#0006 - Maserati A6 GCS Berlinetta by Pininfarina, #2089, Francesco Giardina, 1954
Photographed: Radnor Hunt Concours d'Elegance, 2007. Owner: J. W. Marriott
Context: The A6, and in particular the A6 GCS, is Maserati counterpoint to the Ferrari 500 Testa Rossa; both are sports-racing cars powered by a motor developed for Formula 2 competition earlier in the decade. As such, capacity is below 2.0 litres on both cars. The Ferrari and Maserati motors differ in the first order by configuration—the Ferrari is a 4-cylinder while the Maserati is a smooth in-line 6-cylinder—but beyond that they both feature the day's ubiquitous Weber carburetors, Italian hot rod side pipes down the left, Borrani wire wheels, and bright rosso corsa paint, (racing red). As for body style, all 500 Testa Rossa cars were open spyders, and also most A6 GCS cars were spyders. This particular example, however, is one of four with an original custom Pininfarina body—very chic stuff.
Maserati & Pininfarina: Strictly speaking, there was no Maserati-Pininfarina connection; that liaison was locked down by Enzo Ferrari through contract, and quickly became a matter of legend. Thus, the satisfaction of having an elegant berlinetta body on the formidable A6 GCS chassis came only through private commission.
Six chassis were sequestered for closed Pininfarina coachwork by Guglielmo Dei, the Maserati agent of Rome, but the firm managed to finish only four of them, partly due to the work shuttled their way by Ferrari. The four completed A6 GCS chassis were, originally, #2056, #2057, #2059, and #2060. Our chassis, #2089, was a spyder with coachwork finished by Fantuzzi. It was the mount of Francesco Giardina, who campaigned the car in the Mille Miglia of 1955 and 1956, winning his class in his 1955 attempt while placing an admirable fourth overall. The car was shortly out of Giardina's hands when it returned to the factory in 1959 and was rebodied with the Pininfarina coachwork of #2060, the last of the four original cars. Today, #2060 has been rebodied with silver coachwork very similar to the sky blue body of #2057, which itself is a refabrication, as that chassis' original body now sits on chassis #2070.
So, with all this swapping, it looks like we have only two chassis that survive with their original Pininfarina bodies, (#2056 and #2059), two new chassis with transplants of original Pininfarina bodies, (#2070 and #2089), and two chassis that were originally dressed by Pininfarina, donated their bodies, and have since been rebodied in their original style, (#2057 and #2060). I love minutiae of this sort; it's compulsive, but far from frivolous. As it turns out, the world did get six A6 GCS Pininfarina Berlinetta cars as originally intended, (and apparently a few more, as the owner of #2057 had additional replicas built as well).
But let's just focus on these six "proper" Pininfarina chassis. Of the six, there are two distinct body styles. For simplicity, I'll dub these the sport, which appears on chassis #2057, #2060, and #2070, and the lusso, which appears on chassis #2056, #2059, and #2089. While subtle differences exist between all bodies, the main differences between these two styles have to do with the extension of the roof line and its conjuction with the tail. The sport carries a lower roofline and is a lean, aggressive proposition—cat-like in its prowling stance. This low roofline joins the wrap-around tail slightly above the rear wheel arches, giving it a full fastback, or back hatch profile. On the lusso, the roofline is taller, while its slope is also greater, descending slightly below the rear wheel arches.
The rear quarters of the lusso achieve a slight fin appearance on account of the diving roofline. This gives the lusso a lithe, well proportioned appearance—very much like a proper GT car—whereas the rear quarters of the sport exhibit a tapered, trim form. This much difference between the two styles is notable when comparing this chassis, #2089, with photos of #2057 as it appears in Michael Zumbrunn's Italian Auto Legends.
The GT Precedent: And that is a point to drag about and flog, that the lusso style is a proper GT car. We are, in fact, a good five years ahead of the seminal Ferrari 250 GT SWB Berlinetta, the quintessential GT car that played the role of both track day workhorse and glamour touring car; it embodies everything for which Ferrari is revered. But here in this A6 GCS we see the same attention to proportion—that perfect balance between beauty and power. Aesthetically, this is what the 250 GT SWB does so well. So the A6 GCS appears to be a blueprint for greatness—an exclusive study of the GT idea executed on just three Maserati chassis.
Between the two, the Maserati seems as if it should be more valuable. With only three such cars in existence, one famous debut at the Paris Motor Show in 1954 by chassis #2059, and one Mille Miglia class victory thanks to #2089, our car here, the exclusivity factor is undeniably huge. More importantly, however, the car itself is just stunning. The visual aesthetics, which eclipse Pininfarina's early attempts on Ferrari chassis, are even matched by the car's aural capacity. The sound of a classic Maserati is simultaneously luscious and ripping; it is mean but smooth, like a blues musician who plays with high distortion, but does so with clean virtuousity. I'll use the term Italian hot rod once more just to underscore the point, and add that perhaps only Ferrari's Dino V-6 possesses a similar grittiness in the soundtrack department.
Dreaming: This much is personal bent, of course. In reality, a 250 SWB Berlinetta may sell for as much, or more than these rare Masers. But doesn't Maserati need a few champions, being shamed by the onslaught of overripe Ferrari legend? 'A6' doesn't spring to mind quickly when considering the proverbial greats, but it should. The breed encompasses a wide array of aesthetic goodness, of which these berlinetta are the finest. On the flip side, lack of popularity makes these berlinetta cars a perfect sentimental favorite for those looking for some snobby cocktail party opinion on classic cars.
As for the matter of lusting after such a prize, we must all remember that 'Maserati' is Italian for 'parts nightmare.' Forget finding one of these six cars up for sale—you'd do better to wait for a Talbot-Lago Goute d'Eau Coupe anyway, as they seem to circulate more than such a rare car might be thought to—let alone the specific example you happen to prefer. Surmount that obstacle and you're confronted by the prohibitive cost, followed by the realization that the car requires all the attention of a classic Ferrari, yet has just a fraction of the support network in place to keep things running properly. I once met a Maserati enthusiast who said, "the only reason I own one is because I also own a machining company." In short, to really use a classic Maserati, you almost need to be Maserati just to take care of the regular maintenance.
Of course, I say all of this just to throw you off the trail—just to make that furious crowd in the bidding war of my dreams a little bit smaller. And so I advise you find some other passion. Take up golf, for example. I hear that Tiger Woods is really something...
Italian Auto Legends by Michael Zumbrunn & Richard Heseltine, Merrell Publishers Limited, London / New York, 2006, p. 136-141
Pininfarina: The firm provides a nice history online at Pininfarina.com
Maserati A6 Registry: Available through the Maserati Club of Australia
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