The kind of car that gets you weak in the knees when you lay eyes on it

Maserati’s 200S, 300S, and 450S proved the once-great Maserati factory could still play with the big boys on any turf in the World Sports Car Championship but it was the unassuming, yet painfully gorgeous, A6GCS from 1953 that announced Maserati’s mid-50s sports car onslaught.

Part of the A6 family of models that dates back to the ’40s, the A6GCS was powered by a 170 horsepower engine at first. Only 52 were ever built and this particular example finished third overall in the 1954 Mille Miglia.

Italy was once at the top of the world in sports car racing. Following decades of dominance in the world of Grand Prix racing, Italian manufacturers rebounded after the war to focus on sports cars - Alfa’s F1-winning 158s and 159s aside - and it proved to be a fructuous period for the likes of Ferrari, Maserati, and Lancia.

While the Prancing Horse is still around making the world's most revered supercars and hypercars, as well as competing in GT racing and F1, Maserati and Lancia are well past their prime.

As such, cars like the voluptuous while equally docile A6GCS in its Fantuzzi body serves as proof that the Trident was, more than half a century ago, the symbol of a proud company that gathered trophies all over the world, battling with the world’s finest. Think of this next time you spot a Levante or that godawful sedan treasonously named Ghibli.

Exterior

  • Simplistic, yet gorgeous styling
  • Grille features the Maserati trident
  • Pair of headlights complete the stubby nose
  • Body designed by Fantuzzi
  • Built in conjunction by Fantuzzi and Fiandri & Malagoli
  • Side pipes make ingress and egress a bit difficult
  • The low windshield barely protects anyone from the elements
  • Some examples came with a tonneau cover and a hump behind the driver’s head
1954 Maserati A6GCS by Fiandri & Malagoli Exterior
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No wings, no dive planes, no snorkels that suck air and send it to the engine bay, no side pods, and no intricate venturi tunnels carved into the otherwise flat underbelly.

Back in the ’50s, many racing cars were built without the use of a wind tunnel, designers using their gut to guide them through the process with the basic idea that a car has to be ’slippery’ to be fast.

With the low drag coefficient being, by and large, the only worry of designers around that time, it’s no wonder many of the cars created then suffer from sketchy handling characteristics. That’s not to say undersized drum brakes and thin tires helped the matter, but, in earnest, the aero revolution started towards the end of the ’60s, Porsche first coming to Le Mans with a long tail on its 906 sports car in ’66, the same year that Chaparral debuted the 2E Can-Am racer with its high-rising variable-angle wing.

1954 Maserati A6GCS by Fiandri & Malagoli Exterior
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The flip side in all of this is that most 50s sports cars are stupendously beautiful to look at.

Those bulging, curved arches hugging chunky tires that wrap around sumptuous knock-off wire wheels, the tiny doors and windshields that act as the slightest suggestion of practicality and road-worthiness (all of these cars were road-registered, after all), and the sheer simplicity of the lines as a whole is what we lack nowadays. Take this Maserati A6GCS. Its stubby nose and flowing rear deck is something that Aston Martin has tried too, albeit a bit later with the BR1, and it just looks so good.

That’s not to say Maserati’s later efforts, the 300S and 450S with their long noses and headlights enclosed by glass covers aren’t gorgeous, but the AGCS surely deserves a spot among Maserati’s prettiest cars, both this Fantuzzi-penned open-top ’Spider’ and the much rarer Berlinetta examples of which just four were built with a body conceived by Pinin Farina’s Aldo Bravo commissioned by Rome dealer Guglielmo Dei who’d ordered no less than six A6GCS/54 chassis from Maserati.

1954 Maserati A6GCS by Fiandri & Malagoli Exterior
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In the front, the A6GCS is remarkably featureless.

The stubby front overhangs end abruptly, its flat face only big enough for a rounded grille and a pair of headlights perched on the tall fenders. The grille features three bars positioned at different angles on either side of the frame that incircles the Maserati crest.

Checking out a number of A6GCS examples is a revealing experience as you’ll notice the variety of grille designs. While the general shape of the grille is the same - with rounded edges and the top bit slightly more pointy than the flat lower edge - the mesh itself differs greatly. There are A6s with vertical bars and a much smaller trident in the middle and some only sport one single bar on either side of the trident. Those with fewer bars usually come with an extra pair of lights behind the grille for long-distance endurance races that go into the night.

