Capsule Review: 1958 Maserati 3500GT

Stewart Dean
by Stewart Dean
capsule review 1958 maserati 3500gt

See, this guy in Lexington, KY died of cancer around 1962, and he left a Maserati to his only remaining relative, an uncle in his ’80’s living in Louisville. Uncle hadn’t driven a stick shift in 30 years but had just bought a new Cadillac, so he goes back to the dealer and says, “Get rid of this thing for me, willya?” The Cadillac salesmen looks at the Maserati, they look at each other, and one of them says, “Hey, I bet Dr. Dean would be interested.” And that’s how my father picked up a Maserati 3500GT for about two grand.

The car was built like a brick shit house. It had a steel space frame like the legendary Birdcage Maserati: light, but rigid as a bridge girder. Indeed, the 3500GT was all but bolted to the ground. With its stiff suspension, you needed a football mouth protector when surmounting a curb or highway expansion joins. The payoff came at speed. You could cruise in a 3500GT at 100mph and think you were doing 60.

As the brand’s first foray into a limited production sedan, the 3500GT was meant to reclaim Maserati’s fortunes. You can take the car out of the sport, but… The interior was luxurious. But anything that didn’t directly relate to touring at speed had extremely rough edges.

Maserati developed the passenger car’s powerplant from an F1 engine. The clutch came down like a hammer, either on or off. Forget about getting started on snow and ice. The coolant temperature sensor was an afterthought, inserted in a little can in the upper radiator hose. As a result, the 3500GT wanted a long, winding, open road.

I got stuck in traffic one day and nervously watched the coolant temperature climb… and then fall. Much relieved, I didn’t realize that the coolant had boiled off to the point that the sensor was dry. Then the oil pressure started to drop.

Finally, I funked out, stopped and nervously opened the radiator cap. Nothing there. Like the teenaged idiot I was, I quickly got water and poured it in. Out came the inevitable, searing steam geyser. But the engine had been built well, the Fates were feeling kindly toward idiots, and nothing warped.

The GT3500’s engine was a DOHC straight six, mated to a smooth, tight, ZF gearbox. The straight-through glass pack muffler was quiet at idle, roaring at full bore. If you took off the air cleaner cover off the early cars– and why wouldn’t you– you found six velocity stacks all in a row atop the three double-barrel side-draft Webers. Oh, the symphony of all that valve gear spinning and ringing in resonance.

There was gobs of push and a pedigreed assurance that the 3500GT was a car that knew what it was about. Which was not so much sports racing (like Ferraris) as true grand touring– with luxury, effortless speed and absolute self-possession. Even so, I eventually realized I didn’t have the stuff to drive this car at much more than 40 or 50 percent of what its potential (some 145 MPH). But like the Bugatti T40, it had no glaring vices, and brought you back to base safely.

And I crunched it.

Oh the shame; nailed by a farmer at a dead stop! Blinker on for a left into a drive way, I was waiting in the left lane on a four lane main suburban road just after a long slow bend. I looked up at the rear view mirror and all I could see was GRILLE.

The next thing I knew, I was 150 feet down the road, in the car, on my back. The pedals were gone and there was an awful grinding noise coming out of the rear. The impact had broken the seat back off, and the left rear fender pressed against the tire.

The offending ’53 Chevy was totaled. The Maserati had one bent space frame tube and some crunched bodywork. Everything else seemed OK. I pried the tire free and drove it home.

Funny thing: aluminum bodywork doesn’t just smash at the point of impact like steel. It had deformed with a standing wave four feet long all the way up to the driver’s door. Didn’t we have fun finding someone who could do aluminum body work. We eventually located an old timer who was a dead ringer for the Wizard of Oz.

Going in to the shop, the car was a putrid dirty green. Coming out, she wore a lovely Mustang Poppy Red coat that just screamed “Ticket me, please!” But that’s another story…

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2 of 15 comments
  • FromBrazil FromBrazil on Jan 16, 2009

    Wow! Loved your article. Pls do tell the rest of your Maserati stories! This is why I love TTAC, surprises, surprises, surprises, they just keep on comin'!!

  • RDarnell914 RDarnell914 on Jan 19, 2009

    please email me at, we got your grandfathers 1958 maserati started yesterday after sitting since 1975. car is still here in Louisville.

  • Sayahh Is it 1974 or 1794? The article is inconsistent.
  • Laura I just buy a Hyndai Elantra SEL, and My car started to have issues with the AC dont work the air sometimes is really hot and later cold and also I heard a noice in the engine so I went to the dealer for the first service and explain what was hapenning to the AC they told me that the car was getting hot because the vent is not working I didnt know that the car was getting hot because it doesnt show nothing no sign no beep nothing I was surprise and also I notice that it needed engine oil, I think that something is wrong with this car because is a model 23 and I just got it on April only 5 months use. is this normal ? Also my daughter bought the same model and she went for a trip and the car also got hot and it didnt show up in the system she called them and they said to take the car to the dealer for a check up I think that if the cars are new they shouldnt be having this problems.
  • JamesGarfield What charging network does the Polestar use?
  • JamesGarfield Re: Getting away from union plantsAbout a dozen years or so ago, Caterpillar built a huge new engine plant, just down the road here in Seguin TX. Story has it, Caterpillar came to Seguin City council in advance, and told them their plans. Then they asked for no advanced publicity from Seguin, until announcement day. This new plant was gonna be a non-union replacement for a couple of union plants in IL and SC, and Cat didn't want to stir up union problems until the plan was set. They told Seguin, If you about blab this in advance, we'll walk. Well, Seguin kept quiet as instructed, and the plan went through, with all the usual expected tax abatements given.Plant construction began, but the Caterpillar name was conspicuously absent from anywhere on the site. Instead, the plant was described as being a collective of various contractors and suppliers for Caterpillar. Which in fact, it was. Then comes the day, with the big new plant fully operationa!, that Caterpillar comes in and announces, Hey, Yeah it's our plant, and the Caterpillar name boldly goes up on the front. All you contractor folks, welcome aboard, you're now Caterpillar employees. Then, Cat turns and announces they are closing those two union plants immediately, and will be transporting all the heavy manufacturing equipment to Seguin. None of the union workers, just the equipment. And today, the Caterpillar plant sits out there, humming away happily, making engines for the industry and good paying jobs for us. I'd call that a winner.
  • Stuki Moi What Subaru taketh away in costs, dealers will no doubt add right back in adjustments.... Fat chance Subaru will offer a sufficient supply of them.