1960 Maserati Tipo 60/61 “Birdcage” Streamliner

Knotty Nawadhinsukh Words by Knotty Nawadhinsukh
Unmistakeable "Birdcage" chassis visible from the cockpit

Placing an Italian-sounding name for a racing team called “CAMORADI” in front of the most Italian of racing cars such as the Maserati Tipo 60/61 “Birdcage” Streamliner, could make one assumed that this was another all-Italian effort carved in the annals of motor racing history. However its white with blue livery rather than in blood-red gave way to the fact that this Maserati was actually campaigned by an American team. “CAMORADI” was in fact an amalgam of Casner Motor Racing Division, spearheaded by its owner, the ambitious Lloyd “Lucky” Casner, a Florida-native airline pilot and amateur racing driver during the 1950’s and 1960’s.

Current owner Andreas Mohringer carrying the Maserati Trophy for the Most Historically Significant Maserati at Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance in March this year

Rather than be content with racing domestically in North America, Casner aspired to campaign in sportscar racing internationally and renamed the squad as Casner International, backed by major U.S. corporations such as Dow Chemical and Goodyear amongst others (and one of the very firsts to do so). Despite efforts to race a Chevrolet Corvette in order to be totally a self-proclaimed “All-American” team, Casner had to sought a more competitive sportscar that could win races in the form of the Maserati Tipo 61 “Birdcage” (so-called because of its visibly complex cage-like structure of its chassis inside the cockpit). What was also distinctive for its time was the car’s flatter and more aerodynamic-looking windshield (with a tiny wiper which served no purpose other than comply with sportscar racing regulations). Drivers sat in a more reclining position similar to Grand Prix cars of the day.

Longer, tapered tail designed specifically for Le Mans' Mulsanne Straight

Given its shape and the 2.9 litre 4-cylinder engine that gives out 250 horsepower and a claimed top speed of over 170 miles per hour, the Maserati “Birdcage” looked and sounded like a winning package. For the 1960 season under Camoradi colours it did claimed one or two notable victories such as the 1,000 Kilometers at Nurburgring, the L.A. Times Grand Prix at Riverside and the Road America 500. But overall the team was fraught with numerous failures to finish either mechanically or by accidents in many other major races.

#2451 getting new "Streamliner" bodywork developed at the Factory (Photo Credit: Richard Crump)

This Maserati Tipo 60/61 “Streamliner”, chassis 2451, was one of three that Casner fielded for the all-important Le Mans 24 Hours that year. Rather than the usual shorter Kamm-tail campaigned throughout 1960, Maserati put the car into a wind tunnel and revamped 2451 with an even flatter and more elongated windscreen and a more tapered and extended tail. The thought process behind these changes was to make the “Streamliner” suit and take advantage of a faster circuit like Le Mans, with its three and a half miles Mulsanne Straight. In the hands of American racing drivers, Masten Gregory and Chuck Daigh, 2451 took the lead almost immediately before the first lap and held on to it for the first couple of hours. But like in many other races prior to and after Le Mans, the “Streamliner” suffered mechanical problems once more and retired half way during its one and only race.

Pit action of the "Streamliner" at the '60 Le Mans race (Photo Credit: Richard Crump)

In today’s world, the “Streamliner” has regained its former glory, having been restored and returned to the same livery when it was raced at Le Mans 57 years ago, under the ownership of the well-known Austrian Maserati collector, Andreas Mohringer. This Maserati proved to be quite a popular attraction among vintage racing car enthusiasts whenever it turned up, whether in Pebble Beach or West Palm Beach. Recently at the 2017 Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance, it took home the Maserati Trophy for the Most Historically Significant Maserati.

All Photos By www.sleepy-nokkie.com (except where stated)

Up-close discussion with the owner and his Maserati