On This Day in #F1: 12 July


Brought to you by TheJudge13 chronicler BlackJack’sBriefs

1959 . . . is remembered for . . .

Fidel Castro took over from President Batista, the Dalai Lama escaped from Tibet, the Leakeys discovered 600,000-year-old homind fossils. Ben Hur and Some like it Hot were box-office hits, Russia’s Luna-1 was the first craft to leave the Earth’s gravity, and Luna-3 was the first to see the other side of the Moon, Texas Instruments patented the Integrated Circuit, Buddy Holly gave his last performance, and the first Daytona 500 race was won by Lee Petty… while Richard Starkey received his first drum set for Christmas. and Little Anthony & The Imperials recorded Shimmy Shimmy Koko Bop

and on this day in 1959 a motor race was won by Stirling Moss…

Not such an unusual thing in itself… Moss had been winning races from the early 50’s… and four times runner-up in the World Championship… but this race was not a championship event… and not even F1. Just a minor support race to a F2 round, at Rouen, France.

Alfieri Maserati - Targa Florio - 1926

Alfieri Maserati – Targa Florio – 1926

To understand its interest we must quickly go back about ninety years, when five Italian brothers, Carlo, Bindo, Alfieri, Ettore and Ernesto, after working in various roles in the Italian motor industry, founded their own company – Maserati – and subsequently built the Tipo 26 (in 1926) – using the trident carried by the statue of Neptune in Bologna as the Maserati symbol.

The following clip shows the ‘Tipo 26’ being driven – rather than sitting in a museum…

Although the ‘26’ won it’s first event (2,000cc. class in the Targa Florio), by 1937 the company’s fortunes were at a low ebb and was acquired by the Orsi industrial family, the three remaining brothers being contracted to stay for ten years.

After two consecutive victories in the Indy 500 (the only Italian marque to do so), and WWII, in 1947 the three brothers returned home, to found OSCA, while Maserati foundered until the brilliance of their design engineers created the 250F, a car that many claim was the epitome of F1 in the 50’s, and certainly one of the most elegant racing designs ever…

Moss_Maserati - Fangio_Ferrari - 1956

Moss/Maserati – Fangio(?)/Ferrari – 1956

There is confusion on the web as to who takes design responsibility for this car. Gioacchino Colombo appears to have been the major force, assisted by Vittorio Bellentani, Alberto Massimino, and Valerio Colotti… each working in different areas, but they had all departed Maserati within two or three years and ‘junior’ engineer, Giulio Alfieri, stepped into the role, and also developed the 1956 ‘250 T2’.

The car was immediately successful from 1954, and continued competing (almost unchanged) until 1960 – no other racing car achieved more enduring success. Fangio won the first two GP races of 1954 (before joining Mercedes- Benz mid-season) and Moss had his first Formula One success in1954, in a privately entered 250F, before also joining Mercedes, but returned to Maserati in 1956, winning two Championship grands prix and five non- championship events. When Moss moved to Vanwall for 1957 Fangio (who had just taken his fourth Championship with Ferrari) returned to Maserati – and won his fifth championship.

This clip shows Fangio doing two laps of the Modena circuit in a 250F – Best viewed at Full-Screen…

The first lady to drive in F1, Maria Teresa de Filipis, entered a 250F in the Monaco GP of 1958 but failed to qualify – along with fifteen of the thirty-one entrants… including fellow debutante, Bernie Ecclestone…

In 1957, Maserati collapsed again and entered into a form of bankruptcy, restrained from direct involvement in racing, and limited to supporting customers in their own cars. Somewhat in secret Orsi authorised Giulio Alfieri to create a new sports car for the popular Italian 2-lt. championship, using existing components where possible…

. . . and the incredible ‘Tipo 60’ was created…

Maserati Tipo 60

Maserati Tipo 60

The chassis design followed that of the 250F – a ‘multi- tubular’ space frame of triangulated small-diameter tubes – taken to an extreme, with around 200 individual members – weighing just 30 kilogrammes. The rear suspension came directly from the 250F and the front suspension was similar to the 250F. The engine, was from the 200SC sports car, tilted 45-degree to one side to lower bonnet height.

There is confusion on the web as to who takes design responsibility for this car. Gioacchino Colombo appears to have been the major force, assisted by Vittorio Bellentani, Alberto Massimino, and Valerio Colotti… each working in different areas, but they had all departed Maserati within two or three years and ‘junior’ engineer, Giulio Alfieri, stepped into the role, and also developed the 1956 ‘250 T2’.

Moss at Modena ©EVO

Moss at Modena ©EVO

So, where were we…? Oh yes… Stirling Moss… who happened to be at Modena in May, 1959, and was invited to test the prototype. So impressed with the ‘incredibly light yet precise steering, excellent neutral handling characteristics, superb brakes and the way it felt glued to the track,’ he suggested Maserati brought it to the Nurburgring the following month where he was running in the 1000 km, and, in testing, quickly broke the 2-lt. lap record…

As a result, On This Day in 1959, Stirling Moss drove this car to its maiden victory at Rouen… and the car became an overnight success, admired for its looks and, for those fortunate enought to drive it, it’s phenomenal performance. Reliability was a bugbear but the car, and it’s derivatives, won the 1000-km Nurburgring in 1960 and 1961 and numerous other races, especially in the States.

Because of the car’s complex chassis design, part of which was always visible through the windscreen, it was instantly christened ‘The Birdcage’.

