In the late 1940s speed trials were held on a short estate road at Luton Hoo in Bedfordshire England organized by the Vintage Sports Car Club, sort of like a short (1.4 mile) special rally stage. This car is a well-known Maserati 8CM (chassis number 3011) being driven by its then owner Kenneth McAlpine on October 9, 1949.
This grand prix Maserati was first delivered in early 1934 to Whitney Straight, son of a wealthy American family, who upon graduating from Cambridge University decided to take up motor racing. Upon receiving this new Maserati, one of three he had acquired, Straight, assisted by his renowned Italian mechanic Giulio Ramponi, modified his new car extensively, including its unique radiator grille by which it has always been identifiable as “the Whitney Straight Maserati.” The first race with the Whitney Straight Team, then situated in Milan for sake of logistical convenience, was the Tripoli Grand Prix in Libya on May 6, 1934 where Straight would retire.
Straight would continue to compete quite successfully with this Maserati 8CM during 1934. In early 1935 it was sold to Harry Rose who during his ownership not only raced it himself but also loaned it to other drivers including Richard Seaman. In mid-1936 the Maserati passed to Prince Chula, the wealthy cousin and sponsor of Prince Bira, who would drive the Maserati with considerable success into the immediate postwar years.
Ken McAlpine acquired the Maserati for 1948 and raced it into 1951 before selling it again. Here to the left he is seen at the Shelsley Walsh hillclimb in Worcestershire England on June 11, 1949. Note the double rear wheels, first created for hillclimb use with the Maserati by Straight and Ramponi which improve traction for short course hillclimb use. This setup was by no means unique to this Maserati, being fitted to some other prewar single-seater hillclimb cars as well.
For information about the Whitney Straight Maserati 8CM along with the other similar models built by Maserati in the early 1930s, please see the superb book Maserati 3011 by Denis Jenkinson. It contains a trove of meticulously researched information.
Photos by Louis Klemantaski ©The klemantaski Collection – http://www.klemcoll.com
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