Brilliant engineers, the Maserati brothers were less so in managing and perpetuating their business. Real mechanical artists. But like other little ones like Cisitalia or Stanguellini, they showed remarkable inventiveness! The small OSCA brand did not live long, but made an impression in its time.
Reborn from the ashes
Founded in 1914, the Maserati firm, which produced only racing cars before the war, found itself facing chronic financial problems, which prompted the Maserati brothers to sell their shares in 1937 to Count Orsi, a powerful industrialist from Modena. The contract stipulates that they must work for the firm for 10 years, keeping their hands on the technical part, but the reality is quite different. Orsi places his men, and the brothers are gradually dispossessed of their creation.
So, in 1947, when the contract expired, the Bindo brothers, Ettore and Ernesto Maserati definitively left the brand at Trident, which became the exclusive property of the Orsi family, but they did not turn their backs on the automotive, by founding a new brand, OSCA established in San Lazzaro, in the suburbs of Bologna, OSCA means Officine Specializzate Costruzione Automobili. The Maserati brothers are passionate about competition, and only about competition. OSCA was therefore dedicated from the start to producing racing cars, but in a very complicated post-war economic context.
MT4: try, master stroke
From 1947, however, they presented a small racing “barchetta”, the MT4. It is powered by a small 4 cylinder 1100cc 70 horsepower derived from Fiat but inspired by the race, with a cast iron block, camshafts at the head and aluminum cylinder heads. The tubular chassis, topped with an aluminum body, weighs only 450 kilos, guaranteeing great performance! The car stood out at the 1948 Naples Grand Prix, beating the 2-liter rivals at the hands of Luigi Villoresi, driver and long-time friend of the Maserati brothers, then it regularly won its class at the Mille Miglia. The list of winners was enriched: in 1953, it won the general position in the Tour de France Auto, then in 1954, in a 1500cc variant, Stirling Moss imposed it on the 12 hours of Sebring. They also barely had to accomplish a feat at Le Mans. The MT4 is entitled to very limited series in covered sedans, bodied by Frua and Vignale. An impressive list of great pilots gets behind the wheel of these small trays, from Caroll Shelby to the Rodriguez brothers, via Louis Chiron.
The demons of the race
The grand prizes also fascinate the Maserati brothers. As often, they fire on any wood but may be aiming too high for such a small structure. They made a first attempt in 1950 via the F2, with a modified MT4. In 1951, OSCA builds a 4.5-liter V12 with dry sump and four overhead camshafts driven by gears. At the initiative of the project, we find a certain Amédée Gordini, who knew Alfieri Maserati well from the time when the sorcerer, in his youth, had completed an apprenticeship with Isotta-Fraschini.
SIMCA support was originally planned, but Gordini, also still in dire financial straits, eventually withdrew from the project. The Maserati brothers did not have the means to design an integral car, this block of 330 horses is installed in the private Maserati 4 CLT of Prince Bira, which imposes itself outside the championship at Goodwood, then in an OSCA 4500 Tipo G (the "G" referring to Gordini precisely), who only competes in one race at Monza, where she finishes 9th. Like the engine, the tubular chassis with double wishbone front suspension and DeDion rear axle was state of the art.
In 1952-53, F1 being too difficult, they returned to F2 with the OSCA 20, powered by a six-cylinder double-shaft two-liter developing 170 hp at 6,500 rpm, still without success.
The 6 in line is nevertheless found on the 2000 barchetta, an evolution of the MT4 launched in 1954. A new attempt in the world championship took place in 1958, with an F2. OSCA then fell back on the Junior Formula, the F3 of the time, winning the 1960 European Championship in passing.
Auto racing, which remains a fairly small market, does not yield enough, especially for a small structure like OSCA, which resolves to sell engines. So in 1959, OSCA supplies FIAT with a 1491 cc 4-cylinder double camshaft which equips the pretty Fiat convertible designed by Pininfarina. Boosted by a Weber carburetor, it delivers 90 CV and propels the small Italian roadster at 170 km / h. In 1962, the engine was reamed at 1600 cc and climbed to 100 horsepower. Reliability is not really there and penalizes the sales, with only a little more than 2200 models produced until 1966.
A road to survive
The supply of engines to Fiat is a boon, which should allow OSCA to launch its own "stradale", which is essential financially for the survival of the company. This is how the OSCA GT 1600 was presented at the Turin fair in 1960, which did not really go into production until 1962, due to concerns about homologation for the competition. Derived from the MT4, the tubular chassis stands out once again by its lightness, with in addition a suspension with 4 independent wheels and double triangulation. All roundness, the bodywork, signed Zagato, under the stroke of the pencil of the young Ercole Spada, is classic but elegant. The engine created for FIAt was revised and reamed to 1568 cc, receiving a cylinder head with double overhead cams identical to the MT4 racing engines but brings some improvements. Several powers are proposed, with in the high range 140 horses on the GTS. For the record, this block will inspire Pont à Mousson to design the block for the Facel Vega Facelia, which will also experience catastrophic reliability concerns.
Only 128 copies are produced (coupe and spider), including 98 with bodywork by Zagato and a few by Bertone, Fissore (with a grille and headlights reminiscent of the Fiat Dino) and even Touring. Haute couture, and very rare models, so overpriced. We think in particular of the body proposed by Moretti, a unique example.
It is too little, especially since the model is expensive to produce. Finances are still in the red, and the Maserati brothers must, once again, sell. Bis repetita, another aristocrat "flies to their rescue": It’s Count Agusta, owner of the famous motorcycle brand MV Agusta, who takes over the entity, while the brothers are retiring this time. The OSCA brand lives on, transforms into an engine design office and then disappears anonymously in 1967.
A 2500 GT prototype was presented in 2001, the fruit of a partnership between Luca Zagato, the grandson, and the Japanese entrepreneur Fujita… designed by Ercole Spada to respect parentage, it was fitted with a Subaru Legacy engine ! But the project remained at the showcar stage.
Images: carsfromitaly, wikimedia commons, flickr