The Birdcage

The Birdcage

Only 16-22 (?) examples of the Tipo 60/61 were built, and few now remain, fetching upwards of $3,500,000-US at auction. The Tipo 61 was identical but fitted with a 2.9 lt. engine, derived from the 250F.

Sorry, I was unable to find a video clip that was worth watching.


19 responses to “On This Day in #F1: 12 July

  1. WOW!!!! That video of Fangio was absolutely awesome!! This was a great driver!! Look at those curbs; let’s put some like that on the modern circuits! If Fangio was driving in current F1 …….. there would be no competition. Thanks. The vidoes on this site are great, keep it up. Sorry for all the exclamation points, but that really was a great video.

  2. Sorry, another comment….. I lived in Seattle in the late 70’s and heard, though a friend, that there was a race car chassis in Snohomish that was a ‘bunch of tubes’ in very poor condition. Visions of a birdcage Maserati, abandoned and forgotten, drove me, with much circumspection (as it would be worth a LOT of money), to find the shop where the car was. I drove to Snohomish, knocked on the door of the repair shop and inquired as to the race car chassis. Yes, it indeed existed! Could I see it? Was it for sale? Sure. Visions of a rediscovered, abandoned, forgotten birdcage Maserati overwhelmed me. Then, being shown the car, reality set in. It was a old MGB chassis with lots of very poorly made tubing attached. Still, for a moment, I was rich. Oh well.

    • Don’t be sorry – it’s a great comment. Thanks for sharing it. I love the idea of an MG-B(irdcage)… 😉
      [PS: I visited Mt. Ranier in 1975… Were you there then?]

      • Yep. In fact, I severed my left quad tendon in a climbing accident on Rainer last August; I’m only now starting to climb again and will be up there Sunday. That mountain lurks in the clouds, unseen, and then one day the rain lifts and there it is, this tremendous pile of rock and glacier, dominating the skyline. We forget it’s there until those sunny days and then are amazed, all over again, at its power and beauty.

  3. Amazing clip! Thanks. Then I got sidetracked watching the you tube video of the whole of the 1973 German GP from the Nurburgring, check it out – if you can find a spare 2 hours!!

    • Strange goings-on in thejudge13’s chambers.
      Just read this piece (again) then saw my comments above and started getting a little freaked-out by what I thought was identity theft until I had the thought that I haven’t seen any posts from BJF in a while, then saw the date on the comments and, gradually, realised that I was experiencing “On This Day In F1 – 12th July 1959…….AND 2013!!!”
      Then, indeed, I started to get, at first, vague memories of having read this article before, until I, eventually, fully recalled watching that epic display at the Nurburgring on a lazy summer’s afternoon, much as this one. (12/07/2015!)
      My head now suitably kettled (thanks for that, Your Honour!), I need some time out for my poor frazzled mind to recover from your unannounced experiment in mnemonics.
      As it just so happens, my partner has just gone for a girls’ night out, there’s a couple of cold beers in the fridge, and I think I’m going to take my own advice and watch the ’73 German GP again…

  4. Sorry man, have to post this, getting all carried away with Fangio and Nurburgring.
    The man the Americans called “the man who knew no fear” and went crazy when he won the Vanderbilt cup in ’36.
    The man the Germans called “der Teufel” and hated him for beating Auto Union at their home GP, Hitler refused to play the Italian hymn, but forseeingly the man brought his own disc.

    When he was young the villagers called him “il figlio del diavolo” (son of the devil).
    The Italians called him “Il Mantovano Volante”
    Enzo Ferrari once drove with him and said: “he never took his foot from the accelerator”.
    Dr Ferdinand Porsche called him “the greatest driver of the past, the present, and the future”.

    The man who did more than beating his rivals, he beat death itself.
    My absolute racing hero, Tazio Nuvolari.

    • Awesome guy – I did a piece on him when I started the site Sept/Oct. Made Schumacher look as thought he had racing manners.

      He won what they described as ‘the greatest race of all time’.

      For you johnny come lately TJ13 readers 🙂 here’s the original story (here)


    • Hi enzoMajorca (interesting moniker…)
      Thanks for the contribution – I have no problems with remembering the great Tazio (although I’m not sure about ‘The Quick Mantovani’… 😉 )
      In fact I’m slightly surprised how many readers of this site have such memories. When I started writing these ‘OTD’ stories I rather feared nobody else would be interested…
      I have another, even older, one coming for August which I doubt anybody will have heard of… I only came across it a few weeks ago, by accident. I wait to be corrected 😉

      • @BJF,
        The OTD stories are great, keep ’em coming.

        Enzo Maiorca is free dive legend from Syracuse-Sicily.
        Luc Besson did a movie on the rivalry between Enzo and Frenchman Jaques Mayol, called The Big Blue.

        • I’ve long enjoyed Besson’s work – but not much of it gets over ‘here’. I’ll look out for The Big Blue… Thanks.

          • Make sure you’ll get the European version, it has the original soundtrack from Eric Serra and the original ending.
            The American version has a “happy” Hollywood end, en very commercial Bill Conti soundtrack.

  5. Judge, have you invented some sort of time machine? I think these comments (including some of mine) predate Fortis.

    • …you mean…some kind of…hot-tub time-machine?
      Thanks for the post, Gomer. Was beginning to think that this was all in my head (see above), but I’m alright now.

  6. I recognize the voice and face of the narrator, but can’t remember his name. What is it?

  7. What’s this now? A post from 2013? Running out of stories, judge? 😆
    Was half way through, happy that black jack was back only to be disappointed…

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