1949 OSCA MT4
4-cyl. 1092cc/70hp 2x2bbl
With an experienced team and a lot of data.
The story of the OSCA MT4 goes back to the five Maserati brothers (Carlo, Bindo, Alfieri, Ettore, and Ernesto), who left an indelible stamp on motor racing through the first half of the twentieth century. They began in 1910 when Alfieri and Ettore went to Argentina to build racing cars for Isotta Fraschini, and their story concluded in 1963 when the brothers sold Officine Specializzatte Costruzinone Automobili (OSCA) to Count Domenico Agusta.
Alfieri and Ettore returned from South America in 1919 to join Bindo and Ernesto making sparkplugs in Milan, then formed Officine Maserati in Bologna. There they built a series of successful Grand Prix cars like the 4CM, 4CLT, 6CS, 6CM, 8CL and 8CTF - campaigned by greats like Nuvolari, Varzi, Taruffi, Campari and Etancelin in the 1930s and ‘40s. Wilbur Shaw won back-to-back Indy 500 races in 1939-40 in a Maserati 8CLT – 1939 being the first win for a foreign car since 1919.
However, finances were always fragile and Adolfo Orsi bought the company in 1938 to get their spark plug business. Orsi kept the Maserati brothers on 10-year retainer, but he wanted to build road cars and they didn’t. When their contract expired in 1947, Ernesto, Bindo, and Ettore went back to Bologna and developed their spectacular OSCA sports racers.
Between 1948 and 1956 the Maserati brothers built an estimated 72 OSCA MT4 sports racers from the ground up with alloy bodies, tubular chassis and independent front suspension. Their designs featured DOHC cylinder heads, Weber carburetors, dual plug ignition, and even desmodromic valve trains. Four-cylinder engine displacements included 750cc, 1100c and 1500cc models.
Minimalist Barchetta and elegant Berlinetta bodies were built by Morelli, Fissore, Vignale, Frua (which built about 50), Michelotti, and Zagato, and the MT4 was competitive in any class it was entered.
The first OSCA MT4 Barchetta weighed only 900 lbs and was powered by 1092cc SOHC, Four-cylinder Fiat-based engine which developed 71 bhp at 6000 rpm. It raced at Pescara in August 1948 but did not finish, then Luigi Villoresi won the Grand Prix of Naples in September.
The engine was refined to a 1,42cc unit in 1949, developing 89 bhp at 5500 rpm. It was followed in 1950 by a new DOHC motor introduced for the OSCA MT4-2AD. This was good for 99 bhp at 6300 rpm and paved the way to 1953’s 1453cc unit with 108 bhp at 6200 rpm.
For 1954, OSCA redesigned the ignition and the 372 DS twin spark engine displaced 1491cc, developing 118 bhp at 6300 rom. This evolved into the MT4 TN (Tipo Nuovo). The new model produced 135 bhp, delivered through a 4-speed ZF gearbox, and was capable of 130 mph. Only five Tipo Nuovos were built and Stirling Moss and Bill Lloyd won the 1954 Sebring 12 Hours race outright in one of them, averaging 73.65 mph, as part of the Briggs Cunningham team.
Competition successes continued throughout the decade. Mario Damonte/Pierre-Louis Dreyfus won the 1100cc Class in the 1953 Le Mans 24 Hours, placing 18th overall. Three OSCA MT4s entered the 1954 Le Mans 24 Hours, but all were sidelined by the last hour.
Privateer Giulio Cabianca managed a spectacular 10th overall behind factory teams in the 1954 Mille Miglia and finished 2nd in class. Cabianca/Giuseppe Sgorbati placed 11th in the tragic 1955 Le Mans 24 Hours.
Meanwhile, on the final La Carrera Panamericana rally in 1954, Louis Chiron drove one of three MT4 1500 entries in the extremely dangerous event, which was canceled after this year. On the 75-mile mountainous third leg between Puebla and Mexico City, Chiron won the 1500cc class and was only 3 minutes behind overall leader Phill Hill in a 4.5-liter Ferrari. Chiron finished the La Carrera in 8th place overall.
Smaller 750cc OSCAs continued to be competitive. Jim Eichenlaub won the 1959 American H-Mod Title with an OSCA S 187, and John Bentley and Jack Gordon brought Ed Hugus’s 1958 750cc Sport OSCA home in 18th place at the 1960 Le Mans 24 Hours race.