Chassis 2401 occupies a place of distinction in the evolution of Maserati sports racing cars, as it was the first 200S chassis produced, the works development car for the series and a member of the factory racing team. As the first of the line, the Maserati factory was entirely responsible for its construction, making this car a rarity amongst the various 200S models. Chassis 2401 was so far ahead of regular 200S production, that upon its debut in May 1955, it wore coachwork unmistakable from the preceding 150S.
Beneath the skin, however, it was clear that much had changed. Maserati finally issued the Foglio di Montaggio for 2401 on April 26, 1956, only three days before the Mille Miglia. 2401 proved luckless, eventually succumbing to brake troubles caused by a downpour. In the following month Maserati made the most radical changes yet to their factory development car. Chassis 2401 received the sleek and beautiful long-nose bodywork that immediately differentiated it from its early configuration, and it was left unpainted.
In May 1956, Cesare Perdisa tested the new and improved 2401 at Monza, ushering in a new era of racing success for Maserati’s 200S. Famed French Maserati team driver Jean Behra was enlisted to pilot the 200S at the Grand Prix di Bari on the Adriatic coast. His talent helped him to capture an overall victory and record the fastest lap of the race.
After Bari, the 200S made a journey into Germany to compete on the legendary Nürburgring – to many, the supreme test of a sports car. On August 1, Stirling Moss piloted the bare aluminum 200S, fitted with a 1.5-liter engine, to a 2nd place finish behind Herrmann’s 550A in the Rheinland Cup sports car race. During the battle for first, Moss managed to establish the fastest lap of the race at 10 minutes, 13.3 seconds, and in so doing, proved that the 200S was a match for the best that Germany had to offer.
The next month, 2401 was again returned to Modena, completing the final stage of its progress towards becoming a 200SI. SI stood for Sport Internazionale in recognition of its compliance with the new FIA mandates.
Chassis 2401 immediately became the subject of Maserati literature, including the factory’s sales brochure and specification sheets. Shortly after the Grand Prix of Caracas in Venezuela, the Maserati factory sold 2401, by then fully developed and race-proven, to Venezuelan privateer Ettore Chimeri. The car spent time with several owners until 1979, when it was sold to Nobuo Harada of Japan and displayed as a prized trophy for some 22 years in the Kawaguchiko Motor Museum.
It wasn’t until 2001 that 2401 finally became available, and it subsequently sold to Dr. Wolf Zweifler, a noted German Maserati collector who returned the car to its former competition glory. In the years that followed, the 200SI could be seen competing at events such as Modena Cento Ore, the Le Mans Classic, the Ferrari Maserati Historic Challenge at Nürburgring and Monza, as well as a number of Mille Miglia Storicas. During that period, the paint on 2401 was carefully removed, exposing the beautiful, highly original alloy bodywork and returning the car to its 1956 Nürburgring livery.
|Vehicle:||1956 Maserati 200SI|
|Number Produced:||28 (200S)|
|Original List Price:||unknown|
|Tune Up Cost:||$2,000|
|Chassis Number Location:||Tag on firewall|
|Engine Number Location:||On front of head|
|Club Info:||The Maserati Club, 325 Walden Avenue Harriman, TN 33748|
|Alternatives:||1953-54 Ferrari 500 Mondial, 1954-55 Ferrari 750 Monza, 1954-56 OSCA MT4|
This car, Lot 138, sold for $2,640,000 including premium at the Gooding & Company Pebble Beach, CA sale held Sunday, August 15, 2010.
While the 1950s saw the Maserati company skid to the brink of disaster—thanks to the ruinous cost of racing—those years were nevertheless gloriously exciting for spectators and drivers alike. Sensuously beautiful cars, piloted by brilliant men who would become legends of motorsport alongside wealthy and sometimes talented amateurs, did battle on the most demanding, picturesque and dangerous courses around the world.
It is in this setting that the Maserati 200SI was born, and seeing one today gives me a thrill, even if it’s only parked.
