Sold for $2,640,000 at 2010 Gooding & Company
Imagine an automobile piloted by such men as Stirling Moss, Giuseppe Farina, Luigi Villoresi, Jean Behra, Piero Taruffi and others, would it not be the embodiment of greatness, even if it's among the most inconspicuous?
There are many fabled racing cars from the 1950s. From Mercedes-Benz to Ferrari to Vanwall to Maserati, there would be many iconic automobiles, many of which would be made more so by the men who would pilot them. However, among all of the fabled automobiles it was rare for one chassis to be driven by so many great men. But then there would be the 1956 Maserati 200SI, chassis 2401.
It's nearly impossible to identify a race car driven in anger by so many great heroes of the 1950s racing scene, but this is the case with chassis 2401.
It would all begin with having the distinction of being the first 200S chassis produced. Though considered a 1956 200SI, the car's first competitive outing would come in June of 1955 in the Gran Premio di Napoli. Following Napoli, the car would race at Imola and then return to the factory where Giuseppe Musso and Bellucci would be given the task to shake the car down even further.
Heading into 1956, there would be some improvements to the car's engine and suspension. This would result in success as Musso would pilot the Maserati to victory at Monza. To top it all off, Musso would also post the fastest lap of the race.
Chassis 2401 would take part in the Mille Miglia for the first time in 1956 and would end up falling out due to the heavy rains causing Bellucci brake problems. This would lead to more testing and improvements to the car, which would include the long-nose bodywork fashioned by Fantuzzi.
The new improvements would be immediately successful as Bellucci would score victory at Napoli. This would be followed by a top ten result at the Circuito de Caserta. Clearly the evolutions to the car were working and this would lead to the greatest opportunity to date.
Slated to take part in the Gran Premio Supercortemaggiore, 2401 would find itself listed with some incredible driving talent. Not only would one of the drivers be the first Formula One World Champion, Giuseppe Farina, but the co-driver for the race would be none other than Stirling Moss. Sadly, all of the promise would be thrown away in practice when Farina lost control of the car and damaged it so badly it couldn't be repaired in time for the race. Still, 2401 and Moss would have a second chance later.
After another trip to the factory for repairs and further updates, Jean Behra would drive the car in the Gran Premio de Bari. Once again, the car would cruise to an overall victory demonstrating that in the right hands it was truly formidable. The car would have the opportunity to demonstrate this fact in the very next race.
The combination of the 2401 and Moss would never get a chance to demonstrate what it could be after Farina's accident. However, the two would be reunited on the 1st of August for the Rheinland-Pfalz Preis Nurburgring. Taking on the best of Germany, Moss would go on to set the fastest lap of the race with a time just over ten minutes. In the end, Moss would finish 2nd overall, but, on foreign soil, this was an impressive performance.
But how could 2401's provenance get any better? How about the great Luigi Villoresi driving his final race, the Gran Premio di Roma, behind the wheel of the car? Over the course of its competitive life, which would extend into 1960 when it took part in the Cuban Grand Prix, 2401 would be driven by some of the best in the world at that period in time. Scoring victories and podiums in such places as Naples, Bari, Pescara, Caracas and the Nurburgring, the first Maserati 200 would be perhaps the most decorated Maserati ever. As a result, when its competitive years drew to a close, a new competition would begin—who would own it.
After Villoresi's last ride behind the wheel, the car had returned to the factory to be updated to its current 200SI configuration. This included the ZF five-speed gearbox, larger drum brakes, a full-width windscreen, higher-tuned engine and many other changes. In this form, Behra would drive to a class victory in Caracas. The factory would then sell the car to privateer Ettore Chimeri.
Chimeri would campaign the car himself, but would also make it available to other drivers. Moss would drive the car again in the Cuban Grand Prix and would put on an impressive display lapping more than 10 seconds quicker than any other car in the class. Sadly, the engine would fail bringing to an end and incredible display.
Throughout the remainder of the 1950s, and into 1960, the car would be sold a couple of times and would bear the livery of many South American stables. Following its last race, the 1960 Cuban Grand Prix, the car would be purchased by Joel Finn. Finn would then sell the car to none other than Jim Hall who, in turn, would sell the car to F.M. Brundick III. The car would again change hands one year after Brundick acquired it. Traded for a 3500GT, the 200SI would find itself in the hands of Chris Drake, an English dealer.
Drake would own the car until 1979, when it was purchased by Nobuo Harada, a well-respected Japanese collector. For twenty years the car would be on display in the Kawaguchiko Motor Museum. Then, in 2001, the famed 200SI would again become available for sale. German collector Dr. Wolf Zweifler would not pass up the opportunity.
At this point in its life, 2401 would find itself being prepared for more motor racing. Over the next few years the car would be campaigned in a number of historic events including the Le Mans Classic and the Mille Miglia Storica. Then, in 2005, the car, a car that was certainly well-deserving of the honor, would be issued its certificate of authenticity from the Classiche department of Maserati S.p.A.
Southern Californian Tony Schwartz would buy the car in 2009 and would continue the recent tradition of campaigning the car in historic events. Even some fifty years after its completion, 2401 continued to score victories. This success would extend to the concours as well as it would be awarded the Best in Class trophy at the 2010 Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance.
Offered today with a full compliment of files documenting the car's history, including original build sheets, the Classiche certification, invoices for restoration and racing record, 2401 is a veritable treasure beyond belief and is certainly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that, thankfully, has come around again and remains visible to the public eye. It is no longer an inconspicuous automobile.
