The 250F Maserati - Part 2
Before starting Part Two of the 250F saga a few observations on Part One will not go amiss. A Swiss garage owner has sent a copy of a bill of sale dated 23rd November 1956 on which it is stated that he had taken delivery of "Autovettura Corsa Maserati — tips 250/F No. 2518 di motore e telaio — completa in ordine di marca" which says, when translated, that he had bought the 250F Maserati racing car with engine and chassis number 2518— complete and in full working order. Now 2518 was the abortive "streamliner" which the factory said was more or less destroyed in a fire at the factory during the summer of 1956 and the remains were seen in the rafters many years later. Of all the 250F cars around at that time only one disappeared in addition to the "streamliner" and that was a straight-forward car, number 2512. While nothing can be proved it tooks suspiciously as if 2512 took the identity on paper of 2518 and is the car that is still in Switzerland.
Cameron Millar contacted me to say that when 2527 was rebuilt on a new T2 chassis frame it was not made by Arthur Archer; he had made a front suspension jig to rebuild Cameron's car 2516 and it was Frank Coltman who completed the jig to make complete T2 chassis frames "Made in England".
Tony Rudd, the present technical director at Lotus cars, recounted how the BRM works at Bourne had been involved with 250F Maserati cars when he was working there. BRM had made a deal with Prince Bira for their young protege Ron Flockhart to drive 2504 at Silverstone. This he did and succeeded in crashing it badly and bending the chassis frame, whereupon Bira got a bit "huffy" as he was due to race the car himself very shortly, so BRM stripped their own Maserati (2509) and swapped the chassis frames so that Bira got his car back in the shortest possible time To all intents and purposes it was still 2504, except that it had the chassis frame of 2509, which accounts for the chassis frame stamped 2509 turning up on a "built-up" car in the Schlumpf Museum. The BRM car, rebuilt on the repaired frame of 2504, had a continuous racing history as recorded in Part One of this saga in the April issue of Motor Sport.
When Maserati planned the 250F, in readiness for the new Grand Prix Formula in 1954, the idea was that it should be a limitededition production racing car for the private owner to buy, with which to take part in Grand Prix racing. Potential customers were promised full factory backing and support and it was anticipated that factory mechanics and engineers would be at the races to assist the owners. There was no intention to run a works team, but as things turned out a works team was formed and during the years 1954/5/6 the works cars and the customer cars became very mixed up and often confused. If the works team was short of a car they would do a deal with an owner to borrow his car, put a works engine in it, respray it and take it to a race on the paperwork for a factory car, changing the instrument panel identification plate and covering up the chassis number on the frame tube. They were even known to "borrow" a customer's car without his knowledge. As it became clear to the management that they were going to need Stirling Moss in their works team they gave him encouragement at some races by lending him a works engine, so that you would see car number 2508 with an un-numbered engine, while engine 2508 sat on the floor of the paddock workshop, it being replaced after the race when the special engine was given back to the factory mechanics.
By 1956 the works—customer confusion reached an intolerable state, added to by the introduction of various experimental and test cars, so for 1957 the works team was kept completely separate from the customer department, with the result that Maserati had their most successful year and Fangio won the World Championship for them. At the end of 1957 the factory withdrew officially and gave more attention to customers, with the result that confusion returned.
Before they had built the first 250F at the end of 1953 Maserati had a lot of orders for the new car and they had the engines well into production long before the chassis, gearbox, brakes, suspension and body were under way. As the first race for the new Formula was due to be held in Buenos Aires in January 1954, they could see that delivery to all the customers who were expecting to take part in the race was impossible, so they completed two of the 250F cars for their most important customers, Fangio and Marimon, who were backed by the Argentine Automobile Club. To appease the other drivers at the head of the queue they cobbled up what became known as "interim" cars. These were built from the Formula 2 cars 01 1953 which the factory had been racing in Grand Prix events. Known as the A6GCM model this was a 2 litre 6-cylinder with a tubular chassis frame, with IFS by wishbones and coil springs, the four-speed gearbox attached to the rear of the engine and an open propeller-shaft to a rigid rear axle suspended on quarter-elliptic leaf springs. This model had contributed quite a lot of knowledge to the new 250F model, with its 21 litre 6-cylinder engine in a tubular space frame, with transverse 4-speed gearbox in unit with the final drive, mounted on the rear of the chassis and with de Dion rear suspension. Consequently it was not a long or difficult job to install a 21 litre 250F engine into an A6GCM in order to keep the customers happy while the new cars were being built. The 250F series had started on paper with chassis number 2501 so the idea was that the interim cars would take 250F numbers until the real 250F cars were available. This did not work out and added to the confusion, as we shall see.
