1959 Maserati Tipo 61 Birdcage

This magnificent Historic Sports Car-class racing machine which is fully documented and accepted for FIA-recognized events, has already proved itself to be extremely competitive in them and which in capable hands is an assured front-row, race-winning prop

This magnificent Historic Sports Car-class racing machine which is fully documented and accepted for FIA-recognized events, has already proved itself to be extremely competitive in them and which in capable hands is an assured front-row, race-winning proposition.

Maserati chief engineer Ing. Giulio Alfieri laid out his scheme for a new lightweight two-litre class sports-racing car during the winter of 1958-59. Above all he wanted to save weight compared to the obsolescent big-tube-chassied Tipo 200Si design, and was attracted by a monocoque structure, similar to the D-Type Jaguar’s. But since Italian industry lacked experience in stressed-skin manufacture he drew instead the most comprehensively triangulated multi-tubular spaceframe chassis the motor racing world would ever see. Its bewildering intricacy earned it the ‘Birdcage’ nickname, and both two-litre Tipo 60 and 2.9-litre – 2,890 cc – Tipo 61 models were to be produced.

These were front-engined cars with inclined four-cylinder power units, de Dion rear suspensions and disc brakes. Stirling Moss won with the two-litre prototype in July 1959, and the entire initial production batch of six Tipo 61 cars, with their multi-tubular spaceframe chassis, were then all sold to American customers, the second of these to be completed being “2453” which was supplied new to Edwin Dennis “E.D.” Martin of Columbus, GA, painted red and completed for shipping on October 10,1959.

E.D. Martin had formerly campaigned a “Pontoon Fender” Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa, which he had even raced at Le Mans and he won with his new Maserati upon its debut – the first-ever race win for a Tipo 61, on Dothan Airport, Alabama, on October 25, 1959.

He then took the car to Daytona for the closing SCCA National event of that summer, but on lap two of his race he crashed, bouncing off the barrier at the banking lip into the path of the following Porsche. The nearly-new Maserati was effectively written off in this fiery incident, the wreck being stripped of salvageable parts.

The parts left after the scavengers were done were subsequently acquired by Don Skogmo of Minneapolis, MN, who owned a number of “Birdcages” in the following few years, and passed later via Joel Finn to Maserati collector Bob Rubin who initiated a build program in the UK to replace the destroyed original car.

Well-known British Maserati specialist Peter Shaw built up an entirely new chassis frame and body to suit, while Crostwaite & Gariner provided what amounted to a replacement engine, all made as new.

What emerged at the completion of this project was a Maserati Tipo 61 built new to the original design as a tailor-made modern Historic sports-racing car, and it was granted FIA documentation as chassis “2453.”

The car passed subsequently to the current vendor. It placed well in both events in its debut meeting at the Nurburgring in Germany, and at Donington Park it qualified very competitively on the front row of the starting grid, and after an opening lap incident ripped back through the field from last to finish fourth.

Such a car, with full FIA acceptance paperwork, built absolutely as an Historic racing projectile, effectively offers instant access to the most competitive and popular division of historic motor racing. With its very lightweight yet rigid multi-tubular spaceframe structure, powerful inclined four-cylinder 2.9-liter engine and above all its disc brake system, the ‘Birdcage’ Maserati is, as Stirling Moss himself has put it, ‘.the finest front-engined sports-racing car ever built.’

{analysis} Despite its checkered past, this Maser made the rather stupendous amount of $386,400 and sold on 23 June at the Brooks Goodwood Auction. This amount surely brought smiles to Birdcage owners around the world. – ED.{/analysis}