CC Capsule: 2015 Maserati Mostro Zagato – The Monster Returns

Back in the old days – by which I mean up to the ‘50s/’60s, one-off or extremely limited-run coachbuilt cars were quite rare, by definition, but they did exist. Then the coachbuilders closed down one by one, even as cars became more difficult to work on due to both regulations and technology. The trickle of specials shrank down to almost nothing. But it never disappeared entirely.

By some miracle, Zagato never went out of business and kept on making remarkable work. What we have here is a 2015 Maserati Mostro, one of five produced. As a Zagato-bodied Maserati, you’d think it’s about as Italian as linguini vongole, but strangely enough, it has a waffle base.

First things first, though: this car’s purpose was to commemorate Maserati’s 100th birthday. Who’d have thought they would have made it into three-digit territory? It was certainly worth a special. Over the decades, Zagato and Maserati worked together many times, but the one Zagato-clad Maser that was universally hailed as a masterpiece was a one-off 1957 450S coupé, so the Mostro took its inspiration from that illustrious predecessor.

Here’s the original – not the worst thing ever designed, is it? It was the first of nine 450S chassis (#4501). Originally an open car like other 450Ss, it was very soon rebodied by Zagato, using a Frank Costin design. It was a true racer, with a 400hp 4.5 litre DOHC V8, and was piloted by Moss and Fangio. Sheer automotive royalty.

The issue with doing a 21st Century take on that 450S was that Maseratis of the 2010s were rather ill-suited for the exercise. Zagato themselves had no capacity to build a chassis, so some other supercar was going to have to donate its chassis. And it had to be a front-engined one, preferably with a Maserati V8.

It so happens that there was such a car hailing from, of all places, Belgium. Automobiles Gillet were founded in 1992 and the Vertigo .5 has been their sole product since 2010-11. It’s mostly carbon-fiber, chassis included, and fitted with the 420hp Ferrari-Maserati 4.2 litre V8 employed in the Quattroporte. Power drives the rear wheels only via a sequential six-speed transaxle.

So underneath the sleek Z-stamped and trident-festooned body lies a platform manufactured near Namur, the capital of Wallonia. It’s a good thing they used the Gillet’s best feature, i.e. its chassis, as in terms of looks, the only Belgian supercar is more tortured than anything else. The Mostro, on the other hand, is about as beautiful as a 2015 supercar could be.

It certainly caught the eye of more than just yours truly, when it pulled up at the famous gingko tree-lined Jingu Gaien avenue I regularly visit on Sundays. There are always plenty of recent Italian exotics about on those occasions, but this was not the usual screeching brightly-coloured Lambo.

The Mostro monicker (Italian for “monster”) was bestowed upon the original 450S Coupé by Stirling Moss himself, by the way. Perfect model name for both the 1957 car or this one. It’s also quite fitting that one of the five made migrated to Japan, as it’s the country of birth of Zagato chief designer Norihiko Harada, who penned the Mostro’s stunning lines.

At the 2022 Villa d’Este concours event, Zagato announced the production of another five Mostros – this time in open-top barchetta form, and all of them already spoken for. It would be nice to see them all aligned, like those Giulietta Spiders, one Sunday. Or perhaps that would be a bit too monstrous, even for Tokyo.