After trying different configurations of their open cockpit birdcage and its signature space frame chassis, Maserati reverted to a simple ladder frame and other classic concepts for their next LeMans contender, the Type 151.
Chief engineer Giulio Alfieri sculpted the 151’s odd coupe body and refined it in the wind tunnel at the Milan University. Thus, it was fitted with the latest trends in aerodynamics including a Kamm tail and low set front hood which required a huge front scoop to clear the engine stacks. Other features like a production Sprint Speciale front windshield and very small doors to fit inbetween the frame and lateral fuel tanks were included. With ample power, the slippery design hit 195 mph (314 kph) while testing at Monza.
The strength of the 151s large oval tube chassis was good enough to deal with power from a four liter version of Maserati 450’s, quad cam V8. Thanks to features like twin spark ignition and four twin choke Weber carburetors, it produced 360 bhp. This was attached to a new gearbox designed by Valerio Colotti that was mounted with a ZF differential. Chassis features included Girling disc brakes, 16 inch Borrani wire wheels, Dunlop racing tires and a specially desgined variant of the DeDion rear suspension was also fitted.
Three 151s were initially made; the factory prototype went to Johnny Simones Maserati France team and two additional cars were made for Briggs Cunningham, painted in white with broad blue stripes.
Unfortunately, the first 151 missed the 1962 LeMans test days and instead was first tried on the public highways and at Monza. All three cars contested LeMans and were only slightly off Ferraris pace, running in third, fourth and fifth places during the opening laps. All three cars eventually retired leaving Ferrari with the last front engine victory at LeMans.
After LeMans, the 151s were repaired and Cunningham entered them in a couple SCCA events before selling one off. The other was fitted with a 5.7 liter marine engine before being wrecked at Daytona. Maserati-France’s prototype was altered for subsequent seasons, even fitted with a striking Drogo body, but was destroyed in a fatal crash at the 1965 LeMans race, leaving just one 151 for the world.
Cunningham then gave all his supplies to Skip Hudson, the new owner of the last remaining car. He fitted one of the road-going engines, attached mufflers, added a modified front end and painted the car red. It was then driven in and around California before becoming part of the Rosso Bianco collection where Peter Kaus painted it back to the LeMans livery, but left the road-going 4.2 liter engine in place.
Bonhams will sell chassis 006, the only surviving Tipo 151 at their upcoming Ferrari & Maserati sale in Gstaad Switzerland with an auction estimate of 915 000 to 1 080 000 USD.