use marks (mainly on opening panels)
- Taillights (seemingly original) showing their age, but serviceable
- Instruments and switchgear are functional and in excellent condition
- Interestingly, this 3500 Spyder has electric power windows
- Trunk likely upholstered in original black vinyl diamond in excellent condition
- Interior not entirely fresh and showing some signs of age on the seats and door panel upholstery
- Compression tested 300 mi ago, 150-160 lbs on all six cylinders
- Maintained by Aston Martin of New England under current ownership, most of the work mentioned below completed in 2015:
- Rebuilt suspension, shocks, brakes
- Servicing steering box and heating system
- Regular fluid changes
- None stated/known
How does it Drive?
Overall, the car is very well sorted on the road and has great composure over rough surfaces. Spencer Trenery of Fantasy Junction claims of all the 3500 GTs they’ve had for sale, this one drives the best.
Engine: Engine starts right up and purrs at idle. Revs climb quickly and the exhaust note is intoxicating.
Shifting: ZF transmission shifts beautifully at any temperature, up or down.
Brakes: No pulsation on braking and are effective.
Handling: Steering and suspension are tight and rebuild is evident.
The car was owned by Ivan Ruiz in 2009, well-known for restoring Maserati’s of this era, continued restoring the car. Since this work, the car has done ~ 3,200 miles.
- Underside has been restored at suspension corners
- Rust repair on some floor areas and jack points
- Rockers appear to have been replaced
Engine: Engine bay restored to show condition and is very correct.
- Correct black crackle and semi-gloss finish
- Correct plug wires and Magnetti Marelli coils installed
- Correct airbox with with three-tab wing nuts
- VDO window washer has correct black vinyl hood pad
- Recently restored
- Recently restored
The car originally came in Argento Luna, the lighter blue color. The interior is trimmed in the original color and may be partially original.
The engine number was not stamped on this 3500, which is the case with many Maserati’s at this time. There are two pieces of evidence that could support the motor being original:
- According to Maserati’s Classics department, the engine fitted with the correct external oil pump unit found on the ’59 and ’60 production cars
- The internal number, 858, is in the chassis number range
The car comes with the following original items:
- Original tool roll
- Restored jack
- Matching Borrani wire wheel spare
- All records for current ownership period
- Production Date: October 29, 1960
The total number of owners is not currently known.
- 1960 – ? – Owner 1 | Beverly Hills, CA
- 2009 – Ivan Ruiz | Atlanta, GA
- 2010 – present – Current Owner | Boston, MA
Not a Garage Queen: If you have the means, this is the car you buy to drive. This car has been enjoyed through it’s life, which is something we can appreciate. There is something to be said about cars that are tried-and-true and this is one of them. It’s also the earlier model fitted with the Weber carbs, which are known to be more reliable than the direct fuel injection that followed.
Rarity: There were less than 250 Spyder’s made, compared to about 2,000 coupes making it considerably more rare. In the company of other period Italian open cars, like the California Spyder for example, this is considerably less expensive. It’s all a matter of perspective, right?
Work of Art: This is one of Michelotti’s few Maserati designs and arguably one of his best.
We featured a 3500 GT Coupe a couple years back, which shares the same 3.5 I6 with Weber carbs. These engines are known to purr and sound fantastic through the power band. Have a listen.
WHO ARE YOU BUYING FROM?
This car is for sale by Bruce and Spencer Trenery at Fantasy Junction. You can get to know them better here.