‘THE CAR WAS ALL OVER THE ROAD. IT WAS SPECTACULAR’
GRR Maserati centenary tour part two: Sean Danaher, restorer
If ever you wanted to know what’s involved in restoring a classic racing Maserati, then you are in the right place. Meet Sean Danaher – a man who has worked on Maseratis for longer than the Maserati brothers worked on them – in this the second leg of our centenary tour by Quattroporte GTS…
‘I have been hooked on Maserati since I was seven years old,’ says Sean Danaher. ‘I was at Silverstone in 1956 when the track was really bumpy, and I watched Nobby Spero trying to control his 8CM. The car was all over the road. It was spectacular. Then the following year Fangio won the championship in the 250F. Maserati has been my marque ever since.’
Scalextric models of Maseratis turned into the real thing when the mechanical engineering graduate turned his back on a corporate career – ‘I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life as a junior director’ – in order to start his own Maserati (and Bugatti) restoration business with his wife Laura. That was 1979. Since then around 80 Maserati racing cars, around a third of the original population, have been through the workshop of Sean Danaher Restorations Ltd near Cambridge. He has worked on Maseratis now for longer than the Maserati brothers worked on them.
Sean is nothing if not hands-on – as well as running the company, he builds all the engines. Just one can take 18 months to ‘get up to scratch’. Restoration of a whole car for Sean can be a three-year project.
‘The engines are the biggest challenge,’ he says. ‘In the late 1950s a lot of these cars fell into disuse because the monobloc engines cracked, and repair was very complicated and very expensive. We have had to make all the cylinder block castings.
‘That’s the biggest challenge of Maserati restoration – that and the fact that the factory used the owners as development drivers, trying out lots of changes. The result is parts are very individual to each car, not just the model type, so you can’t just change them over. There’s a lot of skill needed in fitting and assembly.’
The good news, says Sean, is that the racing Masers don’t rely on a lot of technical equipment for their assembly, which suits him: ‘Being a qualified engineer I love toolroom jobs and the proper, hand-made nature of the cars. In a Maserati you get a combination of artistry, design and engineering quality.’
Sean owns, and races, two of the greats, both of which he restored: a 6CM from 1938 and the amazing 3.0-litre straight-eight powered 8CM of 1934, though not the actual car that had hooked him as a boy. But then as now, ‘250bhp in a relatively crude chassis is still the height of excitement.’
No prizes for guessing his road car. It’s a Maserati Quattroporte MkV – the sensational looking Pininfarina car that really put the big four-door back on the map when it came out in 2004. Sean also has a rare Maserati motorcycle.
NEXT TIME: The trident badge… on two wheels?
LAST TIME: The Maserati racer
Photos: David Edmund-Jones