He’s stuck on Maseratis
ONE man’s passion keeps Maserati’s history alive. His name is Umberto Panini and there is little hint in the minimalistic buildings at his dairy farm, Hombre, on the outskirts of Modena.
Even the barn doors give no idea of the rich motoring history inside.
Panini has the world’s biggest private collection of Maseratis.
The line-up represents an amazing company that has been through seven owners and endured the depths of bankruptcy and the highs of world championship racing.
Panini, 78, became very rich in the sticker business. Popular since the 1960s, the stickers and cards depicting anything from football players to cartoon characters were dispensed from Panini’s coin-operated machines around Italy and other European countries.
Panini sold out in 1988 and built up his Modena farm.
In 1997 Modena’s pride, Maserati, was sold to Fiat by its owners, de Tomaso, and the company’s car collection was auctioned in London.
The outcry from Italy was so strong it resulted in Panini buying 22 Maserati cars.
They went into his barn, adding to dozens of other cars, military vehicles, racing engines, tractors and motorcycles. He owns two immaculate Maserati motorbikes.
The collection is arranged on either side of the barn — Maseratis to the left, others to the right— with selected models in the middle. Upstairs are motorcycles and models of prospective cars.
The early models attract the most attention, starting with the Maserati A6 GCS Berlinetta designed by Pininfarina. It was valued recently at $8 million. Its grille has been copied for the latest Maserati Quattroporte.
The collection includes a 1936 6CM single-seat racer that has been perfectly restored. Then there’s a Tipo 250F, the V12 version of the iconic racing Maserati that sped Juan Manuel Fangio to grand prix victory in 1954.
Behind is Stirling Moss’s Eldorado 420M, then a mid-engined Tipo 63 and a Tipo 61 Birdcage. It got its name because its 36kg space frame chassis is made of 200 steel tubes that resemble the bars of a bird cage.
More modern cars include Mistrals and Boras, Ghiblis and Meraks, with rarities such as the Shah of Persia’s 1958 5000GT by Touring, one of only four built.
There is a prototype Simun of 1964, a prototype Chubasco V8, a one-off turbocharged Merak and one of only 52 Quattroporte III Royale models made, this 1986 example with a fridge, airconditioning and telephone.
Panini’s favourite is a 1909 Rolland-Pilan Model C he found in terrible condition under a hedge.
It was restored over five years in time to be the carriage for the wedding of his daughter and now sits alongside a De Dion Bouton.
Anyone can visit the museum by appointment. The first step is to email email@example.com
Motoring history: (left) Umberto Panini, and (right, from top) the Maserati 250F V12, the 1958 Eldorado 420M and the Tipo 61 Birdcage.