A vivid, complete history
For many collectors, research and uncovering the lost history of a car can be as exciting as driving it, or in some case even more so. This Maserati has, as many in the period, a very complex back story including engine changes, various body configurations and nomenclature. In order to truly appreciate this car and to understand what contributes to its value, It’s vital to have a clear understanding of what this car is—and isn’t.
A fellow I have come to know in the past few years, “Wolfi” Zweifler of Munich, Germany, is a Maserati enthusiast nonpareil. Of the 32 examples of the 200SI built, Zweifler has owned four. It is fortunate that chassis 2401 came into his ownership, as he is also a diligent automotive archeologist and tireless researcher. When Zweifler purchased the car at auction in 2001, very little had been written about the history of the 4-cylinder Maseratis. The outline of the story of this car was known, but as he observed, many important details were missing, wrong, slightly incorrect or merely conjecture.
Through networking with scholars around the world including Willem Oosthoek, David Seibert, Michael T. Lynch, Walter Bäumer and David Seistad, connecting with a photographer in Venezuela and the son of the Florida owner among others, Zweifler was able to stitch together a seamless chronology of 2401. In doing so he confirmed that it had been driven by Stirling Moss to a 2nd overall in an August 1956 race at the Nürburgring; by “Gigi” Villoresi in his last race at the Grand Prix of Rome in October 1956, and in other events by Piero Taruffi and Jean Behra, which makes it one of the few 200SI chassis to have been driven by works drivers.
A distinctive, race-scarred look
It also was the car pictured in the factory brochure for the model, which clearly shows the head rest detail and the data plate in the flyer’s images. Zweifler says that doing the research on the car was not particularly challenging, as 2401’s distinguishing characteristics of the wide, slatted head rest, singular engine lid and low nose made it easy to identify in period photographs.
Unlike most high-value sports cars seen on the track, at concours or auction, 2401 doesn’t boast a “better-than-new,” deep-red paint job. In fact, it has no paint at all, and that doesn’t mean it shows the gleaming polished fighter plane-like alloy fuselage as sometimes seen on Lotus 11s. Instead it proudly bears the scars of its many crashes and off-road excursions.
The current unpainted presentation is also thanks to Zweifler, who following a rush to complete the car for its first outing at the inaugural Le Mans Classic, had no time to paint the car. When he realized that the factory had run it that way with Farina at Monza and Moss at the Nürburgring, it confirmed his decision to leave it in bare alloy. He also thought it was visual proof of the originality of the body panels.
Given that most 200SIs were sold to privateers, many do not have major race history, and as such, can be very difficult to research and document. As an additional point, very few maintain their original engines as does 2401. A great favor was done to the car when it spent 22 silent years in a private museum in Japan from 1979 until 2001, as no modifications or alterations were done when it might have been far more difficult to respect its history.
Maserati on the rise
The long shadow cast by Ferrari on road and racing cars from their competitors has also fallen here, with Maseratis from this era selling for a fraction of the Ferraris against which they raced in period. That changed, in no small measure due to the eligibility of the Trident’s cars in the now-defunct Ferrari Historic Challenge. Very competitive and reliable, the Maseratis became a viable alternative to run in the events here and in Europe.
Once their worth had been demonstrated, interest and values began to rise accordingly. These cars are welcome in any vintage venue on the calendar. According to Zweifler and others who have owned or driven a 200SI, they are very forgiving of—and flattering to—their drivers.
Chassis 2401 has run in just about every leading vintage racing event, appeared at Pebble Beach and been a class winner at Amelia Island. This car also has been featured in major magazines from Italy’s Ruoteclassiche to the UK’s Motor Sport to Road & Track. This car’s continuous history, impressive early works-connected record, superb presentation, great looks and terrific usability combine to make it a true blue-chip collectible. It’s every bit the equal of its Ferrari competition, and at the price paid for this historic icon, it has to be considered well bought.