Historic Grand Prix cars

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NO ONE will deny that the Maserati 250F is a classic among Grand Prix cars, though there are people who think it is the classic of all Grand Prix cars. The design was laid down specifically for the Formula of 1954-1957, which was extended to cover the years 1958 to 1960, and the prototype was completed in December 1953. As the Formula called for unsupercharged engines of 2,500 c.c. (2 1/2-litres) Maserati referred to their new car as the Due cento cinquanta per Formula Uno and this came to be written as “250/F1”. Once out in the hands of the press this became abbreviated to 250F and that is the number that has remained ever since. It has the distinction of being the first new car for the new Formula, taking part in and winning the first race of 1954, and maintaining activity in the Formula right through to the bitter end. A 250F just scraped on to the grid for the very last race of the Formula in November 1960. Over the seven years that the 250F was racing the basic design did not change much, though naturally there was continuous development. The tubular space-frame became smaller and lighter, the gearbox developed from four speeds to five speeds, brakes became bigger in diameter and wider carburetter sizes increased, as did valve sizes, and camshafts improved so that the engine, which remained a straight-six-cylinder, went from 240 b.h.p. at 7,200 r.p.m. to 270 b.h.p. at 8,000 r.p.m. The bore and stroke remained at 84 mm. giving a capacity of 2,493 c.c. Suspension was unchanged throughout its life, being double-wishbones and coil springs at the front and de Dion with transverse leaf spring at the rear. Over the years the bodywork became smoother and sleeker and the nose cowling became longer and more penetrating. The high point of the works team of 250F cars was undoubtedly 1957, the year in which Fangio won the World Championship with the model that was to become known as the “lightweight”. This had a much lighter chassis frame, using smaller diameter tubes and more of them, which was known as the Tipo 2 frame. Three cars were built for the factory team drivers Fangio, Behra and Schell and these were numbered 2527, 2528 and 2529. It is the middle one of the three with which we are dealing this month.