The Maserati MC12 (also known as MCC or Tipo M144S) was the result of the historic Modena-based brand’s revitalization under Ferrari SpA’s guidance and entering the Supercar arena in 2004. The dramatic cars were built on the Ferrari Enzo platform and designed by Frank Stephenson, the American designer whom also penned the Mini Hatch, BMW X5, FIAT 500 Punto and Bravo, Alfa Romeo MiTo, Ferrari F430, McLaren P1 and MP4-12C. Stephenson was named “one of the most influential automotive designers of our time” by Autoblog in 2008.
In the late 90s, FIAT sold controlling shares of Maserati to Ferrari which is also part of the FIAT Group. Ferrari President Luca di Montezemolo set about to revive Maserati under Ferrari’s umbrella. Maserati, the long-time king of Italian sports and touring cars which featured the iconic original Ghibli (in coupe and spyder forms) from the late 1960s through early 1970s was to be made Ferrari’s luxury brand through the introduction of two new models intended to raise the company’s profile replacing the de Tomaso designed 3200 with the slick new Coupe which was a true four seater and Spyder the neat two seat convertible.
Maserati dropped the twin-turbo V8 engines of the 3200 for normally aspirated 4.2 liter V8s which were based on Ferrari’s hugely successful 360 motors. The cars also featured a transaxle gearbox mated with Maserati’s version of the now familiar paddle shifters which were termed “Cambiocorsa”.
The reception to the new generation of Maseratis under Ferrari’s direction was generally cool to positive depending on whom was asked. None the less, order books filled quickly in the now combined Ferrari/Maserati showrooms with long time Ferrari customers willing to step up and buy Maseratis to use as daily drivers and save their Ferraris for weekends.
Unfortunately, anticipation for the new look Maseratis was met with a lot of issues which plagued the first generation of Ferrari-inspired Maseratis. The Coupe and Spyder were beset with numerous mechanical maladies mainly related to electrical issues and the “Cambiocorsa” controlled transmissions. The new Maseratis were burdened with the bad reliability tag and Maserati was on the back foot in trying to calm buyer’s fears particularly in the U.S. where Maserati had a rather marginal reputation.
Frank Stephenson was given a greater role as Director of Ferrari-Maserati Concept Design and Development and soon enough, Maserati worked out the reliability issues and the new models were beginning to make an impact in the market.
Galvanized by the addition of the Quattroporte V designed by Pininfarina’s Ken Okuyama, Maserati brought back the retro-inspired but thoroughly modern big sedan which first appeared in 2002. The Quattroporte V was put into production in 2003 and was by all measures the big hit Maserati needed, di Montezemolo was ready to take Masearti to new levels.
Quite in character, di Montezemolo also targeted racing as a way of promoting the Maserati brand with competition modified Coupes which appeared in single make Maserati Supertrofeo series as Ferrari Challenge Series undercard events but not really making and headlines in more relevant sports car series.
That was until the introduction of Stephenson’s masterpiece, the stunning MC12. Maserati’s ultimate statement first entered production in 2004 with a twenty-five car run and another twenty-five examples for 2005. Each of the fifty cars were quickly spoken for at a pre-production cost of $670,000 as collectors lined up for what was sure to be a classic collectible Maserati with Supecar and racing lineage the likes of which had not been seen since the original Tipo 60 Birdcage.
The Maserati MC12 brought the brand firmly into the Supercar realm and while it was built on the Ferrari Enzo platform, the appearances of the cars are strikingly different. The MC12 is much more of a full-bodied prototype than its older cousin and seems purpose built for racing taking its place among the elite of sports car innovation and design, the MC12 is what the Enzo would be without the restrictions for daily road going use.
The only real outward visual evidence of shared DNA between the Enzo and the MC12 was that they had a common windscreen. Under the skin, the MC12 is the same chassis and track dimension and a common Ferrari-built 6.0 liter V12 engine
(rebadged with Maserati branding) and drive train was employed.