Presented as part of the 2015 Gooding & Company Amelia Island auction, the 1956 Maserati 200SI would draw undisclosed estimates ranging from between $5-10,000,000.By Jeremy McMullen
Sold for $2,640,000 at 2010 Gooding & Company
Maserati built racing machines. The factory campaigned cars to prove their wares and generate orders. In the 1950s, categories were simply defined by engine displacement and Maserati marketed an assortment.
This car is the first 200S, and was the factory test car for over a year. This Maserati 200SI (chassis number 2401) was used as the Maserati factory's test and development car for this series of customer race cars, strongly built, quick and powerful. This car also made the 200Si's first competitive outing at the 1955 Imola Sports Car Grand Prix. Along with another 200S entered by Parravano, it raced in the 1955 Targa Florio where it was again crashed, twice. #2401 continued to be used as the factory's development car and produced the ultimate specifications for a 200SI in 1956. The changes included an upgraded engine, five-speed gearbox, longer nose, larger brakes, FIA-spec full windscreen and folding top.
Their capability is demonstrated by the caliber of their drivers and team owners. Stirling Moss drove this car in the GP of Cuba in 1957 and it was raced again by Freddie Brandt in the GP of Cuba in 1960.
With its sleek shape the 200Si is perhaps the most charismatic and effective Maserati sports-racer ever built. These cars were campaigned by many famous drivers and team owners, such as Lance Reventlow, Carroll Shelby, Jim Hall, John Fitch and Jim Kimberley. Joel E. Finn, the Maserati fancier and historian, bought chassis 2401 in Venezuela, and it eventually found its way to Chris Drake in the United Kingdom in the early 1970s. It was then sold to Japan in 1979 where it was displayed in the Kawaguchiko Motor Museum for 22 years.
The Ferrari 500 Mondial Spyder was produced from 1954 through 1956 with 14 being bodies by Pinin Farina and 16 by Scaglietti. According to many modern collectors, the Pinin Farina bodied 500 is considered to be more valuable and aesthetically pleasing.
Maserati's aging but still impressive A6GCS needed improvement in order to stay competitve. The decision was made to begin with their 4C2F engine which had been produced in 1952 and used in Formula 2 racing. Development began and the project was codenamed 'Tipo 52', but commonly referred to as Tipo 200S. In order to speed up production and to reduce costs, the project was divided into two groups, the 150S and the 200S. The 2-liter 200S engines were similar to the 150S, both had five main bearings, dual overhead camshafts, dual ignition with magnetos, and dual Weber 50 DC03 carburetors. The carburetors were quickly replaced with a 45 DCO3s unit. A four-speed gear box was installed but later removed in favor of a five-speed all-synchromesh transmission driven through a limited-slip differential. Top speed could be achieved at just over 160 mph. Due to improvements, modifications, and enhancements, specifications vary.
The DeDion Type rigid rear axle was courtesy of the A6GCS. The suspension was comprised of independent coil springs, torsion bar and shock absorbers in the front and transverse leaf springs and shock absorbers in the rear. The chassis was nearly identical to the one used for the 150S. Braking power was from hydraulic brakes fitted on all four wheels and cooled by centrifugalize air. The fuel tank had a 22 gallon capacity.
A 200S was entered into the 1955 Imola Grand Prix and driven by Franco Bordoni where it left with disappointing results. Further work was needed to make it competitive. Later in the season a pair of 200S were entered into the Targa Florio. At the checkered flag it was a Maserati in the lead, but not the 200S. An A6GCS driven by Francesco Giardini managed to secure the overall victory while the two 200S were both forced to retire prematurely due to mechanical difficulties.
The 200S's two biggest flaws were its handling and its braking. These were addressed on the off-season and the vehicles were prepared for 1956. All three 200S's, chassis number 2403, 2404, and 2405, were entered in the Supercortemaggiore GP. 2403 and 2404 borrowed the chassis design from the 150S and had a DeDion bridge anchored to the differential with a sliding pin. 2405 had a traditional rigid rear axle. The bodies differed slightly in an effort to capitalize on aerodynamic features. One of the 200S's was damaged during practice and a second 200S retired after the first lap. Chassis number 2405 showed potential and finished the race, but did not achieve the success Maserati was hopping for. Nevertheless, the decision was made to continue with production. A tubular chassis was selected and the coachwork was passed from Celestino Fiandri to Medardo Fantuzzi.
Further development and modifications brought about the 200SI, meaning Sport Internazionale, indicating their compliance with newly adapted regulations. These regulations stated that the cars needed to comply with new rules and specifications in order to compete in International racing. The changes included a soft-top, full windshield with wipers, and doors. The dimensions and specifications of many of the mechanicals components were also dictated within these rules.
Replacing the successful A6GCS was a tall order which the 200S had done rather well. Like most other vehicles, it suffered from teething problems with many of its issues being ironed out with continued development. It required a skilled driver to control, especially at high speeds. Nevertheless, it is one of Maserati's most successful smaller displacement racing cars. They were customer race cars that were quick, powerful, and durable. There most prestigious victories were class wins at the 1956 Mille Miglia and 1957 European Mountain Championship.
Later, the engines were enlarged and the 200S became the 250S. There were only four created by Maserati, while many of the privateers made the same modifications.
By Daniel Vaughan | Oct 2008