Rarity, originality, an impressive provenance and a well-documented competition history are all regarded as desirable when buying a classic race car – but finding one that combines all four elements isn’t always easy.
None, however, is lacking in the case of this superb OSCA1600 GTS Zagato currently on offer at the Classic Motor Hub.
The car was originally prepared at the Maserati brothers’ Officine Specializzate Costruzione Automobili factory in San Lazzaro as an experimental prototype for US rocket engineer Jack Gordon and co-driver John Bentley to contest the 1962 Le Mans 24 Hours. For that race it was equipped with the unique combination of ‘flat top’ Zagato coachwork, a live rear axle, two 45 DCOE Weber carburettors and a twin-plug cylinder head. Other special touches included a capacious 80-litre fuel tank and a modified radiator grille to reduce high-speed lift.
Gordon also specified an oil cooler which, unfortunately, the OSCA engineers failed to fit – bringing the car’s Le Mans outing to a premature end as a result of big end failure after just four hours and 12 laps.
As a result, the car was swiftly returned to OSCA HQ for repairs before being sold to Luigi Chinetti’s soon-to-be-celebrated North American Racing Team (NART) with which it competed in a raft of endurance racing events – including the 12 Hours of Sebring – in the hands of drivers such as Tom Fleming, Ray Heppenstall and Harold Baumann.
After being moved on by NART, the OSCA ended up on the forecourt of a Long Island garage from where it was bought by George Waltman, a former WWII Superfortress pilot who, after acquiring it, went to the not inconsiderable effort of travelling to Italy from his home in up-state New York in order to meet the Maserati brothers, collect parts for the car and learn as much about it as possible.
Waltman was, incidentally, no stranger to long journeys – three years later he became a minor celebrity in the racing world after driving his Aztec Racing Morgan 1000 miles to Daytona in order to compete in the 1968 24 Hour race, which he completed single-handed with no pit crew. He finished 30th overall, then changed the Morgan’s oil and set off home…
After his trip to Italy, Waltman tweaked, tuned and improved the OSCA sufficiently to enable him to secure first in class at the 13th Annual Bahamas Speedweek, an achievement that’s detailed in the car’s bulging history file, which also includes a letter he wrote to the next owner, Franz Benjamin, who paired it with another OSCA to create a two-car race team with Tony Guinasso as driver.
Guinasso subsequently inherited the car and it remained with him for more than two decades before being sold to marque enthusiast and Pebble Beach judge Craig Davis, who owned it until 2003.
Since then, this truly unique OSCA has been in the same private collection from which it is now being sold – and, despite being lightly restored during Davis’s ownership, it remains remarkably original, right down to its ‘Zagato’ stamped Perspex headlamp covers, ‘Bahamas Speed Week’ registration plate and the 8000rpm tachometer that invites spirited use of its screaming twin-cam engine.
The car also comes with gorgeous lightweight Zagato-pattern seats, a set of rare Amadori magnesium wheels and, of course, eligibility for a host of historic race and rally events.
Who needs a Ferrari?
1962 OSCA 1600 GTS. £600,000
Classic Motor Hub, Old Walls, Ablington,
Bibury, Gloucestershire, GL7 5NX.
Tel: 01242 384092
In the market for a sports car from Italy?
Here are four that highlight the ancient art of coachbuilding
Book Reviews, August 1954, August 1954
"Popular Mechanix Auto Album." 160 pp. (Popular Mechanics Company, 200, East Ontario Street, Chicago 11, Ill.) This is a story of the motor car in picture and prose from 1769…
1986 Hungarian Grand Prix race report
By the banks of the Danube When mention was first made about a possible Hungarian Grand Prix being entered on the 1986 FISA World Championship calendar, most people raised their…
The DTM has plenty going for it, but will a development freeze protect it against the economic draught? By Ed Foster The Deutsche Tourenwagen Meisterschaft was not a series known…