1963 Osca 1600GT Berlinetta

Coachwork by Zagato

In 1938, the three surviving Maserati brothers sold their company to the Orsi industrial combine and entered a ten-year service contract. As soon as they had completed their obligation they returned to their native Bologna and established Officine Specializzate per la Costruzione di Automobili- Fratelli Maserati SpA, which abbreviated to OSCA.

One of the reasons for the departure of the Maserati brothers was that they did not want to be involved in the making of road cars; they were racers, pure and simple. Throughout the 1950s OSCAs performed magnificently in international sports car racing.

In the 1954 Sebring 12 Hours, privately entered 1500cc OSCAs finished first, fourth and fifth against works teams in a category with no limit on engine size, and it was a round of the World Sports Car Championship. OSCAs took class wins in the Mille Miglia on ten occasions and also won the Index of Performance at Le Mans.

OSCA was a tiny company, it never made more than 30 cars a year and all were for competition. It came as something of a surprise, therefore, that the brothers’ swansong was a GT. Its twin-cam engine was the last in a great tradition of cars and engines which stretched back to 1926. The OSCA 1600GT was aimed at the gentleman driver- a stylish car he could use on the road when desired but which could equally be entered in competition at the weekend with a good chance of a class award. Zagato clothed the OSCA chassis with lightweight berlinetta coachwork featuring their trademark double bubble roof bulges to allow sufficient headroom (important when wearing a helmet) whilst keeping frontal area to a minimum. In a clever styling trick, the OSCAs rooftop bulges ended in outlets for cockpit ventilation whilst the latter continued the competition theme with skimpy bucket seats and the bare minimum of soundproofing. Innovative alloy wheels kept unsprung weight to a minimum.

Announced in 1960 but not offered for sale until 1962 due to wrangling over its homologation for racing, the OSCA 1600GT could be ordered in differing states of tune and with custom-built coachwork by the remaining few independent carrozzieri such as Boneschi, Fissore and Touring of Milan. Most customers, however, preferred Zagato’s sporting interpretation and foremost amongst these was Italian driver Gianfranco Stanga who achieved some success during the 1962 season with a works prepared 1600GT.

In total just 128 of these jewel-like berlinette were built, 98 of them bodied by Zagato, before August 1963 when a majority stake in the company was acquired by Count Agusta (of motorcycle and helicopter fame) and, as the Maserati brothers lost their power to decide its fate, so too the company appears to have lost its will to build the cars which had made its name. By 1966 it was all over.

Copies of old Italian registration records included in this sale show that chassis ‘0097’ was issued with a Certificate of Origin on 2nd April 1963 and registered the following month in the province of Aquila, near Rome. The fact that the official clerk entered its make on the handwritten registration document as ‘Oscar’ shows just how little known these cars were even in their heyday. Chassis ‘0097’ passed through several owners in the Rome area before finally entering the famous Rosso Bianco Museum of pioneering German collector (and former sports car driver) Peter Kaus. Here it remained on display for many years before acquisition by Winfried Reiss, another German enthusiast, who registered it at his Italian holiday home in Castelveccana.

Restoration was carried out for Reiss in the late 1990s by the dynamic young team at Quality Cars in Padova, the group of ex-Dino Cognolato employees who set up on their own some years ago and now regularly turn out award winning work, and no aspect was left untouched. The body was stripped, repaired and repainted; new upholstery was fitted, together was a new electrical system and completely rebuilt mechanics, this work being subcontracted to Officina Antoniana, Padova’s official Maserati agent. Reiss enjoyed putting the OSCA through its paces and on one occasion damaged the engine during a prolonged high speed autobahn run. This prompted him to commission another complete engine rebuild, after which he sold the car in January 2006 to Jan de Reu, a highly discerning Belgian enthusiast with a fondness for unusual Italian post-war GT cars.

The OSCA was shown at the Villa d’Este concours in 2006 and the fact that it won its class is testament to the quality of the original restoration. Forty pages document the rebuild together with at least fifty photographs showing every step of the process.

In the late summer of 2006 de Reu part-exchanged the OSCA with a Belgian dealer for a SIATA 208CS berlinetta, and it was then acquired from the dealer by the current Austrian owner, in whose hands it has seen little use as, at over 190cm, he finds headroom limited.

The OSCA is Austrian road registered, has a FIVA passport, ASI passport (gold standard), and copies of its old Italian papers. The major components are believed original and overall we believe that this is an excellent representative example of a largely forgotten chapter in Italy’s sporting automotive history.

Photo Credit: Ultimatecarpage