There’s something almost magical about a classic Italian automobile, especially a convertible, as if each one carries a snippet of Italian DNA. Take our Maserati 3500 Vignale Spyder, for example. Sitting behind the steering wheel on a sunny spring day with the top down, moving to the rhythm of a curving country road, listening to the symphony of whirring gears turning multiple overhead cams, and enveloped by the dulcet tones of the exhaust note, you feel as if you’re conducting an Italian philharmonic. Regardless of your heritage, you suddenly become Italian.
Maserati has made some significant and highly desirable road and racing cars since their Tipo 26 of 1926, and the 3500 Vignale Spyder is certainly at or near the top of the list. The double overhead cam, 3.5-liter, inline six-cylinder engine of the Spyder is based on a similar engine in the successful Maserati Tipo 350S race car. The engine rests in a steel multi-tube chassis with a steel body designed by Giovanni Michelotti at Carrozzeria Vignale. An aluminum hood and trunk lid keeps the weight to a minimum.
The final Vignale Spyder prototype was warmly received when it debuted at the 1959 Paris Auto Show, and the production 3500 Vignale Spyder went on sale in 1960. While the Spyder is similar to the 3500GT coupe, it has a shorter wheelbase of about 98 inches with a total length of just over 175 inches. With a weight of 3,232 pounds, the all-aluminum, 229 horsepower engine coupled to a four-speed transmission gives the car a top speed of 143 mph.
Only 242 (or 245, depending on your source) Spyders were built between 1960 and 1964. Their rarity and Maserati’s long racing heritage have kept the cars’ value on an upward trend. A 1962 Vignale Spyder retrofitted with the three Weber carburetors of earlier models recently sold at auction for $764,500. A New York collectible car dealer currently has one for sale for $950,000.
While the Spyder has not appreciated to the astronomical prices of contemporary Ferraris, it’s still a beautiful Italian convertible with a genuine pedigree. When you find that winding country road on a top-down day and listen to the mellifluous engine and exhaust sounds, thanks to your newly-found Italian DNA, you may spontaneously break into an operatic aria – magnifico!
Maserati Alfieri: http://www.maserati-alfieri.co.uk/alfieri194x.htm
The Car Nut: http://www.thecarnut.com/Vignalespyder1051.html
Gullwing Motorcars: http://www.gullwingmotorcars.com/1960-maserati-3500-vignale-spyder–c-2143.htm
Photo by RL GNZLZ