MADE IN MODENA: 1960 Maserati Tipo 61 “Birdcage” Chassis #2459 with No Reserve

Written by Eric Becker


Offered with No Reserve at Barrett-Jackson’s inaugural Houston Auction, September 16-18, is one of the finest and most innovative racing cars ever built: the 1960 Maserati Tipo 61 “Birdcage” Chassis #2459.


As machines go, there are very few more evocative than vintage racing cars, particularly those whose lineage can be traced to Modena, Italy. Modena was a city divided; one half rooting for the prancing horse of Ferrari and the other supporting Neptune’s trident: Maserati. Before Maserati built luxury sedans and SUVs, it was a brand steeped in racing pedigree. It was the first European marque to win the Indy 500 in 1939 (a feat it would repeat the following year) and carried racing greats Sir Stirling Moss and Juan Manuel Fangio to numerous victories – and a world championship – in the early years of Formula 1.

The lightweight, innovative skeletal structure was christened “Birdcage.”

By the late 1950s, Maserati’s venerated racing history was on the decline and, beset by financial hardships, the Italian marque was pushed to innovate. And innovate they surely did. Hampered by the development costs of creating a new engine or expensive monocoque structure, Maserati turned to Chief Engineer Giulio Alfieri. Alfieri understood the importance of keeping weight low for racing. With that philosophy in mind, he set about designing a new chassis using a matrix of 200 short chromium-molybdenum (also known as chromoly) steel tubes of varying diameters. Welded together with a unique and highly guarded process, the chassis was reinforced and arranged in triangular formations in high-stress areas, providing the skeletal structure with incredible torsional rigidity and minimal weight – just under 70 pounds in all. The chassis was a marvel of engineering and an affirmative nod to form following function. Initially designated as the Tipo 60 (Tipo 61 when fitted with the larger engine), it was later christened as the “Birdcage” by an American journalist visiting the factory. The name stuck, and Maserati was once again a major player in the world of sports car racing.

In many ways the Birdcage is the common ancestor to many of the prototype racers competing today. It revolutionized the exterior design of sports cars of the period, proving to be highly influential in the years to come and iconic to this day. The extremely low body line and high wheel arches represented a revolution in sports car design. The long and streamlined windshield provided onlookers a glimpse of the intricate web of metal underneath the thin and shapely bodywork. The twin-Weber-fed DOHC inline-4 engine was set far behind the front axle and canted to the right at a 45-degree angle to optimize the center of gravity and keep the car low. The 5-speed manual transaxle was a derivative of the one used in Maserati’s 250F Formula 1 car – the very car that carried Fangio to his fifth world title. The Birdcage exhibited a perfect 50/50 weight distribution, an independent front suspension, telescopic dampers, 4-wheel disc brakes, a De Dion rear axle and a weight of under 1,300 pounds. It was lighter, nimbler and far more agile than the competition from Ferrari, Aston Martin and Jaguar. And, as such, it became a favorite of the racing greats: Carroll Shelby, Dan Gurney and Sir Stirling Moss, to name a few. Moss, in fact, was so enamored with the Tipo 60’s handling characteristics that he encouraged Maserati to up the displacement, resulting in the Tipo 61 designation.

Offered with No Reserve at Barrett-Jackson’s inaugural Houston Auction, September 16-18, is one of the finest and most innovative racing cars ever built: the 1960 Maserati Tipo 61. This car, chassis #2459, carries with it an impressive provenance and storied history. The car was built for famed American racer and sportsman Briggs Cunningham and prepared for racing by Alfred Momo in New York. Driven primarily by two-time SCCA Driver of the Year Walt Hansgen (with Dr. Dick Thompson and Augie Pabst also driving), this car took four wins and multiple podiums between 1960 and 1961. At the end of each racing season, Momo’s shop rebuilt the car in preparation for the next season. In February 1962, while taking part in a practice session at the Daytona Continental 3-Hour Grand Touring and Sports Car Race, driver Augie Pabst was involved in an accident, which resulted in minor injuries and damage to the car. The damaged Maserati was taken back to Momo’s shop in Queens, where it was decided the car would not be repaired. Instead, it was sent to England and dismantled as a donor car for future Tipo 60/61 Birdcage

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By: Barrett-Jackson
Title: MADE IN MODENA: 1960 Maserati Tipo 61 “Birdcage” Chassis #2459 with No Reserve
Sourced From: www.barrett-jackson.com/Media/Home/Reader/1960-maserati-tipo-61-birdcage-for-sale-no-reserve-2021-houston-auction/
Published Date: Fri, 06 Aug 2021 18:28:44 +0000