Lifestyle

OSCA Winner


With its thoroughbred racing engines and nimble chassis, the 1965 OSCA 1600 GT Zagato was among the best-looking road/race cars of its era

Just before the outbreak of WWII, the Maserati brothers sold their company to industrialist Adolfo Orsi. Not long after the war was over, they decided their real interests lay in racing, and together they formed OSCA--short for the rather more cumbersome Officina Specializzata Costruzione Automobili Maserati.

A variety of racing endeavors followed--including an ambitious V12 Formula One project--but OSCAs shone in the smaller displacement classes. Frequent competitors in important races throughout Europe and America, they were driven by such notable pilots as Stirling Moss, Luigi Villoresi, and Prince Behra.

While producing a wide variety of two-seat racing cars--all clothed by local coachbuilders--OSCA was approached by Fiat to develop a larger version of OSCA's existing twin-cam engine for use in the 1500S sports car. Shortly afterward, OSCA decided to offer a street car and the natural engine choice was a 1,600-cc version of the engine developed for Fiat.

The job of designing the coachwork fell to Zagato. Two versions were built: a normal roof design, as well as one of the prettiest cars of the era, the so-called double bubble coupes. While certainly a dramatic styling element, the roof-top bubbles were also practical, adding inches of headroom and incorporating vents at the rear to keep cabin temperatures down during races.

These cars, with their thoroughbred racing engines and nimble chassis, were among the best-looking road/race cars of their time. This exceptional, unrestored and original example is a U.S.-delivery car. It had only two owners in America and has been part of an important private collection in Switzerland.

The car's all-alloy coachwork remains in excellent condition. Most of the paint is original; the interior is completely original and remarkably well-preserved. It comes with a U.S. title and a Swiss customs document.

The SCM Analysis

This car sold for $168,800 at the Sportscar Auction in Geneva, Switzerland, October 7, 2006.

Even if they hadn't been created by some of the better-known and most talented automotive engineers who ever lived, OSCA sports racers would rank high in the lists of the best post-war sports cars.

Building small-bore sports racers in the 750-cc, 1,100-cc, 1,500-cc, and two-liter classes, OSCAs began winning almost immediately. The high point is without a doubt the MT4 roadster, which achieved an overall victory in the 1954 12 Hours of Sebring race driven by Stirling Moss and Bill Lloyd.

Many well-known drivers did extremely well with the light, fast cars, which became the most successful 1,500-cc racers ever built. Today they easily bring nearly $500,000 as gilt-edged vintage racers and guaranteed event rides. OSCAs were clothed by the leading Italian carrozzerie and most looked as good as they went.

No one ever accused the Maserati brothers of not knowing how to build great cars--they just never figured out how to make it a business. It seemed quite logical to use the money from the Fiat engine deal to make a proper road car to sell in some numbers.

But as so often happens with small manufacturers, the timing wasn't quite right. Since OSCA was best at racing, it made sense that the new 1600 GT would also take to the track to enhance its reputation in the showroom. The 1600 GT was bodied by five different coachbuilders, with the most attractive and numerous being that of Zagato.

With four-wheel disc brakes, fully independent suspension, strong and light ladder tube frame, a smooth, flexible engine, and clothed in the iconic "double bubble" body, it should have been everything needed for success in racing and on the road.

Unfortunately, problems with homologation for both the track and street meant that deliveries were delayed almost two years. Although over a hundred examples were built, it never achieved the competition results expected and drove the company to the brink of closure.

The remaining brothers finally gave up in 1966, selling all their assets to MV-Agusta and retiring from the auto business. Although the 1600 GT has no real competition reputation, it is nevertheless a genuine product from the hands of the Maserati brothers, dressed in this case in attractive Zagato alloy coachwork, rare by road car standards and far more usable than the earlier sports racers.

This car, chassis #99, sold for $92,400 at the RM Auction at Monterey in August 2002 (SCM# 28863). I looked the car over during that preview and the condition as described in the Geneva catalog is very similar to that which I observed four years ago. It appeared to have most of its original paint and a nice patina to the interior.

It was interesting, in fact, that two OSCA 1600 Zagatos sold at Monterey that week. The other was a fully restored car, chassis #93, which was very well done but missing its rare original Amadori alloy wheels. It sold for $90,500 at the Bonhams & Butterfields Quail Lodge auction, a bit less than the scruffier #99.

A mere 135 km and seven months later, in March 2003, #93 appeared at the RM Auctions Amelia Island, Florida sale wearing the proper wheels. It realized $107,500. The $169,000 achieved in Geneva for #99 represents an 82% appreciation in 48 months.

Profiling chassis #99 in the December 2002 issue of SCM, my friend and colleague Raymond Milo lamented the low values the 1600 GT seemed to have. He wrote: "In my opinion these Zagato-bodied OSCAs should be worth more, as they are the only pure OSCA that can both be driven comfortably on the street and vintage-raced as well."

The price range listed in the 2007 SCM Price Guide reflects a growing market presence and I am pleased to see the Investment Rating going up to a "B". The price paid for this car in Geneva was huge, but still much less than the cost of just about every non-Fiat OSCA, and is another example of the continuing desirability of "original" cars. I would have to call this car appropriately priced.

Years Produced: 1961–65

Number Produced: 128 (98 by Zagato)

Original List Price: $7,000

SCM Valuation: $150,000–$175,000 (at time of print)

Tune-up Cost: $500

Distributor Caps: $30

Chassis #: IGM2636.OM 0099

Chassis # Location: By right front suspension pick-up point

Engine # Location: On block below carburetors

Club Info: Fiat OSCA Registry, 36 Maypole Dr., Chigwell, Essex, UK

Web Site: http://www.maseratinet.com

Alternatives: 1960–63 Porsche 356 S90, 1959–62 Fiat Abarth 1000 Bialbero, 1959–63 Lancia Flaminia Sport

Investment Grade: B


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