• This Month's Issue

    Level Flier: At $220k, This FIghter-Plane-Inspired '09 Spyker Lands Close to It's Original MSRP

    $575k 1969 Aston Martin DB6 Mk I

    Viva l'Italia! In the Driver's Seat at Villa d'Este, the Mille MIglia and Modena Cento Ore

    Fast-Rising Collectible: "The Fast and the Furious" '93 Supra Stunt Car Hurtles to $200k

    Slow-Rising Collectible: Karmann Ghias Gain Ground

    Read More
  • SCM Platinum

    Over 200 cars that sold at auction covered in every issue of SCM. Our market reports include detailed information about the vehicle, including VIN, condition, options, and expert analysis from SCM's auction reporters.

    SCM Platinum is the largest database of collector cars sold at auction. Over 150,000 vehicles, including over 59,000 with detailed write-ups from our auction reporters.

    Now optimized for your mobile devices!

    Read More
  • Glovebox Notes

    SCM doesn't just cover collector cars. Every week, SCM reviews a brand new car online and in our newsletters, and there are new reviews every month in the magazine. Thinking of buying a new car? Check out our reviews!

    Read More
  • Insider’s Guide to Concours d’Elegance

    The 2014 guide includes a calendar of events and detailed descriptions of 21 featured concours.

    Read More

Recent Blog Posts

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4

Collector Car News

  • Sales Total $15.4m at Auctions America California +

    Auctions America racked up more than $15.4m in total sales at its third annual California sale, held July 17–18. The multi-day auction, held for the first time at Santa Monica's historic Barker Hangar, lifted the gavel on approximately 300 collector vehicles. Vehicles drove onto the auction podium via the tail section of Read More
  • Meet Keith Martin at the Concours d'Elegance of America +

    Keith Martin returns as emcee for the Concours d'Elegance of America on July 26 in Plymouth, MI. View the three-day schedule of events here. The featured concours classes are as follows: Pre-War Classes Motorcycles 1918 - 1929: The Dawn of the Modern MotorcycleGas Light: prior to 1914Jazz Age: 1915 - 1929Duesenberg Model Read More
  • Monterey Roundup: More Star Cars! +

    Monterey Car Week is less than a month away. Have you checked out the lastest consignments? Here is a roundup of some very significant star cars: Gooding & Company has consigned a 1961 Ferrari 250 GT SWB California Spyder for their Pebble Beach auction (pictured above; Gooding & Company estimate: $16m–$18m). The Read More
  • Meet Keith Martin, Donald Osborne and Alex Martin-Banzer at Forest Grove +

    The Forest Grove Concours d 'Elegance returns for its 43rd year on Sunday, July 19, on the historic, tree-shaded campus of Pacific University in Forest Grove, OR. Keith Martin and Donald Osborne return as co-emcees. Alex Martin-Banzer will serve as a concours judge. All three will participate in Saturday's Tour Read More
  • Du Pont Collection Joins "Preserving the Automobile" Auction +

    Bonhams has consigned a private collection of original racing, experimental, hot rod and stock automobiles from the prominent American family du Pont — a name synonymous with a chemical empire, a luxury automobile manufacturer, and America's first motorcycle company. The property of Alexis "Lex" du Pont, son of motoring magnate E. Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4

The Maserati Birdcage Tipo 61, with proper team preparation and organization, would undoubtedly have won more classic races. It led every round of the 1960 World Sports Car Championship – at Buenos Aires, Sebring, the Targa Florio, Nurburgring and Le Mans – but only won a single event, and was sidelined by mechanical failure in the rest. Some fine results in Europe included the great 1960 1,000 km Nurburgring victory in the hands of Dan Gurney and Stirling Moss for “Lucky” Casner’s Camoradi team and its fortunate follow-up in 1961 driven by Casner and Masten Gregory. In reality, the Birdcage was most successful in the hands of customer teams in the United States. Only 22 were built, of which six were two-liter Tipo 60s, one of which, the prototype 2451, was quickly converted to a 2.9-liter Tipo 61, making a total of 17 Tipo 61 Birdcages – a very small number to establish such a large reputation.

One of the best Tipo 61 Birdcages was 2452, pictured here, with an exemplary three-year record in hotly contested West Coast races. 2452 also is the first production Tipo 61 Birdcage, commissioned by Joe Lubin during a meeting with Maserati’s Technical Director Ing. Giulio Alfieri in the offices of David Brown at Aston Martin. Without Lubin’s order of chassis 2452 and promises from other Americans, financially-pressed Maserati, barely back from the brink of bankruptcy, very well might never have continued with the legendary series of larger capacity sports-racers, nicknamed “Birdcage” for their intricate multitubular-frame chassis.

