1958 420M/58 (Eldorado)
Some might evidence the success of race cars through legendary wins, forward-thinking engineering or for the drivers who piloted them to glory. The Maserati 420/58 however, became a veritable icon due to its unique conception and its influence on the world of motorsport sponsorship.
Officially without a factory team after 1957, Maserati were commissioned by ice cream company Eldorado to run in the second and final edition of Race of Two Worlds at Monza 1958. Also known colloquially as Monzanapolis, the race pitched the best of American roadsters against top European manufacturers around the newly refurbished banks of Monza. Eldorado and Maserati’s partnership yielded what became the first example of a modern sponsorship deal in motorsport where the car was painted in the colours of the partner company rather than traditional national racing colours.
It also happened to be the first single-seater car in Europe to be sponsored by a brand not linked to the world of motorsport. Stirling Moss’ extensive experience in the 250F – from which the one-off, Eldorado-liveried 420M/58’s chassis was derived – made him an obvious driver choice for the race. The modified 4.2-litre 450S motor kicked out so much power and torque that a two-speed gearbox was all that was needed: one gear to leave the pits, the second to take it all the way up to 200+mph.
The event was split into three heats, with Stirling managing fourth in the first race, finishing ahead of all European cars and the only European entry to come close to touching the American teams. Heat two was also encouraging, with Moss battling for second amongst the American cars for most of the race.
Typical Maserati reliability dropped him back to fifth by the chequered flag but he again finished laps ahead of the other European cars. Unfortunately, Moss suffered steering failure 41 laps into heat three after pushing his Maserati up to fourth place. He crashed into the guard rails at the top of the banking in a 250km/h smash he called the scariest of his career. Whilst only managing a seventh overall Moss and Maserati had bettered the Jaguar D-Types that had taken Le Mans by storm and even the bespoke Ferrari entries.
However, it was the Eldorado sponsorship deal and livery that was the real revolution here, which inspired a stream of external investment into motorsport efforts and hundreds of iconic sponsor liveries. Perhaps you idolise the immortal Gulf-liveried 917? Maybe the JPS Lotus 72? Even the 555 Impreza? You have the Maserati 420M/58 to thank for these gorgeous designs.