This 1955 Maserati 300S sold for $1,925,000 at RM’s Phoenix auction held January 20, 2006.
One of the interesting misconceptions people have about the Maserati 300S is that it’s sort of a second-tier Ferrari Testa Rossa. This is emphatically not the case. The 300S was first produced in 1955, three years before the iconic 250 TR.
In its prime year of 1956, the 300S raced against Ferrari Monzas, Jaguar D-types, and the Aston Martin DB3S. The fact that it is today seen as a TR equivalent is testimony to what a great car it was. I know a number of people who have driven them all, and the consensus is that the 300S handles better than the TR and far better than the Monza.
In terms of being seen as an equal, of course, the Maserati’s lack of a V12 hurts its image, but it’s important to remember that in 1955, nobody-not even Ferrari-raced with a V12. This was the time of four- and six-cylinder race engines from all the manufacturers, and Maserati’s three-liter six was one of the best. In 1956, Ferrari came along with the 290 MM (3.5-liter V12 in an 860 Monza chassis) and began to establish V12 dominance.
The Maserati 300S is easily the most beloved of the ’50s Maserati sports racers. The four-cylinder 150S and 200S are excellent, but at 1.5 and 2 liters they don’t have the world championship panache of the 300S. The 450S has earned a fearsome reputation and is very intimidating, but the 300S sits comfortably in the middle; world-class fast, lithe, and beautiful.
This particular car was beautifully presented at auction, with five pages of text extolling the virtues of the marque and this car. The chassis history is impressive and there appears to be no doubt that chassis number 3057 is correctly assigned, so why did it sell for a candidly unimpressive “just under $2 mil” in a generally strong market? Something closer to $3 million seems more likely.
The answer has to do with originality. At this level you’re buying art as much as adrenaline, and how much of the car is the work of 1955 Italians vs. much later “restorers” is crucial.
Nobody questions that this car was Musy’s mount in the glory years. The fact that it endured an awful fate, including the loss of its engine and transaxle (at minimum), in the revolutions of southern Africa is part of its history, but the result is that it’s a greatly compromised car.
I recall inspecting this ’55 Maserati 300S for a client at Paradise Garage in 1998 (memory says they were asking £425,000, about $700,000 at the time). I advised my client that the car had apparently been built as a “hot rod” for Martin Stretton and if the intent was to buy a “weapon for the battle” it would be a good move.
As a collector vehicle I was more circumspect. I have no direct knowledge nor reason to doubt the catalog’s assertions as to how much of the car was saved in the restoration, but I recall doubting in 1998 that there was very much 1955 metal sitting on those wheels.
Apparently this car has been accepted by the Ferrari-Maserati Challenge folks, though, and they can be very difficult if they think something’s not right. If you’ve got their blessing you’re good to go, so who am I to question?
I do have to comment on the transaxle. If it is gone, I agree you’ve got to make a new one, but a five-speed Jack Knight? My books tell me that the 300S had four gears and only one ever left the factory with a five-speed (S/N 3080, in 1958) so this seems a bit questionable, even if the extra gear would be mighty handy in a race.
So the basic answer is that this is a weapons-grade example of a very collectible car. It didn’t bring near the money that a really good 300S should get, but it really didn’t try to (the estimate of $2.2 million-$2.5 million would have triggered a stampede for a really good 300S). It was honestly represented and the issues with the car were reflected in the sales price.
Whoever bought it will probably be quicker with fewer worries and less money invested than his compatriots with “better” cars. As long as they can run together in the same events, who’s the smart one?