Three American racing legends – Carroll Shelby, Briggs Cunningham and Al Momo joined forces in 1963, resulting in an exotic COBRA IN A MASERATI BIRDCAGE!


Transplanting American V8 engines into imported sports racers gained popularity in the early-mid-1960s. American V8s were often inexpensive, simple to modify and maintain, and in many cases lighter than imports.  Most importantly, they produced maximum horsepower and torque at considerably lower and more useable rpm for improved performance and durability.

Ford’s lightweight 260-289 V8, which was elevated to International status by Carroll Shelby’s Cobras, caught the attention of Alfred Momo and Briggs Cunningham in 1963. Momo managed Briggs Cunningham’s racing team and operated a full sports car and racing services facility in New York City. Cunningham built sports cars and racecars in 1951-1955, took Corvettes to Le Mans in 1960 and was the highest-profile racing team owner-driver in the U.S in the late-1950s and early-1960s.

In 1963 Cunningham spent a lot of time racing Momo-prepared Maserati Tipos, also known as Birdcages because of their unique triangulated small-diameter tubular chassis construction. The original Tipo chassis weighed just 66 pounds and resembled a large birdcage. It was originally fitted with a three-liter DOHC V12 engine, below. While considered state-of-the-art because of unique space-frame construction, they were plagued with suspension failures leading to serious handling and reliability issues. At the time Maserati was cash-starved, negatively affecting racecar development.COBRA IN A MASERATI BIRDCAGE!Both Cunningham and Momo were aware of Shelby’s success with Ford-powered Cobras and decided to bring him in while Momo was rebuilding one of two Maserati Tipo 64 Birdcages (#64.002). It had been built in 1962 as a Tipo 63 and later returned to Italy for chassis updates, rear suspension change, weight reduction and relocation of the engine for better weight distribution. Its fully independent rear suspension was replaced with a De Dion setup located with its own tubular framework. Power came from a 60-degree 183-cubic-inch V12 with four cams and six Weber 35-DCV carburetors. Output was 320 horsepower at 8,200 rpm. This is the same engine used by Maserati in 1957 in its Formula One 250.

Shelby suggested a 289-cubic inch Cobra competition engine, above, that would put out more useable horsepower and torque at more than 1,000 rpm less than the V12. I spent a day in August 1963 at Momo Competition after the Shelby-Ford 289, fitted by Al Momo with four Weber 4610-M1 carburetors, was installed and fired up. The 289’s headers were plumbed into rear exit quad megaphones. It had an incredible bark – much more raucous sounding than a competition Cobra. Rated at 340-horsepower at 7,000 rpm, the engine was fitted with ported and polished heads like the ones used on FIA Cobras, a Motorola alternator and Spalding Flamethrower ignition. It was shipped with an aluminum Cobra-Weber intake manifold sans carburetors, and a custom nine-quart oil pan.

Unlike previous Birdcages that Cunningham had raced, the COBRA IN A MASERATI BIRDCAGE! was the first to utilize a De Dion rear suspension with a five-speed gearbox and an interchangeable Fifth gear. To adapt the Cobra engine, Momo chopped the Ford bellhousing and utilized a Maserati flywheel and clutch. Clutch and throttle, linkage was converted to hydraulic-assist utilizing slave cylinders.

To compensate for the new powerplant, adjustable Armstrong shocks and beefier 42-mm knock-off hubs were added. An aluminum cross-flow radiator, aided by small vents in the aluminum rear body panels, cooled the fanless engine. Ready to race, the COBRA IN A MASERATI BIRDCAGE! weighed in at 1,400 pounds, exactly one pound less than with the V12!

With the help of Willem Oosthoek, author of Birdcage to Supercage and Larry Berman, Cunningham historian, we were able to track the Ford-powered Birdcage’s racing history. The first time out with Walt Hansgen driving, #64.002 took a Third overall at the Watkins Glen SCCA Nationals on August 24, 1963. Primary drivers were Cunningham, Augie Pabst and Paul Richards. Dr. Dick Thompson also spent some seat time in Tipo #64.002.

Over the years ownership of #64.002 passed from Cunningham to Pabst and then to Ham Vose. The COBRA IN A MASERATI BIRDCAGE! competed at the Bridgehampton Double 500, Los Angeles Times GP at Riverside and many regional events in 1963. The last big race it ran was the USRRC event at Augusta. In later years, still fitted with the Shelby Cobra engine, it was on display at the Blackhawk Collection.

For more information about the Birdcage Maserati, please visit


Longtime friend Bill Kolb is probably best remembered in the enthusiast community as the 1960s poster boy for Ford’s Total Performance and Win On Sunday; Sell On Monday marketing concepts. His close friends often called him, “Mr. Monday! We bonded after I did a story on him and his Lightweight 427 Galaxie in 1963 and we’ve been friends since. Remembering Bill Kolb, Jr., 1941-2021.


