1960 Maserati Tipo 61 “Birdcage”

With the introduction and sales success of the road-going 3500GT, however, the company’s health improved drastically, prompting a renewed interest in creating a sports car that could be raced, not by the factory, but by privateers.

Credit for the resulting Tipo 60/61 goes to engineer extraordinaire Giulio Alfieri, who, during 1958, created this stunning sports racing car.

Its “Birdcage” nickname comes from its unique and very innovative trellis chassis construction, made of a plethora of small tubes between 10 and 15mm thick. Once welded together (all 200 of them!) they created a structure as rigid as it was light, weighing just 36 kgs, clothed in a svelte wheel-hugging aluminum body – a true work of art and testimony to Maserati craftsmanship!

Into this structure was fitted the Tipo 60’s 1,990 cc, inline two-cam, four-cylinder engine, which is very far back towards the cockpit. Independent front suspension provided superb turn-in, while the deDion rear axle with transverse leaf spring and coil over telescopic shock absorbers made the car easily controllable. Six Tipo 60s were sold before the 1961 upgrade to Tipo 61, which benefited from increased capacity of 2,890 cc and delivered 250 hp – more than enough horsepower for a 600 kg heavy car. In all, 17 were built, including one Tipo 60 that had been upgraded.

From the beginning, Birdcages were very popular with American competitors. The car offered here, chassis 2470, was no exception. The third-to-last Birdcage built, it was sold new to Jack Hinkle, who was not just the proverbial wealthy amateur racer. A laid back, unassuming and popular Texas oilman, banker, and then-president of the SCCA, he was described as “One of the fastest men in competition today.” Hinkle eventually sold 2470 to a friend, Tracy Bird. A fire in Bird’s garage did some damage to the front of the car, and to repair it properly, he bought the ex-Roger Penske Birdcage (chassis 2471). 2471’s rear end had suffered in an accident, but it had an intact front end. Bird thus repaired 2470 using the factory-correct parts from 2471, after which the chassis was scrapped. As a result, 2470 is the second-to-last Birdcage extant.

Thor Thorson

Thor Thorson - SCM Contributing Editor

Thor grew up in northern Iowa. His father bought a red Jag XK 150 in the late 1950s, and that was all it took; he has been in love with sports cars , racing cars and the associated adrenaline rush ever since. He has vintage raced for more than 20 years, the bulk of them spent behind the wheel of a blue Elva 7. When he’s not racing, he is president of Vintage Racing Motors Inc., a collector-car dealer and vintage-racing support company based in Redmond, WA. His knowledge runs the full spectrum of vintage racing, and he has put that expertise to good use for SCM since 2003.

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