Have you ever been so intrigued by a car that you wondered how futuristic its designers were, only to find out it wasn’t meant to be the future? That is the story that the Maserati 250f and Lotus 77 tell.
The Maserati 250f was an interim car that surprisingly won two races on its first year by rocking an SSG 2.5-liter Maserati A6 straight-six engine. With a total win of eight, the Maserati 250f has gone down in history as the most praised Formula One race car, driven by two of the most excellent F1 drivers.
The Lotus 77 was made to act as an interim race car for the 1976 Formula One competition season. The Lotus 77 was a means to an end, for Lotus, like the first Maserati 250f. The 77 was experimentation by the company to outshine the failure of the Lotus 77 predecessor, the Lotus 76. The interim nature of the 77 became evident when it was quickly dropped from the races when the Lotus 78 arrived in 1977.
These 250f and 77 managed to provide substantial boosts for their companies in the Formula one races despite their initial missions. Lotus 77 managed to stay relevant to 1989 in the US races, although it only won one race, seven less than the Maserati 250f.
We are going to take a look at the various similarities and differences between these two beasts. Price won’t be part of the comparison due to the exclusive nature of the remaining units. We will focus on their engine performance difference, aerodynamic efficiency, and broad experience to help you match them against each other.
|Maserati 250f||Lotus 77|
|Designed by||Gioacchino Colombo, Valerio Colotti||Colin Chapman, Geoff Aldridge, Martin Ogilvie|
|Drivers||Hans Herrmann, Jo Bonnier, Jean Behra, Masten Gregory, Stirling Moss, Juan Manuel Fangio, Maria Teresa de Filippis||Andretti Mario, Evans Bob, Nilsson Gunnar, Peterson Ronnie|
|Curb weight||670 kg /1477.1 pounds||595 kg / 1313 pounds|
|Engine||SSG 2.5-liter Maserati A6 straight-six normally aspirated, front, longitudinally-mounted engine||Ford-Cosworth DFV0-degree V8, mid-mounted, naturally aspirated|
|Valvetrain||DOHC, two valves per cylinder||Chain-driven DOHC, four valves per cylinder|
|Engine capacity||2494 cc / 152.2 cu in||2993cc|
|Bore||84 mm/ 3.3 inches||3.37 inches/ 85.7 mm|
|Stroke||75 mm/2.5 inches||2.55 inches/ 64.8 mm|
|Maximum Power||240 bhp/ 17 kW at 7,200 rpm||485 bhp /362 kW at 6200 rpm|
|Body frame||Aluminum alloy head and block||Glass-fiber reinforced plastic|
|Front tires||Pirelli Stella Bianca||Goodyear|
|Rear tires||Pirelli Stella Bianca||Goodyear|
|Front brakes||Ripped 13.4” hydraulic drum brakes||Girling ventilated discs|
|Rear brakes||All-round Ripped 13.4” hydraulic drum brakes||Inboard, Girling ventilated discs|
|Suspension||Front: Independent wishbone, coil springs with anti-roll bar, and Houdaille hydraulic dampers |
Rear:De Dion suspension tube, transverse leaf springs with anti-roll dampers, and Houdaille hydraulic dampers
|Front: Lower wishbone with top rocker arms, anti-roll bar with coil springs over dampers
Rear: Twin radius rods, single lower link with double, parallel upper, anti-roll bar with coil springs over dampers
|Maximum speed||180 mph / 290 kph||162 mph / 260 kph|
Maserati 250f and Lotus 77: Detailed Comparison
The best way to gauge Formula One cars’ driving and ownership experience is to gauge the responses from the horse’s mouth. I’m talking about the drivers. These Formula One race cars were driven by one of the all-time greats who drove for top brands such as Mercedes and Ferrari.
The Maserati 250f had different drivers throughout its lifetime. They include; Hans Herrmann, Jo Bonnier, Jean Behra, Masten Gregory, Stirling Moss, Juan Manuel Fangio, and Maria Teresa de Filippis. Of these seven, two were well known; Manuel Fangio and Stirling Moss won the two driver’s championships that the 250f claimed.
In his own words, Stirling Moss noted: “The Lotus 77 steered beautifully by inclining towards stable oversteer which I could exploit by balancing it against power and steering in long sustained drifts through corners. Lotus 77 rode well on the normal type of relatively smooth-surfaced course, although its small coil springs and leaf spring rear-end would use up available suspension movement over the bumps at the ‘Ring”.
The suspension system was not the best on the Maserati 250f, as noted by Moss; however, this was something that the Lotus 77 excelled at. The Lotus 77 came with a suspension system meant for a specific track with adjustable systems that gave it the name ‘The Adjustacar’.
As impressive as the system might have seemed, the drivers, notably Mario Andretti, did not care for the vehicle. The adjustable system did not fair well with a crew with enough experience using the system.
