By Eric Barton
Before getting to the new Maserati dealership in southwest Broward, maybe it’s worth looking back at the car’s history in Florida. Maseratis have never been made here, but, undoubtedly, their name was made here.
It happened in 1957, when Maserati execs had this idea, after a couple of decades of rivalry, of knocking off Ferrari. They lured away Ferrari’s best driver, Juan Manuel Fangio, an Argentine called El Chueco, “the bowlegged one.” His first goal: Beat Ferrari at the 12 Hours of Sebring.
Things aren’t much different now for the two companies. The States, and Florida especially, remain among their most important markets. That shows with the fact that Broward now has two Maserati dealers – to Ferrari’s one – with the opening of Rick Case Maserati in Davie.
The new dealership is a large one for an Italian manufacturer: 32 employees, 22,000 square feet, and a hundred Maseratis in stock. The new location is part of Maserati’s goal of expansion. Since returning to the United States in 2002, Maserati has grown nearly ten-fold, from 3,567 cars sold worldwide to 36,448 last year. That’s in part on the back of the Ghibli, the company’s most affordable model, starting at $66,000. Next year, though, will come the Levante, an SUV the company expects will become perhaps its best seller, targeting a crowd now driving Cayennes and X6s.
The Ghibli and Levante cars may sound slightly down-market for a company that has always been billed as a bespoke, hand-built luxury line. But the dealership’s owner, Rick Case, promises something just as good.
“These are the cream-of-the-crop Italian sports cars,” he said in early November, watching construction workers add plaster to the outside of the building. “This SUV will be big. It’s the first Maserati SUV, and it’s going to be something special.”
It ought to be, if it’s going to follow the history of Maserati in Florida. At that 1957 race, Fangio led almost the entire race, especially after the Ferrari had to pull off for a half-hour to make repairs. But during his last pit stop, Fangio’s men made what could be a fatal mistake. They spilled gasoline on his seat. There was no time to mop it up, so he went back out.
For the next half hour, the pit crew watched as Fangio drove soaked in gas. He’d either win or possibly finish up in a ball of fire.
When fireworks went off to signal the end of the race, Ferrari had managed just fourth place. In first, with his gas-soaked Maserati, was Fangio, once again earning the nickname, the bowlegged one.
Maserati had, finally, bested Ferrari. Right here, in Florida.
Rick Case Maserati, 3500 Weston Road, Davie, 855-286-9728, rickcasemaserati.com.