Major Collector Reviews Vignale 1121
Cold start after sitting for 7 months
This 1961 Maserati 3500 GT Vignale Spyder with matching engine and original color combination is one of approximately 240 examples built between 1959 and 1964. It is anyone’s guess as to the number of cars that have survived. Perhaps 60% have been destroyed.
Built by Vignale and designed by the great Giovanni Michelotti who was an Italian freelance designer who died at the young age of 59 in January of 1980.
Michelotti will long be remembered for his timeless classic designs of Ferrari, Maserati Alfa Romeo and dozens of other manufactures he worked with in secret. His Vignale Spyder is proof of his astounding sense of style and scale.
Chassis number AM101.1121 (1121) was ordered on Feb 20th 1961 by Maria Piera Merli Brandini in Fraschetti of Via Della Balduina n.59 in Roma. Maria special ordered the car in “Verde Scuro” (Dark Green) Max Meyer Code 10.550)
Most would call this color “British Racing Green” Only 4 cars were painted this beautiful color.
The car was fitted with brown Connolly leather code PAC.1386, also known as Cognac.
1121 was ordered with 3 weber 42DCOE8 carburetor’s, a 5-speed transmission and disc brakes. It was delivered with Borrani aluminum rims with steel centers and hub caps.
Period correct Borrani Wire wheels were later installed.
The car was built on March 8th 1961 and delivered to Maria on May 31 1961 (sixty years ago) It took 3 months and eleven days to build and deliver.
The declared purchase price was Lire 4,950,000, and registered Roma 461946. Over the next 38 years the car was sold no fewer than 10 times until in 2000 it came to the America and was auctioned by RM and purchased by Symbolic Motors of San Diego.
The current owner Maserati Author, historian and super enthusiast Francis G. Mandarano purchased the car in 2015 and began the process of bringing the car into a very high state of tune.
When I bought the car if it was equipped with incorrect Marchal headlights and incorrect Fog lights. The build sheet called for Cibie 102’s.
It took over a year to find some new old stock Cibie 102 headlights, but one day I received and email from a specialist in Holland and was able to buy two sets. They were flown in via DHL.
Scavenger Oil Pump
Most of these cars were equipped with and external scavenger oil pump that circulates oil through an oil cooler. The seals in these pumps are made from 60-year-old technology and just not up to modern standards. In addition, the belt is typically over tightened which causes the steel shaft to rub on the aluminum housing causing a proverbial oil leak.
The fix is to carefully machine all the parts pre-fit everything twice and then install a new double lip Viton seal together with a new bearing and gasket.
Wire Wheels and Tires
1121 has been fitted with wire wheels rebuilt in Italy in Oct 2015 at the Borrani Factory .
As a good friend of Borrani for many years I was extended the courtesy of having them re-build my wheels. As you can see they we’re rebuild to exacting standards and are beautiful to behold. You will note that the wheels are dated on the inside with the month and year they were rebuilt. In addition, the RW number was restamped on the rims with the correct Borrani font. Add 4 new spinners and new 185 VR 16 Pirellis and the look and drive is like new.
Leather Interior Sound Deadener “Dynamat”
When I bought the car there was literally nothing correct about the interior.
The leather was off the shelf what I call cheap Cadillac leather, smooth and incorrect. The color was wrong not to mention the stitching and piping which was all done to what I call “American car standards.” The factory built sheet called for PAC 1386 Connolly Brothers Leather.
I contacted my good friend Andrea Maieli in Mantova Italy. His company is “Interni Auto Maieli.” In Italy he is regarded as the go to trimmer for Classic Maserati’s.
I asked him to send me via DHL six hides of PAC 1386 Cognac leather as well as a complete kit to redo the interior of 1121. In addition to the leather, I ordered a complete faster kit with original slot headed beveled fasteners in metric size together with special cup washers along with correct metric piping already skived and sewn. (see photos) He also send me the original textile material for lining the map pockets, this is the level of detail very few owners would pay the trimmer to do. For me it was never a question.
7.65 Yards of Italian Wilton 100% wool Abertone 4024 color Noce carpet was flown in from Radici in Florence Italy for a total cost of $552.09 The carpet was bound with the correct vinyl binding, NOT leather, and sewn in a special way per original complete with Maserati Logo heal pads and an extra set of floor mats.
At this time Dynamat sound proofing was cut and fit it to the floors and on the inside of the door skins in order to reduce the road noise and create a very smooth driving car.
Extra Sport Seats
Having owned and restored several 3500 Spyders. I always found the driving position to be uncomfortable at anything over 3 hours, same as the Mistral Spyder.
My goal with this car was to DRIVE It! So, I purchase 2 smaller seats that fully recline into the back seat area. I had them trimmed at the same time I redid the interior and they are extremely comfortable on long tours. The original seats can be installed in 10 minutes.
There were no extra holes drilled in the body. The sport seats were bolted to a sheet of black painted aluminum and the aluminum sheet what is bolted in the same holes as the original seats.
It is a great solution which makes the car very drivable. Of course, the original seats are sold with the car.
