Motorcycles a buried piece of fable Italian automaker’s history
VANCOUVER – My 2014 Concours de ‘Elegance judging season began 10 days ago at the inaugural Arizona Concours on the great lawn situated in the 39-acre grounds of the historic Frank Lloyd Wright designed Biltmore Hotel in Phoenix.
As the Vancouver Motorcycle Show opens Friday, Jan. 24 at the Tradex Trade and Convention Centre in Abbotsford, Province Driving editor Andrew McCredie asked me to write about a classic motorcycle.
I have owned a few motorcycles but have not written about them very often and was at a loss regarding a suitable example to write about. That problem was solved at the Concours as one of the feature classes was celebrating the 100th anniversary of Maserati, and among the magnificent display of cars was the photographed 1954 Maserati Tipo 160 T4 — Turismo Lusso (Luxury Tourer).
The single-cylinder, 160 cc four-stroke motorcycle in my opinion bears a striking resemblance to a number of British motorcycles from the same era. I’m sure if it was not for the familiar Maserati Trident badge on the side of the fuel tank, you would think that the re-badged Italmoto was a BSA or Matchless.
Italian-built motorcycles have worn both Ferrari and Maserati emblems but they had little to do with the sports car side of the business. The Tipo 160 arose out of the large industrial holdings of the Orsi Group, which included Maserati.
During the early 1950s the Orsi family assets were divided between Adolfo, his brother Marcelo and their sister Ida. She ended up with the division of the company that manufactured spark plugs and batteries.
During an expansion, her company purchased the Bologna-based Italmoto motorcycle company. During the split the Maserati name and rights to use the Famous Trident emblem fell through the cracks, enabling Ida to badge the Italmoto motorcycles as a Maserati product.
They were sold throughout Europe, South America and North Africa from 1953 through to 1960.
Maserati began experiencing financial problems when they pulled out of Formula One and other competition in 1957, and three years later the motorcycle industry in Italy was also experiencing competition from Fiat.
An injection of financial capital was required to keep the company solvent, but the banks decided to call in their loans and it all came to an end for Maserati motorcycles.