This magical Maserati was a direct competitor of the smaller-engined, less-uncompromisingly-race-bred Alfa Romeo 8C 2300. It should be considered absolutely within the same breath as one of the most illustrious of Italian-made thoroughbred road-racing cars.

This extraordinarily well-presented survivor from Maserati’s early history is offered here direct from 57 years in its current ownership, and from 61 years within the same family. It has been restored, maintained and preserved within Anthony Hartley’s supreme Maserati collection and fully reflects his unique combination of admiration for the marque, hands-on engineering capability and deep, deep knowledge of these dynamic machines. This is one of two 2.5-liter Maserati Tipo 26 cars originally imported into the U.K. during the winter of 1930–31. The Tipo 26 cars are normally known as 26Ms or 26Bs, but in the case of these two cars built to special British order, it appears they were classified as 26S.

As offered here, 2518 embodies its original chassis — now boxed-in for enhanced rigidity — highly original bodywork and highly original running gear, while Hartley has crafted many new mechanical components to original specification to ensure useable reliability. The engine features its original cylinder head and exhaust and original RAG carburetor body. The original upper crankcase half and block are included, and the starter, dynamo and magneto are original. The gearbox is remade. The torque tube is original, and the majority of the braking system is also original, as are the axle tubes.

Among Maserati cars, this is absolutely one of the most original survivors. It is an extremely rare, classical straight-8 supercharged four-seat sports car, offered here in great order. It has excellent provenance, it is accompanied by a comprehensive documentation file plus technical restoration and running notes ... and it has that extra cachet of the Giuseppe Campari racing history.

SCM Analysis


Number Produced:15
Original List Price:Unknown
Chassis Number Location:Tag on left side of dash
Engine Number Location:Stamped on head
Club Info:The Maserati Club

This car, Lot 128, sold for $2,726,875, including buyer’s premium, at Bonhams’ Goodwood Revival auction on September 15, 2012.

Forget about cars for a minute — let’s play a real-estate mind game. Assume that you’ve done well in your life and want to invest in a house at some cool ski resort. You’ve got deep — but not bottomless — pockets and want to both have a lot of fun and invest wisely. So what are the criteria that you’ll use in making your decision?

First, you’ll want to select your resort, which will be a function of the kind of experience you want: Alta or Taos are great, but your skills had better be ready for them. Aspen or Vail are less ultimate, but they are far more comfortable and accommodating. Do you want a personality match or to make a statement?

Now the investment considerations: Do you want history or performance (or both)? You’re already in a good neighborhood, but do you want the fanciest place, or are you willing to take something funky and different — but still cool — for a lot less money?

How much do you care about the architecture and artistry of construction? How much are you going to use it? If you use it a lot, keeping it going can be a big deal, but if you only visit occasionally, issues such as fixing a weird old furnace aren’t that important. Also, how long are you going to keep it? Eventually you or your kids are going to want to sell it, and some properties are just easier to sell than others. If you’re worried about liquidity, there are some properties from which it’s best to stay away.

Back to race cars

Okay, you get the picture — now let’s go back to talking about collectible racers, as the situation really isn’t very different.

First you pick the category — the grid — in which you want to play. For example, Formula One and Can-Am are attractive, but you’d better be a very good driver and far more interested in excitement and accomplishment than in comfort and friendliness if you choose to go there.

Sports cars from the 1950s are fun, beautiful, and not too likely to hurt you, but your wife’s SUV will turn better lap times. You’ve got to choose the experience you want — and can afford.

Next, you need to find the right car on which to spend money — with the understanding that even within a category, good and poor investments exist at all relative price levels. Do you want to pay top dollar for the flavor of the month — or find a well-known — but second-tier — bolide that will serve you well for a bit less money? Or do you want to poke around to find the unknown gem that comes out of nowhere to harass the big guys for a fraction of the cost? These are all valid approaches, tempered by individual attitudes toward practical issues: Do you intend to use it a lot, just occasionally, or as an objet d’art? Does it bother you that a broken part may put you out for months or more while you try to find or re-create a piece that hasn’t been produced since well before you were born?

Who lives in this neighborhood?

Obviously, practical issues become less important as the cars get newer, but today’s topic is, generally, pre-war racers, and specifically European ones that aspired to run at the front. This is an intimidating, demanding, and highly international group to play in and primarily European — it is the Val d’Isére of the vintage racing world, if you will. The participants tend to split into two groups: the big cars, such as the 4½ and 6 Litre Bentleys and the Mercedes-Benz S and SS, and the smaller cars, such as 8C 2300 Alfas, various Bugattis and the occasional Maserati. There are also a gaggle of under-1,500-cc Austins and MGs, but they are not today’s topic.

So let’s wander around the neighborhood and consider the relative merits and values of the possibilities. Aside from the SSK that has become a museum for its sheer rarity, the most impressive — and certainly the flavor of the year — is the 8C 2300 Alfa. As a supercharged straight-8 Italian beauty, it is the perfect combination of artistry, performance, history, reliability and sheer lust. But these cars come with a very hefty price tag: The good ones start at $5 million and go way up from there.

A thundering alternative can be found in the 4½ Litre (and occasional 6 Litre) Bentleys: They are big, very long-legged and almost impossible to break, but they are a serious upper-body workout on most tracks and nowhere near as physically attractive as many would like. You can get an acceptable racing bitsa for about a million dollars, but a proper racer with real history will require well above $5 million. S Mercedes are similar — while more beautiful — but there are precious few with any real racing history, and those are seriously precious.

The main alternative in the lighter cars is Bugatti, particularly the supercharged, twin-cam straight-8 Type 51 and Type 55. They are effectively French 8C 2300s but don’t carry quite the value, sitting in the $3 million to $5 million range. They are for the most part gorgeous and fun to drive, but a bit more of a problem if something breaks. You can buy anything up to and including a complete new engine for an Alfa, Bentley or Mercedes-Benz, but Bugattis are more of a challenge.

This brings us to our subject Maserati. It is an Italian supercharged straight-8 and every bit as fast as the competition. Maserati’s build quality was an easy match for any of the others, and the artistry is real. However, few people really understand them, so the market is thin — with resulting lower values. Maserati built 15 of them, and maybe half of those survive, so finding parts when something breaks becomes a serious consideration if you intend to actually use it.

The history is great, but this car was reduced to little more than a frame and miscellaneous pieces before Hartley recovered the missing bits and reassembled it, which always puts an asterisk on the provenance.

A bargain in an expensive neighborhood

On the other hand, if you are looking to make a wise investment, one of the most basic rules is to buy a lesser-valued — but good — property in a great neighborhood. I propose that this is the situation here. This car has the bones and the pedigree of greatness, but it’s hard to keep up, sits on a little-used side street, and doesn’t have the curb appeal of the fancy neighbors — but it sold for half to a third of their value. As such, I think that it was fairly priced in today’s market, but probably has a much greater upside than the ones over which everybody is fighting. It is a very cool car, and I would suggest that it was an astute purchase. ?

(Introductory description courtesy of Bonhams.)


Comments are closed.