I’m sure most of you have heard of the Maserati Tipo 61, the Birdcage. A front engined, 2.9 4-pot race car that was highly successful, winning the Nürburgring 1000 km twice. The name Birdcage came from it’s intricate multi-tubular space frame concept. This multi-tubular construction produced a light weight and rigid chassis that was a significant competitive advantage for a racing car. You can see pieces of that frame clearly underneath that windscreen of the Tipo 61:
This post however is on it’s successor, the Tipo 63 Muletto. Last week I told about Ferrari’s first MR-attempt at Le Mans with the 250P, this week we’ll show Maserati’s first usage of a mid-rear engined concept. And yet, it’s terribly close in concept with that Birdcage. Why?
Because, essentially, and I’m sure I’m putting this way too simple, Maserati took that multi-tubular construction and swapped the engine’s and driver’s position. At first it even got the same 4 cylinder engine but this one was very quickly replaced by a V12 (derived from the 250F Formula 1 car), not in the last place for reducing vibrations that caused the rear end of the frame (a frame of about 200 (!!!) small aluminum tubes welded together!) to rattle to oblivion.
Maserati used this mid engined concept two years before Ferrari used it in the 250P: in 1961 they entered three of these in the Le Mans 24 hours. They (Briggs Cunningham) also took an old Tipo 60 and that actually didn’t perform all that bad finishing 8th. With a 2.0 engine so it doesn’t come as a surprise that most cars in front of the Tipo 60 were from the 3.0 class.
The Tipo 63 however wasn’t all that successful. Best result in the ‘61 Le Mans was 4th but knowing there was only 1 car from the same 3.0 class that finished behind it. The rest of the 3.0 class simply couldn’t cope with the long 24 hours. As didn’t the other 2 Tipo 63s.
Success doesn’t only come by wins or finishes on Le Mans though but maybe the sheer amount of produced cars says anything. Seven. Two of those were given chassis number 63.002. Why? Because both were constructed for Briggs Cunningham, and one was a SWB and the other a LWB. Still no reason to reuse a chassis number so it is to be believed this may have been done to avoid import duties imposed by the United States.
It was successful in another way: All of the Maserati Tipo 63 models are accounted for and exist today. And, it has been featured in a film and even made an appearance in Elvis Presley’s Viva Las Vegas. And Maserati was the first to install a mid-ship V12 in a sports car, that’s a success on it’s own I suppose.
Quick summary on the Tipo 63: It was a very quick car able to achieve speeds of 180 mph but it suffered from handling issues. Main issue though was the lack of serious development work. Mainly because of financial constraints meaning the Tipo 63 never achieved its true potential. The fact no factory team existed and all the Le Mans teams were actually privateers says it all I suppose.
The model of the Tipo 63 is a Leo Models in 1/43 scale. The wheels make it easy to tell it ain’t a premium brand, I’ve put it next to a Minichamps 1/43 Birdcage. Let’s focus on the wheels on that one:
Wow. These might be the best spoked wheels on any of my 1/43s. It’s three times the price of a Leo Models though.
But all this Leo definitely does for me is make clear I’d like to have a more upmarket cast of this Muletto.
And that’ll be all for today. I’m glad Leo Models made this all but significant car. Okay, significant as it somehow made clear MR was the way to go, even for big V12s.