Maserati in Italy built only competition cars in its early years (the Twenties and Thirties), albeit with great success. But there was a change of emphasis soon after the Maserati family sold out to the Orsi group in 1938. After World War II, Maserati began a more serious effort to produce not just race cars but road cars too. Thus, the first roadgoing Maserati, titled A6/1500, was formally announced in 1947 (after two were built the previous year).
Maserati was still a small concern struggling to recover from wartime devastation, so this was a simply engineered machine. As you might guess from the designation, power was supplied by a six-cylinder engine of approximately 1500-cc displacement.
It was, in fact, descended from the supercharged 6CM twincam racing unit of 1936. (Which hadn’t been forgotten, just laid aside for still-sportier cars to come.) It was considerably less potent though. With normal aspiration and a single overhead camshaft operating opposed valves through rocker arms, it delivered a mere 65 horsepower compared to its parent’s 175 bhp. One reason: tuning for postwar Italy’s limited quantities of low-grade fuel. The gearbox was a newly designed 4-speed unit from another of the Orsis’ many businesses.
Like other specialist cars of these years, the A6/1500 had a conventional separate chassis, with tubular side-rails and cross-members. Front suspension was independent via coil springs and wishbones; a live axle located by trailing arms rode on coils at the rear.
A6/1500 design work had begun as early as 1943, when Ernesto Maserati laid out the engine, but the war zone crept steadily closer to Modena, so engine bench-testing didn’t begin until 1945. The original prototype had a crude, narrow body with separate Allard-like cycle fenders, but was subsequently rebodied by Pinin Farina, whose carrozzerie supplied identically styled shells for the entire production run of just 61 units.
Predictably, all these Maseratis were effectively handbuilt cars. After the two 1946 examples, the firm completed three in ’47, nine the following year, 25 in 1949, and 22 the year after that. Included in the totals is a handful of Farina spiders and one Zagato-bodied coupe.
As for performance, the A6/1500 was claimed to do 95 mph all out, though it probably couldn’t go that fast. But its chassis was a good one, and would serve well with more powerful 2.0-liter and twincam engines to come. The A6 even made one or two competition appearances, though on a private basis.
Humble it may have been, but the A6/1500 was at least a beginning for roadgoing Maseratis. By the Sixties, they’d have engines three times as large producing 500 percent more horsepower -- and price tags to match -- but from such tiny acorns do mighty oaks grow.