In 1954, confronted with Ferrari's 500 Mondial competition, Maserati decided it was time to replace the excellent but ageing A6G series of cars. It settled on a four-cylinder approach in the interests of simplicity and lightness, and quickly settled on a deDion rear suspension design to replace the live axles of the earlier design. The car debuted in August of 1955, driven by Jean Behra.
Maserati settled on a two-pronged approach, building the 150S and the 200S simultaneously. The only differences were in the bodywork and the engine size (1.5 and 2-liter); mechanically the cars are identical. In the late 1950's Maserati remanufactured a group of 2-liter engines as 2.5-liter units and cars with that engine became the 250S. Several of these engines were shipped to the US, where they replaced the smaller units.
This car was originally a 150S, raced by Frenchman Claude Bourillot. He placed 9th overall and 2nd in class at LeMans in 1956. The car was later sold to the US, where it was raced on the west coast, eventually getting a 2.5-liter engine. The car was returned to England for restoration, where it was fitted with Type 200S bodywork. It is thus a 150/200/250S.
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 DiDion 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 | Feb 2008