Maserati Story, as told by Bob Hammel (12/2004)
This is a 1935 Maserati R.I. (rear independent); fitted with a 90 degree V8, S.O.H.C. Supercharged. A total of 4 cars were built, my car was number three and was originally sold to Eastanclin, later sold to Henry “Bob” Topping, and raced at Indianapolis in 1937, driven by Babe Stapp. It was converted to a 1-1/2 seater. It did not finish. After the race, the supercharger was removed, cycle fenders added and Topping took it to Hawaii to terrorize the natives!
I was in Honolulu during the war, and while walking between Honolulu and Waikiki, I spotted something interesting behind a service station. Cars being more important than other thing I was hunting (beer!), I went to look. I recognized that it was a Grand Prix car. A couple of local guys were trying to get it running… after a certain amount of kibitzing, off comes my uniform jumper and on comes the grease. I spent my next few liberties trying to make the car run. Finally got it started, and as of a push start, I got a ride in the passenger seat.
My buddy (Lee Huffman), my Engineering Officer (Lt. J.G. Robert Striebe), and I decided that it might be interesting to own the car, so we got together over a few beers and made an offer to the local guys who had some ownership papers. The local guys felt that if we purchased the car, we would take it to Indianapolis and win BIG money, so we arranged that they would get 1/3 of any winnings we might make, but Lt. Striebe wrote the paper to show 1/3 percent of any winnings. Money changed hands and the next morning as early as possible, Lee and I were at the service station with a length of line. We pushed the car out into the street and flagged down a weapons carrier, and offered the GI’s $20.00 to tow us out to the base at Barbers Point.
After considerable arguing and help from Lt. Striebe, we got the car on the station and hidden in the Motor Repair Quonset hut. We fooled around with the car for a while, took off the 1-1/2 man body and threw it away. We were getting the car ready to take into town and have it crated to ship Stateside.
The war ended and I was one of the first to be sent back, and we lost track of one another. Somehow, Lee completed the crating and got the car back to the States. He sold various parts in Portland, OR. The frame was cut in half to shorten it; engine ended up in a sprint car owned by Dick Goodfellow.
Evidently some time passed and a friend of mine named Paul Kyle (from Laguna Beach, CA) got on the trail of the Maserati. He bought the shortened chassis, and even found the removed section to weld back in place. I think it finally dawned on Paul what an enormous task he faced, so all the bits and pieces ended up at Antique Automobiles in England. There it was purchased by Doug Marr, a RAF pilot, and member of the Red Arrows Aerobatic Team. A full restoration by Tony Merrick, Duncan Rickets and Peter Shaw followed.
Gina and I were fortunate enough to accompany Doug and his wife, Chris, to watch Doug race the car at Silverstone in 1990. I cannot describe what a thrill it was for us. Doug Marr has since sold the car to an enthusiast in Germany.
I enclose a few photos of the car. Michael, I hope the above information was of interest to you.