1936 Maserati 6 CM Monoposto

There were seven Maserati brothers and Alfieri, Ernesto, and Ettore were for many years involved in racing with a variety of cars. In 1926 they set up a small factory in Bologna and started making cars under their own name, using the trident insignia of that city as their badge, which continues to this day. Their first product was the Type 26, and first time out it won its class in the Targa Florio. Between the years 1926-1940 this little factory was very busy; it is absolutely astonishing to realize that over this period no less than 32 models of sports cars were made, the entire output being designed for racing. By 1937 the Orsi combine had control of the factory, but the Maserati brothers Ernesto, Ettore and Bindo remained for ten years by agreement – Alfieri had died in 1932 during an operation following an accident.

The 6 CM was made from 1936 to 1939 and proved to be the most popular car made pre-war. Factory records show that 28 chassis and 30 engines were made, though other sources claim only 27 chassis. The engine was a six-cylinder unit developing 175 bhp at 6,500 rpm; weight was 650 kgs, with a top speed of around 140 mph; this compares with the contemporary 4 CM, which had a four-cylinder 150 bhp engine, weighed 580 kg and could reach about the same speed. The 6 CM had independent front suspension by torsion bars and semi-elliptics at the rear, later to be replaced by quarter-elliptics.

By the mid-1930s it was obvious that most other Grand Prix cars were being outclassed by the German so it was decided to concentrate on the Voiturette one-liter class, initially with the 4 CM; this coincided with Alfa Romeo following suit and the appearance of the ERA, which presented a very strong challenge. The 4 CM was barely equal to the occasion, so the 6 CM was produced, and quickly showed itself to be very competitive. It had very good seasons in 1936, ’37, and ’38, many cars being sold to private owners, altogether 11 being retained as works cars. English customers included Austin Dobson, who bought three cars, Lord Howe, Johnny Wakefield and Reggie Tongue; at least one car went to America and one to Australia. The Suceria Ambrosiana of Lurani, Villoresi, Minetti and Cortese used 6 CMs, as did the Ecurie Helvetia of Armand Hug and Baron de Graffenreid; other drivers included Dreyfus, Varzi and Count Trossi. 1937 and 1938 were particularly good years, with wins and places at Turin, Tripoli, Naples, San Remo (first three places), Albi, Modena and the South African winter series. Noteworthy was Trossi’s 1st place at Naples at a speed only 3kmh less than that of Farin’s winning Alfa Romeo in the main Grand Prix on the same day; 6 CMs were 4th, 5th and 6th behind Trossi. There were numerous other successes over this period and in 1939 one car was entered for the Indianapolis 500 mile race; it was the smallest car in the race, but created such a good impression that a Type 8CTF was purchased for Wilbur Shaw to drive; heavily disguised as a Boyle Special it won the race in 1939 and 1940 and was 3rd twice and 4th once in later years. By 1939, the new 4 CL was beginning to outpace the 6 CM, and thus it gradually retired from racing.

The 6CM pictured here was initially fitted with engine no. 1532, but factory records show that this was swapped with engine no. 1561 from chassis 1562 (the car driven by Villoresi, Taruffi and Ascari), and “1532” still retains engine no. 1561 to this day. “1532” was in fact one of the first two cars made and is rare in that it is one of only four or five built with an external hand brake. Little is known of the car’s early racing history but it is listed as having been a works car and is believed to have been mostly raced by Count Trossi.

Like many Maserati Grand Prix cars it found its way to South America and was brought back to the United Kingdom some years ago. It was subjected to a thorough restoration by the respected Maserati authority and restorer Sean Danaher, who writes that he remembers the car as being correct and original at the time of the restoration. The front of the chassis frame showed some past accident damage (and subsequent repair) but, excepting that, the rest of the frame carried all its original factory identification marks and numbers, as did the car throughout.

Following restoration, “1532” has raced three times in historic meetings at the Nurburgring, and when driven by Richard Bond it was only 1/10th of a second slower in practice than the much larger Tipo B Alfa Romeo of the late David Black. Correctly finished in what else but Maserati Red, “1532” represents a Maserati of good provenance as well as a Grand Prix car of proven historic racing potential.