Brothers Ernesto, Ettore and Bindo Maserati, the vagabonds of the exotic car world, had sold their family company in 1947 to the Orsi family. They then returned from Modena to their original manufacturing home in Bologna where they established the company first known as "OSCA Maserati," and subsequently just as "OSCA."
Under this acronym-today so familiar to aficionados of fine Italian high-performance cars-they produced an initial series of small 1100cc sports racing cars, but speedily developed a big 4.5-liter Formula 1 V12 power unit that was intended to update existing Maserati 4CLT Grand Prix cars to compete in modern Formula 1 conditions.
In 1952 they produced a Formula 2 single-seater racing car, driven by Louis Chiron and Eli Bayol, but it was their sports racing cars that truly excelled in every available capacity class from 750cc through 1100 to 1500 and 2-liter competition. Their greatest success came in 1954 when their Briggs Cunningham-entered MT4, co-driven by Stirling Moss and Bill Lloyd, actually won the Sebring 12 Hours outright.
The OSCA Tipo 1600 GT model was introduced in 1960. Its wheelbase was 2250mm, front track was 1270mm and rear track was 1218mm. The engine was a four-cylinder unit with an 80mm bore and a 78mm stroke, displacing 1568cc and quoted as producing 95 bhp in basic GT form. The GT Veloce model produced 125 bhp, and a GT Sport version produced 140 bhp.
The OSCA 1600 GT was considered ultra-modern in period. This particular example features the legendary Zagato "Double Bubble" form of aerodynamic coachwork, which yielded practical headroom provided by separately domed roof "bubbles" while still achieving minimum aerodynamic cross-section.
S/N 0093 has spent several years as part of a major Midwest collection in company with many of the most iconic cars of American competition history. In this ownership it has benefited from what is described as a thorough restoration of its body and engine, and we are advised that it runs well.
|Vehicle:||1961 OSCA 1600GT|
|Number Produced:||At least 56 (32 by Zagato, 2 by Boneschi)|
|Original List Price:||$7,000|
|SCM Valuation:||$65,000 - $85,000|
|Tune Up Cost:||$500|
|Chassis Number Location:||By right front suspension pick-up point|
|Engine Number Location:||On block below carburetors|
|Club Info:||Fiat OSCA Registry 36 Maypole Dr., Chigwell, Essex, UK|
|Alternatives:||Fiat Abarth 1000 Bialbero, Porsche 356 S90|
This car sold for $90,500, including buyer’s premium, at the Bonhams Quail Lodge sale, August 17, 2002.
By the time the 1600 GT was born, the Maserati brothers had ceded control of their company yet again, this time to Count Agusta of MV Agusta motorcycle fame. Has there ever been a family so good at mechanical innovation and so hopeless at business management?
It appears that the idea behind this car was to make it a high-performance, road-going GT that would appeal to a large group of buyers. In fact, it was OSCA’s swan song.
The 1600 GT had a typical OSCA chassis (ladder tube frame) and engine (four-cylinder twin-cam), but there were some innovations, like four-wheel Girling disc brakes and independent suspension all around.
The engine was offered in four states of tune, starting with GT (single 36mm Weber carb, 95 hp @ 6,000 rpm) and ending with GTS (twin-plug head, twin 45mm Webers, 140 hp @ 7,200 rpm). Most of the cars had four-speed gearboxes, but a five-speed box was homologated and used on competition cars. Three coachbuilders clothed the car: Zagato, Boneschi and Fissore. There is some controversy about the number of cars produced. The chassis numbers start with 001 and end with 00127, yet it appears, when factory records are consulted, that only 56 cars were made. I have reason to believe there were more. For instance, while the factory records indicate that only two Boneschi-bodied cars were built, I have personally owned more than that number.
As an aside, the Boneschi cars are quite ugly and very modestly priced; the Fissore cars are merely bland, but still value-challenged. The design that everyone wants is the Zagato, which came in three distinct configurations: smooth roofline á la the Fiat Abarth Bialbero, classical Zagato double bubble, and a dramatic double bubble with air vents that end right above the rear window. Chassis number 0093 is of this last configuration.
I am reasonably familiar with this car, as in the early ’90s I sold a brand new five-speed gearbox to its owner. The car was part of a significant collection, owned by a charming gentleman, and housed near Chicago. We spoke occasionally as 0093 underwent a nut-and-bolt restoration, and was fully sorted out to be driven. All the Zagato-bodied OSCAs came with Amadori magnesium alloy wheels, which are not only fragile but also irreplaceable. The owner was aware of that fact and had close copies made out of aluminum for everyday use. The engine (0090) was of the GTV type (single-plug, twin 42 or 45 Webers, 125 hp @ 7,000 rpm) and was professionally rebuilt and improved. A year or two ago, the car changed hands. The original Amadori wheels were not offered with the car at Bonhams, but the car looked as lovely as ever.
In my opinion these Zagato-bodied OSCAs should be worth more, as they are the only pure OSCA that can both be driven comfortably on the street and vintage raced as well. Alas, the market has spoken. This car is a great example and was bought for a very reasonable price. A shrewd or lucky-or both-buyer should be congratulated.-Raymond Milo