Automobiles of London

31 October 2007

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Lot 270

1952 OSCA 2000S

  • Chassis no. 2004

£500,000 - £625,000

Estimate: €726,000 - €908,000

Estimate: $1,000,000 - $1,250,000

Engine No. 2501

Registration No. 282 UXT

From the Brazilian Collector Mr. Abraham Kogan


216bhp, 2,500cc straight-six engine with twin overhead camshafts, triple Weber 38DC02 carburettors, four-speed transaxle, independent front suspension via double wishbones, coil springs, and telescopic dampers, and rear suspension via de Dion axle, quarter elliptical leaf springs and semi-trailing arms with lever-arm dampers, and hydraulically operated four wheel drum brakes.

There were seven Maserati brothers but the four that would give their name to some of the greatest racing cars ever made were, Alfieri, Ernesto, Bindo and Ettore. The eldest, Carlo died in 1919, Alfieri died at just one year old and the next son to Rodolfo and Carolina Maserati was also given that name after his dead brother. Officine Alfieri Maserati built its first car, a 1,500 cc, supercharged straight-eight two-seater racing car in 1926. Driven by Alfieri in the 1926 Targa Florio the Maserati won the 1.5-litre class and was ninth overall.

Alfieri died in 1932 following an unsuccessful medical operation brought about by a racing accident. The remaining three brothers carried on for another five years, but like many perfectionists, their business acumen didn’t match their engineering artistry. With a tremendous motor racing reputation, the cash strapped brothers sold Maserati to Italian industrialist Adolfo Orsi. The famous Trident of Neptune that adorned every Maserati, was a symbol of Bologna, where the brothers, at Pontevecchio had started their business. Another brother, Mario, was an artist and is believed to have designed the emblem. Orsi, with the help of his son Omer, moved the Company to another Italian town that would become synonymous with some of the greatest cars the world would ever see; Modena.

The three Maserati brothers remained with the Company as engineers for ten years. When their contracts expired in December 1947, they returned to Bologna, but their car making days were far from over.

Officina Specializzato per la Costruzione di Automobili Fratelli Maserati SpA built its first car in 1948. With the Orsi family retaining the Maserati name the Fratelli Maserati, (Maserati brothers) dropped the ‘FM’ from the title of their new Company leaving the acronym OSCA, a new car was born though essentially, these cars were true Maseratis.

The first car was a 1.1-litre sports car with a tubular chassis, the MT4 (Maserati Type 4), it used a Fiat block with an OSCA single overhead cam. Later, 750, 1,450 and 1,500cc engines were available for the very effective MT4. The car’s debut race came at Pescara, driven by Franco Cornacchia. Soon after Gigi Villoresi took his ‘cigaro’ open wheeler to victory at the Grand Prix of Naples and Dorino Serafini won at the Circuit of Garda.

Ernesto went to work on the engine, designing an alloy block and a new cylinder head with twin overhead camshafts, this new engine was considered a work of art. Their next project was commissioned by Prince Bira, a 4.5-litre V-12 engine for his Maserati 4CLT. On the car’s race debut Bira won the 1951 Goodwood Richmond Trophy race. OSCA followed this by entering their own car, powered by this engine in the Italian Grand Prix at Monza. This was unsuccessful and only two were built, so OSCA decided to concentrate on Formula 2 and sports car racing.

In late 1952 OSCA built a single-seater designed to the latest Grand Prix regulations for Formula 2 cars, powered by Ernesto’s new engine. Two cars were built, chassis 2001 went to Elie Bayol and the second car, chassis number 2002 to veteran Louis Chiron. These independents regularly achieved top-six finishes against the works teams. In 1953 Bayol won at Aix-les-Bains, Chiron finished second in the Syracuse Grand Prix and the sable d’Olonne Grand Prix and Bayol finished second at Albi.