Started in 1926, Maserati successfully competed in Grand Prix events with founder Alfieri Maserati himself behind the wheel in the golden era against the Alfa Romeo P2 and P3, in later years regularly making Enzo Ferrari’s life as head of Scuderia Ferrari difficult. Following World War II, Maserati, now led by Omer Orsi following the officine’s pre-war sale to his family, came up with a winning prescription: lightweight, powerful, simple and rugged cars with superb handling, a formula that all racing car builders to this day struggle to emulate. For the 1960 season, Maserati’s Ing. Alfieri proposed a customer-only sports racer, the Tipo 60. Originally conceived as a two-liter car for European series, it quickly became apparent the real market was in the U.S.; and in the States the serious money and competition was in the 2,000-3,000 cc D Modified class. Orsi endorsed Alfieri’s increase in the Tipo 60’s bore and stroke, bringing its displacement up to nearly 2.9 liters. The commercial wisdom of the decision is witnessed by the fact that all seven of the first Tipo 61 Birdcages built (2452 to 2457) were delivered to U.S. customers.

Racing drivers crave a concept they express as “balance,” loosely explained as predictable performance of the car in every attitude and situation. While a superb racing driver can extract exemplary performance from an unbalanced racing car, in a customer car expected to be driven by a variety of pilots of widely differing talent, balance is the crucial ingredient, allowing each driver to realize maximum performance within his or her envelope. The Birdcage Maserati provided balance in abundance.

The example discussed here, 2452, in addition to being the first production Birdcage, was immediately successful in the hands of Joe Lubin’s regular driver, Bob Drake, finishing second in a shakedown race at Riverside less than two weeks after it arrived in Los Angeles and scoring the first of a long history of wins at Palm Springs on January 24, 1960, followed by a win at Willow Spring and a DNF at Pomona. After taking pole (beating Krause by over a second and two seconds faster than Dan Gurney and Carroll Shelby), he suffered a cylinder liner seal failure in the feature race, at the Examiner Grand Prix at Riverside on April 3. He went on to win at Vaca Valley and Santa Barbara, and took second place at Laguna Seca. 2452 was then sold to Stan Sugarman whose driver, Jim Connor, finished second at Pomona in his first race and won two consecutive meetings at Santa Barbara and Cotali. Both were remarkable results as the car had starter/clutch problems and had to be push-started from the back of the grid. By this stage the Sugarman Birdcage was called “the hottest car on the coast.” The real test would come in the next two professional races at Riverside and Laguna Seca. While running in a fine 8th place in the Los Angeles Times GP, Connor retired when the transaxle failed. One week later, Jim Hall borrowed the car (fitting the transaxle from his car) and qualified on the front row, beating all later Tipo 61s, and only Stirling Moss was faster in a Lotus 19. Hall finished second in heat one (including beating Augie Pabst in the legendary Scarab) and was forced to retire in heat two while in third place. Throughout the Lubin/Sugarman era, the car was prepared by Bill Rudd’s speed shop.

Sugarman then sold 2452 to Harry Finer, owner of Maserati Representative of California, who put Billy Krause in the car. Krause had raced against 2452 for two years and put the Birdcage to good use in 1962. He led his first three races before minor mechanical failures forced him to retire and returned to the winning rostrum at Pomona (twice), Oakland, Santa Barbara (in successive features) and Reno. Krause then turned it over to former Mercedes-Benz team driver Ken Miles for the October 14 Riverside Los Angeles Times GP, where he finished a credible sixth. He also ran a week later in the Pacific Grand Prix at Laguna Seca, where the engine let him down.