The Maserati badge is placed higher still, on the edge of the nose as it plummets down. The racing number is painted just above it, crossing the hood of the car. As weird as it may seem nowadays, the racing numbers were hand-painted in those days with removable paint and some restorers go as far as to hand-paint the numbers on some restored historic racers for added authenticity, instead of applying decals. The hood lacks any bulge or air vent, only featuring a pair of safety pins.

1954 Maserati A6GCS by Fiandri & Malagoli Exterior
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The nose narrows down towards the center, exposing the front tires below the headlights. This is a common design feature among '50s sports cars.

The double-bubble windscreen is held in place by a host of rivets. The windshield itself is just tall enough to clear the steering wheel and the center-mounted rear-view mirror. The driver of this A6 can also make use of a small, circular rear-view mirror positioned to his left, behind the windshield. There’s no exterior mirror on the passenger’s side.

While the lack of nonsense and any sort of add-ons around the front fascia give you an idea of this car’s purposefulness, it’s when you view it from its side that you really begin to appreciate how focused it is in its design, how it was created to do one job and one job only. You see how the lower edge of the body raises to go around the exhaust pipes that exit from the sides of the engine, aft of the front wheels and end just before the rear wheel arches.

1954 Maserati A6GCS by Fiandri & Malagoli Exterior
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You see how the fenders themselves are just tall enough to clear those Pirelli Cinturato tires that wrap neatly around the classy Borrani spokes.

Another thing you notice is that the headlights with their chromed frame add to the car's length. They are literally bolted onto the edge of the body, somewhat ruining the flow of the design.

However, they don’t add any edge and that’s what awesome about cars from this era: they are the polar opposite of the boxy, flared warriors from the ’70s and ’80s. It’s all about continuous, flowing, uninterrupted lines with these ’50s sports racers and that you can also appreciate towards the back. The edge of the rear wheel wells continues towards the back, slashing and defining the shape of the curved rear fascia.

Another thing that’s interesting is that the A6GCS sports a pair of exhaust pipes that come out on the driver’s side and that’s it, there’s none on the passenger’s side. The car’s small doors actually have handles on the outside and, on the passenger’s side, there’s even an extra compartment in between the front wheel well and the door. It’s there, maybe, that the fusebox has been placed as it’s not under the dash or on the dash as in the case of other ’50s sports cars - although this would be highly impractical.

1954 Maserati A6GCS by Fiandri & Malagoli Exterior
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Going back to the point about analyzing a number of A6GCSs, the differences aren’t only centered around the grille in the front. Even the doors differ. The A6GCS sold via RM/Sotheby’s six years ago, an example that spent its life racing Stateside, features narrower doors that are closer to the rear wheel wells than the slightly bigger doors on this ex-Works car. Maybe the factory’s drivers requested bigger doors although, given the car’s ultra-low profile, the drivers would simply jump aboard and not bother with the whole process of opening and closing the door following the always frantic Le Mans-style start that was in place at the time in many long-distance races.

In the back, the A6GCS is barren. There are two, tiny taillights positioned on either side of the curvaceous tail, the red plastic cover held in place by a pair of screws.

In the middle, there’s a chromed cover that hosts a light meant to illuminate the number plate which this car lacks. The filler cap is located on the right-hand side, favoring clockwise-running circuits which is how most circuits are run in the world.

1954 Maserati A6GCS by Fiandri & Malagoli exterior dimensions
Length 151.18 inches
Width 60.23 inches
Height 33.85 inches
Wheelbase 90.9 inches

Interior

  • Very basic
  • Made to fit two passengers
  • Huge steering wheel with wooden rim
  • Water and oil dials behind the wheel
  • Big tachometer in the middle of the dash
  • Beautiful short-throw gated shifter in between seats
  • Spare wheel in the trunk, held in place by leather straps
1954 Maserati A6GCS by Fiandri & Malagoli Interior
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Six screws located around the Maserati-badged center cap. That's all that keeps the A6GCSs steering wheel in place.

With three spokes that connect to a metal rim that features a wooden surround, the wheel is ready to be jerked from left to right with certain levels of ferocity by the man behind the wheel without falling apart. While these cars have to be treated with respect and handled with consummate precision, there have been many a talented driver that have become notorious for their abusive driving styles and designers must take this into account when conceiving a car, for better or for worse.

