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1957 Maserati 250S : Classic Cars

Originally introduced in 1946, the A6 model in its many guises served Maserati very well on the road and on the track. Despite several updates, it was starting to show its age in the mid 1950s. Maserati decided to start with a clean sheet and replaced the A6 GCS/53 with no fewer than three new racing cars in 1955. Two were powered by a newly developed four cylinder engine, while the third featured a three litre version of the 250F straight six. Of the two four cylinder cars, the 200S was designed for the same two-litre class as the A6 GCS/53.

Maserati had raced four cylinder engines before, like the hugely complicated 16 valve 4CLT, which dated back to the late 1930s, but the new four cylinder engine was a fresh design. Anticipating a cost efficient multi-class application, the all-alloy 'four' was developed with a displacement of 1484 cc and 1994 cc. Like all Maserati engines, it was equipped with twin overhead camshafts and twin-spark ignition. The two litre unit in the 200S was good for a healthy 190 bhp at 7500 compared to the 140 bhp of the smaller 150S engine.

Mated to a four speed gearbox, the engine was installed in a conventional tubular chassis. To cut costs the first chassis were fitted with a live rear axle, but customers requested a more advanced DeDion axle to be fitted, which already came standard on the 150S. Apparently chief engineer Giulio Alfieri believed that the higher powered car could get away with a less sophisticated suspension. Front suspension was fully independent on all examples. Like Ferrari, Maserati continued to rely on the tried and trusted drum brakes.

A single 200S was built in 1955 as Maserati focused on the 150S and 300S racing cars. The prototype 200S was extensively tested throughout that year and received continuous developments. It was first raced at the Grand Prix of Imola in June of 1955 and again at the Targa Florio later in the year. It failed to impress at both occasions. A second car was built and raced in minor events early in 1956. The 200S production car debut came in June of that year during the Supercortemaggiore race at Monza where three brand new cars were entered. The sole survivor finished second to the latest three litre Ferrari.

These first five cars were originally bodied by Celestino Fiandri, who was subsequently replaced by Medardo Fantuzzi. He introduced a more efficientshape courtesy of a much longer nose. With the final specification established, Maserati outsourced the production of the chassis to expert company Gilco, who also built the 150S frames. After the disappointments early in its career, the 200S finally began to show signs of greatness. At the Bari GP late in 1957 Jean Behra managed to lap as fast as the three litre engined machines in his DeDion axle equipped 200S.

For the 1957 season, the sport's governing body added the 'Appendix C' to the regulations. In attempt to bring the closer to road cars, the prototype racers now need a full width windscreen with wipers, two doors, a spare tire and open cars needed a cloth roof. The two litre cars built to comply with the stricter regulations were known as the 200SI for Sport International. After just eight cars were built in 1955 and 1956, production finally got under way and an estimated twenty examples of the 200SI were built. Unfortunately they were not nearly as successful as the smaller 150S and the larger 300S.

At the 1957 Buenos Aires Grand Prix a larger engined version was introduced, appropriately dubbed the 250S. The engine was enlarged to 2.5 litre by fitting a new crankshaft and boring the cylinders. Power was up by only 6 bhp, but low-end torque was increased considerably, which helped especially at the stop-go tracks in North America. At least three and possibly four cars were built to 250S specification for the likes of Jim Hall and Carroll Shelby. Several additional engines were built for a variety of uses including the Centro Sud Cooper F1 cars.

Even though the Maserati 200S was aimed at amateur drivers, its peculiar handling characteristics could only be tamed by professional drivers. That is why the car seemed to excel at one point and then disappoint at another. In comparison with the other Maserati racing cars developed at the same time and its predecessor, the 200S was not nearly as successful on the track. With 32 complete cars built, it was a commercial success. Today the handling quirks are long forgotten and many of the surviving examples are raced at historic events where they often out pace the larger engined competition.


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Sources : 1957 Maserati 250S Photo | 1957 Maserati 250S Article

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