The Maserati 8CTF and 8CL Cars

The year 1938 saw the beginning of a new Grand Prix Formula with a supercharged capacity of 3,000 c.c. and naturally the German teams of Auto-Union and Mercedes-Benz built new and advanced cars for the first season. At the Tripoli G.P. early in the season a lone Maserati 3,000 c.c. appeared and was driven by Count Carlo Felice Trossi and it went incredibly quickly, making second fastest lap at 135 m.p.h. to the fastest lap by Lang’s Mercedes-Benz at 136 m.p.h. This Maserati was an 8CTF model, number 3030, and it followed typical Maserati design from the 1936 and 1937 “voiturette” racing cars of 1,500 c.c. It had a channel-section steel chassis, i.f.s. by wishbones and longitudinal torsion bars and ¼-elliptic leaf springs at the rear supporting a one-piece conventional axle. The engine was a straight-eight cylinder with two four-cylinder blocks end-to-end with two overhead camshafts. At the front of the engine were two Roots-type superchargers, mounted one above the other and feeding to a common inlet tract, single-stage, not two-stage. A four-speed gearbox was mated to the rear of the crankcase and the propeller shaft ran under the driving seat and compared with the German cars with their tubular chassis frames, V12-cylinder engines, de Dion rear suspension and low build, the 8CTF seemed rather old fashioned. However, it obviously had a lot of power and was manageable for the Tripoli circuit was very fast and full of flat-out curves. During the season a second car, 3031, was built and the two of them appeared in the Coppa Ciano race at Livorno, the second one being driven by Zehender. In practice Trossi drove 3030 to fastest lap on both days, lapping in 2 min. 26.1 sec. to the 2 min. 26.4 sec. of Lang and Caracciola in Mercedes-Benz cars, and the 2 min. 27.4 sec. of Farina with a 12-cylinder Alfa Romeo. In the race Trossi took the lead on the fourth lap and held it for four laps, until the engine went sick and he retired, Zehender in 3031 having already retired. For the Coppa Acerbo at Pescara, which followed, only one car was ready in time, this being 3030, and Trossi drove it, but he was taken ill during the race and stopped to hand the car over to a new young star named Luigi Villoresi, who proceeded to show remarkable ability with this very fast car. Although he got nowhere in the race he did make the fastest lap, and everyone realised that if only Maserati had an organised team like the Germans they could have been winning races. In the Italian G.P. at Monza the two cars were entered, driven by Trossi and Zehender, and the former finished in 5th place. In late October the Donington G.P. was held and Maserati sent 3031 to be driven by the young Villoresi, but it retired after 18 laps with piston trouble, when lying behind the German cars.

In 1939 the Italians decided to run all their races to a 1,500 c.c. limit, in a rather unsporting attempt to stop the Germans winning races, so Maserati slowed up on development of the 8CTF, but interest was shown from Indianapolis. When the Germans and Italians went to the Roosevelt Raceway event in 1936 and 1937 the Indianapolis racing fraternity took keen interest in the machinery and Wilbur Shaw made it quite clear that with a European car he could win Indianapolis in 1938. It was not possible to buy a German car, and Alfa Romeo would only sell obsolete Grand Prix cars, so Shaw looked to Maserati and made a deal with Michael Boyle, who entered cars at Indianapolis. Boyle’s mechanic Cotton Henning contacted Bologna and bought the latest Maserati in early 1938, but it was a 1,500 c.c. 6-cylinder, for they only had the one 3-litre at the time. As soon as the 1½-litre car arrived at Indianapolis Shaw realised it was not what he expected and arranged for Mauri Rose to drive the car, for though it lapped at 118 m.p.h. and was quick enough to qualify it was not quick enough to win. After the 1935 race Boyle agreed to try again and this time Henning went to Bologna and returned with a brand new 8CTF number 3032 on March 17th 1939. Meanwhile the Maserati factory were busy with “voiturette” racing and were developing their new 4-cylinder 1½-litre which had a bore and stroke of 78 x 78 mm. and four valves per cylinder, whereas their previous 4-cylinder engines were 69 x 100 mm. with two valves per cylinder. The 8CTF engine was based on the earlier engine with the bore and stroke of 69 x 100 mm., with two valves per cylinder. The factory retained the two cars, 3030 and 3031, but did not use them until the middle of 1939 when Villoresi and Paul Pietsch drove them in the German G.P. at the Nurburgring.

