Thursday, February 12, 2004

After years of tinkering with American muscle cars, primarily Camaros, Glenn Richman thought he would try something a little more exotic, maybe something Italian.

He began what he thought would be an extended search for an exotic car about three months ago. How was he to know that within a fortnight he would locate, on EBay, a 1960 Maserati 3500 GT in Newburgh, N.Y.

Mr. Richman learned that the 3500 GT was first presented to the public by Maserati at the Geneva Motor Show in March 1957. It has an in-line six-cylinder engine with a single overhead cam and is fed fuel by three two-barrel carburetors to develop 220 horsepower on its 102-inch wheelbase. He says the car sold new for about $6,000.

After acquiring that knowledge, Mr. Richman gathered additional information from the seller about the vehicle before venturing up to New York to check out the car in person. With his curiosity piqued, a week and a half before Christmas 2003 he drove to New York City and then on up the Hudson Valley past West Point to Newburgh.

He gave the aluminum-bodied Maserati a thorough once-over as best as he could under the circumstances and finding a complete, if not perfect, car, bought it on Dec. 15, 2003.

Arrangements were made to have the sleek, 3,232-pound car trucked to his Woodbridge home. When it arrived, he considered it his Christmas present to himself.

He expected to replace the shot water pump because he had heard it squealing like a pig when he first started the car in New York. The pump was replaced, as were the 6.50x16-inch tires with new radials.

The aluminum body is stretched over the welded tubular steel frame and happily it is in good condition with only minor imperfections needing to be ironed out.

About 2,200 of the 2-plus-2 coupes were manufactured from 1957 to 1964 with optional front disc brakes in the early years.

Even though the speedometer is set to register speeds up to 160 mph, the reported top speed is 148 mph. Acceleration from zero to 60 mph is achieved in 6.7 seconds.

The capacity of the gasoline tank is 20 gallons and Mr. Richman reports highway mileage of about 14 mpg. He says the owner’s manual recommends straight 50-weight oil in the hot summer months and 30-weight oil the rest of the year.

On either side of the hood scoop is a piece of chrome-plated script reading “superleggera” which Mr. Richman translates as “super light.”

Inside the cozy cockpit is seating for four in red-leather luxury. The instruments are arranged in a dashboard that drops vertically from the base of the windshield. The black-leather-covered dashboard in front of the front-seat passenger, however, sweeps back into the passenger compartment, capped by a big horizontal grab bar.

Nestled in the dashboard in front of the passenger is the original RCA transistor AM radio. An optional heater under the dashboard is capable of quickly warming the cockpit and occupants.

While starting the Maserati, the driver must necessarily become familiar with the passenger because the hand choke is located under the dashboard directly above the knees of the front-seat passenger.

In the most prominent location of all the controls, in the center of the dashboard near the top, is the cigarette lighter — a sign of the times.

The four-speed manual transmission is on the floor between the front bucket seats.

Mr. Richman is somewhat amused by his very Italian car. “Nothing is marked,” he says, “not a knob, lever or switch is labeled.”

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