NOV 27th 2014

56 years on, D‑Type and Maserati line‑up again at Monza... sort of!

When the remarkable 1954 Monza pit scene was revealed at the Revival, replete with 16 Maserati 250Fs, it was undoubtedly one of the highlights of the weekend. Things became even more evocative for GRR when we managed to briefly reunite a couple of sparring partners who competed at Monza almost half a century ago.

Among the famous Italian machines was the car immortalised by Fangio at the fabled 1957 Italian Grand Prix, one of the super-rare V12-engined examples and a peculiar-looking white car which doesn’t quite look like the others. It features different bodywork, is wider and unlike the rest has ‘advertising’ on it, principally ‘Eldorado’.

Monzanapolis-Jaguar-D-type-Maserati-250F

The white car is in fact a Maserati 420M; based on a 250F chassis, but with the mighty V8 from the 450S (with capacity reduced from 4.5 litres to 4.2)  which also donated its front suspension. The engine is mounted off-set to the left and it has been said that the car was capable of over 200mph. The ‘Eldorado’ part refers to an Italian ice cream manufacturer which sponsored the building of the car and which was keen for publicity. Legend has it that it was built in just 20 days. 

It had been conceived especially to take part in the ‘Race of Two Worlds’ which took place in 1957 and 1958 on the awe-inspiring banked Monza oval circuit. The idea was for Europe to take on America and this meant running counter-clockwise to accommodate the American cars.  

The 420M might also have been the first European car to bear a sponsor’s name, in stark contrast to the D-Type you see here with which it also competed at what became known as ‘Monzanapolis’ due to the similarities with the Indianapolis track. Just one week prior to the Monza event the D-Type (chassis XKD 603 – said to be the most original long-nose D-Type in existence) had been competing at Le Mans, where it had finished in second place the year before. Incredibly, in both 1957 and 1958 the car was driven straight from Le Mans to Monza!

Monzanapolis-Jaguar-D-type-Maserati-250F

The steeply-banked corners played havoc with the Jaguar’s Dunlop tyres, in particular the right-rear which necessitated the ‘Monza scoop’ fitted above the right-rear wheel to help cool it. Only two of the D-Types had this modification carried out and this is the only one still in existence.

The 420M was driven by Sir Stirling Moss and the D-Type by ‘Fearless’ Jack Fairman who earned his nickname partly due to the level of commitment he displayed by running very high up the Monza banking, and also because at one point the D-Type’s steering wheel came off in his hands! A pinch bolt hadn’t been fitted to keep the steering column attached to the steering rack. Somehow, Mr Fairman managed to thread the column back on to the splines of the steering rack whilst on the banking. Bear in mind that the Monza banking was not of a constant radius… The story goes that ‘Fearless’ Jack returned to the pits and politely asked ‘could any of you chaps could tighten this for me?’  

Sir Stirling didn’t get on much better with the Maserati. It’s been said that he liked neither the car nor the track, all of which came to a head when the 420M’s steering failed causing him to strike the upper barrier of the banking at around 150mph before enduring a terrifying ride down the banking to a standstill. You can see the aftermath of that incident at the end of the following clip.

Having first ‘met’ in the Monza pits all those years ago, the pair were reunited at the Revival in front of the recreated Monza pits at the Revival. As for the Race of Two Worlds, despite reportedly enjoying decent crowds it didn’t turn a profit, so after just two events it was canned and never appeared again.  

The D-Type though you will see again soon in a stunning series of photos taken of it during the Revival. Watch this space.  

Photography: Dom Romney

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