Among the most treasured and valuable of the stunning pre-war Grand Prix cars racing in the Historic Grand Prix Cars Association Nuvolari Trophy double-header at last weekend’s Donington Historic Festival was one of Maserati’s finest – a very special 8CM.
MAY 05th 2016
This Maserati 8CM Is Motorsport Royalty
Chassis 3011 is a 1934 machine, powered by a three-litre, eight-cylinder supercharged engine. And from whichever angle it is ogled, it oozes purposeful, exquisitely engineered beauty, with its sit-up-and-beg, centre-seat layout, long, narrow body (which houses nothing but engine), leaf-spring suspension and narrow treaded tyres.
One of only 18 produced, this 8CM has been raced almost continuously since 1934. Its first owner was American ace Whitney Straight, who ran it under the White Mouse banner and in white, the national racing colour of the United States. British hero Richard Seaman also campaigned the Italian machine, famously winning the Empire Trophy at Brooklands in 1936.
Thereafter it passed to Siamese racing royalty, in the shape of Prince Birabongse Bhanudej Bhanubandh. Known famously in racing circles as Prince Bira, he took it to fifth place – and best of the voiturette racers behind the German Silver Arrows from Auto Union and Mercedes-Benz – in the 1937 Donington Grand Prix.
For two decades, chassis 3011 lived and raced – in sinister black paintwork – in America, under the custodianship of Peter Giddins. Fortunately for British historic racing enthusiasts, the car came back to the UK in 2008, when Chris Jaques, of croquet fame and, interestingly, related to the Chakrabongse family, acquired it.
Now resplendent in one of Bira’s racing blue tones, the car is campaigned, on Jaques’ behalf, by experienced pedaller Rob Newall, who, unsurprisingly, eulogises at will about its poise, power and prowess.
“It’s wonderful, to look at – and drive!” the Dorset farmer says. “It’s a huge privilege to be allowed to use it, and at a place like Donington, with all that history, too…”
Pre-war Maserati boffins keen on detail will notice that it has a different radiator grille from other 8CMs.
“Yes,” says Newall. “That was commissioned by Whitney Straight in the 1930s, so it makes it unique and only serves to confirm its authenticity. No other 8CM looks like this at the front.”
Newall, who first raced 3011 in the 2008 Goodwood Revival, guided the car to 9th and 12th places in the two races for the Nuvolari Trophy, named after great pre-war Italian racer Tazio Nuvolari, thereby adding another bit of history to the remarkable life of this extraordinary racing car.
Join our motorsport community
Get closer to motorsport at Goodwood! Join the GRRC Fellowship to be first in the queue for event tickets, to attend the GRRC-only Members' Meeting and to enjoy year-round, exclusive benefits.