Some race cars have gone down in history for legendary wins, for the innovations they introduced or for the drivers who piloted them to glory. Others have become veritable icons for what they represented: a unique story, a turning point in history, a social phenomenon, an event that rippled beyond the stands of the race track to ultimately define an era.
One such case was the Maserati Eldorado, which became famous in 1958 as the first single-seater car in Europe to be sponsored by a brand not linked to the world of motorsport. The brand in question was Eldorado, an ice-cream manufacturer. This was the first example of modern sponsorship, where the car was painted in the colours of the partner company, abandoning the traditional colour assigned to each country by the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA). This was a real revolution for the day, of vital importance to the future of motorsport, which from that moment on opened its doors to new financial backers.
The Maserati 420/M/58, chassis number 4203, was thus finished with a cream coloured livery, instead of Italian racing red. The name Eldorado was emblazoned in bold black lettering along the sides of the car, with two additional smaller logos on the nose and below the small deflector that acted as a windshield. The logo with the face of the smiling cowboy was positioned in the centre of the nose and on the sides of the rear fin. Below the two Eldorado brands on the sides, in bright racing red was “Italia”, denoting the nationality of the sponsor as well as that of the racing car manufacturer.
The Maserati Eldorado did not achieve the same success on track as it did in the world of commercial advertising. Built for the Trofeo dei due Mondi at Monza in 1958 and driven by Stirling Moss, it took seventh place despite crashing during the final heat. Next entered in the Indianapolis 500 in 1959 (and now painted in the Italian national colour of red but with the Eldorado branding), the inexperience of the gentleman-driver Ralph Liguori meant that the car failed to qualify.
The Maserati Eldorado, perfectly restored in its original white livery, is now part of the Panini Collection housed in Modena. This is open for public viewing by groups or individuals, but only by reservation during the months of March, April, May, June, July, September and October. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, and find out more at the Panini Motor Museum