When the Shah of Persia Asked For More Horsepower

Maserati 5000 GT

Maserati 5000 GT

Sixty years ago, the 5000 GT, a 2+2 coupé, was presented at the Turin Motor Show and was the undisputed star of the event.

Last fall, Maserati celebrated the anniversary of this extraordinary car, built to the specific request of the Shah of Persia, Reza Pahlavi. The 5000 GT was a VIP’s car, in terms of both exclusivity and performance. Due to its extremely distinctive character and high cost, the total number of 5000 GT’s built was limited to just 34.

Reza Pahlavi, the then Shah of Persia, test-drove a 3500 GT towards the end of 1958 and was delighted, a bit more performance was requested.  Giulio Alfieri, Maserati technical director at the time, completely redesigned the car to satisfy this prestige customer’s demands.

The heart of the redesign was the V8 engine of the 450S (from Maserati’s famed racing car), with its bore increased to upgrade its displacement to almost five litres.  The 5000 GT, a prestigious 2+2 coupé, was born.

photo courtesy Topspeed

photo courtesy Topspeed

The car, of which the first bodywork was built by Carrozzeria Touring, was launched at the 1959 Turin Motor received the nickname “Shah of Persia” in honour of this unique customer. Only three of those very special “Shah’s” were ever produced.

Maserati 5000 GT

Maserati 5000 GT

This was automotive royalty at the time, comparable to a Bugatti Divo or Lamborghini Centenario today.  Its great success led to the production of a number of cars for prestige customers including Prince Karim Aga Khan, Fiat boss Gianni Agnelli, film star Stewart Granger.

From Maserati’s Archives:

Model Type 5000 GT
Production period 1959/1964
Engine Eight cylinders, V – 90°
Displacement 4937,8 cc (from 1960: 4941,1 cc)
Bore and stroke 98,5 mm x 81 mm (from 1960: 94 mm x 89 mm)
Power 325 HP a 5500 rev/min. (from 1960: 340 HP a 5800 rev/min)
Compression ratio 8,5:1
Valves train Dual overhead camshafts per bank
Valves Two per cylinder
Ignition Double with two Marelli or Lucas distributors
Engine lubrication Forced with pressure pump
Clutch Dry twin discs
Gearbox Four speeds + R (from 1963: five speeds + R)
Frame Tubular
Front suspensions Coil springs and telescopic shock absorbers
Rear suspensions Semi-elliptical leaf springs and telescopic shock absorbers
Brakes Power-assisted front discs and rear drums
Wheelbase 2600 mm
Track Front 1390 mm ; Rear 1360 mm
Body Two doors Coupè, 2+2 seats
Dry Weight 1500 Kg
Max. Speed 260-270 Km/h

Maserati S.p.A.

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About the Author: Dave Miller

Dave Miller With Lotus GT
Dave Miller drives the fastest, coolest, sexiest cars on the planet. He travels the world uncovering the hidden gems in luxury transportation, meeting the owners, and connecting with extraordinary car enthusiasts. Dave is a member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association and writes for various publications. In addition to DriveWithDave.com, you can follow Dave's adventures via Drive With Dave Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and tune into the Drive with Dave Podcast via iTunes, Stitcher or Soundcloud.

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