Maserati Tipo 61
|Maserati Tipo 61|
|Body and chassis|
|Body style||Two-seat spyder.|
|Chassis||Welded tubular latticework - Superleggera|
|Engine||2890.3 cc inline-four cylinder, Normally aspirated with two Weber 48 DC03 carburettors|
187 kW (250 bhp) @ 6800 rpm
|Wheelbase||2,200 mm (87 in)|
|Curb weight||600 kg (1,300 lb)|
The Maserati Tipo 61 (commonly referred to as the Maserati Birdcage) is a sports racing car of the early 1960s. The car was produced between 1959 and 1961 by Maserati for racing in sports car events including the 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance classic. It used an intricate tubular space frame chassis, containing about 200 chro-moly steel tubes welded together, hence the nickname "Birdcage". This method of construction provided a more rigid and, at the same time, lighter chassis than other sports cars of the time. By recessing the windscreen base into the bodywork, Maserati was able to reduce the effect of new Le Mans rules demanding a tall windscreen. The Camoradi team became famous racing the Tipo 61s but, despite being very competitive, the Birdcage was somewhat unreliable and occasionally retired from many races due to problems with the drivetrain.
The Tipo 61 was unveiled in 1959 when Stirling Moss won its first race, attracting the attention of Lloyd "Lucky" Casner. Casner founded the Casner Motor Racing Division who raced three Tipo 61's in the 1960 24 Hours of Le Mans. The Tipos never won Le Mans due to reliability issues, however in both 1960 and 1961 the Camoradi team won the 1000 km Nürburgring.
The Birdcage series
The Tipo 61 was the most well known model but Giulio Alfieri designed 5 different models, all based on an intricate multi-tubular frame concept. This multi-tubular construction produced a light weight and rigid chassis that was a significant competitive advantage for a racing car. All models included independent front suspension, 4-wheel disc brakes and 5-speed transmission. A De Dion type rear axle was used on the Tipo 60 and 61.
Tipo 60 featured a small 2-liter 4-cylinder engine of 200 hp (150 kW), located in the front and tilted over at a 45° angle for a lower center of gravity. The weight was 570 kg (1,257 lb) and the car had at a maximum speed of 270 km/h (168 mph).
Tipo 61 featured a 2.9-liter 4-cylinder engine of 250 hp (186 kW), located in the front at a 45° angle for a weight of 600 kg (1,323 lb) pushing the car at a speed of 285 km/h (177 mph).
The mid-engined Birdcage cars began with the Tipo 63. Maserati now changed to a mid-engine configuration using a similar multi-tubular chassis construction. The rear suspension was changed to an independent double wishbone configuration.
The Tipo 63 through 65 cars have been described as a "historian's nightmare". Maserati was in difficult financial circumstances and Giulio Alfieri was trying to build a competitive car on a low budget. He would retrieve various engines from the Maserati parts bins. Then, he had them modified and installed in the ten various chassis that were constructed. The Tipo 63 was raced with four-cylinder and twelve-cylinder engines and the chassis was radically redesigned when the first version proved less competitive than the Tipo 61.
The definitive reference for this complex and confusing era is the book: "Maserati Tipo 63, 64, 65: Birdcage to Supercage" written by Willem Oosthoek.
Tipo 63 first used a 4-cylinder engine similar to the Tipo 61 and later a V12 engine from the Formula One 1957 Maserati 250F. Tipo 63 cars raced in 1961 with both engines, placing 4th at the 24 hours of Le Mans (12 cylinder version) with Briggs Cunningham's team. And Count Volpi’s Scuderia Serenissima hired Medardo Fantuzzi to modify one of their Tipo 63 cars with a longer nose and a fin behind the driver.
Tipo 64 featured the same 3-liter V12 as the Tipo 63 with an upgraded frame (many smaller light alloy tubes) - nicknamed "Supercage".
Tipo 65 featured a V8 engine of 5 liters delivering about 430 hp (321 kW) pushing the car at 350 km/h (217 mph). Only one car was built using a modified Tipo 63 chassis.
Maserati Birdcage 75th (2005 concept car)
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