The 8CTF was Maserati's challenge to the all-conquering dominance of Germany on the Grand Prix scene of the thirties. Given the height to which Auto Union and Mercedes had raised racecar engineering, the challenge, unsurprisingly, was not successful. However, the display car gave the vaunted German teams pause for thought, if not cause for alarm, however briefly.
Two factors made the 8CTF possible; a new and complicated International formula crafted with the single purpose of curtailing the German juggernaut and the acquisition of Maserati by Italian industrialist Adolfo Orsi which put the Maserati brothers in charge of the cars and the Orsi family in charge of management, at which the brothers had never excelled. The 8CTF was the first result of the collaboration.
Although development funds were now available, development time was brief. The new car was derived from the Maserati team's voiturette chassis, its engine two voiturette four-cylinder blocks placed end to end with integral cylinder heads. The 8 represented the number while the C stood for cylinders; 'T' was for Test Fiest while 'F' meant Formula - thus the 8CTF. Compared to the ultra sophistication of the German competition, this was a return to basics. But speed is among the factors that win races, and the unpretentious 8CTF was a very fast car in 1938. This was demonstrated in its first outing, at Tripoli, when Count Felice Triossi put up a 131.2 mph lap in the display car and took the lead on Lap 9 only to retire soon after with transmission problems. The rest of the season became an ongoing deja vu as the Maserati left starting lines handsomely and then broke down, usually well before the finish.
Ironically, the 8CTF enjoyed a far more rewarding career in the United States, winning Indianapolis twice and Pikes Peak once beginning in 1939 with Wilbur Shaw's 500 victory driving 3032 (the third 8CTF, modified for the 1939 season). Subsequently, Lucy O'Relly Schell bought 3030 and 3031 for her Ecurie Bleue team, shipped them to the States, and signed up French racing champion Rene Dreyfus and Rene Le Begue to drive them in the 1940 500. Dreyfus drove 3030 during practice, broke a connecting rod, co-drove 3031 with Le Begue in the race to finish tenth, and collect $1400 in prize money. Both Schell cars were sold after the race, 3031 ultimately fitted with an Offy engine, 3030 resolutely loyal to its Maserati straight eight and enjoying Indy drives by Russ Snowberger and Duke Nalon and a Pikes Peak climb by Louis Unser. The old warhorse remained on the track until the early fifties.
3031 Chassis 3031 is one of only three 8CTFs built, and the only one surviving in original condition. The car has a straight 8 engine, with twin-camshafts and two superchargers. It is presented today as it was when it was prepared by the Maserati factory for Grand Prix racing, in the Maserati team colors.
Chassis 3031 was one of the factory works cars entered in the 1938 Grand Prix season, where it was driven by Count Felice Trossi. It led every Grand Prix contested in 1938, or set the fastest lap. In 1939, the car was loaned to Paul Pietsch, who led most of the German Grand Prix, before finishing third.
The car was sold in August 1939 to Parisian resident Lucy O'Reilly Schell, the first American woman to ever own a Grand Prix car. She brought the car to Indianapolis in 1940 for Rene Dreyfus to drive in the Indy 500 race. The car was at Indy again in 1941, when Mauri Rose qualified it to start from pole position. It ran each year at the Indy 500 until 1953. The car was campaigned in other American speed challenges after World War II, including victories at the Pikes Peak Hillclimb in 1946 and 1947, driven both times by Louis Unser.
In recent years, the car has returned to the race circuit, competing in historic races in Milwaukee and Monterey, and has been featured in concours at Pebble Beach and Rockefeller Center, as well as in magazine and television documentaries.
3032 Chassis 3032, also known as the Boyle Special, was originally a works car for Zehender. In 1939 it raced at Indianapolis where it finished first. In 1940 it finished third at Indianapolis; the following year it was forced to retire. It visited Indianapolis again in 1946, 1947, and 1949 where it finished 3rd, 4th, and DNF respectively.