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The origin of a world-renowned emblem

When a myth became a logo

The Trident is one of the most iconic symbols in the luxury automotive world. And it has been for almost a century now. Since its inception, the Trident has been a feature of every single racing or road-going car in Maserati 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 manufacturers 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 would build themselves. They called it the Tipo 26, the number indicating its year of construction. It was the first real Maserati so, 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 the arts instead and studied at Brera Academy. As such, he was the one Alfieri asked to create an image that represented the product that would carry the Maserati family name on the roads of Italy and beyond. Legend has it that 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. Mario’s idea to use it for the Maserati symbol was very well received.
The historic day of the debut
On Sunday, April 25, 1926, the Tipo 26 made its very first appearance along with the famous Trident badge, which has since become synonymous with Maserati. It was an historic day both for the Maserati brothers and 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, symbolizing quality and victory. The car was painted red, the Italian racing color, and it bore the 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 112 mph. Alfieri and Guerino did well. They won their 1500 class and came in 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 Maserati won the flying kilometer at Bologna. The Tipo 26 had established its name. Italian gentlemen drivers inundated the Maserati brothers with orders for the car.

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 black logo of the Trident was placed at the center of a white badge. 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. 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 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 center of a perfect oval and it is blue and red — representing the colors of the city of Bologna where it came to life. Decade after decade, model after model, the design of the Trident, along with its details, kept evolving, taking on multiple shapes. Today, 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 represents the ideas of speed and performance. Over time, the design of the Maserati symbol has become less complex and more stylized.

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.” The trident was a symbol of his strength and vigor, showing his indisputable dominion over the sea and all the sea deities and creatures who acknowledge him as their ruler. He had 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 engine horsepower.
Variations of the Trident

A recurring theme

The Trident has shone 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” hinting at the shape of the weapon. That’s why the number three has been referenced again and again on Maserati cars. It’s in the position light clusters, both front and rear and in the triple air vents along the side of the cars. The Trident adorns the front grille, the trunk, the headrests, the steering wheels and even the analog clock. Furthermore, the design of all the wheel rims is inspired by the Trident concept.

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