Continental Notes, May 1957

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68

Passing through Modena recently, a call was made on the Maserati factory to have a closer look at the two Gran Turismo 3,500-c.c. cars that appeared at the Geneva Motor Show. The very pretty Allemano coupe was devoid of its engine and sundry other parts so that one could study the mechanical details more easily, and it came as rather a surprise to find that most of the car was produced outside of Italy; in fact, it was almost an assembly of “foreign parts.” The front suspension, by double wishbones and coil-springs with anti-roll bar, was a perfectly standard set of components designed, made and delivered by Alford and Adler, who make front suspensions for almost all British cars. The steering box was a standard Burman unit, and the Maserati engineers merely hung these components, exactly as received, on to the front of their own tubular chassis. The gearbox was a proprietary four-speed unit built by Z.F. in Germany, and the rear axle was by Salisbury, slightly modified to fit the Maserati ½-elliptic springs. Brakes were by Girling, with Maserati drums, and the heating system came from Delaney-Gallay, the six-cylinder engine was pure Maserati. As yet I have not had the opportunity to drive one of these cars, but there seems no reason to imagine that this 3½-litre Gran Turismo should feel anything like a Maserati. If it does then it will be difficult to understand why most British cars do not feel like Maseratis, for Alford and Adler, Burman, Girling and Salisbury are the people who make British cars, the name on the badge being the particular firm who assembles the components. As the price of this rather de luxe Gran Turismo car, with the accent on Turismo rather than Gran, is a mere 4,500,000 lire it is hoped they will sell, and that 50 will be made this season.

In the more interesting part of the factory a new 4,500-c.c. V8 sports car was being assembled, this being the third of these fascinating monsters, and the engine for this particular one was already on the test-bed. A second V12 Grand Prix 2,500-c.c. engine was being assembled and the only modification being made from the original one was the fitting of a dynamo to the right-hand side of the crankcase. Marelli were asked to produce a magneto or a pair of magnetos to supply sparks to the 24 plugs at 10,000-11,000 r.p.m. but they would not undertake the project, being unable to guarantee the mechanical reliability of a magneto working at those conditions. For this reason the multi-lobe distributors and 24 separate coils were schemed up, and this second 12-cylinder engine was having special miniature coils made. The aforementioned dynamo was to couple into a normal wiring circuit, making this Grand Prix unit electrically self-contained. It only wants a starter and toothed ring on the flywheel and we have a nice sports-car unit for Le Mans! The existing sports-car engine for Le Mans, the 4,500-c.c. V8, is now considered to be a fairly normal unit, but a few years ago, in the days of the old Formula 1, this 4½-litre engine would have been running on alcohol fuel in a single-seater, racing against the 4½-litre Ferrari V12, the 159 Alfa-Romeo and the 16-cylinder B.R.M. As it is now, the V8 Maserati is giving 400 b.h.p. using straight pump petrol, so that we can see some definite progress over the years, for 400 b.h,p. would have been good for a racing unit in 1951. When one looks upon today’s racing/sports cars as being modified 1951 Formula 1 cars, the future looks very bright for those of us who can enjoy the thought of real motor cars, for you only have to visualise a 1962 sports/coupe Vanwall 2½-litre, or a stark open two-seater Connaught 2½-litre, while the 250F Maserati would make a nice runabout.

At the Ferrari factory most of the recent efforts were put into the new Grand Prix car with the coil-spring front end, and that the results were encouraging was amply demonstrated by Collins at Syracuse. With Grand Prix cars taking precedence, and the 3,500-c.c. V12 sports car unable to cope with the big Maserati, there has been little time at Maranello to get on with the V6 Formula II car. However, if work progresses according to plan it is possible that the first of the small Ferraris will be tried out at Monte Carlo. On the production side of the Ferrari factory the 250 Europa, with 3-litre V12 engine, continues to be made in touring or competition form, and the fabulous Super America model, with 4.9-litre V12 engine, is made to order, and the whole atmosphere is not unlike that of Bugatti and Molsheim up to 1939. 

During the winter months there is always a big shuffling of drivers amongst the various teams, and this is never very settled even when racing starts in the Argentine, or moves up North to Sebring, for what happens on the opposite side of the Atlantic, more often than not, has little bearing on European affairs. Ferrari have Collins, Musso, Hawthorn, de Portago and von Trips to draw from for Grand Prix, with the addition of Trintignant, Hill and Gendebien for sports-car races. By all accounts family ties have made Perdisa give up racing completely. Maserati are setting all their store on Fangio leading their team, probably bringing with him Menditeguy, while Behra and Schell are firm residents at Modena. Very conscious of the fact that they have no Italian driver, Maserati are giving Georgio Scarlatti a try out. Having driven for some time in sports-car races in Italy and occasionally in an old Formula II Ferrari for the Scuderia Centro-Sud, Scarlatti was allowed to play with the 12-cylinder Maserati during practice at Syracuse and, while not being outstanding, he was not frightened of the car. On the subject of Italian entrants it is worth recalling the two Scuderias attached to the Maserati factory, running Grand Prix cars maintained at Modena. These are the Scuderia Guastalla and Scuderia Centro-Sud, the former being run by Franco Cornacchia and the latter by Guglielmo Dei, both these Italian gentlemen being Maserati agents and in the motor trade. Last year they had a 250F Maserati apiece and numerous sports and Gran Turismo cars running under their insignias, and this year the Centro-Sud have acquired another Grand Prix car, with Hans Herrmann and Piero Turuffi as their drivers, while the Americans Shelby and Gregory may appear under their colours. These two Scuderias are to Maserati rather like the Ecurie Ecosse is to Jaguar, for while the factory is racing they get the first choice of ex-works cars.

Of the British teams the Vanwall has very nearly the ultimate in driver teams, with Moss and Brooks, and a third driver is being sought at this moment, but the difficulty is that he must be the equal of the other two or else a promising learner, willing to absorb the knowledge of Moss and the natural ability of Brooks. Connaught have settled for a team of good steady runners, headed by Archie Scott-Brown, as fast a runner for short-circuit stuff as any one could want, backed up by Fairman, Leston, Lewis-Evans and Bueb. The B.R.M. team have Salvadori and Flockhart, providing the cars compete satisfactorily in their first races, and eventually they too will be searching for a third driver.

In France the Gordini team will consist of da Silva Ramos and Simon, with others such as Guelfi and Pilette to draw from, and if the Bugatti ever appears again we can expect to see Trintignant driving it.

In Grand Prix racing it is interesting that Britain has the greatest force of drivers and the greatest number of factory teams, but in spite of this I would not be so rash as to predict a British car and driver being World Champion for 1957. — D. S. J.

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