How Maserati’s Tipo V4 averaged 153 mph... in 1929

Maserati Tipo

Maserati has yet to roll out a new product worthy of its undeniably impressive racing heritage—but 90 years ago the picture was somewhat different. In 1929 Enzo Ferrari had just founded Alfa Romeo team Scuderia Ferrari—and Maserati chief Alfieri Maserati had sent his team to set a new benchmark during the “Giornata dei record,” a time trial on the flying 10 kilometres (6.2 miles).

Maserati’s tool for the job? The Maserati Tipo V4, a car combining two straight-eight engines to make up a V-16. Maserati’s pair of Tipo 26B engines was mounted side by side and connected by a single crankcase containing two crankshafts. Each of the two sets of cylinders had its own magneto ignition, carburetor, and supercharger. As a result, Maserati’s 25-degree, four-liter V-16 was good for anything between 280 and 305 horsepower.

Bologna Tipo Bologna Italy
Maserati Tipo Bologna Italy

Maserati factory driver Baconin Borzacchini wasn’t messing around with the Tipo V4 on the dead-straight 6.2-mile section of Autostrada 10 between the town hall at Gadesco Pieve Delmona and Sant’Antonio d’Anniata. After all, he needed an extra 1.86 miles of distance on top of the average speed trial for the flying start… and to slow down that V-16.

He covered the uphill leg in 2:25.20, with an average speed of 154.058 mph. Downhill, he needed three seconds more, bringing his overall average time to 2:26.30—figuring out to a speed of 152.9 mph. It was a world record for class C (from 3000 to 5000 cc), previously held by Ernest Eldridge’s 1927 run at Autodrome de Linas-Montlhéry in France with a Miller special. Having set that record, Eldridge then lost an eye in a crash triggered by front axle failure.

With a dry weight of 2314 pounds and a four-speed gearbox, the twin-supercharged Maserati Tipo V6 was geared for a top speed of 162 mph. Yet, when Baconin Borzacchini died four years later in 1933, his daily driver was an Alfa Romeo.