Before this, Indianapolis had taken place and Shaw was as good as his word and won the 500-mile race at 115.035 m.p.h. having qualified at 128.977 m.p.h. The car was entered as the Boyle Special and the owner was more than satisfied with his association with Shaw, but it had not been straight-forward. When the car was unloaded from its lorry at Indianapolis after its arrival from Bologna it was found that the cylinder blocks were cracked. Before Henning left the factory with the car the engine had been run and it had been shipped without draining the water out, and being late February it had frozen during the voyage and the brand new car was ruined by frost damage. Some high pressure trans-Atlantic dealings got another engine over in time for Indianapolis practice, this being 3033, there not being a chassis of that number. First time out Shaw lapped easily at 127 m.p.h. and his qualifying speed got him third fastest and on the front row of the grid.

In Europe Pietsch did great things at the Nurburgring, getting into second place behind Lang and when the Mercedes-Benz had plug trouble Pietsch led the race until failing brakes let the other German cars go by. Villoresi had already retired and after four pit stops Pietsch finished third, but only because seven out of the nine German cars retired. Even though Pietsch knew the Nurburgring as well as most drivers, he proved that the 8CTF was still a very fast car. With war clouds gathering Maserati sold 3030 and 3031 to Laurie Schell who with his wife had been running the Ecurie Lucy O’Reilly-Schell and financing Delahaye racing. They entered one 8CTF for the Swiss G.P. driven by Rene Dreyfus, who finished in 8th place and they entered both cars for a race in Zurich on October 8th 1939, but the war put a stop to this event. The factory also entered for this event with proposed new cars based on the 16-valve 4CL, the 3-litre being known as the 8CL and having 32 valves. On October 16th 1939 Laurie Schell was killed in a road accident and his wife took the Ecurie and the two Maseratis to America. Racing had ceased in Europe but Indianapolis was due to be run in 1940. Shaw and Boyle were still united and had heard about the 32-valve 8CL so set about trying to buy it, but were beaten by a group of Argentinians who bought the car, number 3034, for Raul Riganti to drive in the 1940 Indianapolis race. Boyle entered his 1939 car again and Lucy O’Reilly-Schell entered 3030 and 3031 for Rene Dreyfus and Rene Le Begue to drive, so there were four 8-cylinder Maseratis entered and they influenced car-building in a big way on the American scene. Shaw qualified at 127.065 m.p.h. slightly slower than his 1939 speed, but it got him second place on the grid, in the middle of the front row. Riganti qualified at 121.827 m.p.h. and Le Begue at 118.981 m.p.h., but Dreyfus was not fast enough. In desperation he took Le Begue’s car and in trying to qualify he broke the engine, a connecting rod coming out of the side. For the race the engine from the original Dreyfus car was put into the car that Le Begue had qualified, number 3031, and the two Frenchmen shared the car, finishing in 10th place. Shaw chalked up yet another win, at 114.277 m.p.h. but Riganti crashed and wrecked his car, and he returned to the Argentine with 3034 and was never seen again.

With America not being involved in war Indianapolis was held in 1941 and Shaw drove the Boyle car once more, qualifying at 127.836 m.p.h. The two O’Reilly-Schell cars were sold and appeared for the 1941 race as Elgin Piston Pin Specials, Mauri Rose qualifying 3030 at 128.691 m.p.h. to take pole position on the grid, and Duke Nalon qualifying 3031 at 122.951 m.p.h. On the 152nd lap, of the 200, Shaw was leading the race when a wheel collapsed and caused him to crash, thus spoiling all hope of a hat-trick for 3032 and for Shim and Boyle. The Rose car went out early when the engine would not run properly and Nalon finished in 15th position. The 8CTF cars held everyone’s interest after practice and qualifying for Rose and Shaw were on the front row, flanking Rex Mays in the 8-cylinder Winfield-engined Bowes Seal Fast Special. After this race the cars were put into safe keeping until Indianapolis re-opened in 1946, when the war was finished and racing resumed. In Italy, Marshall-aid was getting things back to normal and Maserati assembled the second of their 1939/40 cars, the second 8CL number 3035 and the Scuderia Milan entered it for the 1946 Indianapolis race to be driven by Villoresi. As Shaw had retired from racing Boyle got Ted Horn to drive 3032, unchanged from pre-war days except for the addition of a small head-fairing behind the driver; he qualified at 123.9.80 m.p.h. which was only seventh fastest. Villoresi qualified the new car at 121.249 m.p.h. and the other two pre-war cars also qualified, Emil Andres qualifying 3031 as the Elgin Piston Pin Special at 121.139 m.p.h. and Russ Snowberger qualifying 3030 at 121.593 m.p.h. running as the Jim Hussey’s Special, entered by R. A. Cott. Three of the cars finished the race. Ted Horn in third place, Andres in fourth, and Villoresi in seventh place, while Snowberger retired.