Interim Cars: Maserati A6GCM, given chassis number 2501:
A 1953 works 2 litre car with the engine replaced by a 2 1/2 litre 250F engine. Built for Roberto Micros to begin the 1954 season. Had a rough life, crashed at Bordeaux, caught fire at Francorchamps, smashed up on journey from Reims back to Modena when two-tier transport lorry overturned. This car was on the top deck and took the whole force of the accident, which virtually broke it in two. As a new 250F was nearly ready for Mieres the interim car was scrapped. No doubt it will appear one day — "you will never guess what we have found in a scrap yard in Buenos Aires . . ." If it gets resurrected it will be an awful -historic" car, for if it is held to be orginal, it will break its A6GCM gearbox, it will break half-shafts in its A6GCM rigid rear axle, the brakes will be awful and the suspension and road-holding will not be able to cope with the power of a 250F engine. These interim cars were not a success.
Maserati A6GCM, given chassis number 2502:
A similar car to the one above which gave the impression of being reliable, but that was only because the owner, Jorge Daponte, did not drive it very hard. After only a few races Daponte took it back to S. America where it had a "stock" American engine installed for National racing. It was recently retrieved, less an engine, resurrected in England with a 250F engine, passed through the "trade" into the collector's world and arrived in the USA via Italy.
Maserati A6GCM, given chassis number 2503:
Third interim car, built for Harry Schell. Raced by him for most of the 1954 season, then sold to Reg Hunt in Australia. Passed on to Kevin Neal and others. Came to UK in the seventies, completely unspoilt, passed through "trade" to Ray Fielding.
Maserati A6GCM, given chassis number 2504:
Built for Prince Birabongse for his use until his new 250F was ready. Won the Grand Prix des Frontieres at Chimay 1954. 250F engine removed and installed in new 250F chassis which took the number 2504. Interim car disposed of less engine, to S. America. Fitted with "stock" American engine for National racing. Retrieved by "trade" and brought to UK in recent years and resurrected. Now in USA.
Maserati A6GCM, given chassis number 2510:
This number should have been a 250F for Baron de Graffenried but it was never built. He retained this "interim" car and used it as a camera-car in the making of the film "Such Men are Dangerous". It was then sold to a Swiss amateur who used it in hillclimbs. Still in Switzerland, it resides in a museum.
Those then were the interim cars, which are difficult to categorise as they are "neither fish, flesh nor fowl". They are not A6GCM cars and they are not 250F cars and they confuse the issue because they were given 250F serial numbers, and the numbers 2501, 2502 and 2504 were passed on to real 250F cars. At the time of their construction at the Modena factory it was reported that six A6GCM cars were being modified, but the sixth car never materialised. If the "you'll never believe what we found" brigade come up with another "interim" car they had better be Careful about which 250F chassis number they give it.
While these interim cars were filling a gap, the factory had completed two new 250F cars, which went to the first race in 1954. Marimon drove number 2502 (duplicating the number of Daponte's interim car) and Fangio won with 2505, chalking up an historical landmark with a victory for a new design in its first race. Most of the production run of 250F cars, with the heavy tubing Ti chassis frame, led straightforward racing careers, as chronicled in Part One of this saga, but others led complicated lives, by reason of being part of the factory team, or subsequently becoming involved in numerous ownerships and rebuilds.
Maserati 250F chassis number 2501:
The production run had reached 2512 before this car appeared. It was part of the works team and was used throughout 1955/6/7 as a guinea pig car for experimental work by the factory. It continually changed its outward appearance while it was used by the factory and led a very hard life. In 1958 the factory rebuilt it as new and gave it the identity 2526 (see the reason given later) and sold it to Keith Campbell, the Moto-Guzzi factory rider, who used it hardly at all. In later years it came to the UK and was raced by Richard Bergel and Angus Clydesdale and today is owned by Bobby Bell.
Maserati 250F chassis number 2502:
This was one of the first pair of cars that raced in Argentina in 1954. Later that year it was raced as part of the factory team by Sergio Mantovani. It then disappeared either to be broken up or used as the basis for another car, or to repair a crashed car.
Maserati 250F chassis number 2504:
Built in mid-1954 for Prince Birabongse to replace his interim caret the same number and using the engine from the earlier car.
