1938 Maserati takes lap at Indy, honors in U.S. archive

Three-time Indy 500 winnerJohhny Rutherford drove the 1938 Maserati on its speedway lap | Maserati
Three-time Indy 500 winner Johhny Rutherford drove the 1938 Maserati on its speedway lap | Maserati

Seventy-five years after Maserati’s historic victory in the Indianapolis 500, the 1939-winning Maserati 8CTF “Boyle Special” was back on the track for a roaring victory lap.

Three-time Indy winner Johnny Rutherford was at the wheel of the sleek, cigar-shaped vintage race car for a parade lap before this year’s world-famous race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, which was won in 1939 and 1940 by renowned driver Wilbur Shaw in the Maserati 8CTF, serial number 3032.

The  Boyle Special was not only celebrating its milestone victory, but the 100th anniversary of the Maserati brand. Not only that, it was marking an important honor that will preserve this car’s memory in perpetuity in U.S. historic records.

Wilbur Shaw in the Boyle Special at Indy | Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Wilbur Shaw in the Boyle Special at Indy in 1941 | Indianapolis Motor Speedway

The Historic Vehicle Association announced Sunday at Indy that the 1938 Maserati 8CTF would be the first automobile from a foreign manufacturer to be recorded under the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Heritage Documentation.

The documentation is part of the HVA’s National Historic Vehicle Register and Historic American Engineering Record that is permanently archived in the Library of Congress.

“The Maserati 8CTF Boyle Special is among the most historically significant race cars in America,” said Mark Gessler, HVA president. “Its historic significance is based on its association with important events and persons, its construction and design value as one of the most competitive and successful open-wheel racecar designs, and informational value as one of the few race cars from the period that retains much of its original materials, components and craftsmanship.”

The Maserati is the third historic vehicle so honored. The first was the 1964 Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupe, the seminal version of the aerodynamic race cars that beat Ferrari at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Next to be added to the U.S. archive was the original dune buggy, the unique VW-powered Meyers Manx that was hand-built in fiberglass by Bruce Meyers in 1964.

Rutherford waves to the crowd before the Indy 500 | Maserati
Rutherford waves to the crowd before the Indy 500 | Maserati

The Maserati occupies a powerful place in the legend of U.S. motorsports as one of the most successful race cars in the history of the Indianapolis 500. Originally conceived by Ernesto Maserati at the beginning of 1938 to challenge the dominance in Grand Prix racing by the German-government funded Mercedes-Benz Silver Arrows, the 8CTF with its powerful 8-cylinder engine and solid reliability was found to be uniquely suited for competition in the classic American race on the giant oval at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Piloted by Shaw, considered to be one of the greatest American drivers of the era, the Maserati roared to convincing back-to-back wins in 1939 and 1940. Shaw and the Maserati were headed for another victory in 1941 when a collapsed wheel ended their race. After the war, the Maserati was back in competition at Indy from 1946 to 1949, and again in 1951.

Peter Grady, Maserati’s North American president and CEO, said, “Having the Maserati 8CTF Boyle Special to be included in the permanent archives of the Library of Congress is a great honor, particularly when Maserati is celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2014.

“The recognition of the 75th anniversary of its first victory at Indy pays homage to our roots as a maker of successful race cars,” Grady added. “Witnessing the vintage Maserati 8CTF run with such rich automotive context of the Indianapolis 500 during its milestone anniversary is remarkable.”

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