Maserati Tipo 60 and Tipo 61 “Birdcage”

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On July 12 1959 debuted the Maserati Tipo 60 'Birdcage' on Rouen. In the Sport class, Stirling Moss (30) beat two Lotus 15s and set the fastest lap with a time of 2: 28,5 minutes - average 158,594 km / h. This victory was the first in a long series. The Birdcage won four Italian hill climbing championships (in 1960, 1961 and 1962 with Odoardo Govini, and in 1963 with Nino Todaro) and two Italian racing rankings (in 1960 with Mennato Boffa and in 1963 with Nino Todaro).


In 1958, the Orsi family - then the owner of Maserati - decided to hire engineer Giulio Alfieri, and to have him develop new techniques that made racing cars even faster. Alfieri was given carte blanche, and initially had the intention to build a monocoque, but in the end he decided not to do so. In October 1958, Alfieri and his staff discussed how low weight could be combined with high torsional rigidity. They designed a revolutionary chassis that consisted of such 200 short tubes with a diameter of 10 and 15 mm. The construction resembled a birdcage - hence the nickname 'Birdcage'.

Two liters, four cylinders

In the center of the chassis, the Maserati Tipo 60 was equipped with an 2-liter four-cylinder engine, which was placed at an angle of 45 degrees to save space and keep the center of gravity low. This contributed to a great balance. The engine was based on that of the 200S, but was given a newly developed cylinder head, with the exhaust channels moved to the right. The bore and stroke were also changed: 92 x 75 mm, instead of 93,8 x 72 mm as used in the 200S. The engine was powered by two Weber 45 DCO3 carburetors. With Marelli's double ignition, the maximum power was 200 hp. The wheel suspension consisted of coil springs at the front and a De Dion axle with a single transverse leaf spring at the rear. The Maserati Tipo 60 only weighed 570 kilos.

Born in May 1959

The first car was built in May 1959, with a chassis built with solid tubes of high-quality chromium steel. Stirling Moss completed various tests on the Aeroautodromo at Modena and on the Nürburgring. Alfieri, however, discovered that due to the high stiffness of the steel, hairline cracks were created in the weld connections, which jeopardized the safety of the driver. To everyone's surprise, Alfieri decided to switch to lower quality steel. His theory was that with a more flexible steel type, fewer forces were put on the weld connections. It worked. After the victory over Rouen, on July 12 1959, many other prestigious results followed. Many private teams and gentleman drivers who could afford the high purchase value turned to Maserati for the Maserati Tipo 60 'Birdcage'.

Tipo 61, three liter class

There was also a lot of interest in the 'Birdcage' in the US, especially from teams racing in the 3 liter Sportscar class. This encouraged Maserati to increase the four-cylinder to 2.890 cc. Result: 50 pk extra power and a weight of almost 600 kilos, due to the thicker cardan shaft. The consumption of the Tipo 61 baptized racing car remained more or less unchanged, so that the number of tank stops during long-distance races could be drastically reduced. In 1960, Maserati did not play as an official factory team, but supported the Lloyd Casners US Camoradi team, which registered two Tipo's 61 for the 1.000 Kilometer of the Nürburgring. Stirling Moss and Dan Gurney won the race, Masten Gregory and Gino Munaron finished third. During the Le Mans 24 Hour, one of the Tipos 61 achieved a speed of 270 km / h, a new record in the 3 liter class. In the same year Masten Gregory and Lloyd Casner won again at the Nürburgring, ahead of the Ferrari 250 TR 61 from the Rodriguez brothers from Mexico. The last two Tipos 61 were built in January and February 1961. Three Tipo 61 / 76 engines were also built in the same year.

Thanks to Maserati, Arvid Mentink


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