The fully carbon fiber car was developed entirely in the wind tunnel in order to achieve maximum downforce across all surfaces. The dramatic fixed rear wing (which is huge by today’s standards) exaggerates the length of the car making the it a definitive long-tail. The underside and the rear bumper areas were done away with and replaced by a racing derived defuser to achieve ultimate ground effect.
Stephenson’s mandate must have been to get as much air into the car’s radiators as possible and he achieved this by adding large straked inlets into the car’s front bonnet and atop the front splitter. Two enormous air intakes run nearly the full length of the side pods culminating with inlets to cool the engine. Likewise, a Formula One inspired air scoop atop the engine bonnet not only raises the MC12s profile but further aides in cooling the V12 motor through the forced duction system.
Maserati MC12s came in only the beautiful pearlescent white with blue accent color scheme. The color combination was an homage to the American Camoradi racing team, the famous entrant for the Tipo 60 Birdcage entries of the early 1960s. However, for an extra fee, Maserati would make an MC12 available in bespoke colors. A few took Maserati up on this and there are some notable bespoke colored examples in solid blue, black and orange.
While unquestionably a real looker of a car, criticisms of the MC12 included that it was just too big, no rear window, spare tire or entertainment system and the way the engine seemed to be limited on the top end disappointed owners whom expected more performance. Development driver Andrea Bertolini who tested the initial MCC was enthusiastic about the car’s reliable and positive reactions.
However, others were quick to complain that the MC12 was twitchy (overly sensitive to the least little driver input steering, braking, acceleration, etc.) and questions about how the car was categorized. Was it a street car, a GT racer or a full purpose-built prototype? The short answer was, well, yes!
And, perhaps even more interestingly, racing sanctioning bodies from the FIA, ACO, IMSA to the SRO were all left in the same conundrum as to how the car would be classified in racing. It seemed that the MC12 did not really fit into anyone’s idea of what a GT or prototype was.
The MC12 was in fact faster than its cousin from Maranello, but only marginally. In 2008, an MC12 lapped the Nurburgring Nordschleife in 7M:24.29S, over a second faster than an Enzo. Likewise, the MC12 was faster than the Enzo on Top Gear’s airport road course as driven by “The Stig” by just less than a second. So, were all of the modifications really worth it?
Racing, But of Corse…
It would seem that the MC12 was built nearly a decade too late as similar type cars such as the AMG Mercedes-Benz CLK-GTR, McLaren F1, Porsche GT1 and Lotus GT1 each saw action on the world stage in the enormously popular FIA GT series in the mid to late-90s while producing a string of memorable races, championship chases and a class of road-going and racing investment cars which to this day command record sums by collectors.
Despite the sanctioning bodies’ concerns, Maserati committed to build twelve racing version MC12s, called the GT1, to compete in the SRO organized FIA GT series and entered by the Italian A.F. Corsa team for 2004. All this, despite the fact that the FIA would not allow the MC12 cars to score championship points due to the debated homologation. This would not be the last time the appearance of the MC12 on the global racing stage would create controversy, more on that later.
The MC12 GT1s were nearly identical to their road-going counterparts, distinguished only with the presence of a higher fixed rear wing and cockpit safety features.
The first of the MC12 GT1s appeared in the SRO FIA GT event at Imola, Republic of San Marino just down the road from Modena, where the cars finished in second and third places overall. At the next race at Oschersleben, Germany, the MC12 of Andrea Bertolini and Mika Salo scored the first outright win for the model. By the final event of the 2004 season at Zuhai, China, the FIA finally relented and agreed to homologate the MC12s which allowed the MC12 cars to score points towards the championship.
From 2005 on, Maserati continued to campaign the MC12 in the FIA GT and GT1 World Championship events with considerable success. Team Vitaphone scored five consecutive team championships and a sixth for the first season of GT1 in 2010. MC12s won the Manufacturer’s Cup in 2005 and 2007 along with six Driver’s Championships, four in the FIA GT (2006-2009), one for the 2006 Italian GT Championship and another in the FIA GT1 category in 2010.
