What’s it like to be behind the wheel of a car where Stirling Moss and Jean Behra sat before you? Find out in our epic encounter with this 1955 Maserati 200SI in Issue 3.
This car started life in 1955 as the Maserati 200S, the first one on top of that. This is chassis 2401, the car Maserati used to develop its new challenger in the 2-litre class. At first, it used a revised 150S body. Mechanically, much of the 200S can be considered a ‘best of’ with parts coming from the A6GCS and other parts from the 250F.
Following Ferrari’s lead with the 500 Mondial, Maserati also switched to a four-cylinder 2-litre engine with the 200S, all-alloy and fitted with twin overhead camshafts. Coupled to Weber 50 DC03 carburettors at first, the engine gave around 180 hp. It had the 150S’ four-speed gearbox fitted, and came with a live rear axle at first. Compared with the 150S’ four-cylinder, the oversquare 2-litre in the 200S revved higher.
It started in the Targa Florio in 1955 and Mille Miglia in 1956, but without success. After the Mille Miglia, 2401 received the 200S-type aluminium body you see here, styled by Fantuzzi. It was unpainted at the time. It’s drop-dead gorgeous. Mechanically, it was further honed. With improvements, success came. Mid-1956, Jean Behra scored a first victory at the Gran Premio di Bari. A fortnight later, Stirling Moss finished second in it in the Rheinland-Pfalz Preis at the Nürburging. After that, 2401 was changed to SI specification, bringing a second small door and a full windscreen.
Moss would drive it once more, at the Cuban GP in Havana in 1957. He was blindingly quick, running 15 seconds faster than the next 2-litre car. In the end, an oil leak forced him to abandon after 17 laps. 2401 stayed in South America, finishing its career as a privately owned car, racing in blue.
“Today, it’s the most original of the 200Sis”, says Tom Fischer, the man responsible for keeping this car going. “It still uses the original engine.” We discover this beautiful four-cylinder on a cold and misty day on the Bavarian Alpenstrasse. I can’t see a thing through the raindrop-filled miniature windshield and I can’t see a thing over it as the rain hits my face at speed, but I’m still enjoying every minute here. The 2-litre is loud, sounds beautiful and is full of character.
On the long straights, I pin the throttle down with more confidence. The character changes. Up until 2,500 rpm, the Maserati engine is decidedly unhappy. But once the needle climbs past that mark, it changes character in the blink of an eye.
This article is an excerpt of the feature on the Maserati 200SI, you can read it in Issue 3 of Tazio Magazine.