The thoroughly used-up original engine was replaced in 1963 by the 2.9-liter Tipo 61 engine from Loyal Katskee’s Birdcage 2454, acquired from Don Skogmo. In a final race in 1963 Krause did finish third at Dodger Stadium for the new owner, Steve Diulo. In the late ’60s, it is believed 2452 changed hands in the Chicago area before moving to England. It is thought that there it resided in the famous Nigel Moores collection (Littlewood Pools heir), but saw little use. In the early 1972, Joel Fynn returned the car to the U.S. and around 1976 it passed to Steve Earle, who had the car fully restored in the Stephen Griswold shop in Berkeley, CA. Steve raced the car infrequently before selling to Bill Zeiring around 1981. During a race at Laguna Seca, Bill had a slow-speed accident and after contacting the soft tire wall the car rolled over. The frame was undamaged and Steve Alcala undertook a gradual restoration with great care taken to save the original bodywork. Shortly afterward the car was sold and briefly went to the Bay Area and the specialist Nino Epifani carried out a major engine overhaul. The car later passed through the hands of Bob Rubin and then joined a prominent Japanese collection before returning to the U.S., once again, in recent times. During the past two years, the car has seen very limited use and again, Nino Epifani has carried out routine maintenance and most recently has carried out a full overhaul/rebuild of the transaxle. The engine is still said to be very strong and healthy. Most old race cars quickly disappear into fields or barns to molder into a heap of oxide, but Birdcage Maseratis were great chasses, easy to drive and with excellent brakes. That earned them a special fate: Tipo 61 powerplants disappeared, either from racing accidents or simple neglect and they got better, stronger, lighter engines. They were then driven into the ground. Again, 2452 has avoided that, remaining a pure Tipo 61 Maserati throughout its life and importantly appears to have retained a large portion of its original bodywork. Indeed, on a close inspection the inside panel work bears witness to numerous repairs and much evidence of its early battle scars. This is one of the most historic and recognizable sports racers, correctly powered with clearly defined provenance. It also is one of the most satisfying, balanced sports racers ever made, an ideal mount for international historic races where it will attract enthusiastic attention and is still capable of proving a fast front-runner today as when it was new. In 1960, the legendary Ferrari TR59 was at the top of its form, yet Joel Finn quotes Dan Gurney saying of the Tipo 61, “the Ferraris can’t begin to touch it.”

{analysis}{auto}499{/auto} The car pictured here sold for $937,500 to an SCM subscriber at the Christie’s Pebble Beach auction on August 16 of this year [1998].

During the early ’60s, the mid-engine revolution was gaining momentum. Most cars of this new wave were 2.6 liters at best, due to the scarcity of large-capacity race engines in the U.K., hotbed of the new cars.

The Italians possessed big-inch powerplants, but still adhered to the front-engine theme. The Birdcage, though conventional in layout, was radical in its execution. The spindly chassis, powerful disc brakes, sturdy transaxle and torquey engine made a package that sounded more British than Italian.

These cars were certainly more successful Stateside than they were in Europe. The races here were shorter, suiting the “Cage,” with its very lightly built chassis. The Tipo 61 Birdcage was probably the best three-liter sports racer ever seen in the U.S.

Maserati was well established as a manufacturer of customer cars and the Birdcage was seen in the hands of many competitive privateers during the early ’60s. A great car in its element, Birdcage values are beginning to rival those of the famed Maserati 300, 350 and 450 models that were so successful in Europe. Very competitive in the typically short Historic races and better than the rear-engined Birdcage that came later (some powered by 12 cylinders), the Tipo 61 is beginning to command prices similar to those of their competitors from Modena.

Good 3-liter cars have typically been offered in the $600,000-700,000 range, although a good example has not been on the market for over a year. At over $900,000, this car reflects the growing interest in Italian competition cars with good and proven provenance. Though not apparently a bargain, the scarcity of race cars of this caliber might show this Birdcage to be an excellent investment.

Market options in italics by Michael Duffey.


Recent Profiles

  • Numerous privateer racing drivers got it in their mind to build their own car in the 1950s, with each experiencing
    Read More

    1959 Lister-Chevrolet

    By Thor Thorson / September 2015
  •  Number 487 of 500 built One of last imported into the United States and one of two remaining White Pearl
    Read More

    2012 Lexus LFA

    By Jeff Zurschmeide / September 2015
  • First presented to the public at the Frankfurt Motor Show in 1963, the Porsche 911 replaced the 356 and was
    Read More

    1968 Porsche 911 Coupe

    By Prescott Kelly / September 2015
  • Luca di Montezemolo dedicated the Ferrari Enzo to the founder of the company, “who always thought racing should lay the
    Read More

    2002 Ferrari Enzo

    By Steve Ahlgrim / September 2015
  • Vignale bodied 10 8V chassis, all to Michelotti designs, of which the car offered here, number 000050, is the only
    Read More

    1953 Fiat 8V Cabriolet by Vignale

    By Donald Osborne / September 2015
  • Launched in 1936 alongside the 2½-liter saloon, the SS 100 Jaguar sports car marked the company’s first use of the
    Read More

    1938 Jaguar SS 100 2½-Liter Roadster

    By Paul Hardiman / September 2015
load more / hold SHIFT key to load all load all