The driver faces, besides the sizeable wheel, a simplistic dash covered in a slick black material riveted to the aluminum body of the car. There are just two, small Jaeger gauges behind the wheel. To the left, you’ve got the water pressure gauge and to the right, you’ll see the one for oil pressure. There’s an idiot light just above the steering column, presumably there to let you know when to upshift.

1954 Maserati A6GCS by Fiandri & Malagoli Interior
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Below the small gauge on the right, you'll find a bunch of switches and knobs, all lined up.

In between the oil pressure gauge and the much bigger tachometer, there’s the ignition key and yet another knob, maybe for the fuel pump. A Maserati emblem on a blue background with gold lettering embellishes the passenger’s side of the dash.

The shifter comes right out of the transmission tunnel through a cheeky, chromed gate featuring a small lever. The shifter is quite short compared to other ’50s sports cars, but this means you can shift minutely quicker due to the short throws through the gears.

The pedal box is simplistic, placed in the narrowing driver’s footwell (narrow because of the transmission tunnel). Besides the three pedals, there’s also an extra pedal to the left that sticks out from the side of the footwell which was placed there so that the driver could rest his foot at times, unusual for a car with a clutch.

1954 Maserati A6GCS by Fiandri & Malagoli Interior
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With just a pair of bucket seats, the A6GCS is no people-hauler but, hey, you can still take one friend with you for the ride of a lifetime.

The leather-wrapped seats come with modern harnesses for added protection but there’s still no headrest nor any roll bar or roll hoop. In short, if you happen to roll the A6GCS, you’re at the mercy of the gods if the car doesn’t land back on its wheels.

Drivetrain

  • DOHC, 2.0-liter inline-six
  • Engine designed during WW2 as SOHC
  • Three Weber 40 DCO3 carbs
  • Steel tubular frame
  • aluminum body
  • Independent front suspension
  • live rear axle
  • 170 horsepower at 7,300 rpm
  • Dry-sump lubrication
  • Weighs just 1,631 pounds, 400 pounds less than 20-year-old Elise
  • Three times lighter than a Maserati Levante
1954 Maserati A6GCS by Fiandri & Malagoli Drivetrain
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As one of the last evolutions of Maserati’s A6 series of models, the A6GCS (where ’CS’ stands for ’Corsa Sport’, as opposed to the ’CM’ model which was the F2-bound ’Corsa Monoposto’ version) comprises years of technical developments by Maserati which had been hard at works since right after WW2 designing a 2.0-liter engine.

There's nothing on the A6GCS that's groundbreaking, however, but it was this car that laid the foundation for Maserati's future sports cars that were arguably the company's best.

The A6 GCS is underpinned by a tubular chassis that was manufactured by Gilco, a company also contracted by Ferrari. The chassis itself comprises of two main steel tubes, each three inches in diameter, that sweep inward towards the front end and then go up and over the rear suspension assembly. There are two main cross members in the center of the chassis, with a box-section cross member in the front, joined at the top by another tube. A subsidiary framework of tubes is welded to this basic structure and forms the basis of the body framing and bulkhead.

1954 Maserati A6GCS by Fiandri & Malagoli Exterior
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In the front, suspension is by double wishbones, helical springs, hydraulic Houdaille dampers, and an anti-roll bar. This fully independent setup is not replicated in the back where you find quarter-elliptic leaf springs supporting the rigid axle that connects to radius rods with Houdaille dampers, and, again, an anti-roll bar. Hydraulically assisted drum brakes hide behind each wire wheel with 12.9-inch drums in the front and 11.4-inch drums in the rear. Steering is by rack-and-pinion on some cars, while others come with the worm gear variety.

The engine, the beating heart of any automobile, is the A6 Testa Riporta 2.0-liter, naturally aspirated mill.

With a capacity of just 2.0-liters and a compression ratio between 8.5:1 and 8.8:1, the engine put out no more than 170 horsepower at 7,300 rpm. Three Weber 40 DCO3 carbs feed the DOHC, 12-valve engine that’s water-cooled with dry-sump lubrication - with scavenge pumps and a single oil cooler.

1954 Maserati A6GCS by Fiandri & Malagoli Drivetrain
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170 horsepower is not a lot by today’s standards given a basic Honda Civic comes paired with a 158-horsepower 2.0-liter, inline-four engine that sends power to the wheels through a CVT transmission or a six-speed manual. The Maserati, on the other hand, has to make do with a four-speed manual.