Radiator Fan, switch and dash light Radiator overflow tank
I installed an electric cooling fan in front of the radiator so you can’t see it. I call it cheap insurance. So many of these cars were overheated by 2 things. No optional electric fan and no overflow recovery system. They would get warm in summer heat or stop n go traffic and loose 1/4cup of coolant, then again, another ¼ cup and the next thing you know the car is overheating and the result is a blown head gasket, or worse yet, a warped head. What a pity.
In later Maserati’s beginning with the Mistral and all subsequent models the company installed an overflow recovery system, but not with the 3500GT.
I purchased a good quality recovery tank, one with a sight tube on the side and installed it. Bingo! I always know where the water level is and rest easy knowing the cooling system is full. The electric fan is operated by an original pull/push switch which is connected to a period correct dash light that lets me know the fan is on. This car always runs dead on temp, but if it does climb a little over normal I simply pull the fan switch and back to normal.
Window Motors and winding
The windows on these cars are operated with an electric motor and a series of cables that pull the window up and down using several pulleys – very complicated system the most technicians do not know how to deal with. The windows in 1121 I’ve been serviced by a very clever technician who understood very quickly how everything worked.
Beginning with the electric motors he disassembled and cleaned all the parts. He was able to find brushes that were very close to the originals and machine them two fit. The work he did is that of an artist. See the photos of the window motors and note in the video how they glide up and down.
Chrome work pedigree
The bumpers, grill shell, and door handles were sent out to Jon Wright’s Customchrome Plating of Grafton, Ohio, arguably the best chrome shop in the US. The same Jon Wright responsible for the Mulholland Speedster which won Best of Show at the 2017 Grand National Roadster Show in Pomona California and many other shows. The invoice stated “Show Quality” and that’s what I got.
The Head & Borgo Pistons
Everyone knows these cars produce their horsepower in the head. The heads of these cars are a work of art developed from decades of racing. When I bought the car, the seller mentioned that there was a little tick in the valve train and that the car most likely need a valve adjustment. Famous last words.
So, it was off to the mechanic to receive a baseline service which included among other things flushing the cooling system, flushing the brakes, changing oil in the engine, transmission and differential.
Of course, we would pull the cam covers and adjust the valves in order to get rid of that loud ticking noise. Boy, was I surprised? The intake valves we are a little tight but the exhaust valves had zero Clearance. Hmmm….
After we pulled the cam and the buckets, we found that the adjusting shims on the exhaust side we’re so thin that they could not be reduce any smaller. Somebody had taken a Dremel tool and ground on the valve spring retainers in order to get a clearance. Very unprofessional.
I had to pull the head. There was nothing else I could do. I sent head head over to Ed Pink Racing engines in Van Nuys California. They are the guys who produce all the Porsche Singer engines. Again the best in the business.
There upon disassembly they discovered that somebody had put in two incorrect exhaust valves which caused a whole mess.
The head was completely rebuilt including new valves, valve guides, new up rated springs for higher revs. The cam journals were line bored and everything set up to exacting standards, including new black wrinkle paint. The only good thing to come out of the $6,000 + expense was looking down at the pistons and seeing that they were original Borgo pistons. Not a cheap aftermarket.
Brakes & Brake Booster
The brake booster was rebuilt by Harmon Classic Brakes in Canton Georgia again one of the best in the business. The booster was sleeved and powder coated. They also have a system where they coat the can with a Teflon material in order to extend the useful life of the rebuild.
I have used them on many of my 3500GT’s with excellent results.
Brakes – April 2018 rebuilt the 4 brake calipers with new pistons and seals. Installed new Brake and clutch Master Cylinder and clutch slave cylinder as well as all new brake lines.
Nov 15 2018 rebuilt water pump with new seal, bearing and gasket.
Convertible top kit
The car comes with a complete convertible top kit. This kit was purchase from my good friend Andrea Maieli in Mantova Italy. The same guy who supplied the Leather kit. The kit consists of original black top material, rear window plastic, new chrome trim for top and new latches. The original top is in very good condition and works with little effort, however it seems to have shrunk a little on the right rear.
This has not been a problem for me as I drive the car 90% of the time with the top down. Thinking ahead, I purchased the top kit and thought that at some point in the future I or a new owner owner may want to renew the top, and in that case all the material and parts would be there with the car.
MonoFlux Fuel Pumps and original fuel lines
These cars are often sold with wrong Bendix type fuel pumps and 1121 is no exception.
When I bought the car, it indeed had the wrong fuel pumps. I was able to purchase 2 used MonoFlux OEM fuel pumps and have them rebuilt with new diaphragms by Denison International in Puyallup Washington one of the top restoration shops in the world. not cheap – over $2,000 just for the rebuild – but very high quality.
The bigger problem is the metric copper fuel lines and special fittings needed to plumb the job. For this I turned to my good friends at AutoSport in Modena. I was fortunate enough to have two sets of fuel lines made and flown in via DHL. See the photos.
A period correct Autovox radio was found on eBay and installed in the car. At the time I trimmed the car with new leather I decided to NOT install speakers. So the radio is for looks only. I just do not have the heart to cut up that new leather to install speakers.
An extra set of new tail light lens go with the car together with other parts to be listed here.