GRR

This Maserati 8CM Is Motorsport Royalty

04th May 2016
Henry Hope-Frost

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.

alfa_romeo_8cm_donington_historic_05051601.jpg
alfa_romeo_8cm_donington_historic_05051603.jpg
alfa_romeo_8cm_donington_historic_05051604.jpg
alfa_romeo_8cm_donington_historic_05051606.jpg
alfa_romeo_8cm_donington_historic_05051607.jpg
alfa_romeo_8cm_donington_historic_05051608.jpg
alfa_romeo_8cm_donington_historic_05051609.jpg
alfa_romeo_8cm_donington_historic_05051610.jpg
alfa_romeo_8cm_donington_historic_05051611.jpg
alfa_romeo_8cm_donington_historic_05051612.jpg
alfa_romeo_8cm_donington_historic_05051613.jpg
alfa_romeo_8cm_donington_historic_05051614.jpg
alfa_romeo_8cm_donington_historic_05051615.jpg
alfa_romeo_8cm_donington_historic_05051616.jpg
alfa_romeo_8cm_donington_historic_05051617.jpg
alfa_romeo_8cm_donington_historic_05051618.jpg
alfa_romeo_8cm_donington_historic_05051619.jpg
alfa_romeo_8cm_donington_historic_05051620.jpg
alfa_romeo_8cm_donington_historic_05051621.jpg
alfa_romeo_8cm_donington_historic_05051622.jpg

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.

alfa_romeo_8cm_donington_historic_05051602.jpg

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.

alfa_romeo_8cm_donington_historic_05051619.jpg

“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.

  • Donington Historic

  • Donington Historic 2016

  • 8CM

  • Maserati

  • donington_historic_tom_10051601.jpg

    Historic

    Gallery: Donington Historic Snapper's Selection – Tom Shaxson

  • bmw_e30_m3_donington_historic_05051611.jpg

    Historic

    This M3 Recalls Halcyon Days

  • bmw_3.0_csl_batmobile_31051608.jpg

    Historic

    Could This Be The Best BMW 'Batmobile' Of All?