Off radar

OSCA. The second life of the Maserati Brothers
The Rarest Brands in the Top 100 Collections

Photo credit: Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este, Lopresto Collection, Wheelsage

They started and ended their magnificent adventure as racing car manufacturers in Bologna, the capital of the region that to this day is a symbol of Italian motor racing. Over the course of 54 years as constructors, first under their own name, Maserati, then with the OSCA brand, they have always and deliberately insisted on making the same mistake: wanting to do things too well, and to the very highest levels of quality, subsequently incurring costs so high that they could never attain economic tranquillity. 

The typical aesthetic of the small OSCA Sport. In this case the 1953 MT4 2AD 1500

The first brand they created, proudly represented by the Trident featured on the statue of Neptune that stands in the main square of Bologna, continues its journey today. Because of that mistake, however, they had to sell the brand and company in 1937 to the Orsi family. After the 10-year contractual period expired which required them to remain inside the company and provide design and technical guidance, they returned to Bologna to begin once again, setting up shop in the same warehouse in San Lazzaro di Savena on the outskirts of the city, where they built the Maserati brand in the pre-war period. As they couldn’t use their name, the new brand was called OSCA, an acronym of Officina Specializzato Costruzione Automobili which had the Maserati brothers as signatories.

The Zagato 1600 GT version of the OSCA from the early 60s. Many coachbuilders worked with the small Bolognese sportscar

Would that have been a problem? No, they were used to racing under different names: their 8TCF 3000 Compressor twice won what was then the most important race in the world, the Indianapolis 500, entered as a Boyle special. But the credit was theirs.

Touring’s beautiful interpretation of the OSCA 1600 GT. This car belongs to the collector Corrado Lopresto

OSCA was created after the two brothers sensed the economic opportunity of a growing market in the post-war period: small sports cars – initially 1100cc and 1500cc models – that were very much in demand by gentleman drivers for road and hill races. Of course, this included track events, but the 1000 Miglia and Targa Florio were their first references.

The curious interpretation of the OSCA 1600 GT by the coachbuilder Fissore

The formula of the Maserati brothers was straightforward: simplicity, lightness and quality. Their four-cylinder engines had double overhead camshafts and were subsequently upgraded to 1600cc and 2000cc. It was this very engine, capable of producing 165 horsepower, that drove OSCA to its most impressive international victory in 1954: the 12 hours of Sebring, in the United States, driven by the champion, Stirling Moss.

Also by Fissore this convertible version of the OSCA 1600 GT

Always very interesting and popular in the world of collecting are the road-going versions of the OSCA cars, “dressed” by the main Italian coachbuilders. 

The romantic dream of the Maserati Brothers, now in the later stages of their lives, died out within twenty years. The world was changing and the spirit of the “garage” where everything was done under one roof had very little chance of surviving.

The Maserati brothers also tried their luck with single-seaters, this is the 1100 Formula Junior, but it wasn’t particularly fortunate
1954, 12 Hours of Sebring, the most surprising and unexpected OSCA victory. Driven by Stirling Moss and Bill Lloyd, the small Italian car won by beating the official teams after a race that was daring to say the least
Bertone’s interpretation of the Fiat OSCA 1500 S. Note the rear fins that accentuate the pursuit of aerodynamics, following the American fashion of the time
In an attempt to increase production and profits, at the end of the 50s OSCA managed to supply FIAT with its 1500cc and 1600cc 4-cylinder twin-shaft engines mounted on the FIAT 1500 which, with OSCA engines, adopted the S initial