1954 Maserati A6GCS by Fiandri & Malagoli specifications
Engine 2.0-liter, naturally aspirated, DOHC, 12-valve Maserati A6 inline-six with a cast alloy block and cast iron liners
Bore x stroke 3.02 x 2.83 inches
Fuel feed Three Webber 40 DCO3 carburetors
Lubrication Dry sump
Compression ratio 8.5:1
Output 170 horsepower at 7,300 rpm and 148 pound-feet of torque
Suspension Independent in the front with double wishbones, helical springs, hydraulic Houdaille dampers, and an anti-roll bar and a rigid axle in the back with quarter-elliptic leaf springs, radius rods, Houdaille dampers, and an anti-roll bar
Transmission Four-speed manual
Brakes Hydraulically assisted drums all around
Steering rack-and-pinion
Performance Top speed 145 mph
0-60 mph  11.5 seconds
Weight 1,631 pounds

Prices

1954 Maserati A6GCS by Fiandri & Malagoli Exterior
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In all, Maserati built just 52 A6GCSs between 1953 and 1955.

48 of these ended up being open-top Spyders and most were built by Fantuzzi and Fiandri & Malagoli, although there’s also a Frua-bodied example out there. Given the scarcity of this model, prices are sky-high. The other Fantuzzi-bodied A6GCS we mentioned in this article was said to fetch in excess of $2.9 million and that was back in 2013 for a car that’d never been raced by the factory.

This car, however, was entered by the factory a number of times and the price estimate reflects that with a high estimate of $3.75 million. Another Fantuzzi-bodied car did not sell back in 2013 at Pebble Beach despite someone bidding $2.2 million for it. The unique Frua car, meanwhile, did sell around that same time for $2.6 million. In other words, you should be prepared to spend the equivalent of about three F40s if you plan to add an A6GCS to your stable.

History

1954 Maserati A6GCS by Fiandri & Malagoli
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Maserati's roots stretch all the way back to 1914 when the four Maserati brothers established the company in Bologna, Italy.

Alfieri Maserati was the head of the company, which is why it was known as ’Officine Alfieri Maserati’, a name that was retained even after Alfieri’s passing, the racing team entering its cars under this banner well into the ’50s.

Alfieri was also the chief test driver and designer and all of his pre-WW2 designs incorporated supercharged engines. But the marque’s trademark would fall by the wayside after Alfieri’s untimely death in 1932 when he was having surgery to regain some of the mobility lost after a brutal crash in 1927 that left him with extensive injuries. The tough blow caused by the loss of Alfieri was only worsened by the state of the global economy.

1954 Maserati A6GCS by Fiandri & Malagoli Exterior
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To avoid capsizing, the boutique race car manufacturer that had built barely any road cars in its early years up to that point became part of the Orsi Group of companies owned by the ultra-wealthy Orsi family.

Ernesto Maserati, who’d taken over the reins, agreed to a 10-year extension to all existing employment contracts at the time when the contract between Orsi and Maserati was signed, in 1937. This allowed the company to keep afloat and keep active during the tough years of WW2 when it switched to making machine tools in support of Italy’s war effort.

In the midst of all this, Ernesto was working on the side on an engine that he’d been dreaming of for some time, a naturally aspirated unit unlike all of the supercharged ones that’d come before it. Originally devised with a capacity of 1.5-liters and a cast-iron block, Ernesto decided upon a 2.0-liter displacement in 1944. With all the groundwork already in place, it wasn’t one of the Maserati brothers that actually built these engines and put them in a post-War Maserati.

Ernesto and his brothers deflected to form O.S.C.A. in 1947 and, as a result, Alberto Massimino is credited with the final design work on both the 1.5-liter and the 2.0-liter versions of the A6G powerplant.

1954 Maserati A6GCS by Fiandri & Malagoli Drivetrain
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The name of the engine and the car that it would end up powering refers to Alfieri (the 'A' in the name), the inline six-cylinder layout (the '6' in the name), and the use of iron for the engine block (the 'G' in the name, referring to the Italian 'ghisa' or iron)

.

Ernesto Maserati came up with the name while working on the project and it stuck even after the brothers had left the company they helped establish.

