On 12 July 1959, the Maserati Tipo 60 “Birdcage”, with the 30 year old Stirling Moss at the wheel, made its race debut in the Sport category at Rouen. The race car recorded its first win, defeating two Lotus 15 cars and getting the fastest lap in 2.28.5 at an average speed of 158.594 km/h.
This was just the first of a long series of victories: the Birdcage also won four Italian Hill Climb Championships (driven by Odoardo Govoni in 1960 1961-1962 and Nino Todaro in 1963) and two Italian circuit racing Championships (in 1960 with Mennato Boffa and 1963 with Nino Todaro).
It all began in 1958, when the Orsi family, who owned Maserati at that time, decided to assign engineer Giulio Alfieri to identify new technical solutions to make the competition cars even more competitive.
Alfieri was given complete freedom of action, and this provided the basis for a historic turning-point for the company. The initial idea was to build a new car with a monocoque structure, but this proposal did not go ahead.
In October 1958, Alfieri and his collaborators designed a revolutionary chassis consisting of around 200 steel tubes of very small diameter (between 10 and 15 mm) which, combined together in very short lengths in a complex mesh, formed a birdcage structure – hence the car’s nickname, “Birdcage”.
Construction of the first car was completed during May 1959, with a chassis consisting of completely rigid high-quality chromium steel tubes. This first unit was handed over to Stirling Moss, who performed a variety of test drives, on the Aeroautodromo at Modena and at the Nürburgring.
However, during these test drives Alfieri realised that because of the steel’s high rigidity, a large number of hairline fractures were appearing in the welds, putting the safety of the driver at risk.
He therefore surprised everyone by deciding to replace the high-grade steel with one of relatively average quality, which would not generate these adverse effects in response to stresses, enabling the chassis to settle without creating fractures. Giulio Alfieri’s idea was the right one, and his many critics were proved wrong.
Thanks to the victory achieved in Rouen on 12 July 1959 and to other prestigious results, the Maserati Tipo 60 “Birdcage” became the object of great demand from private teams and Gentlemen Drivers who could afford the high purchase price of the “Birdcage”.
The Birdcage attracted a great deal of attention from teams competing in 3 litre sport cars in the U.S.A. This persuaded Maserati to upsize the engine to 2,890 cc, which resulted in an increase in power by 50 hp and the total weight of the car (now known as the Tipo 61) to almost 600 kg due to the adoption of a new larger propeller shaft.
Key technical features of the Tipo 60 – Tipo 61:
Engine: vertical straight four
Displacement: 1,990 cc – 2,890 cc
Power: 200 hp – 250 hp
Transmission: Mechanical five speed + reverse en-bloc with the differential casing
Weight: 570 kg – 600 kg
Top speed: 270 km/h – 285 km/h
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