The Maserati Tipo 151 was one of those cars which never quite came good in period, despite demonstrating devastating pace. At Le Mans the car had no trouble getting into the lead of the race and is believed to be the first car ever to crack the 300kph barrier along the Mulsanne Straight, but a lack of investment as well as a shortcoming in the luck department meant that it’s great speed was never converted into winners laurels. But still, just look at it …
The story begins at Le Mans in 1962. Three 151s had been built: One for Maserati France and two for Briggs Cunningham. The cars were all extremely fast, but by the Sunday afternoon all had been parked up. In the wake of this the two Cunningham cars went to the States and there they stayed; one of them converted to a road car and apparently fitted with an American V8 before being rebuilt, while the other crashed heavily, burned and was destroyed. This left the car you see here – the Maserati France number 002 car – which returned to Le Mans in 1963. Again, it showed tremendous speed before retiring.
At the end of 1963 the car was fitted with a new 37 inch tall Drogo-designed body (built by Allegretti) and had its chassis lengthened. These modifications, along with the fitting of a 4941cc motor allowed the car to hit a measured 300kph (186.4mph) at Le Mans in 1964. After five hours of racing though the car stopped …
The car was then lengthened further for 1965, but tragedy struck during the practice weekend for Le Mans when driver Lloyd ‘Lucky’ Casner crashed and was killed. The heavily damaged car returned to the factory, but the team decided to return to Le Mans and competed with the Tipo 65. Around 10 years passed before collector Peter Kaus bought all the Tipo 151 parts from Maserati, who allowed him to rebuild Tipo 151 002 and even loaned him the original body buck in order to achieve this. Again the bodywork was built by Allegretti. Once complete the car sat in Kaus’s Rosso Bianco museum near Frankfurt in Germany.
In 2007 the car was sold by Bonhams and acquired by its current owner Barrie Baxter who set about rebuilding it to its 1964/65 specification. The ‘crashed’ high-performance motor was found in Italy and also rebuilt to original spec’. The completed car appeared at the Goodwood Revival in 2012 (sans paint) and then again at the 73rd Members Meeting and this year’s Le Mans Legends event.
‘I fell in love with it when I saw it in the famous Richard Crump book on Maseratis’ Barrie says of how he came to learn about the car. ‘I thought “wow, what a shape!” and I was thrilled to buy it.’ Asked how the car is to drive, he tells us: ‘Well it’s so low and slippery; phenomenally fast, although not fully sorted yet. But I’m a racing guy so we’ll get it right. It’s a handful but we will get it to be competitive.’
The stunning photos you see here were shot at the 73rd Members’ Meeting, although we can reveal that the Tipo 151 will be making another rare public appearance at the Revival in September. We’re looking forward to see just how far Barrie can get it up the pecking order.