By 1952, Maserati had already rolled out a variety of models powered by the A6 engine including its first two civilian offerings, the A6 1500 introduced in 1947 that was in production up until 1950, and the A6G 2000, effectively the replacement of the A6 1500. At the time of the 1500’s introduction, Maserati also started racing the A6GCS, a two-seater sports car derived from 1946’s A6 Sport, the first Maserati to feature this engine while Ernesto was still working for Maserati, alongside Massimino.

1954 Maserati A6GCS by Fiandri & Malagoli Drivetrain
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The year 1952 is important because it was then that Massimino left Maserati for Stanguellini and was replaced by Gioacchino Colombo.

In hindsight, the switch bolstered Maserati’s technical department as Colombo was the man behind Ferrari’s venerable V-12 that would be improved first by Aurelio Lampredi, Colombo’s replacement at Ferrari, and then by Mauro Forgheri who enrolled later on in the ’60s.

Shortly after arriving at its new employer, Colombo got to work, reshuffling the A6’s recipe in order to make it competitive (the original A6GCS was underpowered at 120 horsepower). Right off the bat, the original Corsa Sport chassis designed in 1947 was deemed obsolete and, to replace it, Colombo enlarged the chassis of the A6GCM, the 2.0-liter Formula 2 single-seater he’d already designed.

1954 Maserati A6GCS by Fiandri & Malagoli Drivetrain
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Next in line for an overhaul was the engine.

Colombo decided that an over-square bore/stroke ratio was needed (big bore, short stroke) and, on top of that, dual cam actuation replaced the original OHV layout. The larger bore would allow for new, bigger valves while the shorter stroke increased engine rpm. A second spark plug per cylinder was also added and, by then, the block and crankcase were already made of cast aluminum alloy.

After sorting out the oily bits, Maserati commissioned Medardo Fantuzzi’s shop to build the aluminum the envelope-style, single-piece barchetta bodies that were fashionable compared to the outdated cycle-fender design portrayed on 1947’s A6GCS (you can also see a similar approach on Ferrari’s 166 Inter Spyder Corsa from 1948).

At first, the new car was marketed as the ’Maserati Sport 2000’ although it’s nowadays better known as the A6GCS/53.

1954 Maserati A6GCS by Fiandri & Malagoli Exterior
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A total of 52 were built in just two years, not too shabby for a boutique manufacturer that was in the business of selling customer cars, factory racing being of lesser importance before the 300S was introduced.

Maserati knew that the A6GCS was hardly a match for bigger cars like Jaguar’s C-Type (even before the C-Type was fitted with the revolutionary Dunlop disc brakes) despite the fact that Maserati’s offering boasted a better power-to-weight ratio. As such, Maserati focused its Works-backed efforts on local events in Italy including the Mille Miglia and the Targa Florio, both part of the World Sports Car Championship.

Given that there was a growing demand for sports cars across the Atlantic, Maserati also began to contest the 12 Hours of Sebring but it was in its native land that the A6GCS made the biggest splash.

In all, 38 of the 52 cars built were originally sold to Italian clients and they would go on to finish second and third overall at the Targa Florio as well as win the 12 Hours of Pescara besides victories at Caserta, Avellino, and the Giro dell’ Umbria.

Luigi Musso, Sergio Mantovani, Cesare Perdisa, and Maria Teresa de Filippis were just some of the famous drivers that pedaled an A6GCS in period, some reaching F1 shortly after their tenure behind the wheel of Maserati’s sports cars. Musso made a name for himself behind the wheel of the A6GCS particularly, winning the 1953 Italian Championship in the 2-liter Sports Class, as well as the 1954 Italian Championship in the International Sports Class. Less than two years later, Musso was winning the Argentine Grand Prix alongside Sergio Mantovani and Harry Schell, driving a Lancia-Ferrari D50A.

1954 Maserati A6GCS by Fiandri & Malagoli Exterior
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The car you see here is the car Musso drove often during his 1954 assault on the International Sports Class of Italy's national road racing series.

It’s chassis #2078, the 25th A6GCS/53 built, completed in March of 1954. Musso was prodigious that year in sports car racing, finishing at the sharp end of his class at the Giro di Sicilia before claiming a third-place finish at the Mille Miglia, a victory at the Naples Grand Prix, and, even more spectacularly, a second overall at the Targa Florio.

These results helped Maserati in the 1954 World Sports Car Championship as both Targa Florio and the Mille Miglia were part of the six-race calendar. At year’s end, Maserati would be fifth in the standings, behind O.S.C.A. (which scored an upset win at Sebring) but ahead of both Porsche and Cunningham, with Aston Martin also behind.

