Alfieri Maserati and his brother Ettore were both employed at Isotta-Fraschini when they decided to establish their own race-tuning business in 1914. The war delayed activity with 16-year Ernesto Maserati being left in charge but when the brothers returned they began to tune cars and Alfieri raced them. This led to an alliance with the Diatto company and in 1925 the Maserati Brothers designed a Grand Prix car for Diatto. It was never built and the Maseratis decided to build their own instead. The car was debuted on the Targa Florio in 1926 and won its class. They began building customer cars to help fund their own racing activities.
In March 1932 Alfieri died of kidney problems but Bindo left Isotta Fraschini and joined Ettore and Ernesto and they continued the work begun by their brother. Opposition from Alfa Romeo and the growing might of the German companies made winning Grands Prix harder and harder and by the late 1930s the company was in financial trouble and the brothers agreed to hand over their shares to Adolfo Orsi, an industrialist from Modena. The deal gave them technical control of the company for 10 years. Free from worries of management they concentrated on engineering. Although the war came and the Orsi Family gradually edged them out, the Maserati brothers enjoyed a string of victories at the Indianapolis 500. As the war progressed, however, Maserati had to move into the production of trucks.
In 1946 the Maserati Brothers left the company and set up OSCA. The Orsis began building roadgoing cars with the sleek A6 model. The racing activities were overseen by Scuderia Milan, a group of racing enthusiasts led by Arialdo Ruggeri and Arnaldo Mazzucchelli. The cars were pre-war models modified as best they could and then new cars were commissioned by the team and by Scuderia Ambrosiana and so the firm enjoyed considerable success in the immediate postwar era.
Maserati struggled in the face of the new Alfa Romeos which were prepared for the World Championship and it was not until the formula was changed that the Orsis decided to invest in a new racing car. They hired Alfa Romeo's Gioacchino Colombo and he designed the Maserati 250F for 1954. One of the classic Grand Prix cars - the 250F took Juan-Manuel Fangio to the World Championship in 1954 and again in 1957 - but at the end of the year Maserati announced its withdrawal from Grand Prix racing.
In April 1958 the company went into receivership for a while and the Orsis decided to revive the business by concentrating on building a series of grand touring cars, beginning with the 3500GT. Racing became just a small part of the business. The company produced racing engines which were used throughout the early 1960s and the famous "Birdcage" Maserati sportscars.
The spotlight remained on road cars, however, and in 1962 the company produced the Sebring which was followed in 1963 by the first saloon called the Quattroporte. Maserati France commissioned a new sportscar for the Le Mans 24 Hours but the program ended in disaster with the death of Lloyd Castner. The company also produced a series of successful F1 engines but in 1968 the Orsis sold the company to Citroen. Maserati engines were used in a variety of Ligier sportscars but Maseratis cars were not selling and in May 1975 Maserati was put into liquidation. A rescue bid was mounted by Alessandro de Tomaso and he produced a new model range which revived the company.
The company was revived and since 1993 has belonged to Ferrari and in 2004 the company made an official return to racing with a sports car based on the Ferrari Enzo. At the start of 2005 Maserati was sold to Alfa Romeo.