1961 Maserati Tipo 61 “Birdcage” #6
Pilot: Roger Penske Team: Udraugh Ent. Inc.
Race: 1st GC (D-Modified class) at SCCA National at Meadowdale in 1961 Minichamps - 400611206 (diecast)
The development of the Maserati Birdcage started in 1959. Designed by Giulio Alfieri, it was first available with a 2.0 liter (Tipo 60) and later a 2.9 liter (Tipo 61) engine. The car earned the nickname “Birdcage” because of the intricate tubular space frame chassis. It was made with short, narrow gauge, tubular steel sections with a diameter of 10 or 15 mm. Over 200 of these pipes were welded together, guaranteeing a stiff and very light weight car. With such a light chassis the Tipo 61 only weighed 600 kg. Interestingly, the test car had the chassis with high quality chrome steel, that made the car too stiff. This caused cracks in the welds, so Alfieri swapped the tubes with cheaper steel tubes. The more flexible steel cured the problem without compromising the handling.
The engine of the Tipo 61 was an inline-4 with 2890 cm³ fed by two Weber 45 DCO3 carburetors. That allowed 250 hp of power, permitting a top speed of 285 km/h. All in all Maserati produced 22 (some say 16) cars, between both Tipo 60 and 61. Today, many consider the Birdcage as one of the (if not the) best handling front-engined sports car ever. Roger Penske piloted #6 here to victory at the Meadowdale SCCA National Championship race of 1961.
In my eyes it was always the ultimate Maserati race car, and I had to have one. In scale it’s beautiful, and even people with not-so-great tastes in cars agree it’s a fantastic model. Minichamps has a knack for these old racers (the 300 SLR is a perfect example) so you can almost buy ’em with your eyes closed.