Raced by Bira until mid-1955. Sold to Horace Gould, then to Bruce Ha!ford. Eventually went to New Zealand in a complicated "affair" which also involved 2523(B). Recently the remains were retrieved and resurrected as 2504. In a German collection.
Maserati 250F chassis number 2505:
The car used by Fangio to win the model's first race in 1954. Used as part of the factory team Later passed to Andre Simon and Joakim Bonnier. Lay fallow in Modena in 1958. Subsequently "restored" by factory and presented to the Biscaretti Museum in Turin as a typical 250F and given the identity 2500.
Maserati 250F chassis number 2506:
Factory team car in 1954 driven by Marimon. Then sold to Louis Rosier and raced extensively by him. After spending many years in the Henri Malartre museum in Rochtaille-sur-Sa6ne near Lyon it "disappeared".
Maserati 250F chassis number 2511:
Factory team car driven by Mantovanl. Then sold to Scuderia Centro-Sud and driven by a great variety of drivers. Retained by Centro-Sud long after they stopped racing and appears to have been totally dismantled over the course of some years. Eventually the -bones" were retrieved by Cameron Millar and resurrected into a new chassis frame "Made in England" with new body work. Passed into the "trade" and eventually ended up with a Japanese collector. The re-constructed car carries the identity of 2511. In the Schlumpf museum is a 250F carrying the same chassis number but this is a "composite" car built up on chassis number 2509.
Maserati 250F chassis number 2512:
This is the car in which Marimon was killed at the Nurburgring in 1954. It was rebuilt and used by Mantovani as part of the factory team, and was last seen about mid-1955. All the evidence points to this being sold by the factory as 2518.
Maserati 250F chassis number 2519:
This was built for Luigi Piotti who raced it in 1956. In 1958 it was driven by Gerino Gerini in conjunction with the Scuderia CentroSud. Last seen at their factory around 1959/60.
Maserati 250F chassis number 2522:
A factory team car in 1956 that was sold to the Scuderia CentroSud in 1957, Used extensively by them to the end of their days. Parts of the can were retrieved by Cameron Millar and re-constructed on a new T2 chassis frame "Made in England" Now with a Dutch collector.
Maserati 250F chassis number 2523(A);
This car is designated (A) as there were two cars on the factory books with the number 2523. In 1956 when the factory team were running short of cars and time they cobbled up a car using the old bent chassis frame from 2507 which had been replaced by a new one. The damage was repaired and a car built as a team spare and it was given the number 2523, which was the point that the production run had reached. In August a new car took its place and its number and, less engine and other vital parts, it (A) was pushed into a corner. In 1957 when the first V12 Maserati engine was ready to run this old chassis was used as a test-bed and it was driven by all the team members during practice for various races. It was noted for the noise that came from the megaphone exhausts that ended on each side of the cockpit. When it was no longer needed for test purposes the V12 engine was removed and the car abandoned once again. In 1958 it was completely rebuilt by the factory to "as new" condition, with a 6 cylinder 250F engine and sold to Maria-Teresa de Filippis who raced it in 1958 It then went to S. America and in the seventies came to the UK, less engine and one or two minor parts and is owned by Chris Drake.
Maserati 250F chassis number 2523(B):
This was built new in August 1956 as a spare car for the factory team to replace 2523(6). At the end of the year it went to the Australian GP with the factory team. Opinions vary as to whether it stayed in Australia or returned to Italy and then went back to New Zealand as something else. If it returned it went to ground, as there was already a 2523 about the place. In recent times a miscellaneous collection of parts purporting to be 2523(8) have been re-constructed into a whole and the car is in the USA.
Maserati 250F chassis number 2526:
This was the second of the pair of cars specially built for the 1956 Italian Grand Prix in order to collect the special prize money offered for any new Italian design. These two cars (the other one was 2525) had the engine angled to the left so that the driver sat very low alongside the propeller shaft and the body also was lower and more squat than previous 250F cars. Hardly a new design, but they qualified for the bonus money. 2526 was not used again and remained at the factory until 1958 when it was refurbished and sold to Antonio Crues under the number 2530. He only raced it once before returning home to S. America and it was subsequently sold to the Schlumpf brothers for their museum It must be the 250F with the least number of racing miles to its credit That then is the saga of the "problem" 250F cars of the 71 chassis frame series. In the third part of this story I will deal with the V12 engined cars, the T3 "Piccolo" cars and the eight Cameron Millar-built facsimiles which have chassis numbers in his CM series. — D.S.J.