Maserati 450S

Motor Sport News - - Monsters: 1950s Cars -

Un­like the BRM, Maserati’s 450S did con­test the cham­pi­onship for which it was cre­ated, but it too fell short, again largely through a lack of fund­ing, un­re­li­a­bil­ity and some bad luck.

Maserati had fin­ished a fine sec­ond to Fer­rari in the 1956 World Sportscar Cham­pi­onship with its well-bal­anced and de­pend­able three-litre 300S.

Work on a 4.5-litre V8 had started in 1954 and it was fi­nally ready for the 1957 sea­son, giv­ing Maserati some true fire­power against chief ri­val Fer­rari, which tra­di­tion­ally used larger ca­pac­ity en­gines.

“The 450S was very, very pow­er­ful, with tremen­dous torque,” says 1957 works driver Moss. “In terms of sheer power and speed, it marked the high-tide of front-en­gined sportscar de­vel­op­ment.”

Ranged against an as­sort­ment of Fer­raris – in­clud­ing the Scud­e­ria’s own four-litre V12 335 S mon­ster – Maserati had the speed to win the ti­tle, helped by the fact it had both Moss and Fan­gio on its books.

Gear­box fail­ure de­nied the 450S vic­tory at the Buenos Aires opener, but a 300S fin­ished sec­ond and the big­ger-en­gined ma­chine then won the Se­bring 12 Hours in the hands of Fan­gio and Jean Behra.

Moss and De­nis Jenk­in­son started round three, the Mille Miglia, as favourites, partly due to their own 1955 suc­cess for Mercedes and also due to the 450S’s abil­ity to top 180mph. It also had a sec­ond, two-speed gear­box, al­low­ing a set of shorter ra­tios for the tighter sec­tions and higher ones for the fast parts.

But the duo had barely got­ten started when Moss al­most crashed as the brake pedal snapped off. He avoided a se­ri­ous ac­ci­dent, but the pedal could not be fixed and Maserati lost ar­guably its best chance of win­ning the clas­sic Ital­ian road race.

It was a sim­i­lar story at the Nur­bur­gring 1000km. Af­ter a poor start, Moss charged into the lead, only for the left-rear wheel to de­part, though vic­tory for As­ton Martin’s DBR1 at least lim­ited the dam­age to Fer­rari in the points ta­ble, as did Jaguar’s dom­i­na­tion of Le Mans, where most of the Ital­ian ma­chin­ery wilted.

In a race of at­tri­tion at the Swedish GP for sportscars, Moss and Behra

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