OSCA – MT4 2-AD 1500 Spider among Italian beauties at Gooding's

OSCA – MT4 2-AD 1500 Spider among Italian beauties at Gooding's

1954 OSCA MT4 2-AD 1500 SPIDER
Estimate $1,100,000 - $1,400,000
Chassis 1148
Engine 1506

Among the Finest Italian Sports Racing Cars of the 1950s
The Definitive OSCA – MT4 2-AD 1500 with Spider Coachwork
Delivered New to the US with West Coast Racing History
Road Tested in the August 1955 Issue of Road & Track Magazine
Available for the First Time Following Four Decades in Single Family Ownership
Ideal Restoration Candidate; Retains Matching-Numbers Engine per Factory Records

Technical Specs
1,491 CC DOHC Twin-Plug Inline 4-Cylinder Engine
Twin Weber 38 DCOE Carburetors
Estimated 120 BHP at 6,200 RPM
4-Speed Manual Gearbox
4-Wheel Finned-Aluminum Drum Brakes
Front Independent Coil Spring-Suspension
Rear Live Axle with Quarter-Elliptical Leaf Springs

Officine Specializzate Costruzione Automobili, or OSCA, was established in Bologna, Italy, by Bindo, Ernesto, and Ettore Maserati in 1947, when they left the company that bore their name. Over the next two decades, the Maserati brothers produced, in extremely limited numbers, an astonishing variety of sports racing, grand touring, and formula cars, all characterized by technically advanced engineering and jewel-like attention to detail.

Of the many models produced by OSCA, the most recognizable is undoubtedly the MT4, which stands for Maserati Tipo 4 Cilindri. Originally designed with a single overhead camshaft 1,100 cc engine, the MT4 won in its debut at the 1948 Grand Prix of Naples and was then continuously developed and improved throughout the early 1950s. From 1953 to 1955, an updated twin-cam model, known as the 2-AD, was produced in various displacements, ranging from 1,100 to 1,500 cc. In ultimate twin-plug 1,500 cc form, the MT4 produced approximately 120 hp and, when equipped with lightweight all-aluminum Spider bodywork, weighed just 1,300 pounds. These OSCAs were thoroughbred racing cars, rivaled only by Porsche’s 550 Spyder in the under-1500 classes.

The MT4s were especially popular in the US, where they were sold – for as much as $10,000 each – to an elite clientele that included connoisseurs like Bill Spear, Jim Kimberly, and Briggs Cunningham. Famously, it was Cunningham’s car, driven by Stirling Moss and Bill Lloyd, which won the 12 Hours of Sebring in 1954, outright defeating cars of far greater displacement and forever cementing the MT4’s status as a giant killer.

According to the definitive book OSCA: La Rivincita Dei Maserati, by Luigi Orsini and Franco Zagari, this MT4 2-AD Spider, chassis 1148, was originally supplied new with an ultra-desirable 1500 engine, no. 1506.

Originally delivered to OSCA’s official North American distributor Edgar Fronteras in August 1954, this MT4 was sold new to Harry Allen Chapman of Tucson, Arizona. The heir to a petroleum fortune, Chapman represented OSCA through his dealership ALMAR and handled the sale of several MT4s.

According to the research of noted historian John de Boer, author of The Italian Car Registry, 1148 was campaigned by Chapman and William “Bumpy” Bell between November 1954 and May 1955 at sports car races throughout California and Arizona. Notable results include a 1st Overall in the Junior Drivers race at March Field and a 1st in Class and 3rd Overall in the first annual Wilcox Sports Car Races.

A few days after competing at Minter Field in May 1955, this MT4 was tested by Road & Track magazine. The road test, published in the August 1955 issue and titled “How does the OSCA go?,” begins with high praise:

“If you have ever wondered, as we often have, what sort of performance a modern 1 1/2 -litre competition car can produce, the results of this test may be surprising. Perhaps the performance data might be taken for granted in view of the price, but nevertheless, the 1490 cc OSCA recorded figures which are not bettered by any car of any displacement category at a lower selling price.”

During summer 1955, 1148 was reportedly sold through Ernie McAfee to Seymour “Chick” Leson, a gentleman racing driver from Lafayette, California, who owned another OSCA MT4, chassis 1121. According to Mr. de Boer’s research, Leson raced 1148 throughout the remainder of 1955 at venues including Buchanan Field, Santa Barbara, and Salinas, California.

In May 1956, Leson advertised 1148 in MotoRacing magazine and eventually sold it to Alvin F. Chase of Alamo, California. Chase kept the OSCA until 1961 or 1962, when it was sold to Larry Evans of nearby Danville, California. A member of the Sports and Imports car club, Evans entered his MT4 in several Bay Area autocross events, winning 1st Overall at the 1962 San Francisco International Auto Show.

Evans later broke the original Fiat-based gearbox and replaced it with a ZF five-speed, which he sourced from an OSCA parts purveyor in Los Angeles. By 1965, he had painted the MT4 black and installed an aluminum Buick V-8 engine and Studebaker rear end. The car eventually made its way to Washington state, and while owned by Reid Mathiesen, was involved in a road accident, which damaged the passenger side.

Around 1976, local collector John Hunholz bought the car in its forlorn state, and after acquiring the original engine from well-known car collector Stephen Block, began to restore the car in his home garage. While some progress was made, the MT4 was never fully restored during his lifetime.

Recently acquired by the consignor following four decades in single family ownership, 1148 is now an ideal candidate for restoration. It is the most desirable specification of the definitive OSCA model, and possesses a fascinating West Coast racing history, well-documented provenance, and its matching-numbers engine.

Produced in limited numbers and rarely offered for public sale, MT4s are among the most coveted Italian sports cars of the 1950s. Presented here is an exciting opportunity to acquire a historic OSCA and return it to its original glory.

*Please note that this vehicle is titled as a Maserati and by its engine number.

Also available at Gooding & Company  Amelia Island Auction - Friday 4th March:


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Text and Image cpirtesy of Gooding & Company

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