Racing car development

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For many years Enrico Plate drove in “voiturette” racing with various cars, including a 1926 Talbot-Darracq that he modified so much that he was justified in changing its name to Talbot-Plate. When he retired from competition driving after the war he formed the Scuderia Plate and looked after the preparation and running of Maserati cars. In 1949 he was entering two 4 CLT/48 Maserati cars for B Bira and Baron de Graffenried and this continued through 1950. Bira left the Scuderia and went his own way with hls 4 CLT/48 Maserati and Enrico Plate acquired another one which Harry Schell drove for him. Before the end of 1951 the 4 CLT/48 Maserati was totally outclassed in Grand Prix racing and the Formula 2 category, for unsupercharged 2 litre cars, was growing rapidly. Plate had the bright idea of converting his Formula 1 cars into Formula 2 cars, to join in the lesser category in 1952. Before the modifications were finished Grand Prix racing had been transferred from Forumla 1 to Formula 2 so that the Scuderia Plate found itself still in the major category.

The two cars he had been entering for de Graffenried and Schell during 1951 were transformed by cutting eight inches out of the chassis to reduce the wheelbase, and converting the engines from two-stage supercharged 1½ litres to unsupercharged 2 litres. This was done by making new crankshafts with longer strokes and casting new cylinder blocks with bigger bore dimensions. He retained the 4 cylinder layout with the Maserati design of integral head and block and four-valves per cylinder. Two double-choke 38 DCOWeber carburettors were used, giving one choke to each cylinder, and the then fashionable stub exhaust pipes were used. Various bits of the chassis and suspension were lightened and a new frontal treatment of the body was provided. The end result was a shorter and lighter car than the original Maserati, the major weight saving being the elimination of the two huge superchargers normally fitted to the 4 CLT/48 Maseratis.

The two rebuilt cars competed regularly during 1952, driven by de Graffenried and Schell, but they were overweight and underpowered compared to the factory cars of Maserati and Ferrari, or the Cooper-Bristol and Connaught, which were all purpose-built for Formula 2, so they achieved little success. Enrico Plate was killed in Argentina in early 1954 and the Scuderia was closed down. When the 20th Century-Fox film producers came to Europe that summer to make a film on Grand Prix racing, based on the excellent novel by Hans Reusch called The Racer, de Graffenried arranged for the film company to buy the two Maserati-Plate cars. The film was called “Such Men are Dangerous” and the two cars were given a face-lift and called Burano, and featured strongly in the film against a back-ground of real Maserati and Ferrari cars. When the European filming was finished the two cars were shipped to Hollywood, for use in pit sequences or close-up cockpit shots, to complete the film and they were then put into the film studio’s vast car store.

A few years ago I heard that one had been unearthed in Hollywood and the new owner was not too sure what he had acquired at first, which is not surprising for the Maserati 4 CLT/48 cars had been changed to Maserati-Plate and then to Burano. Extending the chassis frame by the missing eight inches, making new superchargers, new cylinder blocks, new crankshafts, camshafts and bodywork would produce a Maserati 4 CLT/48, but hardly one of the original cars raced by Scuderia Plate in 1950.-DSJ

 

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