The Maserati company was established in 1926, but it would not be until many years later that Maserati would become a major builder of road cars. The company was founded by five of the six Maserati brothers (the sixth became an artist). The company's primary products were spark plugs and other automotive components, but they also built (and raced) race cars. The Maserati company was purchased by Commendatore Adolfo Orsi in 1938, but he retained the services of the Maserati brothers for ten more years.
The Maserati 'Birdcage' was so-named because of the thin, intricate tubular structure that made up the frame.
The Typo 60 and 61 models, which were front-engined, were the first to use this structure. Typo 63, which was rear-engined, also used a similar structure. However, the rear-engined Typo 64 had an even more intricate structure using even thinner tubing, and its deDion rear suspension was also of a similar design, causing the car to be nick-named the 'Supercage.' By Daniel Vaughan | Jun 2006
The Maserati Tipo 61 was produced from 1959 through 1960. During its production lifespan, only 16 examples were created. The design had been conceived by Giulio Alfieri, Maserati's chief design engineer at the time with the purpose of competing in SCCA competition.
The name 'Birdcage' was given to the Tipo 61 because of their tubular chassis. It featured a spaceframe chassis comprised of around 200 small aluminum tubes welded together. This gave the vehicle rigidity and strength while minimizing weight. The front suspension was wishbones while the rear was a DeDion axle.
Both the Tipo 60 and Tipo 61 were powered by a four cylinder engine, mounted in the front at a 45-degree angle and powering the rear wheels. The Tipo 60 was powered by a two-liter four-cylinder engine. The Tipo 61 used a 250 S, 2.9-liter four cylinder engine. The 250 horsepower Tipo 61 with two Weber 45 DCO3 carburetors was suitable for SCCA competition and with its low weight, was highly competitive. Disc brakes were used on all four corners of the car. A five-speed manual gearbox and rack-and-pinion steering were standard and were partly responsible for the vehicles reputation for being easy to drive.
In 1960 Gus Audrey captured the class championship in SCCA racing. Roge Penske did the same in 1961. In 1960 Stirling Moss and Dan Gurney entered a Tipo 61 Birdcage into the highly competitive Nurburgring 1000 km race. Against other famous and competitive nameplates such as Ferrari, Porsches, and Aston Martins the Birdcage emerged victorious.
Tipo 63 The Maserati Tipo was given the nickname 'Birdcage' because of its triangulated, tubular chassis construction that resembled a birdcage which could be seen through the vehicle's large front windscreen. The Tipo 60 and 61 cars featured a front-engined design. The first rear-engine design, the Tipo 63, was actually powered by a 2890.3 cc Tipo 61 four-cylinder engine inclined at a 58-degree angle. Introduced near the close of 1961 the Maserati Tipo 61 had been designed by Giulio Alfieri to accommodate a 3-liter V8 engine. Many components were borrowed from the prior birdcage models such as the five-speed transaxle and front suspension. In the rear, however, was an independent suspension with coil springs.
Alfieri modified the suspension and the four-cylinder engine was replaced with a 2989 12-cylidner engine from the 250F T2. The engine was so large that it intruded into the cockpit. The Tipo 63 Birdcage's were constructed for Cunningham, Serenissima, and Camoradi teams and driven by famous drivers such as Bruce McLaren, Walt Hansgen, Stirling Moss, Masten Gregory, and others. On the track the vehicles were met with disappointing results. They are best remembered for its fourth place finish at the grueling 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance race driven by team Cunningham.
Many of the disappointing finishes were caused by mechanical issues such as a carburetor problem that cause Dick Thompson and Bill Kimberley to finish 9th at the Road America 500 in 1961. Scarfiotti and Vaccarella failed to finish at Nurburgring due to bad weather - water had entered the carburettors. A Tipo 61 finished the race in first place. In 1961 four Tipo 63 models were entered into the Le Mans race were three failed to finish. The fourth had been crashed during during practice by Walt Hansgen after the suspension collapsed. It was rebuilt for the Le Mans race where it was driven by Pabst and Thompson and achieved a fourth-place finish.
In total only seven Tipo 63's, two Tipo 64's, and one Tipo 65 were constructed between late 1960 and early 1965.
The Tipo 64 was introduced in 1962, also a rear-engine design. The frame was comprised of very small tubes also of a birdcage structure. The rear suspension was changed in favor of a de Dion suspension. Journalists dubbed the car a Supercage.
There were two Tipo 63's given the number 63.002, both were constructed for Briggs Cunningham, one was a SWB the other a LWB. This may have been done to avoid import duties imposed by the United States. All of the Maserati Tipo 63 models are accounted for and exist today.
The Tipo 63 has been featured in a film and even made an appearance in Elvis Presley's Viva Las Vegas. The Maserati Tipo 63 was a very quick car able to achieve speeds of 180 mph but it suffered from handling issues. Another issue was the lack of serious development work mainly because of financial constraints meaning the Tipo 63 never achieved its true potential.
Tipo 64 Constructed from two type 63's which had been returned to the factory in 1961 in preparation for the 1962 season. The Type 64 involved total revision of the frame in search of better weight distribution and weight reduction. The engine moved forward, which shifted the cockpit further forward, front suspension was improved and a totally new rear end designed which incorporated the use of a De Dion axle - abandoning the independent suspension of the Type 63. Also changed was the positioning of the rear exhausts which were now very low megaphone type, as opposed to the higher placed exhaust on the Type 63.
There were only ever two Maserati Tipo 64's constructed and both were built from Type 63's which had been returned to the factory in 1961 for the 1962 season. To reduce weight and even out distribution even further the frame was revised and the engine was moved forward. These caused the cockpit to move forward as well. The suspension of the Tipo 63 was abandoned in favor of a De Dion axle setup.
Journalists dubbed the car a Supercage. There were two Tipo 63's given the number 63.002, both were constructed for Briggs Cunningham, one was a SWB the other a LWB. This may have been done to avoid import duties imposed by the United States. All of the Maserati Tipo 63 models are accounted for and exist today. The Tipo 63 has been featured in a film and even made an appearance in Elvis Presley's Viva Las Vegas. The Maserati Tipo 63 was a very quick car able to achieve speeds of 180 mph but it suffered from handling issues. Another issue was the lack of serious development work mainly because of financial constraints meaning the Tipo 63 never achieved its true potential.
Tipo 65 The Maserati Tipo 65 was powered by a 5-liter V8 engine that produced around 430 horsepower and rested in a 'Supercage' frame. It was completed in time for LeMans and arrived at the track just five days prior to the race. The testing session was valuable to the team, as it provided information about the cars abilities and potential weaknesses.
The car qualified in 21st position and was piloted by F1 drvier Jo Siffert. Within a short amount of time, the car had been brought into eighth place. Sadly, it was not to last, as the car spun and punctured the radiator. The car limped back to the pits but its time on the track was over. Due to regulations, cars were allowed to refill fluids only after 25 laps were completed. As a result, the team was forced to withdraw from the race.
After the race, the car was repaired but it would not return to the track. It was later sold to a Swiss collector who made a few modifications, most noticeably to the front. It was then sold to Jo Siffert. Siffert died during a tragic accident during the early 1970s and the car was sold to an individual from England. While in his care it was actively campaigned in historic competition. It then purchased by Peter Kaus and became part of the Rosso Bianco Museum. In the mid-2000s it was sold at auction. By Daniel Vaughan | Jul 2008