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  OSCA Tipo J      

  Article Image gallery (28) Specifications  
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Country of origin:Italy
Produced from:1959 - 1961
Numbers built:15
Author:Wouter Melissen
Last updated:December 08, 2008
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Click here to download printer friendly versionWhile the OSCA sports racers were very successful, the few single seaters built by the Maserati brothers after 1948 hardly set the world afire. That is quite in contrast with the highly competitive machines they built under their own name, which for the largest part were single seaters. It all changed for the better towards the end of the 1950s when the Maserati brothers developed an OSCA for the new and immediately popular Formula Junior class.

Formula Junior was established in 1958 by Count Giovanni 'Johnny' Lurani to give young talented drivers an affordable and competitive entree into single seating racing. In order to keep costs down, the manufacturers had to use production based engines. As the series originated in Italy, the first constructors to take up the challenge were all Italian. Stanguellini was the first to start production, but the first race was won by a Taraschi. The series quickly grew in popularity and for 1959 several other countries announced a 'Junior' championship of their own. The Maserati brothers rightly estimated that there could be a considerable market for an OSCA Formula Junior racer.

Work started towards the end of 1958 with the first deliveries scheduled before the start of the new season. Like the other Italian manufacturers, OSCA opted to use the Fiat 1100 engine. The 'hottest' version offered in a Fiat road car produced 50 bhp. To suit its racing purpose, the engine was fitted with two very large twin-choke Webers. With additionally fine tuning, the diminutive engine produced a hefty 80 bhp. It was bolted to a four speed gearbox, which was also sourced from Fiat. By comparison, Stanguellini offered their cars as standard with a five speed box.

The engine and gearbox were mounted off-set to the left in a very conventional steel ladder frame. Suspension at the front was by double wishbones, while at the rear a live axle was fitted. The hydraulically operated drums were again sourced from a Fiat parts bin. The completed machine was covered in an attractive aluminium single seater body, which was carefully crafted in Ferrara by Morelli. Fully clothed, the OSCA 'Tipo J' was relatively high even though the driver sat alongside the driveshaft. The little racing car weighed little over 300 kg, giving it a good power to weight ratio.

Among the first customers for the Tipo J was Luigi Chinetti, the American importer for Ferrari and the owner of the North American Racing Team (NART). Due to his close relationship with Ferrari, Enzo allowed him to use the 'prancing horse' in the NART badge. Among Chinetti's drivers were the two Rodriguez brothers from Mexico. They raced the cars in the North American series, but faced an insurmountable hill to climb in the form of all new generation of racing cars with the engine mounted behind the driver. The OSCAs did challenge them at times, but they were clearly out-handled.

In Europe, the OSCAs did achieve some notable successes. Colin Davis secured the Italian Formula Junior title in 1959, driving both a Taraschi and one of the Works OSCAs. From a financial point of view, the Tipo J was also not a bad project as a total of 15 examples were produced in 1959 and 1960. It was just unfortunate that the Lotus and Cooper Juniors flooded the scene from 1960 onwards, rendering all the Italian cars, which were all front engined, obsolete. The Maserati brothers did not attempt to develop their own mid-engined racer, making the 15th Tipo J the very last single seater they ever produced.

Featured are four of the fifteen OSCA Tipo Js built shown in action during the 2006 Goodwod Revival and the 2008 Monaco Historic Grand Prix. Among them is the second chassis built, which was used by Chinetti's North American Racing Team.

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  Article Image gallery (28) Specifications