This 60-year-old Maserati 3500GT survivor is aging gracefully

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1959 Maserati 3500GT top view Courtesy Frank Mandarano

I was on a trip to Italy in 1971 when I visited the Ferrari and Maserati factories in Modena, both on the same day. I was a 24-year-old hot rodder at the time, but what I saw at the Maserati factory blew me away. I was hooked, and in 1976, I founded the Maserati Club International. I’ve been back to Modena every year for the past 40.

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In 2010, I was on the lookout for an early roll-up-window, carbureted 3500GT. I saw an ad in Hemmings for this 1959 model, serial number AM101.708, and moved quickly. My initial attraction was because it looked to be an honest, complete, all-original 3500GT. I was surprised to learn how original it was and thrilled to discover it had a known history from the day it was ordered on November 14, 1959.

This includes a letter to the factory by the initial owner—an American Maserati “super fan” who penned it on his Roman hotel’s stationery—requesting a color change from the planned Grigio Fumo (smoke gray) to the rare Grigio Nembo (nimbus gray). There’s a service record from the third owner’s stewardship, handwritten by him on two sheets of legal paper. I found them tucked into the original owner’s manual. The records begin in May 1962 at 13,000 miles and conclude in May 1978 at 36,650 miles, after which the 3500GT sat unused for the next decade. The car remained in the man’s family, at their Renaissance-style mansion in San Francisco or at a winery in Napa, until it was offered for sale in late 2010, when I bought it. From the time it was taken off the road in 1978 to that day, it had gained only another 25 miles.

1959 Maserati 3500GT interior
1959 Maserati 3500GT Courtesy Frank Mandarano

I’ve done some small fiddly stuff to the car, like servicing the brakes and radiator, adjusting the valves, and changing all the fluids. I installed a new-old-stock stainless exhaust system. The 3500GT shares garage space with a fully sorted 1959 Maserati 3500GT Vignale Spyder and a Ferrari Daytona Spider.

My original 3500 isn’t a garage queen by any means, although I am careful about how I use it. I generally drive it on summer evenings, after traffic dies down. I’ve discovered that, in heavy traffic, people tend to take pictures with their phones as they drive. That’s a bad mix with an old car you cherish.

One of my favorite drives is to head east from my home on Mercer Island, taking Interstate 90 up into the flanks of the Cascade Mountains and then looping back on rural state highways. I’ve taken the 3500GT on vintage rallies, too, and in 2012, it returned an amazing 26 mpg on the 1000-mile Northwest Classic Rally in Oregon. In 2013, it was accepted in the Postwar Preservation class at the Pebble Beach Concours.

The engine always runs cool and in the normal heat range, even on hot days. When I store the 3500GT over the winter, I mix leaded racing fuel with non-ethanol gasoline, which the car loves. As the Maserati approaches 40,000 miles, I have no plans to change anything. I just want to drive it when I can and enjoy the noises it makes.

1959 Maserati 3500GT engine
1959 Maserati 3500GT Courtesy Frank Mandarano
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