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When a myth became a logo

The origin of a world-renowned emblem

The Trident is one of the most iconic symbols in the luxury automotive world. And it’s been for almost a century now. Since its inception, it’s been a feature of every single racing or road-going car in Maserati’s history. Originally drawn by Mario Maserati, the trident remained a constant throughout the evolution of the brand and its style, underlining the exclusive status of Maserati cars and their identity as masterpieces of elegance, luxury and sports car performance.
Today it is proudly displayed atop the factory offices of Maserati, a landmark in Modena for almost eighty years.Maserati chose to embody this two-sided spirit, creating an intrinsic and intriguing tension: on the one hand, elegance, refinement, craftsmanship; on the other, a rebellious spirit, a hunger for performance, a need for adventure.

The origin of the design

A badge for the first true Maserati
The first world motor racing championship for car constructors took place in 1925. The three Maserati brothers spent the winter months of 1926 at their Via Emilia Levante headquarters, in Bologna, working on what would become the first car they were to build themselves. They called it the Tipo 26, the number indicating its year of construction: that was the first real Maserati and – of course – a badge was needed. Mario, fifth-born of the Maserati brothers, was the only one who wasn’t interested in cars or motor racing. He loved arts instead and studied at Brera Academy: that’s why he was the one Alfieri asked to create an image that represented the product which, from that point on, would carry the Maserati family name on the roads of Italy, and later the world. Legend has it, Mario went walking around Bologna and at the very end of Piazza Maggiore came across the statue of Neptune. The god of the sea was holding his three-pronged spear in his hand: the trident. The idea was very well received.
The historic day of the debut
On Sunday 25 April 1926, the Tipo 26 made its very first appearance along with the famous Trident badge which has since become synonymous with Maserati: a day as historic for the Maserati brothers as it was for Italian motor racing. Held on a 70-mile course of public roads on the island of Sicily, the Targa Florio saw the participation of the Tipo 26, driven by Alfieri Maserati with Guerino Bertocchi as his riding mechanic. From that moment on, the Trident badge would become world-renowned and genuinely symbolise quality and victory. The car was painted red, the Italian racing colour, and it carried number 5. It was powered by a vertical 8-cylinder 1492 cc in-line engine that generated 120 hp at 5300 rpm for a top speed of over 180 kph. Alfieri and Bertocchi did well. They won their 1500 class and came eighth overall, even beating two Bugattis to the finish line. Bolstered by their initial success, the brothers immediately started to build more Tipo 26s and by mid-June the car took its first overall victory when Ernesto won the flying kilometre at Bologna. The Tipo 26 had made its name. Italian gentlemen drivers inundated the Maserati brothers with orders for the car. The debut of the logo is phenomenal because the story of the very first Maserati car is phenomenal.

The evolution of the design

More and more iconic
On early cars – and particularly on the Tipo 26 – the badge was rectangular and made out of pure silver. The logo of the trident was placed at the centre of the badge and it was black and white. Starting from 1931, the retaining shape was changed. In fact, the flat, rectangular badge could no longer be applied on the now curved radiator shapes: that’s why it became an oval with sharp edges. Another version of the story though says that the new shape represented the ellipse section of the chassis tubes that Maserati used for its Grand Prix cars: a distinct engineering feature that made them stronger over traditional round chassis tubes. Whatever may be the reason, the more aerodynamic and modern oval shape has been in use ever since, with slight stylistic variations through the years. Today, the logo is at the centre of a perfect oval and it is blue and red – like a distant memory of the colours of the city of Bologna, where it came to life. Decade after decade, model after model, the design of the trident, along with its little details, its little lines, kept changing evolving, taking on multiple shapes. Nowadays, one of the most unmistakable versions is the “Saetta” logo that adorns the C-pillars of both Quattroporte and Ghibli, carrying on a tradition dating back to 1963: the classic trident design is underlined by a thunderbolt, which enhances the ideas of speed and performance. Over time, the design of the trident has become less and less complex. More and more stylised.
More and more iconic.

The myth behind the Trident

The god of the sea and the tamer of horses
The statue of Neptune at the very end of Piazza Maggiore in Bologna inspired Mario to create the Maserati logo. Neptune is the mythological God of the Sea, brother of Pluto and Jupiter, often pictured as an old man with curly hair and a long beard, holding a three-pronged fisherman’s spear, called “trident”: a symbol of his strength and vigour. He holds indisputable dominion over the sea and all the sea deities and creatures, who overtly acknowledge him as their ruler. He has the ability to cause mighty storms at will as well as the power to soothe the swells, granting safe navigation to sailors.
Surprisingly enough for the God of the Sea, Neptune is also known as the Tamer of Horses. Early depictions show him riding across the waves in a chariot drawn by horses of the sea. These representations immediately link him to the world of racing: a connection that comes full circle with the horses becoming the embodiment of horsepower, the power produced by car engines.

A recurring theme

Variations of the trident

The Trident has shrined with pride on every Maserati car for ninety years. But the three prongs that compose it have been interpreted in many different ways, giving birth to different variations of this recurring theme. The word “trident” comes from a Latin word which literally translates into “three teeth” which hint to the shape of the weapon. That’s why the number three has been featured again and again on all Maserati cars: it’s in the position light clusters, both front and rear; it’s in the airducts along the side of the cars that channel hot air out of the engine bay; the trident adorns the front grille, the boot, the headrests, the steering wheels and even the analog clock. Furthermore, the design of all the wheel rims is inspired by the trident concept.Today it is proudly displayed atop the factory offices of Maserati, a landmark in Modena for almost eighty years.Maserati chose to embody this two-sided spirit, creating an intrinsic and intriguing tension: on the one hand, elegance, refinement, craftsmanship; on the other, a rebellious spirit, a hunger for performance, a need for adventure.

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