While experiencing success in the FIA GT, the Automobile Club de l’Ouest (ACO), organizers of the 24 Hours of Le Mans and related series, deemed the MC12s to be outside the rules for Le Mans, European Le Mans Series (ELMS) and American Le Mans Series (ALMS) due to the cars exceeding length and width dimensions as set forth by the rules governing GT category cars.
Maserati responded by shortening the car’s frontal area by 7.5” but the body was still 2.6” too wide and therefore deemed outside the parameters as outlined by the ACO’s rulebook.
The International Motor Sports Association (IMSA) which sanctioned the ALMS was facing ever shrinking fields at the time especially with manufacturer support for the GT1 category dwindling and was left scrambling to find entry. Entries for the 2005 12 Hours of Sebring were dropping below thirty and series President Scott Atherton was hard pressed to bring in new teams to fill ALMS grids.
At the same time, long time ALMS Ferrari GT entrant Risi Competizione of Houston, Texas was nominated to run the Maserati Corse MC12 with an eye toward the ALMS GT1 category. The controversy this entry caused nearly severed the licensing agreement between the ALMS and ACO as Atherton was quickly racking up frequent flyer miles criss-crossing the Atlantic to meet with ACO officials in France to hammer out a mutually agreeable deal and allow the car to take part in ALMS events and not lose their license to use Le Mans branding.
Ultimately, the ACO relented and allowed the MC12 Corse to compete in the ALMS albeit in similar fashion to the early FIA GT days wherein the car could not score Championship points.
At the same time, competing GT1 category teams Corvette Racing and Aston Martin Racing then objected, fearing the success the MC12 experienced in FIA GT, the car could still steal wins and alter the Championship giving Atherton more headaches. A compromise was reached as the MC12 Corse was saddled with extra ballast and smaller restrictors put in place which effectively declawed the entry to also-ran status against the factory entered Corvettes and DB9Rs.
For such a gorgeous car which was an instant favorite of the fans, it was a great pity that it was effectively neutered by the compromise that allowed it to race in the first place. But, as had been the case since the introduction of the MC12, the car never really fit into the GT1 category on one hand and it really wasn’t a P1 level prototype on the other. All of this kept the MC12 from reaching its full potential versus GT1 competitors in the major endurance races such as the 12 Hours of Sebring and Petite Le Mans.
With the demise of the GT1 category, rules changes in the FIA GT and no championships to compete for, MC12s were relegated to track or collectible car status and remain a popular, if not a bit misunderstood, Supercar.
#19407 First Owner Lorne Liebel.
This Maserati MC12 (#19407) has had what one may only term as a colorful ownership history. The car was delivered first to Lorne Liebel, a Toronto, Canada construction and real estate mogul turned boat and auto racer. Libel, who was inducted into the Canadian Motorsports Hall of Fame in 2006 was an avid sailor having competed for the 1976 Canadian Olympic team in the Tempest class.
Later, Libel’s interest in boat racing turned to powerboats and he participated in the highly competitive world of off-shore racing with thirty-foot performance boats, then moving up to thirty-six foot “Cigarette” boats and set off for Miami, the epicenter for power boating and off-shore racing.
Libel eventually purchased a forty-one foot, three-man, offshore racing machine from Japan and set about building a team. In 1986, he won the American Power Boat Association’s rookie-of-the-year award and was named Canadian Yachtsman of the Year (Powerboat) that same year. In 1993, he won the U.S. National Championship and in 2001 earned the title of Superboat World Champion.
However, the constant physical pounding of off-shore boat racing took its toll on Libel’s back and legs. Lorne began to consider retirement but one goal remained and that was to be the first to move the A.P.B.A. speed record over 200MPH and leave the sport with a milestone that would be a legacy of his career. In 2003, Lorne won his second World Superboat Championship, set an official A.P.B.A. World Speed Record of 177MPH and ripped off a single run of 201MPH.
