1957 Maserati 450S Coupé

Above Images ©Maserati S.p.A.

This one-of Maserati Coupe was developed for Le Mans and it was the only 450S fitted with a Coupe body. After a poor performance at Le Mans it was larger enlarged and used as a road-going supercar.

The first 450S engine was installed in 350S chassis 3501 and renumbered to 4501. At its racing debut in Buenos Aires, Grand Prix drivers Stirling Moss and Juan Manuel Fangio failed to finish with transaxle problems. This result was balanced out at Sebring, where 4501 raced to victory ahead of the Ferrari 315S and Jaguar D-Type.

The next appearance of 4501 was at Le Mans where a completely new body was fixed on the car. With encouragement of Stirling Moss, Maserati had Frank Costin, an English aerodynamic consultant, design a low drag body for the 450. In just a couple days, Zagato manufactured Costin's body, and the result was somewhat unflattering.

Performance of the low drag coupe at Le Mans was disappointing. The car was actually slower than the roadsters and the design caused engine overheating. Despite these setbacks, the car was driven by Moss and Fangio, holding second place until the transaxle went. After Le mans, 4501 was left for scrap with many newer cars ready to contest the series.

A New Life

The 1957 sports car championship ended on a down note for Maserati; they lost the championship by a few points and the last race at Venezuela put most of the cars out of commission. These set backs motivated Maserati to withdraw from sports car racing and sell off their remaining racing assets. Fortunately, the scrapped coupe body caught Byron Staver's attention who convinced Maserati to sell him a completed car.

At Maserati, a new car was built up around engine number 4512 which is often the chassis number now attributed to this car. Afterward, the car was sent to Fantuzzi who executed some severe modifications which included lengthening the body by 10 in (25 cm) at the center of the car. At the same time several cosmetic details were added including a front grill, full interior and a one-piece windscreen.

Byron Staver retained the car in Minneapolis, Minnesota before being passed through the hands of Harry T. Heinl in Ohio and Charles Kilgore of New York. It eventually ended up in the Rosso Bianco collection of Peter Kaus for long term storage.

More recently the car was purchased by Jim Rogers of Memphis, Tennessee and fully restored by Holman and Moody shop in Charlotte, North Carolina. They painted is black and retained its Costin-Zagato-Fantuzzi configuration. The restoration debuted at the 2003 Pebble Beach Concours.

Sources & Further Reading

Orsini, Luigi. Maserati a Complete History, Libreria Dell'Automobile: 1980.
Warren, Fitzgerald. 'Costin-Maserati Coupe' Road & Track, 1963.

Story by Richard Owen


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