Three American racing legends – Carroll Shelby, Briggs Cunningham and Al Momo – joined forces in 1963, resulting in a SHELBY-POWERED BIRDCAGE MASERATI racecar.


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.

SHELBY-POWERED BIRDCAGE MASERATIIn 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. 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.

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.

SHELBY-POWERED BIRDCAGE MASERATIIts 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 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 in the SHELBY-POWERED BIRDCAGE MASERATI 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, this 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 were 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 fan-less engine. Ready to race, the SHELBY-POWERED BIRDCAGE MASERATI 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. It 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.

Checkout the history of the Maserati Birdcage @


Corvette will be the Featured Marque at the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion on August 16-19. Celebrate Corvette’s 70th Anniversary at CORVETTE SUMMER @ AT LAGUNA SECA!


For 70 years, the Corvette has captured the hearts and passion of car enthusiasts worldwide, whether it’s cruising down tree-lined roadways or accelerating through tight turns at race tracks. Part of Corvette’s mystique has been captured through cinematic or television appearances. Route 66 or Corvette Summer, for example, captured the fantasies of youth everywhere, making Corvette synonymous with dreams of speed, power and glamour.

The Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion joins Corvette in celebrating its rich history this year with a curated display of some of the most instrumental cars in its past. Corvettes will be complemented by more than 400 historic and authentic racecars competing in 14 classes each day at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, August 16-19.

The first Corvette prototype was revealed at the Waldorf Astoria General Motors Motorama January 14, 1953, and became one of the few concept cars to translate into a production model. Seventy years later it sets the standard for American technology in a world class sports car.

Corvette racing history began in 1956 under the watchful eye of Chevrolet engineer Zora Arkus-Duntov, also known as the “Father of the Corvette.” Corvette captured the 1956 SCCA (Sports Car Club of America) C/Production national championship with Dr. Dick Thompson, “the racing dentist,” behind the wheel. That early success whetted the appetite of hundreds of drivers who went on to compete and win, such as Bob Bondurant, Dick Guldstrand, John Fitch, John Greenwood, Alan Barker, Dale Earnhardt, Sr., Dale Earnhardt, Jr., and Oliver Gavin among the many who took victories with the iconic brand at race tracks around the world.

Photo by Claude Haycraft, Courtesy of the Bill Warner archives

“We are excited to be sharing the legacy, history and heritage of Corvette at this year’s Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion,” says John Narigi, president and general manager of WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca. “Kids across many generations have dreamt of owning or riding in a Corvette in their lifetime. We welcome Corvette’s return with their enthusiasm to Monterey and sharing their history, along with Corvette’s future.”

The is about celebrating key milestones, achievements, personalities and motorsport history in a lively high-octane festival experience. It will be non-stop action in the open race paddock where visitors can admire row after row of historic cars being worked on in preparation for the next race. Owners of these machines welcome answering questions and letting kids climb in behind the wheel to create lasting memories.

For more information about the Corvette’s 70th Anniversary –  CORVETTE SUMMER @ AT LAGUNA SECA – and the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion, please visit