Maserati Tipo 61 Birdcage

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Tipo 61 Birdcage





Beset by the cost of engineering a brand-new engine, or building expensive V-12-based cars in any number, Maserati continued developing the sturdy two-liter inline four-cylinder unit from the 200S sports racer. This motor was not prohibitively costly to manufacture, and it would allow them to create a new sports car for privateers. Maserati engineer Giulio Alfieri designed an innovative new chassis, employing a lattice frame of small-diameter tubing, which ensured rigidity with minimal weight (an astonishingly nominal 66 pounds). Though designated initially as the Type 60, the novel chassis was nicknamed the “Birdcage,” for the obvious resemblance, and the evocative moniker has resonated ever since. Alfieri mounted voluptuous factory bodywork over the cutting-edge space frame, and, with the engine canted at a 45-degree angle to lower height, it revolutionized the exterior appearance of sports racers of the period, proving to be highly influential in the years to come and iconic today, as it is among the last to feature the traditional front-engined configuration.

The Tipo 61 was the most well known model but Giulio Alfieri designed 5 different models, all based on an intricate multi-tubular frame concept. This multi-tubular construction produced a light weight and rigid chassis that was a significant competitive advantage for a racing car. All models included independent front suspension, 4-wheel disc brakes and 5-speed transmission. A De Dion type rear axle was used on the Tipo 60 and 61.

Tipo 60 featured a small 2-liter 4-cylinder engine of 200hp (150 kW), located in the front and tilted over at a 45° angle for a lower center of gravity. The weight was 570 kg (1,257 lb) and the car had at a maximum speed of 270 km/h (168 mph).

Tipo 61 featured a 2.9-liter 4-cylinder engine of 250hp (186 kW), located in the front at a 45° angle for a weight of 600 kg (1,323 lb) pushing the car at a speed of 285 km/h (177 mph).

The mid-engined Birdcage cars began with the Tipo 63. Maserati now changed to a mid-engine configuration using a similar multi-tubular chassis construction. The rear suspension was changed to an independent double wishbone configuration.

The Tipo 63 through 65 cars have been described as a "historian's nightmare". Maserati was in difficult financial circumstances and Giulio Alfieri was trying to build a competitive car on a low budget. He would retrieve various engines from the Maserati parts bins. Then, he had them modified and installed in the ten various chassis that were constructed. The Tipo 63 was raced with four-cylinder and twelve-cylinder engines and the chassis was radically redesigned when the first version proved less competitive than the Tipo 61.

Tipo 63 first used a 4-cylinder engine similar to the Tipo 61 and later a V12 engine from the Formula One 1957 Maserati 250F.

Tipo 64 featured the same 3-liter V12 as the Tipo 63 with an upgraded frame (many smaller light alloy tubes) - nicknamed "Supercage".

Tipo 65 featured a V8 engine of 5 liters delivering about 430hp (321 kW) pushing the car at 350 km/h (217 mph). Only one car was built using a modified Tipo 63 chassis.

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