Through the mid-1950s Maserati offered the privateer racer the iconic 250F single-seat, open-wheeler, and the equally well-regarded and mechanically similar 300S racing sports car. By 1957 the Modenese-domiciled company was over-stretched financially, but still chose to pursue Factory Teams in both the Formula One World Championship, and the World Sports Car Championship.
On the single-seater F1 side, by 1957 the 250F was now in its 4th season. Four-time World Driving Champion Juan Manuel Fangio had a falling out with Ferrari during 1956 and jumped to cross-town rival Maserati for 1957. Ferrari’s driver roster for 1957 then included Mike Hawthorn and Peter Collins. Stirling Moss was piloting the Vanwall with the new Colin Chapman-designed chassis. Interestingly, in this 2.5L Formula the Ferrari was powered by a DOHC V8, the Maserati a DOHC I6, and the Vanwall a DOHC I4.
In the seven race 1957 F1 season Maserati’s Fangio won 4 races and Moss 3 in the Vanwall. That accomplishment gave Fangio his fifth and final Driver’s Championship. Ferrari had a dismal year in F1, but would bounce back and win the Driver’s championship in 1958 with Hawthorn, (while Moss and Tony Brooks would bring home the F1 Constructor’s Championship for Vanwall in 1958.)
While Maserati’s 1957 F1 racer was an evolved product, the main weapon on the Sports / Prototype side of the Maserati workshops had a new chassis and new driveline. The Tipo 54 (450S) by engineers Vittorio Bellentani and Guido Taddeucci had a 4.5L short-stroke V8 engine yielding 400 bhp at 7200 rpm. Aluminum block and heads, DOHC, 2-valves per cylinder, twin plug, 8 barrels of Weber carbs… all, then state-of-the-art.
The 450S’ tubular chassis and body had been designed by Valerio Colotti, and inherited much from the Maserati 300S, upgraded as needed to cope with the 450S’ higher horsepower. Adaptations included using De Dion rear suspension and 5-speed ZF gearbox, with a front suspension employing double wishbones and coil springs. The 450S weighed just 1750 pounds.
Just 9 (some say 10) of the brutal, but beautiful, 450S were made, including one aerodynamic coupe designed by Frank Costin and coach build by Zagato of Italy, (yes, I’d love to sculpt the Costin coupe in Belgian Black marble). Some of the privateer 450S roadster sales to the US were not constrained by FIA rules and had bigger displacements engines of 5.7 and 6.6L (>500 hp) as raced by Carroll Shelby, Jim Hall, Masten Gregory, and others. Think about the insane power-to-weight ratios with these bored and stroked Maserati V8 engines. Now combine that thought with skinny 1950s tire technology.
In the 1957 FIA World Sports Car Championship the 450S was raced by notables such as Juan Manuel Fangio, Stirling Moss, Jean Behra and Harry Schell. Team arch rivals came from Aston Martin DBR1, Jag D-Type; while Ferrari had Tipo 290, 315, and 335 in Enzo’s quiver.
With top flight drivers Fangio and Moss, the Maserati 450S was even odds to win the World Sports Car Championship heading into the last round in Venezuela. Unfortunately, all three Maserati team cars failed to finish and all were lost in fires or crashes. To further round out the disaster the Maserati Team’s race manager died the day before the event.
The marque had extended itself perilously during 1957 in pursuit of both F1 and World Sports Car titles. The carnage of the Venezuela round, and the cancellation of further Mille Miglia races after De Portago’s tragic 1957 crash, prompted Maserati to withdraw its Factory Racing Teams for 1958. Fangio, now aged 46, also retired.
Both the 1957 Maserati 250F and 450S occupy rarefied space in the collector car pantheon. The 250F for its well-sorted grace and oneness with its driver…… and the 450S for its beauty and brutality.
Laguna Rosso Marble makes a great stone choice to depict any of those Italian “bloody red cars”, as Tony Vandervell (team principle Vanwall) used to call them. Everyone will perceive the color as red….but everyone will also perceive the sculpture as stone — given the subtle grey, white, and black veining. The finish is uniform, and the luster is high. What is not to like?
As a nod to my past and present involvement in metal sculpture, this 450S piece features two aluminum details. I hope you will agree the details compliment the stone sculpture. An aluminum Maserati trident is added at the grille. As well, an aluminum trim bar is present at the front quarter panel exhaust / cooling vents.
Modenese Magma is another of my works where the sculpture is hand worked to appear molten with the sculpted car emerging from a roughened block of stone. As such the 450S depiction is a more abstract approach than many of my sculptures. This approach isn’t for everyone, but for those who it does resonate with, they are passionate in their appreciation.