In 1953, the FIA started a World Sportscar Championship, similar to the Grand Prix and Formula 1 World Championship which began in 1950. The series featured many of the historic and prestigious races that were known through Grand Prix and Formula 1 racing like LeMans and the Mille Miglia.
Maserati decided to enter the series but had little experience with large displacement engines; their largest engine up to that point had powered the A6GCS which was 2-liters in size. The 250S was experimented with during the 1954 season ultimately resulting in the 300S. The 250F engine had proven to be powerful but its high compression ratio made it very unreliable in long races.
The 300S had about the same power as the 250F but with a lower compression ratio. It was a straight 6-cylinder engine with dual overhead cams and twin ignition. The chassis was similar to the A6 GCS but was fitted with a DeDion type rear axle and a four-speed manual gearbox mounted transversely. The body was comprised of aluminum in roadster configuration, courtesy of Fantuzzi. The total weight was around 780 kg's, and with the 260 horsepower engine was capable of carrying the 300S to a top speed of about 180 mph.
The 300S was ready in time for the 1955 season. It proved to be powerful and had superb handling but it was unreliable. The 1955 season was a growing season for the 300S, with many mechanical and aerodynamic enhancements being incorporated. A longer nose body was fitted to improve aerodynamics.
By 1956 the 300S was ready; behind the wheel could be found Stirling Moss, Carroll Shelby, Jean Behra, Schell, and Taruffi. The first major victory for the 300S was at the Nurburgring 1000 KM race. Throughout the rest of the season, it continued to provide Maserati with commercial and sporting success. It captured a second-place finish in the World Championship behind a very strong Ferrari team.
For the 1957 it continued to be raced but foreshadowed by the newly developed 450S. An accident at the Mille Miglia created a campaign against sports car racing. European racers and manufacturers began racing heavily in the United States because there were fewer restrictions.
In 1958 new rules limited the displacement of engines to three-liters in sports car racing which made the 450S obsolete. Maserati withdrew from racing.
During the production run lasting from 1955 through 1958, twenty-eight examples were produced. Many still exist and are often raced at historic events. By Daniel Vaughan | Jun 2006