We are at Le Mans on June 22, 1957. Here is the Maserati 450S berlinetta at speed on the early part of the Mulsanne straight with Stirling Moss at the wheel. The berlinetta was the brainchild of Moss who was always looking for an edge. He convinced Maserati to modify one the the 450S team spiders to be a wind-cheating berlinetta. To that end, Moss got famed aerodynamicist Frank Costin who had designed the shape of the Vanwall F1 car to design an efficient body for a new Maserati Le Mans coupé.
The berlinetta was constructed by the Zagato firm near Milan. However, whether for reasons of a very short time frame prior to Le Mans and their own opinions, Zagato made various evidently unhelpful changes to the Costin design and leaving the result as largely untested before its arrival at Le Mans. The belimetta was driven by various members of the Maserati team during practice but it was found that this new car was actually slower on the Mulsanne than the normal spyder which was fastest of all the cars in timed practice. In addition, the berlinetta’s engine was given to overheating, as was the driver.
The drivers in the race were to be Moss and Harry Schell with Moss to take the start as seen at the left during the early laps. Moss had not achieved his usual first away start due to delay getting into the berlinetta and ran in third place during the early laps. The Maserati was retired with transaxle failure not long after Schell took over.
The berlinetta was returned to Maserati after Le Mans and after siting semi-abandoned for a while at Maserati was eventually converted to a road car and sold, the chassis having been lengthened by some 10 inches. Today it is part of a famous racing car collection in the United States.
Photo by the JJF Archive and Louis Klemantaski ©The Klemantaski Collection www.klemcoll.com
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