‘AS SOON AS I FOUND OUT MASERATI MADE MOTOR CYCLES I HAD TO HAVE ONE’
GRR Maserati centenary tour part three: James Wheeler, classic car/bike dealer
Did you know Maserati made motorcycles? One man who does (he frequently goes to Italy to buy them) is James Wheeler, otherwise known in this country as a classic Alfa Romeo specialist, as well as GRRC member and regular at Goodwood. But today it’s Masers we want to talk about.
James’ Black & White Garage is just outside Newbury where our MkVI Quattroporte GTS is met by a MkIV from Maserati’s boxy period. The square-cut shape from 1994 looks crisp and petite next to the big, black, bulging new car. ‘I like it because it’s rare, gentlemanly like all Maseratis should be and not so fast it’s scary,’ says James Wheeler. The car is not his biggest Maserati passion, however James is one of the few people in the world to deal in Maserati motorcycles.
‘As soon as I found out Maserati made motorbikes I had to have one,’ says James. The bikes, made by Maserati between 1953 and ’60 to cash in on the postwar two-wheeler boom, aren’t fast or powerful but they are real Maseratis, complete with the famous trident symbol.
‘Most people don’t know that Maserati made two-wheelers so they are always a great talking point.’ James has sold about 10 of the lightweight single-cylinder machines, sending them as far afield as Canada and Germany. ‘They generally go to existing Maserati owners. If you have the car why not have the bike to go with it?’
In fully restored condition bikes like the 1955 L/125/T2 Turismo Lusso in the picture sell for around £7500. With its 125cc engine it’s a far cry from the four-wheeled Maseratis of the same era but then as now their stylish and sporty character makes them a hit. James buys his motorcycles in Italy but inevitably the best ones are becoming rarer now. ‘I want to hoover up as many as I can before they all go,’ he says.
James was first bitten by the Maserati bug when the new era sports models – the ‘boomerang lights’ 3200 and then, under Ferrari control, the 4200 – first came out. “I have always liked the fact that a Maserati is not an obvious choice – a little like an Italian Bristol.”
Any traders’ tips for would-be buyers? ‘The Bora seems to have taken off but the Merak seems crazy underpriced. The danger is because these cars have been worth little in the past they haven’t had the money spent on them, and could need a great deal of work doing. It’s important only to buy from a specialist who knows what they are talking about.’
For the future, James doesn’t recommend Maserati start building bikes again but he does have some advice for the factory: ‘I just hope they don’t try too hard to be a BMW. You buy a Maserati to be different. You don’t want to turn every corner and see one.’
Photos: David Edmund-Jones