The 250F Maserati

Now that 250F Maseratis are appearing in V.S.C.C. historic car races in increasing numbers it might be as well to review the production of these cars during the years 1954-1957, more especially as everyone seems to own an ex-Fangio car, while others are vague as to which car or model they own. The following is derived from notes kept at the time the cars were built and raced in the current Formula One.

The model first raced in the Argentine Races in January 1954 and the very first car built was chassis number 2501 and it was driven by Fangio. It spent its whole life as a factory car and was modified continuously and driven by Behra, Musso, Moss and Godia. This car was actually completed in December 1953 and the first batch of cars were all styled on this original model, with a blunt nose and multi-louvred bonnet and bodywork. It was originally designated 250F1, being 2,500 c.c. for Formula One, but later this was abbreviated to 250F. While new cars were being built some 1953 cars that had been 2-litre F.2 cars with 1/4-elliptic rear suspension, were fitted with 1954 2 1/2-litre engines to tide the drivers over until the new space-frame de Dion rear-end cars were finished. One of these was 2503, built for Schell and sold to Reg Hunt in Australia. Another was 2504, built for Bira, but when his new chassis was finished in June 1954 it had the same number and the 1/4-elliptic chassis was scrapped. This car passed briefly through Gould's hands and was then bought by HaIford, who kept it throughout its useful life. In 1956 it was rebuilt after a crash and had a brand-new frame, keeping number 2504. The works team used quite a number of cars and often made use of old bits to assemble cars for their own use, consequently it is not possible, or tactful, to follow all the movements of some particular cars.

During 1954 the production got up to chassis number 2514, and four were actually delivered brand new to private owners. These were Bira 2504, Gilby Engineering for Salyadori to drive 2507, Stirling Moss 2508, and Rubery Owen for B.R.M. 2509. A second 1953 1/4-elliptic rear sprung car was fitted with a 250F engine and numbered 2510, and it went to Switzerland. The other cars in the series were built as works team cars and used by the team drivers and then sold to private owners. 2506 was used by Marimon and then sold to Rosier, 2511 was driven by Mantovani before being sold to Centro-Sud, 2514 was driven by Musso at Monza, and Mantovani at Aintree in 1954, Mantovani at Turin in 1955, and then sold to Gould. This car was subsequently brought up to 1957 specification, and eventually was bought by Spero.

In 1955 the works team started the season with a new car, number 2515, and this passed to the Scuderia Guastalla in 1956 for Gerini to drive, and to Volonteris in 1957. It now resides in a private collection in Leicester. The second works car in 1955 was 2516, which later went to Reg Hunt in Australia and is now owned by Cameron Miller. The only other cars built in 1955 were 2517 and 2518, and the first of the 1956 series was 2519 which was delivered brand new to Piotti. It was in 1950 that Moss led the works team, so that at some time or another he drove most of the works cars. At Goodwood that year he had a brand new chassis, number 2522, with a fuel-injection engine installed. With a normal engine this car eventually went to the Scuderia Centro-Sud. At Monaco. in 1956 a "new" works car appeared, number 2523, but the chassis was an old bent one from a customer's car that had been straightened. In 1957 this car had a V-12 engine installed. At Spa number 2524 was delivered brand new to the Spanish driver, Godia, and he kept it for the rest of its useful life. At the end of 1956 two cars were built for the Italian Grand Prix at Monza, these were 2525 and 2526, and both had canted engines, with the propeller shaft running alongside the offset driving seat. Moss won the race with 2525 and afterwards it went to America; Behra drove 2526 and in 1957 it re-appeared at Reims, where it was driven by Fangio. For the 1957 season the factory built four lightweight cars, these being 2527, 2528, 2529 and 2530. The first three were identical 6-cylinder cars and the fourth was a V-12. During this season 2531 was built, but it was actually 2526 rebuilt, this being the second of the 1956 Monza "offset" cars. During the 1957 season Fangio drove all three of the 6-cylinder lightweight cars, 2527 at Aintree, 2528 at Monaco and 2529 at Rouen, Nurgburgring and Monza. 2501 was also used as a works car during that season, which was the last for the official factory team. While the factory were running their own team of three or four cars, the racing department was also servicing numerous cars of private owners, and quite often chassis frames and bodies were "borrowed" to make up the works team, while chassis numbers and Customs papers were often "juggled" when there was a shortage of team cars, so that even though a car appeared at a race carrying a certain chassis number it was not always the correct one.

Fangio was in the works team for the first part of the 1954 season, during which time he drove 2501. In mid-1954 he joined Mercedes-Benz and drove for them also in 1955. In 1956 he drove for Ferrari and re-joined Maserati in 1957 when he drove 2527, 2528 and 2529, as well as the V-I2 cars 2523, 2530 and 2531 . Although the series of chassis numbers ran from 2501 to 2531, indicating that 31 cars were built between 1954 and 1957, only 29 of them were 250F models with de Dion rear suspension and there were never 29 cars actually in existence, for some were rebuilt and given a new lease of life. While the Maserati team were at the peak of their development in 1957, winning the Manufacturers' Championship, there were not more than 18 cars actually complete and in running order and taking part in European racing, and then never all at the same time.

Apart from those cars being raced by V.S.C.C. members there are other examples in museums or private collections in Italy, Switzerland, France, America and England, and most of the early cars were brought up to 1957 bodywork specification before being retired from European racing.—D.S.J.