Picture the scene: it’s mid-May 1954 and you’re waiting by the finish line of the Circuito di Posillipo, a coastal racetrack just outside Naples. You’ve got a stopwatch in one hand, an Aperol Spritz in the other — and your hair has more oil in it than most of the nearby cars.
Suddenly, veering into sun-kissed view, a hot red sportster tears around the final bend and across the line. You click your stopwatch, see away the last of your spritz and confirm it; Maserati’s A6GCS has won the Grand Prix Napoli. It’s a momentous occasion; allow us to explain why.
Developed to compete in the World Sportscar Championship, the A6GCS started its story in the racing doldrums of World War II. Ernesto Maserati, fresh from the battlefields, conceived of a new sports racing car — powered by a naturally aspirated 2-litre single overhead-cam inline six-cylinder engine.
He named the car the A6, with the ‘A’ honouring his brother Alfieri, who died in 1932. And, while the project flourished into the A6 1500 road car, and the A6GCM was turned into a high-end racer, the A6GCS you see here became that rarest of automotive beasts; the all-round racer.
Comprehensively clothed in voluptuous Barchetta coachwork designed by Fantuzzi, only 52 of these sweeping racers were ever built — and competed on tracks from Caserta to Giro dell’ Umbria. The engineering and design attracted the era’s most famous drivers, including Juan Manuel Fangio, Roy Salvadori, and the Marquis de Portago.
It also tore onto the international racing scene, becoming the 1953 Italian champion in the 2-litre Sports Class, as well as the 1954 Italian champion in the International Sports Class. But the pinnacle of Maserati’s motoring power came in 1954, when it placed first in class at the Giro di Sicilia, scored a third place finish at the Mille Miglia and a second at the Targa Florio. And, in mid-May, victory came at the aforementioned Circuito di Posillipo.
Still admired for its nimble handling, torquey delivery, and friendly, easy-to-use nature, the Maserati A6GCS is today heralded as one of the cars that changed motorsport forever. Finally, here was an Italian motor that could not only blast its way around a Grand Prix track, but also tackle a hill climb head on and hold its own during a 10-hour endurance race.
And this particular model — that got the better of Scuderia Ferrari’s own 500 Mondial, and was raced by Luigi and Giuseppe Musso at the gruelling 10 Hours of Messina — is now up for auction at RM Sotheby’s. But, although the engine and bodywork have been meticulously restored, the historic significance of this A6GCS is as strongly in tact as when it raced across that 1954 finish line.
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