Maserati GT

Just how exclusive can a car get?

Maserati 5000 GT Image

In 1958 the Shah of Persia (the country we now know as Iran) was fabulously wealthy. His country had been transformed from a semi-rural society into a global power which spent billions of pounds on modernising industry and education. Unfortunately there was also a huge degree of corruption which the Shah was accused of being complicit in and he was eventually overthrown – but all this lay in the future.

He possessed a large collection of supercars. He was not satisfied though and wanted more. Maserati had brought out their 3500 GT which he really fancied but, being the Shah he was, he wanted something more exclusive, and packing more power so he packed his bags, went to Italy and called on Maserati for a chat.

Their chief engineer, Giulio Alfieri, was heavily involved in racing car manufacture and he felt that the V8 engine from the 450S, which had moderate success on the racing circuit, could suit the purpose with a few modifications, including increased capacity to 5 litres which gave it a power output of 324 horsepower. Coachbuilders Carrozzeria Touring Superleggera built a two-door coupe around this engine.

The Shah had his exclusive car, and it actually became known as the Shah of Persia. It didn't stay completely exclusive for long though.

Word got around about this impressive and prestigious motorcar and other world leaders, famous sports personalities and celebrities clamoured for their own versions. Eventually another 32 of these cars were made with coachwork from many different Italian builders including Bertone, Pininfarina, Frua and particularly Touring themselves who had so impressed with their first car. Every one of these was unique and pretty much built to the buyer's own specifications.

These buyers included such luminaries as King Saud of Saudi Arabia, the actor Stewart Granger and wealthy entrepreneur and sportsman Briggs Cunningham. It was not for nothing that the 5000 GT became generally known as the superstars' supercar!

Production ran from 1959 until 1965. One of the last buyers was the Aga Khan who bought a purple 5000 GT; his had a 45 rpm vinyl record player built into the dashboard! This particular car eventually sold for over US$1 million in 2007. This was rather more than the price of around US$17,000 that the new cars commanded in the early 1960s.