When talk turns to the world’s greatest sport-racing cars, Sir Stirling Moss describes Maserati’s revolutionary Tipo 61 as ‘the finest ever built’, while Le Mans winner Carroll Shelby says ‘it’s best handling car I’ve ever driven’.
The Tipo 61 remains one of the most instantly recognisable competition cars thanks to its incredibly complex space frame of around 200 welded chrome-moly tubes that gave rise to its ‘Birdcage’ nickname.
Designed by Maserati’s chief engineer Giulio Alfieri, whose previous work included the legendary 250F Grand Prix car, the 2.0-litre, four cylinder Tipo 61, is also one of Maserati’s rarest models, with just 16 of the intricate racers built from 1959-1961.
As a result, values of surviving examples have skyrocketed, with recent auction sales topping US$3.5 million.
Within this finite market, the value of replica Tipo 61 Birdcage sports cars has also soared, particularly the exacting re-creations constructed by legendary English specialists Crosthwaite & Gardiner, one of which is crossing the block at Shannons Summer Classic Auction in Melbourne on November 23.
Tipo 61 Chassis #2473 was constructed for well-known Californian vintage racer and collector Don Orosco, with Crosthwaite and Gardiner given Orosco’s own original Birdcage (chassis 2458) as a full-scale reference for the project.
The meticulously nut ands bolt re-creation, with every detail faithfully reproduced, including the complex frame, engine and transaxle, reportedly took 12 years.
Every effort was made to get the details spot on, with the frame first Tig, then gas welded, to approximate the way the frame would have left the Maserati factory in period as closely as possible.
On completion, the chassis was numbered 2473, a continuation of Maserati’s original numbering sequence with the last original Birdcage being #2472.
Master bodybuilder Rod Jolley then fashioned the new aluminium panels, which were hand-finished with a hammer and dolly in the traditional Maserati factory manner of the period.
Purchased by the current owner from Bruce Canepa’s facility in Scotts Valley, California in 2008, the car with its Maserati factory engine, number 2478, topped with twin Weber 45 DCO3 carburettors and mated to a correct five-speed transaxle, has since been shown at various events in Australia, including the Grand Prix.
Accompanied by its FIA Historic Technical Passport issued by the Automobile Competition Committee of the United States (ACCUS), this Birdcage is eligible for a wide range of events around the world.
Because of the quality and authenticity of its recreation, combined with the rapidly rising value of original Birdcage Maseratis, Shannons expect international interest and are quoting a conservative guiding range of AU$600,000-AU$700,000 – a fraction of the value of an identical, original Birdcage.