Continental notes, June 1960
Since the Maserati factory withdrew from racing at the end of 1957 they have not been entirely inactive on the racing side but given financial encouragement by private owners they have continued to build racing engines and racing sports cars. Slowly but surely they are getting back into racing and at present are working away on the 2.8-litre four-cylinder car that has been showing good promise this season. When the racing department was closed down the factory concentrated on getting the 3-1/2-litre Gran Turismo car into production and this has now reached a very organised state, while in the first two months of this year 33 Maserati cars were sold in Italy against Ferrari’s 26 and motoring about in Italy it is certainly becoming noticeable how many G.T. Maseratis are about. Of course, they sell well in America, while right-hand-drive models are being made for England and already some half-dozen have been imported. On the racing side and purely as a spare time technical exercise, Maserati built last year a new sports car with a multi-tubular space frame to end all space frames, using very small diameter tubing, so that the car was nicknamed “the birdcage.” It had orthodox Maserati front suspension, de Dion rear end, unit gearbox and final drive and disc brakes, while the engine began life as a 2-litre four-cylinder which was canted over to the right at a 45 deg. angle. The bodywork fitted closely round the chassis frame and the wheels were under ungainly-looking humps, and the tail was blunt and square. It was not a pretty car but was functional, having a low C of G and low overall weight. Known as the Tipo 60 it was tested on numerous occasions by Stirling Mess, and raced by him at Rouen last year, where it walked away from 2-litre Lotus XV opposition. Also it was tested with an engine enlarged to 2,890 c.c. and in this form was known as the Tipo 61.
At the end of the year Lloyd Casner, an American, bought the Tipo 61 and Shelby drove it at Nassau, where it proved very fast, but broke down. In the 1,000 km. race at Buenos Aires at the beginning of this year Casner again entered the car and driven by Gurney and Gregory it left everyone way behind until it broke down again. Moss drove it at Cuba for Casner and won the race against not very powerful opposition; by now Casner had bought three Tipo 61 Maseratis and four more had already been sold in America. Moss drove again at Sebring in a Tipo 61, leading easily until it broke. Clearly the Tipo 61 was very fast but not too reliable, the de Dion mounting broke, and the gearbox broke, but all the while Ing. Alfieri was modifying the design and already another car had been sold to America. After the American season of International racing Casner returned to Modena with two of his cars and the prototype car was modified extensively. He had already bought another one which was nearing completion, making four in all. An entry was made for the Targa Florio where the Tipo 61 went extremely well, leading the race after 576 kilometres, when a stone through the fuel tank put it out. The crown-wheel and pinion had been strengthened, the gearbox internals redesigned, the con.-rods and moving parts of the engine were all strengthened and it begins to look as though the Tipo 61 Maserati is heading for a major victory. Technically and mechanically it represents the latest design work from Maserati, but the cars are raced under the Camoradi organisation whieh is financed by Casner, and the name Camoradi is evolved from Casner, Motor, Racing, Division. As these words are being printed the Tipo 61 may well have already won the 1,000 kilometres race on the Nürburgring on May 22nd, for it should have proved well suited to the Eifel circuit and having stood up to the Targa Florio circuit it should be more than strong enough and it certainly has the best all-round performance of any sports car running this season.
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While on the subject of new sports cars, the Automobile Club de l’Ouest held a test day at Le Mans back in April to give constructors an opportunity to test new models. Of especial interest, in view of past associations with Le Mans, and victory, was the appearance of a new Jaguar sports car. Described by many people as the E-type Jaguar, it seems that this is not strictly correct and that in Jaguar’s design department they have never officially left the C-type series. We all recall the C-type Jaguar, which used a special XK120 engine in a tubular space frame, and which gave the Coventry firm its first Le Mans victory, and nowadays makes a very pleasant road-going sports car. This was known as the C-type Mark I. It was followed by similar mechanical components mounted in a very clever stressed-skin and square-section tube monocoque, with aerodynamic body, and was popularly known as the D-type, and is now popular as a Club racer. This was the C-type Mark II. Now this new Jaguar has appeared, still with the XK type of six-cylinder twin-cam engine, but having an even more brilliant monocoque stressed-skin body-chassis and with independent rear suspension, using the drive shafts as one member of the suspension system. This has already been labelled the E-type by some people, but in reality is the C-type Mark III. The point bring that the letter C is not a series letter, such as M.G. used, but refers to Competition in the design department, hence the C-type Mark III Jaguar.
As Maserati are doing with their Tipo 61 and the Casner racing team, so Jaguar are doing with their new car and the Briggs Cunningham racing team, so that the appearance of “Lofty” England and his men with a new car at Le Mans does not officially mean that Jaguar Cars Ltd. have returned to racing. In the same way the appearance of Guerino Bertocchi and his men with the Tipo 61 at the Targa Florio did not officially mean the return of Maserati to racing. All we need now is for a rich German enthusiast “Herr Krautmieir” to finance the appearance of a new Mercedes-Benz sports car and we shall know that the appearance of Karl Kling and a team of blue-clad mechanics with the new car at Le Mans will mean that officially Mercedes-Benz have not returned to racing, just as they have not taken up Rallies officially, we are told!
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There is a certain type of racing enthusiast who is also extremely knowledgeable from a technical and design angle and these chaps can often debunk “famouss designers” by having clear, concise and logical minds untrammelled by being surrounded by a group of sales promotion, publicity, styling, costing and similar experts who manage to, ruin most ingenious designs at birth. In a discussion recently one such enthusiast quoted the saying “that for the same strength anything can be made as light in steel as in aluminium” and this caused some eyebrow raising among those who could visualise two objects, one in steel and one in aluminium, but could not visualise their respective strengths, so automatically assumed that the steel one must be heavier. Good exemples of the application of this dogma are the rear hub carriers on certain racing cars, Ferrari, B.R.M. and Porsche fabricating theirs from steel and Cooper and Lotus using alloy castings. For the same strength the fabricated steel ones are certainly no heavier and if anything may well be lighter.
Another example has recently appeared in the form of the special competition Porsche Carrera built by Abarth of Turin. The Porsche factory delivered a Carrera “platform,” there is no actual chassis, and Abarth built a very sleek coupé body on to it from aluminium. Now the whole secret of a Porsche coupé is the fact that it is a very strong box in which all parts of the body are stressed and provide towards the overall strength of the unit, imparting excellent torsional stiffness, bending stiffness and freedom from whip all of which are essential in a framework having all four wheels independently sprung. When building the Abarth-Carrera this inherent structural stiffness had to be borne in mind and the result has turned out to be a very sleek-looking Carrera Porsche in aluminium that weighs exactly the same as an all-steel Carrera Porsche built by the parent firm of Reutter. As Abarth has tucked his bodywork closely round the wheels and reduced headroom to a very bare minimum the result is a slight decrease on frontal area, which may give the Abarth-Carrera a slightly higher maximum speed over the Reutter-Carrera. The first Abarth-Carrera had its “skirts” tucked up a bit too tight, with a result that there was negligible steering lock; however, on the second model, delivered to Paul Strahle, this has been improved and his G.T. win in the Targa Florio with Herbert Linge has proved the car to be well sorted out. Twenty such Abarth-Carreras are planned, while Reutter will make forty of their steel one, all sixty being destined for competition purposes and not promenading. – D.S.J.