The car industry in Italy had been founded on the basis of personal ambitions and a deep-rooted passion of a few pioneering individuals, quite unlike say the United States, where the industry grew because it meant for an attractive commercial proposition. Most of the Italian greats like Alfa Romeo, Lancia, Maserati, Ferrari and so on can trace their inception back to the passion and fortitude of a few people looking to make a difference.The OSCA 1600 GT Berlinetta here is a textbook example of this observation.
By the end of the Second World War, the Maserati brothers had cut all ties with their namesake company and founded OSCA (Officine Specializzate per la Costruzione Automobili Fratelli Maserati), to focus on building competition cars after Maserati’s shift in interest to road-going models. OSCA was a small outfit, building roughly 30 cars a year, exclusively for competition use. Throughout the 50s, OSCA saw good competition success. The most notable of them all was at the 1954 12 Hours of Sebring, where privateer OSCAs finished 1st, 4th and 5th, beating out works competition. Other wins included class wins at the Mille Miglia and also an index of performance win at Le Mans. These competition cars were usually powered by a 1.6-litre twin-overhead-camshaft engine which the Maserati brothers had originally developed for FIAT.
Ironically, the Maserati brothers eventually decided to venture into the road car business with OSCA. This 1.6-litre engine, in a higher state of tune, would power the OSCA 1600 GT cars. These cars were built on a steel tubular spaceframe chassis and shared the engine with FIAT’s 1500/1600 range. Only about 128 examples were made of the 1600 GT, and it was the norm in those days, the car was provided as a rolling chassis so that the bodywork could be put together by specialist coachbuilders. 98 of the OSCA 1600 GTs were by Zagato, 24 by Fissore Carrozzeria and the rest by Boneschi and Morelli. This particular example here is one of the 21 Fissore-bodied coupes (3 were cabriolets) that will go on sale at the Bonhams Padua Sale.
The Maserati brothers’ OSCA venture eventually did not survive beyond 1967, however, there are few better examples than this of how Italian passion and ingenuity has shaped motorsport and car-making in Europe and in the world.