Robin Adams ©2023 Courtesy of R
Automobiles | RM Sotheby's

Why This Golden-Era Sports Racer Is Perfect for Modern Road Rallying

By Forest Casey
Highly desirable for modern rallies, this 1957 Maserati 200SI by Fantuzzi is a work of art.

B lasting across high-altitude passes, driving full throttle through tunnels, and admiring unbeatable scenery through the windshield—the allure of the modern rally is strong among vintage car aficionados. The idea of trekking across gorgeous mountain roads in a caravan of like-minded enthusiasts provides the closest thing to time travel one can experience on the roads of today. Leading the pack in America is the Colorado Grand, a 1,000-mile blast across the great mountainous state during the peak of fall colors, all with the full cooperation and expert guidance of the Colorado State Patrol.

Mark Vaughn of Autoweek titled his review of the Colorado Grand “The One Event You Have To Do Before You Die,” and spoke highly of its camaraderie among owners of pre-1960 classic cars. The toughest decision, in that case, is not deciding whether or not to attend the Colorado Grand but which car to take. The 1957 Maserati 200SI by Fantuzzi shown above is a genuine artifact of motorsport history—rolling art that one could be very comfortable rallying.

For the Grand, the perfect vehicle would be lithe and fast, easy to handle and sufficiently beautiful to attract an appropriate amount of attention from fellow drivers as well as local Colorado residents. Finding a car that meets these criteria while also being uncommon is a challenge. Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Roadsters and coupes are a common sight; Porsche Speedsters and Jaguar XK120 sports cars are frequent entrants at the event.

Robin Adams ©2023 Courtesy of RM Sotheby's

By contrast, this is a pedigreed example from the golden era of sports car racing—the 12th of only 28 200- and 250-series chassis ever made. At this point in the mid-1950s, Maserati was going all-out to compete against rival Ferrari for the World Sportscar Championship, recruiting legendary drivers like Juan Manuel Fangio, Carroll Shelby, and Sir Stirling Moss to represent Il Tridente. Sir Moss helmed a Maserati 200SI at the Trofeo Supercortemaggiore in 1956, reporting that the car was “very quick on twisty circuits” and “handled very nicely.”

This very Maserati, chassis no. 2412, competed in period in such storied events as the Grand Prix of Cuba and two outings at the 12 Hours of Sebring. Famous privateer “Gentleman” Jim Kimberly campaigned this car alongside skilled driver Jack McAfee as well as legendary automotive journalist Denise McCluggage. With an impressive motorsport resume, this Maserati would make the perfect conversation starter on a rally like the Colorado Grand.

Chassis 2412 at the 12 Hours of Sebring 1957. Courtesy of The Klemantaski Collection

Perhaps most impressively for a mid-century race car, chassis no. 2412 retains its numbers-matching powerplant, also numbered 2412. A twin-plug, 2.0-liter unit, this engine was known for delivering prodigious power and torque for a car with a stated curb weight of only 660 kg. Most critically for any vintage rallying—whether the Colorado Grand, Tour Auto, or the Mille Miglia Storica—is the status of the engine. With its current consignor opting for an engine rebuild by Mike DePudja from 2013 to 2014, the 200SI has not been used in any vintage racing events since the engine rebuild, suggesting it is ready for a cross-country rally.

Some would fear to use a racer this significant, but a previous owner, Jay Jessup, made provisions for that as well, replacing its original handmade body panels with replacement pieces, replicated to the exact specifications of the original Fantuzzi components, which are included with the sale. This work was completed by Kimmins Coach Craft in Arizona. None other than motorsport specialist Urs Gretener remarked that this Maserati could not have had a better specialist to reproduce its Fantuzzi body than Bruce Kimmins. This allows for ultimate use without any fear of damaging the original bodywork.

The model name of this Maserati nods both to its 2.0-liter engine as well as the Sport Internazionale racing class (or SI), a motorsport class that mandated opening doors, a full-width windshield, and provisions for a soft-top. These creature comforts will be most welcome on an overland rally. With the Colorado Grand just over a month away, there is plenty of time to apply for next year’s event. This Maserati, with its pre-1960 history, rebuilt engine, and new bodywork, would make for the perfect entry for any vintage rally.

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