Auction: 6 reasons why this old Maserati is worth £2.5m
With a glorious example of the Maserati Birdcage going under the hammer this week in London, it’s time to remind ourselves what exactly makes this half-century old Le Mans classic worth every penny of its £2.5m price tag.
No.1: It’s a 200-bar love song
Known officially as a Maserati Tipo 61, this particular example is Chassis #2464, built in 1960 for the purpose of races such as the Le Mans 24 hour. Easily the most famous endurance venue on the planet, Le Mans can be credited with responsibility for some of the most impressive racing cars history has ever seen. This comes as no surprise when you consider the punishment that endurance vehicles have to be built to withstand. A brief like “let’s race flat-out from now until this time tomorrow” was always going to result in some pretty heavy duty engineering, and in that regard this car demonstrates every last bit of what 1960 had to offer.
In the Tipo 61’s case, this engineering came in the form of an entirely chromoly tubular chassis, painstakingly tig-welded from scratch using around 200 bars in total. One look at the structure immediately silences any questions regarding from where the name ‘Birdcage’ was drawn.
No.2: It’s been there, and done that
Build number 2464 wasn’t a back-of-the-trailer or on-the-bench special. This car was one of five Maserati Birdcages run by the Camoradi team. Not only that, it competed in the 1960 24 hours of Le Mans, and managed to finish 5th at the Nürburgring 1000 km of the same year, which was also the year in which its sister car won the event at the hands of Moss and Gurney. Equipped with the paper work to prove it, this car is set to tickle your inner racing historian in all the right places.
No.3: It’s been fixed
Such is the nature of motor sport, history tells us that Tipo 61 Chassis number 2464 ended up having its original four cylinder engine swapped out and a succession of Ford and Chevrolet V8 engines installed as later owners chased increased performance. As you can tell, these modifications have since been reversed and an original, refreshed 2.9L engine installed. The improvements don’t end there, with the entire chassis having been faithfully recreated in order to undo the ills that follow decades of competitive racing. RM Auctions tell us that the car will come alongside the original, intact chassis.
No.4: It won’t break (maybe)
The 24 hours of Le Mans is a race of attrition, with drivers slowly chipping away at each other until the body and mind of one reigns supreme over the others. Competing cars have to be built to run at absolute maximum speed, with maximum cornering ability, chasing the little hand around the clock during one of the most brutal sporting events this side of the Colosseum. To put it frankly, despite the Tipo 61 not being historically one of the most reliable endurance racers ever built, it was certainly built to withstand more than any of us could throw at it. Spending 2 1/2 million pounds might not be the cheapest way to go about things, but if you’re looking for a vintage racer that’ll drive back onto the trailer at the end of an event, an ex-Le Mans endurance car is a pretty good bet.
No.5: It’s lucky (maybe)
The first Tipo 61 built was chassis number 2453, making this the lucky number twelve of its kind. Maserati went on to build sixteen 61s in total before moving to the mid-engined Tipo 63. Essentially, this is one of the Birdcages you want.
No.6: It’s still a performer (definitely)
When you boil it all down, what you’re looking at with the Maserati Tipo 61 is an incredibly rigid chassis fitted with a seriously cranky Italian four-pot. It’s twin cam, twin carb, uses four wheel discs and runs a 5 speed with a transaxle. They generated 250hp from factory, and this one comes with the dynometer paperwork to prove that this is still the case. Given the lightweight nature of its chromoly construction, it’s easy to join the dots and imagine the kind of lively drive that this Birdcage would deliver.
Images: RM Auctions