This is the world’s most famous sports-racing OSCA. Its four-cylinder d.o.h.c. engine displaces just 1 ½ liters. Its developed horsepower totals only 130. At the 12 Hours of Sebring in 1954, this OSCA was a giant killer.
Sixty cars started that race. Among them were C-type Jaguars, 4.5-liter Ferraris, a 5.5-liter Cunningham C-4R, a Cadillac-Allard, the Aston Martin DB3S team – and a trio of factory 265 hp Lancia D24s which, with Fangio, Ascari and Taruffi driving, were favored to win Sebring one-two-three. Among the six OSCAs on hand was this one, entered by Briggs Cunningham for drivers Stirling Moss and Bill Lloyd.
From the starter’s flag, the Sebring pace was torrid. The race was over for the Astons and the Jags well before half distance. One by one, other high-powered entrants fell victim to mechanical problems too. Just 25 cars would finish the race. Meanwhile, the OSCA you see before you soldiered on – in the best tortoise-and-hare tradition. Not only did this car win the race outright in a stunning upset – five laps ahead of the 2nd place car – but two other OSCAs finished 4th and 5th (behind a privately-entered 3.3-liter Lancia and a 2.7-liter Austin Healey) to win the Index of Performance for the marque.
OSCA translates to Officine Specializzate Costruzione Automobili. The cars were built in Bologna, Italy by the Maserati brothers from 1947, when they left the company that bore their name, until 1967, shortly following their retirement.
Solid commercial success eluded the Maseratis throughout their OSCA adventure, however. Ten thousand dollars was widely regarded as too much to pay for a liter-and-a-half car, no matter how fast. It bears mentioning that in the mid-1950’s enthusiast road tests indicated the OSCA’s 120+ mph performance could not be bettered by any car of any displacement class selling at a lower price. OSCA truly deserved its moment of glory at Sebring in 1954.
Photos – Peter Harholdt
Briggs Cunningham was one of the first to use two-way radios at Le Mans in 1950 by installing them in both the LeMonstre and the Petit Pataud. You can see both cars at Revs. Learn more