In sports car racing OSCAs were much more competitive in the lower capacity classes. Luigi Fagioli won his class in the Mille Miglia in 1950, finishing seventh overall. At Le Mans in 1952, Dottore Mario Damonte was leading the up to 1,500cc class partnered by ‘Martial’ in an OSCA coupe. With mechanical problems he pushed the car from Arnage back to the pits in an effort to get it back on track, but the car was retired. The following year Damonte was back, with ‘Helde’ (Pierre Louis Dreyfus) co-driving and the pair won their class.

OSCA’s finest hour in motor racing was the 1954 Sebring 12 Hours, Stirling Moss and Bill Lloyd taking overall victory in Briggs Cunningham’s 1.5-litre MT4.

The 2000S sports car was identical, mechanically, to the Formula 2 car. Three cars were built but Chiron had his F2 car converted in 1954 with coachwork by Frua. Chassis 2003 was built for Bill David in March of that year with Morelli coachwork. 2004 went to Luigi Piotti with a Frua body and Robert Sgorbati bought chassis 2005, a Morelli bodied car.

Sgorbati scored a win at Messina in 1954, while Chiron finished second in the 1955 Tunisian Grand Prix. Chassis 2004, driven by Roy Cherryhomes in America finished second in the fabulously named Corsa di Dodge City and finished 1st in class and second overall at the Corsa di Mansfield.

The Maserati Brothers produced OSCA cars for fifteen years. Advanced in age they sold the Company in 1963 to Augusta, the motorcycle and helicopter manufacturer and although they tried to revive the marque, it was without success.

The car presented here, chassis number 2004 is one of the three OSCA 2000S cars built. It was sold new to Luigi Piotti in March 1954, Piotti retired in the car’s first race, the Giro di Sicilia. He finished 20th in that year’s Mille Miglia, coming home 6th in class and was 9th overall in the GP di Napoli. The final races of that year for Piotti were the Ore di Bari and the Circuito di Caserta.

In 1955, the car went to John Mecom Jr in the United States and then to Lloyd Wolf of San Angelo, before going to the Allard racer, Roy Cherryhomes, and then to Jim Hall, the legendary U.S. Grand Prix and sports car driver of Chaparral fame. In the period, the original engine succumbed to the stresses of racing, as so many others did. It was replaced for a time by the ubiquitous small block Chevrolet, but later – perhaps in the sixties or early 1970s – a proper, original 2.5-litre OSCA engine was installed in the car, and remains there today.

The car is simply fabulous. The red coachwork, with an exquisitely tapered waistline, was restored in 2004 and 2005 and has been more or less unused since. The increasing popularity – and value – of the MT4s have had a beneficial effect on the other OSCAs. With its pretty Frua coachwork, it is difficult to imagine a better-looking OSCA, and with just three produced, it is almost certainly the most rare.

The condition of the car today is wonderful, with near perfect paint and chrome, and an expertly tailored interior. It is clear that no expense was spared during the restoration, and the results speak for themselves. In a recent examination, the car proved to start easily and run well – quite tractable, even when still cold. Moving off, the clutch action was smooth and the shifter was crisp and positive. Handling and steering were exceptional, suggesting that this would make an excellent car for rally and driving events, as well as its obvious potential for vintage racing. As one of just three cars built, and with its Mille Miglia history, it is difficult to imagine an event that would not just welcome the car, but pursue it.

Motor Sport magazine tested this car for an article in March 2006 they said, ‘…The OSCA is skilfully realised. The steering is glorious with no kickback over zitty topography.

Delicate and never twitchy, this isn’t a car that you need to brace yourself in: cornering is relatively neutral, whether with throttle or backing out of it. This despite a relatively small wheelbase and around 216 bhp…and with no scuttle shake or crashing over undulating surfaces. There’s a real sense of thought here. Everything is considered and very, very beautiful’.

Which is to be expected, this being a Maserati in all but name…It might not be the most famous of small-scale Italian racing cars, but the 2000S is among the most captivating, and infinitely more enjoyable to drive than most of the 2.0-litre (or 2.5 Litre) Ferraris of the day – at a fraction of the price.


Please note that during the course of the extensive concours quality restoration, it was determined that many of the original body panels required replacement in order to achieve the desired level of fit and finish.

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