In 1947 only two Maserati 8-cylinders got into the race, 3032 still driven by Horn was now called the Bennett Brothers Special, entered by Cotton Henning and it was changed from its traditional red colour to black and gold. It was qualified at 126.564 m.p.h. and got pole position on the grid, while Snowberger again drove Cott’s car 3030, which got in at 121.331 m.p.h. The ex-Boyle car, now in its fifth Indianapolis 500-mile race, finished in a creditable third place, but 3030 retired. The remarkable 3032 ran again in 1948 still driven by Horn and still called the Bennett Brothers Special and after qualifying at 126.565 m.p.h. it finished fourth, but the end of the Maserati era was in sight, for qualifying speeds had gone up to over 130 m.p.h. The other two 8CTF cars got into the race in 1948, the Cott car, number 3030 being driven by Paul Russo, under the name of the Federal Engineering Special, and 3031 ran again, driven by McQuinn, but both retired, having qualified at 122.595 m.p.h. and 122.154 respectively.

In 1949 a syndicate called Indianapolis Race Cars Incorporated took over 3032 and also acquired 3035, the 8CL that Villoresi had driven in 1946. I.R.C. entered Lee Wallard on 3032, and Fred Agabashian on the 8CL number 3035. Although the cars were going as fast as ever they had done, qualifying at 128.912 m.p.h. and 127.007 m.p.h., respectively, they only just scraped into the fastest thirty-three starters. Sam Hanks drove 3030 for R. A. Cott but it was not fast enough to qualify, and though the other two got in they both retired quite early in the race. The following year, 1950, saw Cott replace the Maserati engine of 3030 by a 4-cylinder Offenhauser motor, and under the name of the Fadeley-Anderson Special it qualified at 129.748 m.p.h. Apart from the exhaust pipe being a large single one on the right, instead of two on the left, the car looked like a normal 8CTF Maserati. I.R.C. Inc. did the same thing to 3035, changing its colour from black to yellow, and Henry Banks drove it at 129.646 m.p.h. to get into the race. Both cars were still running at the end of the race, being flagged off when the winner crossed the line. I.R.C. had also entered 3032 again, but it did not get beyond practice. For this race Maserati built two new 8-cylinder cars around 4CLT/48 chassis, the 3-litre cars being known as 8CLT/50, but they were still-born and went to New Zealand, and do not fit into this history.

The life of the Maseratis was now at an end as far as serious Indianapolis competition was concerned, but they still turned up and in 1951 a concern called Maserati Race cars entered 3032 and 3030, the former unchanged from the Shaw days, the latter as Cott had last run it, with a 4-cylinder Offenhauser engine still installed, but now a supercharged 3-litre instead of the unsupercharged 4½-litre. McDowell qualified 3030 at 132.475 m.p.h. but retired in the race, while 3032 did not even have a driver nominated for it. Joe Barzda entered 3031 still as a normal 8CTF for Bud Sennett to drive, but he crashed in practice and that was about the end of the Maserati activity at Indianapolis. Barzda entered 3031 in 1952 and 1953 but failed to qualify each time, and finally gave up. Since 1939 the Maseratis had achieved remarkable results in the Indianapolis 500 race, the original Wilbur Shaw car winning twice, finishing third twice, fourth once and retiring twice. It is now in honorable retirement in the Indianapolis Museum, looking exactly as it did in 1939 when it first arrived at the Raceway, and where it was to have a profound effect on the trend of design of Indianapolis cars. The two cars that Lucy O’Reilly-Schell took to America did not have such an illustrious career, but nevertheless were very active. 3036 is still in America, while 3031 has recently been imported by Cameron Millar and should be seen in V.S.C.C. racing this season. The original 8CL of Riganti still resides in the Argentine, and the post-war 8CL of Villoresi is still in America, but like 3030 was modified to take an Offenhauser engine.—D. S. J.

Bibliography.—Information gleaned from “The Indianapolis 500” by Jack C. Floyd Clymer’s “Indianapolis Race History”; “Gentlemen, Start Your Engines” by Wilbur Shaw and “Racing Car Review, Vol. 1” by Denis Jenkinson.

Brief History of 8CTF and 8CL cars.

3030—original works car—8CTF—1938

3031—second works car—8CTF—1938

3032—Wilbur Shaw, Boyle Special—8CTF—1939

3034—Raul Riganti—8CL—1940

3035—Luigi Villoresi—8CL—1946