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Franco Rol's Maserati 4CLT '1604'


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#1 AAA-Eagle

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Posted 21 August 2005 - 20:19

Today I saw a doc film on German DW TV Channel named "Faster, Wider, Lower - On the Road with German Car Tuners". It's about German collectors and restorers of cars (not only racing cars). They restore cars in their garage, test them (in the film it's shown a testing at Zolder), and take participation in historic races or festivals. Among very wide range of cars they have there is one 4CLT 'San Remo' Maserati -- Franco Rol's Maserati 4CLT '1604'.


Here is an article about Rol and his '1604' that was written by Simon Moore and first appeared in the Spring 1985 issue of Trident magazine:

"... Let us now introduce Franco Rol, a wealthy gentleman from Turin, who liked to drive closed sports cars wearing silk shirts rather than coveralls. In early middle age, he appeared from nowhere to drive a works Alfa Romeo 6C 500 Competizione coupe on a rent-a-drive basis (nothing's new!). He made a magnificent debut at the 1949 Giro di Sicilia - a real road race - finishing second to Biondetti's Ferrari, after being delayed for five minutes at a closed level crossing!

Rol followed that up with third place in the classic Mille Miglia, despite hitting a house, behind Biondetti and Bonetto in Barchetta Ferraris (see SA Motorscene October 1984).

After a number of placings in more minor Italian events during the rest of 1949 including a win at Pescara, he again appeared in the works Alfa coupe for the Giro di Sicilia (retired after leading) and the 1950 Mille Miglia alongside Fangio in a similar car and Sanesi in a 3-litre. Fangio finished third, but Rol, ran off the road after his brakes failed.

Rol's only other major sports car races were the Mille Miglia in 1951 (failed to finish in a 2.5 litre Alfa) and 1952 (Siata 2-litre eleventh overall, third in class behind two Ferrari 166 barchettas). His racing career was brought to an end after he suffered serious injuries while competing in the 1953 Tour of Sicily.

To revert to 1949. Rol decided to try his hand at Grand Prix racing (wearing coveralls!) and ordered a new San Remo from the factory. Completion of the car (chassis No. 1604, engine No. 1601) was obviously rushed as it was handed over on September 8, 1949, three days before the Italian GP at Monza. Probably due to this lack of preparation, the car did not finish.

Meanwhile, Rol had clubbed together with Guiseppe Farina to mount a challenge for the 1950 Indianapolis race. Late in 1949 they commissioned Maserati to build a pair of updated straight-eight cars complying to the Indianapolis regulations (3-litres supercharged, 4½-litre unsupercharged i.e. like the 1938-40 European formula as against the 1946-51 Formula 1 of 1½ litres supercharged and 4½ litres unsupercharged).

An earlier Maserati (an 8CTF) had won Indy in 1939 and 1940 drive by Wilbur Shaw and three 8CTFs were still doing well at The Brickyard. The new cars - called 8CLTs - featured a tubular chassis like the 4CLT with two-stage supercharged four-valve-per-eylinder engines.

Due to problems at the factory (this was the time that the Maserati brothers finally walked out and formed OSCA), the cars were not ready in time and languished at the works as there was no suitable formula in Europe. In 1951 they were sold to New Zealand to compete in free formula events and one can still be seen there in Len Southward's super museum just north of Wellington.

To get back to 1604. Rol entered it for Monaco on May 21st, 1950, presumably a late entry after his Indy plans were cancelled. Unfortunately he was one of the people involved in the first lap multiple crash at Tabac. The car was repaired and he entered one or two Italian events during the summer, including Pescara in August, before again retiring from the Italian GP at Monza. The car had one more appearance in Rol's hands - the Penya Rhin GP in Spain in October when he crashed.

The car then disappeared and turned up on the East Coast of the USA. Exactly who initially owned it there is unclear (George Weaver and Joel Finn are possibilities and certainly Shelly Spindel). However, it turned up at Indianapolis in 1957 entered by Marguerite Morgan of Morgan Engineering, driven by Danny Kladis - who drove all sorts of strange cars at Indy in the 1950s. He was too slow to qualify as he needed to have averaged almost 140 mph for the four laps to make the field. However, his four-lap average of 124.412 rnph was the fastest ever by a 1½-litre car.

The previous best had been set by that great character, Leon Duray, in his front-wheel-drive Miller in 1928 at 122.391 mph, although he had lapped at just over 124 mph during an incomplete qualifying attempt. (This Miller and its twin ended up at Molsheim inspiring the twin-overhead-camshaft arrangement on 1930s Bugattis, and one can still be seen fully restored in the Indianapolis Speedway Museum.) The power and speed of 1½-litre cars does not seem to have improved much between 1928 and 1948'

1604 turned up, again on the US East Coast, being sold by a Mr. Fuller of Marblehead, Massachusetts to Detroit jeweller Carl Boss in July 1966. I am pretty sure it was one of the many Maseratis I saw stored at George Weaver's place when I first went there in August 1968.

When Boss died in 1972, his fabulous collection of historic cars was sold and many of them, including 1604 went to Anthony Bamford of JCB Excavators in the UK. At that time it was featured in Motor Sport and on the cover of Maserati - Sports, Racing & GT Cars 1926-1975 by Crump and Box.

1604 was soon on its travels again, however. This time it went to Tim Hewison in Australia and then back again to the UK in about 1978 to Alain de Cadanet who loaned it to the London Science Museum, where it was on view for some years. Earlier this year the car passed into the hands of a Johannesburg collector and arrives in South Africa in August. This is the first time a San Remo has been in South Africa, so be sure to watch out for this super car at future historic meetings."



And here is a photo stuff of post-Rol period of '1604' chassis:

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© Simon Moore

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© Enrico's Maserati Pages (for more photos visit "Maseratis in the paddock!" page)


Number plate:

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Circa 1960s

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2002, Goodwood Revival

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2005, Germany



Finally, here are some screenshots from the film I mentioned above:

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#2 Cris

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Posted 22 August 2005 - 01:31

A couple photos of one of Weaver's 4CLTs (ex Reg Parnell, I believe) coming out of hibernation...

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