The “Old Man of the Mountain” and the Maserati 8CTFs

Louis Unser drove the “Smiths Buffet Special” a Maserati  8CTF in the 1946 Pikes Peak Hill Climb. The 24th annual PPHC was also the richest purse in the history of the race,with prizes totaling $10,650. Louis at the time was already a six time winner and the car, he claimed, the Maserati was “Most powerful he had ever driven in the Hill Climb”. Surely he would get win number seven !

A Maserati  8TCF ?

The Maserati brothers began building race cars for Diatto in the early 1920s. By 1926 three of the brothers started their own company and continued building cars for European Grand Prix racing. Rule changes in the series lead to the development of the 8-Cylinder ‘Testa Fissa” race car In early 1938  (I believe ‘testa fissa’ means fixed head ??)  Better known as the  Maserati 8CTF.  Three cars were built, and  became very important part of Pikes Peak history.  The serial number were , 3030, 3031 and 3032. The cars were powered by a 3.0 liter straight eight cylinder, with two superchargers, Menin carburetors and Scintilla magneto .They weighed in dry at 1720 pounds.  Early efforts in Europe had mixed results. With World War II pending  the cars were sent to the USA.

The 1939 Indianapolis 500 shocker.

The american public found out about the Maserati 8CTF at the Indy 500, first in 1939 and again in 1940, taking the win in back to back years ! The winning car was serial number 3032 and it was the first European race car since 1919 to win at the brickyard . ( It wouldn’t happen again until 1965 with a Lotus)  Racing under the “Boyle Racing” headquarters team it would become the most successful race car in Indy 500 history. Besides the back to back wins at Indyin 39 & 40. The car would claim 3rd place finishes in 1946 and 47 and a fourth in 1948. This car is currently in possession of the Indianapolis Hall Of Fame Museums and has been with there since the 1960s.

The Boyle Special , (3032)  did not run at Pikes Peak, but is the most famous of the three Maserati 8CTF race cars.

For more info on the Boyle Special :

1938 Maserati 8CTF “The Boyle Special”

Louis Unser racing a Maserati 8CFT at the PPHC .

Thursday August 29th 1946, the fastest time at time trials was Louis Unser in the “Smiths Buffet Special”, with a time of 6’57.5. He was racing the Maserati 8CTF serial number 3031.  The car was owned by Russ Snowberger.   Only nine drivers were in the field for the first race back, since the end of the World War II.  Going into race day the 1941 winner and fastest qualifier, Louis Unser was certainly the favored. Race officials said the crowd was the largest ever to witness the PPHC. Ab Jenkins of land speed fame was the Grand Marshall of the race and even Colorado Governor John C. Vivan was in attendance.  The weather was sunny but cool with a slight clouding, but not obscuring the sun. The road was in great shape. ….. Of course Louis WON ! ! …. He took wins in the Maserati 8CTF (serial number 3031) in both 1946 and 1947.  Finished in 7th with it in 1948 and Russ Snowberger would race, 3031,  in 1949 and finish in 7th.

Louis Unser Maserati 8CTF Pikes Peak Hill Climb

Louis Unser Maserati 8CTF at Pikes Peak 1947
Louis Unser Maserati 1948

The clue to identifying the Louis Unser Maserati by year is the sponsorship.

  • 1946 – “Smiths Buffet Special” with the large banner look
  • 1947 –  “Village Inn Restaurant
  • 1948 – “Smiths Buffet & Restaurant”

All three of those years his car was the 8CFT serial number 3031 and the car was number 25

Russell Snowberger would drive 3031 in the 1949 Pikes peak race and it carried the number 21.

The car still survives !

Joel Finn a vintage racer and historian, is the current owner of 3031.  The car can be seen at various concours events throughout the USA.


Serial number 3030

1949 was the only year that the Maserati 8CFT serial number 3030 ran at Pikes Peak, Louis Unserwas the driver and Federal Engineering of Detroit was the sponsor. The car ran the number 35 and placed 4th. In thrilling fashion, Louis spun out just feet from the finish line, put it in reverse and crossed the line backwards.  One of the most remarkable finishes in Pikes Peak history.

Louis Unser in Maserati 8CFT serial # 3030 in 1949

Check out the link below for what # 3030 looks like today.  (AMAZING)

1938 Maserati 8CTF


Only three built and all three survive.

When you think about the time frame these cars were built , just getting out of Europe before the ball dropped. Only three cars made, the odds were not in their favor for survival.  But they did ! Today, 3030 is the only one to keep its original Maserati motor during its entire time. 3031  is considered the most original., plus it has the PPHC lineage.  3032 is considered the most historic with its Indy 500 success. (They even made toy cars of it )

The cars were extremely well built, with great looks, prewar heritage and success at Indy and Pikes Peak. No wonder all three  survive today.

Personally , I  have never seen any of them. (yet).      Have you ?


Update 5-1-2017

I have a photo from the 1954 Pikes Peak Hill Climb race that brings up some questions. Entry list shows Al Rogers driving a Maserati  Cott-Jewel Special.  Another note stated this was serial number 3032. Can not verify that information. Asking for help. 

Any ideas? car above has a weird bump at front edge of hood going into the nose. Engine listed as an Offy.

Pikes Peak Hill Climb program with Maserati 8CTF







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