Now retired from boat racing, Libel is involved in collecting cars and vintage/historic car racing. These days, he is often seen racing his Ferrari 356 GTB/4 Daytona Competizione and Shelby Cobra GT in vintage/historic events and Ferrari Corsi Clienti FXX events in Canada and the U.S.
Enter Preston Henn.
Preston Henn (1931 – 2017) the Ft. Lauderdale, Florida entrepreneur, developer of the Thunderbird Swap Shop flea market and drive-in theaters arrived on the IMSA Camel GT racing scene in the mid-70s with wild T-Bird Swap Shop livery plastered all over otherwise pristine racing Ferrari 365 GTB/4s, Porsche 934s, 935s, 956s and 962s. The garishly liveried cars always got attention prompting everyone to ask “What is Swap Shop?”.
As it turned out, Preston Henn the grinning, cowboy hat wearing renegade, who was a pretty decent driver in his own right, orchestrated some of the best judged overall victories in the history of vaunted events such as the 24 Hours of Daytona and 12 Hours of Sebring with Gunnar Racing as team entrant.
Aside from Henn’s good taste in cars, he hired on the best drivers of the time including IMSA dream team of Hurley Haywood and Peter Gregg as well as stalwart sports car racers Bob Wollek, Derek Bell, John Paul, Jr., Al Holbert, Michael Andretti, Danny Sullivan, Arie Luyendyk and French endurance racing legend Claude Ballot-Lena to name a few.
Perhaps most notably Henn hired on American racing icon A.J. Foyt with whom Henn won the 1983 24 Hours of Daytona (although not without some controversy) with a “Moby Dick” 935 and the 1985 12 Hours of Sebring with Wollek in a 962, Foyt’s final professional racing victory after a long and glorious driving career.
Always the showman, Henn would pull stunts such as entering all-woman teams to drive his Ferrari 365 GTB/4 Daytona Competizione in the Florida endurance races with drivers such as Janet Guthrie (the first woman to qualify for the Indianapolis 500) Lyn St. James and daughter Bonnie Henn. Naturally, the high-profile entries were covered bonnet to boot with T-Bird Swap Shop livery and always the center of media attention at the races.
Henn, the ever-colorful character on and off the track, also had a massive collection of cars housed in his Swap Shop headquarters outside Ft. Lauderdale. The surreal scene of multi-million-dollar cars lined up next to flea market displays was always weird but it seemed to work as bargain hunters shopped right next to multiple-race winning Porsches and some of the most collectible Ferraris in existence.
Among the collection on display are the Daytona and Sebring winning 935 and 962 respectively. The car best known as perhaps the most valuable racing Ferrari on Earth, the 1964 275 GTB/4 Speciale Competizione (#6885) which Henn told anyone who would listen that he was turning down offers of $80+M for as late as 2015.
The Swap Shop collection features a virtual blue ribband list (see addendum for full list) of other highly prized cars such as an ex-Michael Schumacher Ferrari Formula One car, two Bugatti Veyrons, the famous white “Miami Vice” Ferrari Testarossa, Ferrari F40, Ferrari F50, two Ferrari Enzos, Ferrari FXX, Porsche 930 Turbo, Porsche 959, Porsche Carrera GT and, well, you get the idea.
Somewhere along the line, Preston Henn and Lorne Liebel met, quite likely when both were racing their off-shore boats or Ferrari FXXs at Corse Clienti events across North America. Liebel had the Maserati MC12 and Henn bought it as best as we may figure in January of 2007 when the car had 458 miles on the odometer.
Henn was well known to actually drive his cars and within two months of obtaining the MC12, there were nearly 300 more miles on the odometer. As of this writing in mid-2019, #19407 as it appears at Curated, is showing about 3,000 miles and in pristine condition.