Total Production: 10
The Maserati 450 S was produced from 1956 through 1958 with only ten examples being produced. The purpose of the 450 S was to challenge the powerful competition such as Ferrari and Jaguar for the World Championship. The 450 S went beyond just a power engine; it featured a chassis that was lightweight, sturdy, and durable. Two engines were constructed, a 3.5 liter six-cylinder engine and a 4.5 liter quad-cam eight-cylinder in 'Vee' configuration. The six-cylinder was placed into the chassis first and prepared for the 1956 Mille Miglia. The result was disappointing. By the close of 1956, the eight-cylinder engine was completed and anxiously installed into the front of the vehicle. With continued testing and development nearly 400 horsepower was achieved, up from an initial 365. The 90-degree eight-cylinder engine with dual-overhead cams and 4-Weber 45 IDM carburetors was matted to a Colotti five-speed manual gearbox and powered the rear wheels. The brakes were further improved to handle the massive power being displaced.
The inaugural race for the 450 S in 1957 was at the Argentinean 1000 km race where it was piloted by Stirling Moss and Juan Manuel Fangio. The 450S immediately proved to be the top contender and easily lead the race for many laps. Unfortunately, due to a a clutch problem the transmission seized and the 450 S was forced to retire from the race. Shortly thereafter, the 450 S made an appearance at Sebring where it was driven by Juan Manuel Fangio and Jean Behra. In the hands of these capable drivers, the Maserati 450 S easily captured its first victory. The 450S was the quickest vehicle on the track. Its shortcomings that would continue to plaque the 450S would prove to be its mechanical failures and poor luck.
Maserati set its sights on the grueling 24 Hours of Lemans. This endurance race features high speed straight stretches and favor vehicles fitted with aerodynamic bodies with reduce drag. These improvements help keep the vehicles stable at speeds. Maserati designed a special body for LeMans and fitted it to a 450S. Even with Sterling Moss at the wheel, the redesigned body suffered greatly from design flaws and had a slower top speed than the 450 S fitted with a roadster body. Moss managed to navigate the 450 S to second place before the vehicle began experiencing problems with the rear axle, ultimately forcing retirement from the race.
With the Maserati 450 S continuing to suffer from mechanical difficulties, the World Championship was still open to contention by other marques. A second victory was achieved by a 450 S at the Swedish Grand Prix, although a sister 450 S car also in the race was forced to retire from the race after suffering from transmission problems.
The Venezuelan Grand Prix was the final race of the season. More importantly, it was the deciding race on who would be crowned the World Championship. Maserati entered three cars, one was a 300S and two were 450 S. One 450S was destroyed when a collision occurred with an AC Bristol. The other 450S caught on fire during re-fueling. The fire was controlled, but not before burning Moss and Behra. The burned 450S was put back onto the track and Schell took the helm. The vehicle was brought up to speed and began passing Bonnier and his 300S. The 300S blew and Bonnier could not control his car, driving it right into the 450S. This was the final nail in the coffin for Maserati and its quest for World Championship for 1957.
Rules changes in 1958 meant the 450S was ineligible to race. Most of the remaining 450 S were sent to the United States where they were raced with mild success.
The Maserati 450 S was the fastest vehicle on the track during the 1957 season. In the hands of capable drivers, there were no other vehicles that could contend for the World Championship. As luck would have it, the 450 S's mechanical problems would be its biggest competition and the elusive World Championship title evaded Maserati in 1957. It is unfortunate that rule changes in 1958 made the 450 S ineligible to compete. After all the growing pains that the 450 S endured, it is a wonder of what might have transpired in 1958.By Daniel Vaughan | Mar 2008