Auctions and Brokerage
Coachwork by Frua
One of Only 10 Examples BuiltCharles Rezzaghi Motors, San Francisco, California (acquired new in 1957)George N. Thompson, Marysville, California (acquired circa 1966)Wheeler Oldsmobile-Cadillac, Yuba City, California (acquired in 1969)Francis G. Mandarano, Seattle, Washington (acquired circa 1987)John Masuda, Costa Mesa, California (acquired from the above circa 1990)Alfredo Brener, Houston, Texas (acquired from the above circa 1992)Private Collection, US (acquired from the above in 2003)Current Owner (acquired from the above)
Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance®, Pebble Beach, California, August 1988Keels & Wheels Concours d’Elegance, Seabrook, Texas, May 1998Concorso Italiano, Carmel Valley, California, August 1998Concorso Italiano, Carmel Valley, California, August 2000LA Auto Show, Los Angeles, California, January 2002
The A6G/54, unveiled at the Paris Auto Salon in 1954, represented the ultimate evolution of the A6 series, Maserati’s first postwar sports car. Developed from the highly successful A6GCS sports racing cars and the earlier single-cam A6G/2000 road car, the A6G/54 was an exclusive gran turismo; its fine engineering and exquisite attention to detail embodied the very best qualities of the Maserati marque.
Based on a robust tube-frame chassis, the A6G/54 borrowed a variety of features from the A6GCS, including many of its race-proven braking, steering, and suspension components. At the heart of the car was a gorgeous all-aluminum twin-cam six-cylinder engine that Gioacchino Colombo had originally developed for competition purposes. In order to create a more civilized road car, Maserati engineer Vittorio Bellentani revisited the original design and implemented wet-sump lubrication, chain-driven camshafts, and a revised valve train.
Equipped with three Weber 40 DCO3 carburetors and available with an optional twin-plug cylinder head, the A6G/54 was among the best performing two-liter cars of its era. Famed automotive journalist Hans Tanner, in testing the A6G/54 for Motor Racing, found that the new Maserati offered “instantaneous acceleration, faultless roadholding and excellent handling.”
In typical Maserati practice, a series of bodies was commissioned for the A6G/54 chassis. Allemano, Frua, and Zagato each imbued the Maserati chassis with their own distinctive character and style. Pietro Frua, who began his career as a draftsman for Stabilimenti Farina, offered two distinct body styles for the A6G/54 chassis: a handsome coupe and a dramatic spider. According to marque historian Adolfo Orsi, Maserati produced just 10 A6G/54s with Frua Spider coachwork.
Frua’s design for the A6G/54 Spider took cues from an earlier collaboration with Maserati. In 1955, Carrozzeria Frua built custom Spider bodies on two competition A6GCS chassis that were characterized by a central bonnet stripe finished in a contrasting color to match the upholstery; this same attractive feature was repeated on the later A6G/54 Frua Spiders. All finished in striking two-tone color schemes and ornately detailed with Frua’s signature scripting and brightwork, the Maserati A6G/54 Spiders are brilliant examples of the coachbuilder’s art. Many enthusiasts regard these cars as Pietro Frua’s masterpieces, and they are certainly among the most attractive open sports cars built during the 1950s.
The Maserati A6G/54 presented here, chassis 2191, was completed in March 1957, making it the fifth Frua Spider built. According to the factory build sheet, the coachwork was originally finished in Latte Scuro (Dark Milk) with a red central stripe, upholstery, and top. Records also indicate that 2191 was outfitted from new with Cibie lights, English-language instruments, an Abarth exhaust system, and Borrani outside-lace wire wheels with Pirelli Supersport tires.
Upon completion on March 11, 1957, Guerino Bertocchi drove 2191 to the Modena Autodromo, where it took part in a special presentation for the Italian automotive press. There, the Frua Spider and an experimental 12-cylinder 250F Grand Prix car were driven by the great Juan Manuel Fangio, who had recently been hired to drive for the Maserati factory team during the 1957 season.
According to Aldofo Orsi, chassis 2191 was delivered new to the US in spring 1957. Though the original records of the Maserati Corporation of America were not preserved in the factory archive, it is believed that this Frua Spider was initially retailed through Charles Rezzaghi Motors, the well-known Italian car dealer based in San Francisco, California.
The first recorded owner of the A6G/54 was George N. Thompson, the proprietor of a furniture business in Marysville, California. In December 1966, Mr. Thompson wrote to the Maserati factory to request a number of spare components, stating, “I would appreciate receiving all available parts as soon as possible, especially the clutch, as the car has now been immobile for three months. This is no way to treat such a beautiful automobile.” Mr. Thompson evidently kept the Maserati until 1969, when it was traded in to Wheeler Oldsmobile-Cadillac, a dealership in Yuba City, California.
In the mid-1980s, a gentleman in Portland, Oregon, advertised the Frua Spider for sale. By this time, the Maserati had been sitting in storage for over a decade, and the bodywork had been refinished in red with a black central stripe, though the interior still featured the original ivory-colored dashboard and red leather upholstery. The car immediately caught the attention of Frank Mandarano of Seattle, Washington.
Mr. Mandarano, who founded the Maserati Club International, a Maserati service and restoration company (MIE Corp.), and Concorso Italiano, seized the opportunity to acquire the rare Frua Spider and, over the next several years, performed a cosmetic restoration. Once completed, 2191 was displayed at the 1988 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance® and graced the cover of Viale Ciro Menotti, the official magazine of the Maserati Club International.
In the early 1990s, the Frua Spider joined Alfredo Brener’s comprehensive collection of coachbuilt and one-off Maseratis. Early on in his ownership, 2191 was restored in its original ivory color (with black rather than red stripe and upholstery), and Rod Drew’s Francorchamps of America Inc. in Costa Mesa, California, rebuilt the original engine. In this form, the A6G/54 was exhibited at the Keels & Wheels Concours in Seabrook, Texas; Concorso Italiano in Carmel Valley, California; and the 2002 LA Auto Show, where it was featured in the presentation of the new Maserati 4200 Spider. Mr. Brener retained the Frua Spider until 2003, when his collection was sold at auction. Over the past 13 years, the Frua Spider has been a fixture in a major private collection and has not been publically exhibited.
Today, 2191 presents well, having seen little use since its restoration was completed in the mid-1990s. In its current cosmetic condition, this rare coachbuilt Maserati might be an ideal candidate for prestigious rallies – such as the Mille Miglia, Colorado Grand, and California Mille – or it could be restored to its original splendor and be a candidate for top honors at any major international concours d’elegance, from Pebble Beach to Villa d’Este. Significantly, this Frua Spider retains its original matching-numbers engine, making it a rarity among A6G-series Maseratis.
The A6G/54, one of Maserati’s great road-going models, is among the most desirable Italian sports cars of the 1950s. Due to their exceptional style, superb dynamic qualities, and mechanical sophistication, these fashionable Maseratis have long been the preferred choice of connoisseurs and compare favorably to contemporary offerings from other sports car manufacturers. The Frua Spiders are particularly coveted, with most examples residing in prominent private collections.
With its ideal specification, fascinating history, and outstanding provenance, 2191 stands as a significant example of the marvelous A6G/54. We encourage any collector in search of an important 1950s sports car to take a closer look at this fascinating Maserati.