Fed up with the German Silver Arrow’s from Mercedes Benz and Auto Union stealing their thunder and pride the Italian Motorsports Authorities decided to cut Alfa Romeo and Maserati some slack by announcing that all of the Grand Prix run on Italian soil in 1939 would be for 1.5 litre / 91.5 cui Voiturettes which would exclude the German monsters that had been sweeping all before them in the top European open wheel series since 1935.
To take advantage of the new rules Ernesto Maserati designed a new 4 cylinder motor with bore and stroke dimensions roughly equal, known as square bore though the cylinders were of course round, and with four valves per cylinder to replace the 6 cylinder 12 valve motor fitted to the previous moderately successful 6CM.
To handle the extra 30 hp of the new motor the 6 CM ladder chassis was moderately upgraded; with more use of aluminium, repositioned suspension to lower the chassis and the track was nearly 2″ wider.
For the Tripoli Grand Prix, effectively on Italian soil since Lybia was an Italian colony at the time, Maserati produced one 4CL with a streamlined body for Luigi Villoresi to drive. Luigi qualified on pole in the race, generally regarded as having the finest field of voiturettes ever seen.
However both Luigi and the other two 4 CL’s including #1566 seen here, driven in Tripoli by Giovanni Rocco retired leaving, Mercedes Benz to an uncontested victory with two W165 cars they had built in secret, much to the dismay of the Italians.
Fortunately the W165’s, having made their point, were never to race again leaving Jonnie Wakefield in a private 4CL to score 3 victories to which the works team added 2 more before the outbreak of hostilities in the 1939/45 war. Luigi Villoresi driving a 4CL won at Targa Florio against opposition only from Axis aligned countries in 1940 and Giovanni Rooco driving #1566 finished third in the same race to record his best result in the car before the war.
After the cessation of hostilities #1566 found it’s way to France where it was acquired by Robert Mazaud, a driver who set a lap record in the Le Mans 24 Hours, on his debut there, aboard a Delahaye in 1938. Robert would score his best result aboard #1566, 3rd at St Cloud in Belgium, a few weeks before being killed after an accident at the wheel of #1566 in the Nantes Grand Prix in France.
Raymond Sommer, Tazio Nuvolari and Giorgio Pelassa all drove 4CL’s to victory in 1946, but it was 1947 when the 4CL really came on song with 10 victories to the models credit. Luigi Villoresi won 6 races with; Nello Pagani, Reg Parnell, Yves Giraud-Cabantous and Christian Kautz each winning one a piece.
To the best of my knowledge Jean Judet entered #1566 in at least six events between 1946 and 1950 recording at least five retirements.
In all 15 4CL’s were built between 1939 and 1946, I believe #1566 seen in these photographs, at the HGPCA Test Day at Silverstone last year, has belonged to the family of the late Rodney Smith since 2004.
Thanks for joining me on this “4 Pot Square Bore” edition of “Gettin’ a li’l psycho on tyres”, I hope you will join me again tomorrow for a look at a Bugatti. Don’t forget to come back now !