Having said all that, Musso most likely didn’t drive chassis #2078 to score his most famous results in ’54. According to Maserati historian Adolfo Orsi, a descendant of the Orsi family, this particular example was apparently first raced in July of 1954 when it contested the 10 Hours of Messina. Thereafter, Musso won the Giro di Calabria accompanied by brother Giuseppe and also the Senigallia round in August. By then, Ferrari had debuted its own 2.0-liter sports car, the 500 Mondial but to no avail, as Musso had the measure of Maranello’s first customer-oriented sports car.

1954 Maserati A6GCS by Fiandri & Malagoli Exterior
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Musso and Mantovani, future partners in Ferrari’s victory in Argentina (you could share cars in F1 back then and the points would be split evenly between each driver who took the wheels during a GP), shared this A6GCS to win the S2.0-liter class in the RAC Tourist Trophy around the hedges of Dundrod Autodrome. The two paints gathered after this impressive class win helped Maserati to beat Porsche in the final standings. Cesare Perdisa ended chassis #2078 in the factory’s hands at the Bologna-Passo della Raticosa hill climb where he finished second overall, only bettered by a few scant seconds by Lancia’s Eugenio Castellotti.

Following the end of 1954, Maserati sold the car and it ended up in the extensive roaster of the President Peron Racing Team in Argentina.

Entered by this outfit, it finished third overall and first in class in the first round of the 1955 World Sports Car Season, the 1,000-kilometer race in Buenos Aires. Thereafter, the car would contest the race in ’56 and ’57 but it never won its class again and it didn’t perform brilliantly in local events either, owing to its age.

Competition

1954 Porsche 550 RS Spyder

1955 - 1956 Porsche 550 Spyder High Resolution Exterior
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The 550 was the first mid-engined Porsche and the company’s first out-and-out racing car. Inspired by the work of the Gloeckler racing team that was racing a mid-engined Porsche prototype developed with some engineering help from Ferry Porsche himself, the 550 was just one of Porsche’s many projects. At least at first. Looking at Porsche’s own records, we notice that Type 549 was a design pitch for a truck transmission and Type 551 was a three-speed gearbox for use in cars.

The first 15 550 Spyders built were retained by the factory for testing purposes, as well as racing under the banner of the factory team. Each of them was built by hand, making use of VW’s parts bin as well as whatever fit from the 356. The 550 debuted in May of 1953 at the grueling Nurburgring-Nordschleife where, in awful conditions, the 550s roared to a 1-2 victory, the winning car racing without its hardtop.

A 1-2 win at Le Mans duly followed despite there being a number of better developed OSCAs on the grid competing in the S1.5-liter class. At first, a pushrod engine was fitted to the car but, before long, Ernst Fuhrmann’s Type 547 1.5-liter, four-cam race engine was drafted in and proved phenomenal. After Porsche’s outright victory in the 1954 edition of ’La Carrera Panamericana’, Furhmann’s DOHC, eight-valve, boxer-four was known as the ’Carrera’ engine.

1955 - 1956 Porsche 550 Spyder High Resolution Exterior
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U.S. Porsche importer Max Hoffmann pushed Porsche to build more 550s, sure that a fast, mid-engined, open-top Porsche would be a hit with affluent West Coast customers and he was right, despite the fact that Porsche never really bothered to make the 550 a docile car. It was and it still is a race car, not a road car.

Wendler built all of the 33 cars that were dispatched to America. They were part of a 69-car batch built after Porsche introduced the updated 550 RS in 1954. It was Hoffmann who added the word ’Spyder’ to the back of each 550 RS to make it an easier sell. By scoring victories around the globe - both overall and in class -, the 550 cemented Porsche’s name in the world of racing. Over the years, the ’Giant Killer’ claimed class or overall honors at Goodwood, the Nurburgring, Le Mans, the Targa Florio, Berlin’s Avus, Sebring, and Buenos Aires. Nowadays, a genuine 550 RS Spyder will set you back at least $3 million.

It’s noteworthy that the 550 RS Spyder was, oftentimes, raced against the A6GCS but the two never competed in the same class at the international level since the Maserati was powered by a bigger engine. However, Porsche’s midship layout made it a more maneuverable car and that’s why the two are comparable, with the Porsche edging ahead of both the A6GCS and its replacement, the 200S in the long run.

