The restoration of the Maserati Tipo 61-2459 “Birdcage” began in 2007 in Modena, Italy-home of the Maserati factory. An Italian collector spent years painstakingly collecting original Maserati birdcage parts for 2459 before even beginning the restoration. Then Italian professional welders rebuilt chassis 2459 using the same secret welding processes and small diameter chrome-molybdenum steel tubes that were unique to the production of the birdcages in the 1960’s.
The original parts the Italian collector assembled for 2459 were mostly engine parts, and included an original cylinder head, lower crankcase and sump, cam covers, and transaxle tower (also known as a differential case) which included the cast numbers for the original birdcage parts used which verify the parts as original. Frank Tralli of Modena, Italy rebuilt the engine to original birdcage specifications from both these original parts and other parts manufactured according to the original drawings. He then Dyno’d the engine for racing which can be found in the Maserati Tipo 61-2459 Dyno Report.
The completed chassis and engine were then shipped to the Maserati restoration experts at Steve Hart Racing in England. In completing the restoration, the restoration facility added additional original Birdcage parts including rear lights, repeater lights, rev counter, ignition switch (also known as the light switch), starter button, indicator switch (also known as turn signal), and front hubs. This information is verified in a letter written and signed by the restoration facility owner.
The completely restored Maserati Tipo 61-2459 “Birdcage” was then submitted to the Motor Sports Association in April 2010, who carried out an extensive inspection. The Maserati Tipo 61-2459 passed the inspection and the new owners were issued the Historic Technical Passport/FIA Class: TSRC4 Documents on August 27, 2010.
Maserati Tipo 61-2459, along with the other Maserati Birdcages, were intended for racing, not for becoming an investment vehicle. Race cars, unlike other classic cars, have no across-the-board standard for what is and isn’t a proper restoration. This is because the owners, drivers, and maintainers of these Birdcages had no idea that the car they were racing would one day become an investment grade car. They only had one goal in mine-to win the race! Therefore, the cars would get banged up, wrecked, patched, rebuilt, and/or restored multiple times, and more often than not without documentation. Again, the goal was to get the work done as quickly as possible and get the car back on the race track! Time was money!!!!
Thus, by the mid-1960’s, many of these cars had little to no original parts to speak of. In fact, Joel Finn states in his book “Maserati Birdcage” Published by Osprey in 1980 that by 1962: “Engine swaps began to become common in an effort to make them faster, but these were usually failures because it caused transaxle and half-shaft breakages. None of this caused engine swap proponents to abandon trying, but did lead to the destruction of a number of Birdcages. Either that or they were modified so greatly that it would be very difficult to ever put them back to original again.”
Finn also states that the only reason the Birdcages came back were because they became desirable cars in vintage racing in the late 1960’s and throughout the 1970’s. By then, however, most of the damage to the original cars had been done. He has well documented all the problems in his book “Maserati Birdcage” Published by Osprey according to chassis numbers and traces each car up to the publish date of 1980 for this book. Also in Finn’s book he states about Birdcage #2455 “this Tipo 61, except for new tires, is still in totally original condition, the only existing example in such shape.”
Many of these vehicles have gaps in their ownership history and few have complete documentation covering every aspect of their restoration even after the 1970’s when they became desirable as vintage racing cars. On top of the lack of exact knowledge surrounding each restoration, reconditioning, and rebuilding of these cars the chassis numbers many not even be valid and are a poor point of identification of the cars since multiple cars were raced under one chassis number. In fact, Fred Gamble, famous Birdcage driver, stated in the IL Tridente Magazine 1996 “relying on chassis numbers for Maseratis is the downfall of most historians. The Maserati factory shipped team CAMORADI cars (where Fred Gamble was a driver) on its international Carnets (shipping import/export documents) which were few in number. Chassis #2451 is the best example. The practice was to weld a number plate on any chassis that was being shipped for a team entry, using the number on the Carnet. So the number plate (Carnet number) from race to race was not always the same car. No deception here, just paperwork simplification.”
So not only do we have few records and much missing history on many of the Birdcages, but even during the time the cars were raced the chassis numbers were switched about. This makes both performing and judging a Birdcage Restoration difficult. There are many theories and ideas about what makes a restored Birdcage credible, but here again there is no official standard.
Given the fact that there is no standard for Maserati Birdcage restoration, the factor that sets Maserati Tipo 61 Chassis #2459 apart is the documentation offered about the car. Birdcage 2459 was built for the vintage racer with correct and accurate restoration in mind. Many original parts were used as well as original factory processes used by many original manufacturers of the engine and chassis in the original location. This is an important consideration, as Birdcage chassis construction is a very specific process known only to very specific people. When the chassis and engine were delivered to the restoration facility, any other parts needed for the restoration where original parts were not available they were remanufactured using original Maserati factory drawings and the restoration facility’s “extensive knowledge gained from restoring other Maserati Birdcage race cars.”
This car carries the FIA stamp of approval, which allows it to be raced in all venues throughout the world. As far as whether or not Maserati Birdcage 2459 is restored to proper racing condition, in a letter written by Richard Crump known author and historian dated April 28, 2010 he states “If you were a buyer of a Birdcage in the 1960’s, then this car, 2459, is what it would be like. When you drive this fabulous car the message is clear. Light steering, fabulous brakes, big torque with useable power, and it sticks like glue to the tarmac. If you are a driver or a collector you will not easily tire of using such a Maserati, and when it comes to a stop you will just wish you could do it all again.”
Maserati Tipo 61 2459 was restored correctly. The difference with this restoration is the amount of documentation including a complete photo documentation of the restoration that is readily available with this car. Aside from the investment considerations like restoration documentation, 2459 is licensed to race by Motor Sports Association/FIA Class: TSRCR. This car now offers the same wonderful experience one would have racing in the 1960’s. Birdcage 2459 is probably the most correct and well documented of all the Birdcages in the world today.