The 250F Maserati -- Part Three
(Continued from the July issue)
While the Maserati factory team was enjoying a successful season in 1957 with the three "Lightweight" cars, 2527, 2528 and 2529, it was also experimenting with a car for the future. Originally this was going to be an entirely new car, with a 2-1/2--litre flat-12 cylinder engine, following the 250F layout by being front-mounted and still using a gearbox in unit with the rear axle. Because time and money were in short supply the design was changed before it left the drawing-board, and the 12-cylinder engine was changed from 180-degrees opposed, to 60-degree vee, so that it would fit into the successful 250F chassis frame and mate up to the 5-speed transaxle.
As mentioned in Part Two of this saga, the prototype V12 engine was first tried out in an old T1 chassis frame, given the number 2523, which was in fact a discarded frame from 2507. This I now refer to as 2523 (A), to distinguish it from the real 2523. The new V-12 power unit revved to 10,000 rpm and gave more than 300 bhp, compared to the 6-cylinder engine's 270 bhp at 7400 rpm, but was very difficult to handle, as it only had about 1500 rpm as a useable rev-band, and when the power did come in it came in with an almightly rush. Every time it was tested it sounded glorious, but the old 6-cylinder cars were invariably quicker on lap speeds. The plan had been to phase-out the team of "Lightweight" cars and replaced them with 12-cylinder powered car, but this never happened.
After struggling along with the prototype V12 car, the first purpose-built V12 did not appear until mid-season, but it was all too late. They were not sufficiently advanced over the "Lightweight" 6-cylinder cars to justify the change over. When Maserati was forced to give up Grand Prix racing at the end of 1957, the V-12 project was ended before it really began.
Maserati 250F chassis number 2530:
This was the first V-12 engined car to be built from scratch. It had a T2 "Lightweight" chassis frame and body panels and fuel tank-cum-tail like the three successful factory 6-cylinder team cars of 1957. It first appeared at Rouen-les-Essarts for the 1957 French Grand Prix, and though driven in practice by Fangio, Schell and Menditeguy, it was not used in the race, and in fact, was never seen again. The chassis number was transferred to 2526 and this "offset" 6-cylinder car from 1956 was sold to Antonio Cress in 1958. It subsequently found its vvay to the Schlumpf brothers museum, so that though the chassis plate 2530 is on display, it is not the car 2530. Of the real 2530, the V-12 engine was removed by the factory and the rest of the car used to construct 2532 as an experimental car in the spring of 1958.
Maserati 250F chassis number 2531:
This was the second V-12 engined car to be built from scratch. It had a "Monza Offset" type frame, like 2525 and 2526, with the engine mounted at an angle and the propshaft running diagonally across the cockpit to the left allowing a lower seating position. It first appeared in practice tor the Reims Grand Prix in 1957 but only survived a few laps in Behra's hands before a piston collapsed and wrecked the engine. It next appeared at Pescara in 1957, again only used in practice, this time by Fangio and Behra, and then underwent quite a lot of development work. It actually raced in the Italian GP at Monza, driven by Jean Behra, but overheated and finally blew up. It appeared briefly for practice for the Modena GP and at Casablanca, and was never seen again. Less engine, it found its way to Argentina and came to light recently, but by no means complete, and certainly not with a 2-1/2-litre V-12 engine in it.
Maserati 250F chassis number 2532:
After chassis number 2529, it looked as though Maserati had made their last 6-cylinder Grand Prix car, especially when they closed down the racing department at the end 1957, but early in 1958 the ex-V12 car number 2530 was used to build an experimental 6-cylinder car. It was completed and out on test at the Nürburgring early in the season, complete with a late-development 6-cylinder engine, and it then appeared briefly in practice for the Belgian GP, looked after by factory personel who were very non-committal about its reason and destination. The identity plate 2532 appeared on a car at Reims in 1958, driven by Fangio in his last race, but subsequently it turned out that this car was not 2532. The experimental car built on the T2 "Lightweight" frame of 2530 that had been seen at Nürburgring and Spa eventually found its way to Argentina, and in recent years some of the parts came back to England. The car was resurrected with a new English-built chassis frame, and many other new parts and re-appeared as 2532, but it must be said that the real remains of 2532 are still in South America, and could one day come to the surface.
