This wonderfully useable, well-presented and historic product of the world-famous Maserati brothers' company "Officina Specializzata Costruzione Automobili," better known as "OSCA," was purchased new from the Bolognese factory in Italy by Kleenex millionaire James H. "Gentleman Jim" Kimberly, in 1956.
At the Road America circuit in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, that September, Kimberly and his brilliant co-driver, none other than the great Carroll Shelby, drove this MT4 to first place in the Four-Hour enduro race for cars up to two liters in engine capacity.
After Gentleman Jim's ownership, S/N 1178 passed on to further considerable success through the hands of such subsequent owners as Otto Linton and Harry Beck. Otto Linton, racing in partnership with co-drivers Beck and Hal Stetson, finished third in class in the World Championship-qualifying 1957 Sebring 12-Hours classic.
In 1958 the car raced in another Sebring 12-Hours endurance classic. This time 1178, driven by Stetson and Beck, actually won the 1500-cc sports-racing car class outright-defeating all the Porsche opposition. Later that summer, Harry Beck and new owner John Milos ran this car in the Marlboro 6-Hours race. The high-revving twin-overhead camshaft four-cylinder engine finished first, beating out a field of 26 cars that included Fred Windridge's rumbling '57 Chevrolet Corvette V8.
1178 was eventually acquired in 1985 after it underwent a thorough restoration. In the hands of the present owner, 1178 has been painstakingly maintained and race-prepared by KTR European Motorsports of Ayer, Massachusetts, and it has been used extensively and raced by the current vendor as a member of the VSCCA for the past 16 years. The details of work carried out over the years by KTR European Motorsports are documented at length in the extensive file preserved with the car.
During the present ownership, every mechanical part of 1178 "has been brought up to snuff." The electrical parts, the generator and the starter have been rewound, the brakes improved, all of the pumps reconditioned, the transmissions improved by adjustment and the steering components disassembled for complete inspection. All of this has been done plus modifications required by the VSCCA (such as an external kill-switch on the starboard side) while maintaining the original parts where possible.
An immensely attractive feature of 1178 is that a spare engine, transmission and other parts accompany this lot. During its racing career in its present ownership both engines and both transmissions have been employed. The present vendor has resisted offers made to him for the spare engine in the past, not only because of the convenience it represented to him, but more so because it is part of the original package passed on with 1178 from Kimberly. Other parts offered here are similarly important. How would one replace an original-equipment OSCA distributor if one did not have a spare?
The engine currently installed in the car is number 1533, which has benefited from a major overhaul by KTR involving installation of a new crankshaft and replacement of certain bearings. Since then, this engine has proved to be "virtually trouble free."
|Vehicle:||1956 OSCA Mt4 1.5 Tipo|
|Original List Price:||$9,000|
|Tune Up Cost:||$5,000|
|Chassis Number Location:||Right front suspension at top shock mount|
|Engine Number Location:||Left side of block|
|Club Info:||Fiat OSCA Registry, 36 Maypole Dr., Chigwell, Essex, United Kingdom|
|Alternatives:||Cisitalia 202MM, Maserati A6GCS, Siata 208S, Fiat 8V|
This car sold for $266,500, including buyer’s premium, at the Bonhams auction in Brookline, Massachusetts, held May 4, 2002.
In 1947 the Maserati brothers were finally contractually free to leave the company that bore their names, which had been sold ten years earlier to industrialist Adolfo Orsi. They were eager to move on, as Adolfo’s son, Omer, wanted the brothers to produce a touring car, which did not mesh with their passion for building racers. Wasting no time, the brothers moved to Bologna, and opened a small factory with an unassuming acronym (OSCA), which translated loosely to “the workshop specializing in construction of automobiles.”
Their very first effort was the MT4, which was powered by a jewel-like four-cylinder engine with a single cam. The minimalist cigar-shaped body had two small seats and easily removable cycle fenders, permitting it to race in both formula and sports car races. The design evolved to a twin-cam 1350-cc engine, and by 1954 they were building a quintessential Italian barchetta with a 1450-cc engine, usually fitted with an elegant Fratelli Morelli or Coli body.
The surprisingly simple tube chassis (live axle in the rear, A-arms up front) was very rigid, and the MT4 handled like a dream. From the very beginning the little MT4 was an instant success, whether driven by privateers in small races, or in major international events by luminaries including Chiron, Villoresi, Ascari, Cabianca and Musso. It was always in contention, and often victorious.
Edgar Frontiers of Chicago, quite a driver in his own right, imported MT4s to the States. McAfee, Cunningham, Lloyd and Kimberly, to name a few, scored from Pomona to Sebring with MT4s. Which brings us to S/N 1178.
This MT4 is a very rare and delightful example. It was presented and sold with no stories. It is original, with a known and impressive provenance, and no one has claimed to have another chassis carrying the same number.
Looking at the car from a historical point of view, it is completely authentic. No one has tried to improve its beautiful Fratelli Morelli body. No one has made hurried paddock repairs after a shunt in practice. Its owners/drivers list reads like a Who’s Who of North American racing.
Gentleman Jim Kimberly was a giant on the North American racing scene, and was a class act to boot. True to his form, he ordered the car with an additional engine and gearbox. Carroll Shelby needs no introduction, and the other drivers were also well known and respected in their time. First in class at Sebring and first overall at the Marlboro enduro are not chopped liver. This car is the total package.
At this point a few words should be said about the consignor. He should be lauded for not selling the engine and gearbox separately. More than likely, the makers of fakes would have paid a pretty penny for them; but the seller is also a class act, as much as Gentleman Jim was. During a recent trip to New York I had the pleasure and the privilege of meeting him. He is straightforward, very knowledgeable, urbane and charming.
I congratulate the smart or lucky buyer. Not only has he bought a piece of history, but the price is more than right. (One real MT4 with much lesser history and without spares is currently on the market for more than $300k.) I hope the new buyer enjoys the car, never turns it into a trailer queen, and keeps the spare engine with the car, where it belongs.-Raymond Milo