Friday, December 13, 2013

Russo and Steele to Auction off 1959 Maserati Tipo 61

1959 Maserati Tipo 61/60
Courtesy Russo and Steele
Scottsdale, Arizona, is a mecca in January for classic car collectors, with several sales going on. One of the biggest, and possibly the one with the most North American cars, is Russo and Steele’s, scheduled this year for January 15-19. Several of the featured cars for this auction are race cars or at least have a racing connection, so I thought I’d take a look at a few over the next several days.

Obviously a Maserati is NOT a North American car, but since I was just talking about the Maserati centennial, I thought I’d start with this “bird cage” Tipo 61 (VIN 2459). At the time, Maserati was building race cars for sale, as opposed to running their own team. The Tipo 60 and 61 both debuted in 1959, the 60 with a 2.0 litre, 200 hp, four-cylinder engine, the 61 with a 3.0 litre, 250 hp engine. Doesn’t sound like a lot, but with their light aluminum tube frame, these cars were competitive.

According to Russo and Steele, only 22 bird cage Maseratis were built, yet they won nearly (their word, not mine) 170 victories from 1959 to 1967, including the 1960 Nurburgring race. Accidents and modifications reduced the number of wholly original examples to one. Nope, this isn’t it, but it’s still a very rare car with an interesting history.

1959 Maserati Tipo 61/60
Courtesy Russo and Steele
This particular car was commissioned by American Briggs Cunningham, who not only raced himself, but owned racing teams. The car was kept in racing condition by Alfred Momo and driven by, among others, Augie Pabst and Walt Hansgen. Pabst crashed the car during a practice session for the 1962 Daytona 3-hour Continental.

Several years afterwards, a lengthy restoration was carried out. A new frame was built, as was a new 2.0 litre engine (with many original parts), turning the 61 into a 60. Some original parts do remain, the rest were made from original drawings or copied from original parts. Documentation exists for all of the repairs/restoration. The car may no longer be what you or I would consider original, but the UK Motor Sports Association granted it an Historic Technical Passport in 2010, when restoration was complete. The car has been invited to one of the Maserati centennial events, the 2014 Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance.

Car show car or vintage racer? Tough call. Guess that all depends on who buys it.

[SOURCES: Russo and Steele, Wikipedia]

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