After preparing and racing three nearly identical Type 151s at the 1962 LeMans, Maserati continually and radically refined the prototype ‘002’ for Johnny Simone’s Maserati France team. Like its predecessors, the 151/2 and 151/3 used a large, front mounted V8 engine supported by a ladder frame chasis design that was a simple recipe for LeMans.
Replacing the 3943cc V8 with a Lucas fuel injected 4941cc engine that produced 430 bhp was the first step. Other subtle details included a revised DeDion suspension and a slight reduction in weight. Painted red with blue and white racing stripes, the sole 151/2 set the fastest speed through the Mulsanne straight at the LeMans practice. During the first lap, diver Andre was 11th in the opening turns, but used the available power to make his way up to second after the long straight. The 151/2 eventually took over the lead at Lemans and held it for four hours until retiring on the 40th lap with transmission problems.
After campaigning the car at Reims, Clermont-Ferrand and Brands Hatch, Maserati France returned it back to the factory to be and turned into the much different Tipo 151/3. The most apparent new feature was a striking Pierre Drogo-designed body with a flat roof that extended back to a high tail. Underneath, the frame was modified to place a dry-sump engine much lower and as a result the body was much shorter. The car’s wheelbase and tracks were increased for the adoption of new 15 inch Borrani wheels and extra wide Dunlop tires.
During LeMans in ’64, the car reached a promising speed of 196 mph (315 kph) down the Mulssane Straight. At the start, it was immediately brought into the pits, and after a jammed throttle was sorted, Andre Simon and Maurice Trintignant fought their way back up through the entire field. During the night, electrical problems forced them to retire, a third time for this car at LeMans. That year it also retired at Reims and the Paris 1000k.
Johnny Simone’s Maserati France team then kept on with the aging Maser and entered it at Reims, Montlhery and then again at LeMans with new 450 bhp, 5055cc engine and a redesigned suspension. Painted in white with red stripes, this Tipo 151/4 tragically crashed in the rain near the end of the Mulsanne Straight, killing the driver and scrapping the car.
Unfortunately, the 151 program never came up with any notable victories, although the cars almost always held a top position before retiring. Probably, if more had been made and entered in multiple numbers, it would have won many events. Instead only two cars were built beyond the original prototype.
Inspired by the 1964 version of chassis ‘002’, Peter Kaus borrowed the original buck from Allegretti to construct and exact copy of the 151/3 Drogo body. It was then mounted on a new chassis and fitted with a marine V8. This replica will be available at Bonhams upcoming Gstaad Ferrari/Maserati sale alongside some of the most interesting Maseratis ever constructed.