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1956 OSCA MT4

  • 1956 OSCA MT4
  • Chassis number 1176
  • Supplied new to OSCA racer Jim Simpson in the US
  • The subject of a nut and bolt restoration but OSCA specialists Autofficinaldo and Carrozzeria Garuti in Italy, finished in 2014
  • 1490cc twin-spark engine by Hall & Hall

This pretty little OSCA MT4 boasts a fascinating history, which has been extensively researched by the owner who oversaw its painstaking restoration.

Chassis number 1176 was built in 1956 and was shipped to its first owner, Jim Simpson, in October of that year. Unique in having a wheelbase of 2300mm instead of 2200mm, it also wore a one-off coupé body that was made by the Ferrara-based Morelli coachbuilding company.

Chicago-born Simpson was a good customer of OSCA and had a lot of experience racing MT4s. A Republican congressman during the 1930s, he had been educated at Harvard and owned farms in Illinois and Virginia. He also funded the Simpson Special – a streamlined MT4 with which OSCA set numerous records at the Bonneville Salt Flats in 1955.

Simpson had owned 1176 for only a couple of months before crashing it on the public road – destroying the coupé body in the process. He sold the car shortly afterwards and it formed the basis for a Devin-bodied project that was never completed.

The OSCA eventually ended up in Canada, from where it was imported to Germany in 1980.  Here it formed part of the Peter Kaus ‘Rosso Bianco’ museum where it was seen and noted by John deBoer in his book, published in 1994.  In the meantime, its engine had been removed and installed in chassis number 1183.

After passing through a number of other owners, the rolling chassis was acquired in October 2007 by a noted marque enthusiast in the UK. He set about researching the history of 1176 and, in particular, its original coupé bodywork, which he intended to recreate. Frustratingly, no information or photographs were forthcoming until 2016, when the factory drawing was found by Alfieri Maserati – by which time the owner had commissioned and fitted an all-new barchetta-style body.

The OSCA had been restored between 2009 and 2014 by Autofficinaldo and Carrozzeria Garuti in Italy, and an authentic 1490cc twin-spark engine was built by the world-renowned Hall & Hall in Lincolnshire. Numbered ‘1500N’, this jewel of a powerplant produces nearly 120bhp – enough to provide strong performance in a car that weighs only 650kg. It drives through a correct ZF gearbox, which was rebuilt in 2015.

Inside, the spartan cabin features only the essential information that you’d expect from a competition car – revs, water temperature and oil pressure – and the twin side-exit exhausts come out on the driver’s side. From behind the thin wood-rimmed steering wheel, it’s therefore easy to evoke the 1950s road races in which these little OSCAs excelled.

Now being offered for sale at The Classic Motor Hub, this MT4 has taken part in the Gran Premio Nuvolari and Circuito di Avezzano, and is supplied with a FIVA identity card. It also comes with a CD of photographs showing the body build, plus a wealth of information about the restoration and recent research.

Marque history

Having sold their shares to the Orsi family in 1937, Ernesto, Ettore and Bindo Maserati stayed with their eponymous car company for another 10 years. Then, in 1947, the three brothers left to set up Officine Specializzate Costruzione Automobili – OSCA.

Basing themselves in San Lazzaro di Savena near Bologna, where the pre-war Maseratis had been built, the brothers produced a series of small-capacity OSCA sport-racing cars and single-seaters. The first of them – and by far the best known – was the MT4, which first appeared in 1948 with a 1092cc engine.

That lightweight four-cylinder unit was gradually developed and enlarged, the ultimate variant being the 1490cc twin-spark Tipo 372 unit.

OSCA enjoyed considerable motorsport success from as early as 1948, when Italian ace Luigi Villoresi won the Naples Grand Prix in an MT4. In 1954, a Briggs Cunningham-entered MT4 won the Sebring 12 Hours in the hands of Stirling Moss and Bill Lloyd, by which time OSCAs were already a popular choice in North America.

In Europe, the marque scored class victories at Le Mans and the Mille Miglia, and in 1953 Jacques Péron and Raymond Bertramier took overall victory in the Tour de France – one of the most challenging events of the period. As the decade progressed, Porsche and OSCA often went toe-to-toe in the 1500cc class, and it was in response to the German manufacturer’s 550 Spyder that OSCA produced the revised MT4 Tipo Nuovo.

By the late 1950s and early ’60s, OSCA had switched its focus to the smaller 750cc class as well as Formula Junior racing, but finances were becoming strained and in 1963 the brothers sold the company to Count Domenico Agusta. OSCA finally closed in 1967.

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