The car was like a snappy retort delivered after the party was over-clever, but presented to an empty room
Following on the success of Wilbur Shaw’s win in his Maserati Tipo 8CTF at the Indianapolis 500 in May 1939, the Maserati factory was confident it could repeat this victory in 1940 with its new model monoposto (single seater), the Tipo 8CL. This new racing car was a more powerful version of the eight-cylinder 8CTF, with four valves per cylinder, two superchargers, two Memini carburetors and a chassis with a 70-mm longer wheelbase. Power output had increased for the three-liter engine, to a respectable 420 hp with a potential top speed of 175 mph.
The first Tipo 8CL, S/N 3034, was completed by the end of March 1940, resplendent in the South American racing colors of blue with
yellow. Practice for the Indy 500 was in April, and the race driver Raul Rigante, a local South American champion of some experience, qualified it at 121.8 mph. The 1939 winning 8CTF qualified at 127 mph, which put Wilbur Shaw on the front row and Rigante on the twelfth.
In the race, which Shaw won for the second successive time, Rigante had a bad accident on lap 24. The Argentine driver was thrown out of the cockpit without serious injury, but his car was badly beaten up and was eventually crated back to Argentina, where it remained for almost 40 years, mostly in retirement.
The Maserati 8CL has since been the subject of a thorough survey and mechanical restoration by Phil Riley, and has made successful appearances in historic races at Monterey and Lime Rock.