Drivers remarked that the steering and maneuverability of the Lotus 77 were unpredictable and unresponsive. Poor reviews and low competition success pushed the Lotus team into focusing on building the Lotus 78, which outperformed the 77 easily.
Suspension Design Comparison
The suspension system that gave the Lotus 77 its nickname included a front suspension made of a lower wishbone with top rocker arms and an anti-roll bar with coil springs over dampers. The rear suspension consisted of twin radius rods, single lower link with double, parallel upper, and anti-roll bar with coil springs over dampers.
The whole front suspension structure sat outside the aluminum monocoque chassis for both sides. The placement layout of the front suspension placed it directly in the line of airflow. This placement inevitably caused issues with straight-line speed making it unreliable. Later, the problem was resolved by a new designer, Len Terry, who opted for a more conventional rocker arms and outboard breaks system.
Maserati did not experience any downsides with their suspension design, unlike Lotus. The designers opted to equip the Maserati 250f with a traditional front suspension made of an independent wishbone, coil springs with an anti-roll bar, and Houdaille hydraulic dampers. The rear suspension consisted of a De Dion suspension tube, transverse leaf springs with anti-roll dampers, and Houdaille hydraulic dampers.
They say if you can’t beat them, then at least join them. To compete with other five-star brands such as Ferrari and Mercedes, the Maserati 250f had to be as innovative as them.
The engineers took a page out of Ferrari’s book by placing the De Dion suspension tube in front of the transaxle. The forward placement of the De Dion tube allowed the movement of enough weight in front of the rear axle. That improved the distribution of weight and substantially reduced the polar moment of inertia.
The Maserati 250f and Lotus 77 are Formula One cars; you do not need to see them know they are more aerodynamically efficient than 90% of vehicles. They both have streamlined bodies with low centers of gravity.
The Lotus 77 is the more outspoken with its standard, slim and light monocoque design made out of aluminum. The design allowed for improved aerodynamics than the Lotus 76. It also improved the cooling system by repositioning the radiators. During the 1976 season, a new chief engineer was hired, and he improved weight distribution by placing the oil radiator to the nose affecting its speeds.
Despite various modifications and improvements, the Lotus 77 remained an unpredictable and unreliable Formula One competitor. However, it did win on the Fuji Speedway in Japan, in its last race, due to its narrow width and almost flat rear wing.
The 250f focused on engine performance than aerodynamics; who can blame them, it was the 1950s. They tried to make it as fast as they could while still maintaining its stability. The team opted for a tubular spaceframe that was enclosed in aluminum panels. The location of the suspension system in front of the transaxle aided the aerodynamics by reducing the center of gravity and risks of spinning.
Aided by a fuel tank with a 200-liter fuel capacity, the Maserati featured an SSG 2.5-liter Maserati A6 straight-six ordinarily aspirated engine. The engine was placed on the front, featuring an original engine capacity of 2494cc, and was longitudinally mounted. It was capable of producing a maximum power of 240 bhp/17 kW at 7,200 rpm.
The company also opted to add to the engine performance and efficiency by including a DOHC, two valves per cylinder valvetrain. The assembled layout was very simple and non-complex, with great ancillaries, valve gear, and manifold.
Before reaching a peak power of 240 bhp, the Maserati 250f could only produce 220 bhp at 7,400 rpm. The team had to choose between adding the compression ratio and a highly radical fuel mixture to increase the power quickly. The compression ratio of 12.0:1 proved to be effective for the Maserati engine.
The fuel mixture that was used was made up of 10% acetone, 50% methanol, 1% castor oil, 4% benzol, and 35% petrol.
On the other hand, the Lotus 77 packed a beastly Ford-Cosworth DFV0-degree V8, mid-mounted, naturally aspirated engine. It has an engine capacity of 2993 capable of producing a maximum power of 485 bhp /362 kW at 6200 rpm.
The engine’s efficiency was greater when the race car was driven in tracks such as the Anderstorp Raceway, which had long corners. This was evident when Mario Andretti drove the car on the track before the engine failed unpredictably.
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The Lotus 77, also dubbed the Lotus 77 Cosworth, featured a Hewland FG 400 five-speed manual transmission system. The system does fair better than the Maserati four-speed manual transmission used in the 250f in 1954. It is also comparable to the updated 250f transmission in 1956; the Stirnsi five-speed manual transmission.
On the plus side, the Maserati 250f’s transmission provided four forward gears and reverse with drum brakes for breaking the car. The drum brakes were used with 13.4” drums mounted onboard on the front and the rear.
The Lotus 77, though produced decades after the Maserati 250f, happens to be a worse vehicle. It is still a competitive car in its own right, with one major race win under its belt. It served its purpose as an interim car and ushered in the age of the more prominent Lotus 78.
The Maserati 250f, on the other hand, was an interim car that was not anticipated to become a top-notch performer. However, it surprised the team when they realized how innovative their design was. Combining an SSG 2.5-liter Maserati A6 engine and the De Dion tube placement was the saving grace. And as we all know now, the rest is history.