Bill Kolb, Jr. passed away quietly at home in Carefree, AZ, on Friday, December 3, 2021, comforted by his wife, Maryann and family. Bill was 80 years old and spent his entire adult life in the automotive retail business, and building, racing and marketing specialty cars. He was the dealer-principal at White Plains Ford, (White Plains, NY), Bill Kolb, Jr. Ford, (Blauvelt, NY); he and Maryann were dealer principals at Bill Kolb, Jr. Subaru (Orangeburg, NY).

In 1963 he campaigned a factory 427 Lightweight Galaxie; in 1964 a 427 Fairlane Thunderbolt Super/Stock in the Northeast states, both sponsored by Larsen Ford in White Plains, NY where he was employed as High-Performance Sales Director. His next venture was more entertainment than Eliminator!

Enter the Little Yellow Wagon, a raucous 427-powered “billboard” capable of running the entire quarter-mile on its rear wheels. It actually proved to be a more effective sales tool than previous Super/Stock racecars. Kolb and his ’65 Ford Econoline pickup joined the ranks of wheel-standing exhibitionists, headed by Bill “Maverick” Golden who, driving his Dodge Little Red Wagon, pioneered the genre. The Little Yellow Wagon was powered by a Hilborn-injected 427 side-oiler built by Tasca Ford’s John Healey. It was mounted on a sub-frame behind the cab.

Partnered with longtime friend and top Ford tech, John Sachs, Kolb returned to Larsen in 1975, purchased the dealership and renamed it White Plains Ford. Between 1975 and 1981, White Plains Ford was one of the top performing stores in the New York District.


A close friend of Carroll Shelby, and Lee Iacocca when he was Vice-President of Ford’s Car and Truck Group, Kolb, at Iacocca’s direction, set up a unique Shelby dealership within Gotham Ford in New York City. It was the first dealership-within-a-dealership selling and servicing only Shelby automobiles! Kolb became a member of Ford’s Dealer Council for Performance Cars – the only salesman to be part of this group. He then became a key player in Ford’s Shelby marketing programs when Ford hired him to be national spokesperson for the Shelby dealer network.

Between his time at Larsen and Gotham Ford dealerships – 1965 to 1970 – Kolb sold more Shelby Cobras, GT Mustangs and GT40s than anyone else in the country. Documented by SAAC (Shelby American Automobile Club), Kolb’s Shelby sales records, including the most 427 Cobras (18), are legendary.

REMEMBERING BILL KOLB, JR., 1941-2021Martyn Schorr, one of Bill’s oldest friends and, in 1967, editor of Hi-Performance CARS Magazine, recalls the time that he and Bill spent a day test-driving the prototype Mark III GT40 (M/3 1101) around New York City. It had been left in Bill’s care at Gotham Ford after being displayed at the New York Auto Show.

“In April 1967, Bill Kolb called and asked if I wanted to have a little fun test driving a GT40 road car, Ford’s first real Supercar. I thought of taking it to Lime Rock or another track. He had other ideas saying, ‘road testing should be done on the road.’


“We ended up dodging New York City taxis, delivery trucks and the occasional Police car, and frightened woman, children and puppies! It was a glorious day. How Bill and I stayed out of jail that day still mystifies me. Our only real challenge was trying to pay tolls on the Triborough Bridge since the GT40 didn’t have roll-down windows! It ended up being the cover story of the July 1967 issue of Hi-Performance CARS.

In 1984, Kolb enhanced his relationship with Ford as a manufacturer. The company was called Spoilers-Plus and Kolb produced aerodynamic styling and ground-effects kits for slow-selling vehicles like the Ford EXP. The line was expanded to include bolt-on restyling components for Mustangs and Thunderbirds. Spoilers-Plus became the first aftermarket company to sell aero-enhancing body kits to Ford and its dealer network.

Kolb’s Spoilers-Plus front air dam was on Bill Elliott’s 1987 Daytona 500 winning Thunderbird, averaging over 176 mph and setting a record. After the race, Elliott sent Bill a note: ‘Thanks for the air dam, it has the record’, signed Bill Elliott.”

Total Performance has always been a way of life for Bill Kolb, Jr. who parlayed a passion for racing and high-performance cars into a legendary career. Masterful at building and marketing specialty vehicles, he kept his decades-old Ford connection alive with Tungsten Grey and Heritage model ’06 Ford GTs. He drove them as long as possible until being sidelined with health issues.

Bill is survived by his wife, Maryann Kolb, left, sister, Rommy Revson, son, William (Bill) Kolb, III and nephew, Nathanial Hunt. A service will be held on Wednesday, December 15, 2021 at 10:30 am at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church, 92 S. Lexington Avenue, White Plains, NY 10606.

REMEMBERING BILL KOLB, JR., 1941-2021: Donations, in lieu of flowers, may be sent to: The Alzheimer’s Association, 340 E. Palm Lane, Suite 230, Phoenix, AZ 85004. Online: (Search Kolb)