Maserati repair worth the wait

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Maserati repair worth the wait

In preparation for the Goodwood Revival a couple of very supportive owners have been working hard to run their Maserati 151 Coupes. They still may or may not make it this year, but the sight and sound of these ground-shaking V8-engined projectiles is always worth waiting for. Bruce McLaren once described his 1962 Cunningham team Le Mans 151 as “an unguided missile”, and there in ’63 Andre Simon led the entire field in his Maserati Franceentered 5-litre, simply blasting around the Sarthe. In England, TecMec-Maserati owner Barrie Baxter has spent a couple of years with restorer Steve Hart and Shapecraff pe fecting his ex-Maserati

France/Lucky Cosner Maserati 151/3 Coupe. Baxter’s machine is based on the Peter Kaus car from his erstwhile Rosso Bianco Collection in Germany. The original 1962 prototype was the first of the 4-litre V8engined 151 Coupes, entered at Le Mans and Brands Hatch by the Maserati France team of the always enthusiastic Colonel Johnny Simone. At Le

Mans ’62 Maurice Trinfignant and Lucien Blanchi co-drove, and for ’63 The chassis was updated as the 151/1 variant with a Lucas fuel-injected 4941cc wet-sump V8, claiming 430bhp at 7000rpm.

Driver Andre Simon was immensely quick and brave in this red-liveried car with its white and blue centreline stripes. He clocked the highest speed of 291km/h 180.85mph along Mulsanne. But at The run-and-jump start he was delayed because The sun’s heat had glued his driver’s door to its rubber sealing strips. He could only wrench it open at the third or fourth attempt, and even then it had promptly bounced shut again, cutting his nose…

Simon was still 11th through the Dunlop Curve, took second at the end of The Mulsanne Straight (behind Phil Hill in the Aston Martin Project 215 Coupe) and when the leader made a pitstop to check for debris damage Simon inherited the lead, and for two hours held off the works Ferraris. ‘Lucky’ Casner of former Camoradi team fame took over but on the car’s 40th lap its transmission failed. For 1964 Col Simone’s car was then completely reworked in Modena, the chassis used as The basis for what Ing Alfieri listed as the Tipo 151/3, while Col Simone christened it the Tipo 152. With longer wheelbase, wider track and new 15-Inch Borranl wire wheels carrying the latest wide-profile Dunlop Racing tyres, its 5-hire fuel-injected engine was converted to dry-sump lubrication and retuned to 410bhp. A simplified coupe body was designed

by Piero Drogo and fashioned by Mario Allegretti. Maserati’s legendary chief mechanic Guerin() Bertocchi clocked 196mph in it on the ModenaBologna Autostrada, reporting ‘high-speed wandering no longer a problem”.

At Le Mans, a block of sponge rubber jammed the Throttle slides on Trintignant’s first lap. He rejoined to set times matching Richie Ginther’s lead Ford GT. After two hours this bazooka lay lOth and Simon became the first driver ever to exceed 300km/h through the Mulsanne speed trap during the race at 192.6mph. After three hours the Maserati was seventh; after five it ran third. But just after midnight

the car had to be withdrawn due to an untraceable electrical short-circuit.

Despite failures in later races, Col Simone remained determined to demonstrate the car’s continuing worth. Maserati prepared two fresh dry-sump, fuel-injected V8s for 1965 one 5055cc giving around 450bhp for Le Mans practice and the other 5044cc with 430bhp for the

race. Dual ignition was re-adopted, fuel tankage increased, and front suspension redesigned to house huge semi-inboard disc brakes. The body shape was refined around the tail, and the car repainted white with red and blue striping. Maserati classified it as Tipo 151/3; Simone dubbed it Tipo 154.

But at the 1965 Le Mans Test Weekend, ‘Lucky’ Casner lost control after the final hump on the Mulsanne and died. The car was destroyed, and the mutilated chassis subsequently scrapped.

In 1980, supported by the Maserati factory, Kaus borrowed the surviving manechino body buck used by Allegretti to shape the ’64 body, and now it was re-used by Allegreffi to recreate the shell which was mounted upon a chassis made in Germany, and fitted with a 5000 GT V8. This celebrated the last roofed-in hurrah of The Orsi-Maserati story at Le Mans and Baxter is having it reassembled around a more accurate chassis frame, embodying not only an original 5-litre race engine but also the original drop-box, rear-mounted transaxle, de Dion axle, brakes and many other salvaged bits.

These not least include the interesting ‘live stub axle’ front brake system which located the massive discs just inboard of the wheel rims, where cooling air could be ducted onto them from nose intakes. This feature was then used again more visibly in the 1966 Fl Cooper-Maserati V12s. There you go GT design improving the Fl breed… But what a wonderful project to take on. Respect.