The Maserati 300S has featured a number of times in recent On This Day features this year. It is a car that Stirling has described as "one of the easiest, nicest, best-balanced sports-racing cars ever made..." and he also noted in his personal diary that the 300S was the race car that he had his greatest drive in and one of his favorite cars of all time. The 300S is one of the greatest and rarest 1950s sports racing cars ever made and helped solidify Maserati as one of the greatest race car manufacturers of all time.

The Maserati brothers of Bologna founded their racing car manufacturing company in 1926. The company was pure-bred, real racers building real racing cars for a racingorientated specialist clientele. And so they remained for many years. After the Gruppo Orsi organization bought the company in 1937, and the brothers finally completed their service contracts and left in 1947-48 – founding OSCA – Maserati as a marque continued its dedication to competition, with a road car production line only slowly beginning to emerge.

Racing customers found Maserati generally more helpful than other manufacturers, more willing to do a deal with its racing customers, and its line of 2-liter A6GCS sports-racing cars earned many friends into the early 1950s. The 6 cylinder twin overhead camshaft engines were powerful within their class and the chassis developed by engineer Vittorio Bellentani – proved relatively light but – most importantly – good handling and nimble. Maserati in fact proved more effective within the smaller capacity classes, up to 2-liters, than their rivals and neighbours, Ferrari at Maranello.

But the Maserati management team visualized an entry in the larger capacity class of sports car competition, for in 1954-55 Vittorio Bellentani developed the 300S 3-liter 6-cylinder model – combining in effect the best attributes of the 2-liter A6GCS with those of the latest 2.5-liter Formula 1 Maserati 250F.

From 1955 to 1959 at least 26 Maserati 300S sports-racing cars would be manufactured, emerging in three broad variants, each one more effective than its predecessor. Maserati's first prototype 2.5-liter sports car engine building towards the full 3-liter 300S delivered some 240bhp at 7,200rpm on one of the Modena company's dyno test beds. Juan Manuel Fangio and Onofre Marimon co-drove the prototype upon its debut in the Supercortemaggiore Grand Prix at Monza Autodrome.

Of the first batch of five 300S cars to be constructed, three were destined for the American market – all ordered by Briggs Cunningham. The first three frames were considered too flexible and so modifications were made to numbers four and five. The definitive Maserati 300S sports-racing cars then emerged with what was rated by many world class drivers as being the best handling of all mid-1950s sports-racing cars.

From 1956 to 1958, Stirling started 13 races in Maserati 300S cars and he took them over in three further races having started in different models. From that total of 16 events, the Maserati 300S gave him nine race wins, three second places, a third and a fifth and only two retirements.

He described the 300S as being "...strong and dependable, also quite like an Aston Martin DB3S in its general feel and responsiveness, but it was even better balanced and, in my experience, almost unburstable.

Today, people rave about Ferrari's fantastic reliability. True, they used to spread it wider across the board amongst all their customers, but a decently-prepared 300S had a chassis which was infinitely superior to any front-engined sports Ferrari and although it lacked their wonderfully smooth and powerful V12 engines, its 6 cylinder was always man enough for the job...".

Stirling wrote in his diary after a particularly challenging Buenos Aires 1,000km race in Argentina, in which he started in a 450 S Maserati but finished in a 300S when the 450S had mechanical failure, that "It had been a wonderful race for me which I enjoyed enormously...This was my greatest drive. Car (300S) fabulous - 6,400rpm and I braked at 250 metres, in 450S braking at 500 metres...".

This personal testimonial from one of the greatest drivers of all time underlines the Maserati 300S's stature within racing at that time and why it is such a sort after car today.

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