Read our full review on the 1954 Porsche 550 RS Spyder

1954 Ferrari 500 Mondial

1954 Ferrari 500 Mondial Spyder PF Owned By Porfirio Rubirosa Restored By Ferrari Classiche Department Exterior
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Ferrari’s desire to come with an alternative to the big, lazy V-12s developed by Colombo was, first and foremost, at the core of its phenomenally successful 1952 and 1953 F1 campaigns. One year before the factory rolled out the diminutive 500 F2, engineer Aurelio Lampredi was readying a 2.5-liter four-pot that was conceived with sports car racing in mind.

Lampredi was tasked with creating a four-cylinder engine as the bigger V-12s needed a lot more physical room to stretch their legs. In other words, a four-pot engine delivers all of its available torque at a lower rpm band meaning it’s ideally suited for road races such as the Mille Miglia and the Targa Florio. In terms of power delivery, the situation is somewhat even. For instance, a 375 Plus equipped with a roaring 5.0-liter V-12 puts out 325 horsepower at 6,000 rpm while the 500 Mondial’s max output of 170 horsepower is available at 7,000 rpm. So, in essence, it was all about mid-range and top-end torque.

That first 2.5-liter mill that debuted in 1951 was good for 200 horsepower, enough oomph to allow Alberto Ascari to string an unprecedented nine wins between June of 1952 and July of 1953. In all, Ascari alone won 11 times in those two seasons to clinch a pair of Driver’s Titles while Taruffi, Hawthorn, and Farina also won one race each.

The F1 World Championship reverted to F1 rules instead of F2 rules, that’d been in effect in the previous two seasons following Alfa Romeo’s unexpected discontinuation of its F1 program, in 1954. That year, Ferrari finally offered a four-cylinder engine in a sports car meant for its race-going clientele.

1954 Ferrari 500 Mondial Spyder PF Owned By Porfirio Rubirosa Restored By Ferrari Classiche Department
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With each cylinder displacing almost 500 cubic centimeters, the model was christened 500 Mondial, as a tribute to Ascari’s two world titles. In hindsight, such recognition coming from Ferrari might seem strange given that Ascari himself cut ties with Maranello to join the underfunded Lancia team for 1954 after disagreeing with Enzo on financial matters.

According to Ferrari.com, the first Mondial "was built by a young coachbuilder from Modena called Scaglietti and was inspired by a design created by Dino Ferrari to freshen up the look of the old 166 given to him by his father." Later on, it was Pinin Farina that built the bodies of the 15 500 Mondials sold to customers. The engine in each one of them was a detuned, 170 horsepower version of the 500 F2’s 2.0-liter mill.

The whole car weighed just under 1,600 pounds and, thanks to a De Dion rear axle, it was quite handy through the twisty bits for a front-engined ’50s sports car on bias-ply tires. As you’d expect, the 500 Mondial is more expensive than the Maserati with an unrestored example tipped to fetch as much as $7 million during the RM/Sotheby’s New York sale in 2015.

Read our full review on the 1954 Ferrari 500 Mondial

Conclusion

1954 Maserati A6GCS by Fiandri & Malagoli Exterior
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The Maserati A6GCS was Maserati's stepping stone in international sports car racing.

From its humble beginnings with the 1947 A6GCS, Officine Alfieri Maserati proved it could go head-to-head and fight with the world’s best, be it Ferrari, Lancia, Aston Martin, Jaguar or Porsche. While not always victorious, the A6GCS was successful in the sort of races that played to its strengths and it would only get better for Maserati in the future as the marque narrowly missed on Le Mans glory but won the 12 Hours of Sebring outright within three years of the A6GCS’ introduction.

  • Leave it
    • It’s already very expensive
    • Not as desirable, however, as a Ferrari
    • Later Maserati sports cars are more famous
Michael Fira
Associate Editor and Motorsport Expert - fira@topspeed.com
Mihai Fira started out writing about long-distance racing like the famous 24 Hours of Le Mans. As the years went by, his area of interest grew wider and wider and he ever branched beyond the usual confines of an automotive writer. However, his heart is still close to anything car-related and he's most at home retelling the story of some long-since-forgotten moment from the history of auto racing. He'll also take time to explain why the cars of the '60s and '70s are more fascinating than anything on the road today.  Read More
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