Maserati 250F chassis number 2533:
Eventually, during the 1958 season, the reason for the mysterious experimental car 2532 became apparent. An American named Temple Buell was financing his own private Scuderia and Maserati built him two brand new cars. These were on T3 chassis frames, with shorter wheelbases, lighter and smaller, with the drive-shafts angled slightly forwards. They became known as Super-Lightweights or "Piccolo" models, and 2533 was the first of these. After a trip to New Zealand in company with two other Maseratis, as the Scuderia El Salvador, this car returned to the factory and in 1961 was sold to Joe Lubin in America. He kept the car until 1984 when it was bought by Don Orosco, who had it completely overhauled and raced it at VSCC Silverstone in June 1986.
Maserati 250F chassis number 2534:
This was the second of the Temple Buell "Piccolo" cars built on a T3 chassis, and as explained in the first part of this saga is a "no problem" car . It was the last 250F to be built in the Maserati factory in Modena.
This project was begun in the Maserati factory but was not completed when the racing department closed down. It was a logical development of the "Piccolo" cars, begun by Valerio Colotti. When Maserati turned its activities to production GT cars, Colotti left the firm and set up his own design-studio in the town of Modena, forming Officine Tecnica Meccanica. After many problems this special one-off project, now called Tec-Mec, was completed, using an old 6-cylinder 250F engine and the car made one brief appearance in the American Grand Prix. It eventually ended up in the Donington Racing Car Museum. Had it been given a Maserati chassis number it would have been 2535.
While completion of the Maserati-engined Tec-Mec was underway this small group cobbled up a "special" for an Australian driver. It took the form of a standard 250F chassis, into which was installed a Chevrolet Corvette V8. It proved to be a rather unwieldy monster and after racing "down under" it ended as a box of bits. It came back to England as 2504 but it subsequently turned out to be 2523(B) and was resurrected as such.
Much of the complicated switching of chassis plate identities in the nineteen fifties was caused by paperwork involving customs, exports, Carnet-de-Passage and so on. Before a Maserati could leave Italy, either temporarily or permanently, it had to have a "passport", and due to financial deals it was not always the owner's name that was on the car's "passport". If there was a car without a "passport", and someone with a "passport" for another car, it was a simple matter to switch identities and take a car to a race outside Italy without any problems. Most of the time the identities were switched back on returning to Modena, but not always, and that was when confusion arose in later years.
Hopefully this saga has sorted out most of these fascinating stones, but there may well be more to come, and already we have an owner in Switzerland and another in Austria who are convinced they have certain cars, because their paperwork says so, but known mechanical facts prove otherwise. As described in Part One the "interim" car 2510 is a known quantity and a real 250F with that number was never built. An owner in Austria has an assemblage of parts brought from the Maserati factory in 1970 and with it he has the correct paperwork for 250F Maserati chassis number 2510!
While the Modena cars have now been fairly well sorted out and chronicled, there are eight more 250Fs that never saw the workshop floor of the Maserati factory. These have been wholly or partly, built by Cameron Millar and are all stamped with his CM serial number. They present no problems, providing the owners are straightforward and honest, and they are totally acceptable to the Vintage Sports Car Club under its special category, Group 4. Some other organisations will only accept them if they were registered with FISA before 1981 (81) and this could lead to false identities being applied.
These cars are as follows, thanks to the co-operation of Cameron Millar who caused them to happen: they are all built on chassis frames constructed in England, with bodywork, tanks, radiators etc mostly made in England, while some have some genuine Maserati spare parts built into them. The chassis frames vary there being all three types, T1 — standard, T2 — lightweight, T3 — Super lightweight or Piccolo.
CM-1 (T1) Specially commissioned by an Amercian collector. Returned to England. Sold by the Trade. Raced by Steve O'Rourke and Richard Thwaites.
CM-2 (T2) Not completely finished by Millar. Sold to Peter Martin and David Kergon. Finished and raced. Sold to Alan Cottam.
CM-3 (T3) Specially commissioned for English collector. Bought by Dan Margulies and raced for him by Richard Bond. Now owned by English collector in Surrey.
CM-4 (T1) Not completely finished by Millar. Sold to collector and trade. Now in Italy claiming To be 2505.
CM-5 (T1) Not completely finished by Millar. Now owned by enthusiast in Scotland.
CM-6 (T3) Built for Millar himself. Later sold to English collector.
CM-7 (T3) Most of the parts sold to English enthusiast. Nearing completion.
CM-8 (T1) Another collection of parts sold to English enthusiast. Being completed.
As far as we know this accounts for all the 250F Maseratis "Made in Modena" or "Modena England" though no doubt there could be more being built in other countries, so take care. -- D.S.J.