Motor City Garage is bursting its buttons with pride. Joining the MCG roster of contributors is the amazing illustrator Tony Matthews.
If you’re a gearhead, you’ve long marveled over Tony’s jaw-dropping cutaway renderings of the world’s greatest cars, from the Lancia D50 to the Porsche 917/10. To call Tony an “automotive artist” implies a parochiality in his work that doesn’t truly exist. We call him an artist and leave it at that. If, as the philosopher Horace had it, “The purpose of art is to inform and delight,” MCG doesn’t recall ever being more informed or delighted than when poring over Tony’s magnificent cutaways. In what we hope will become a long-running series at Motor City Garage, the artist will select one of his well-known illustrations and then tell us, in his own dry and stylish prose, a little of the story behind the work. Without further ado, Tony Matthews. -mcg
Maserati Tipo 250F
by Tony Matthews
If you had asked any motor sport-mad boy of the late 1950s to draw a typical Grand Prix car, chances are the resultant sketch would have looked like a Maserati 250F. Not so much because it was unique, but it did sum up the layout of the period in a particularly attractive form. Twenty-six 250Fs were built between 1954 and 1960, the car that I was asked to illustrate, chassis number 2528, being built in January 1957, and like most, having a straight-six engine of 2.5 litres, or 150 cu in.. Motore 2528 won four Grands Prix in 1957 with Jean Behra at the wheel, then a fallow period was followed by its appearance in Historic Racing in the UK, first with Charles Lucas and then, from 1972, with Neil Corner.
I saw the car at Neil Corner’s house in Darlington, Co Durham, UK, in 1987. It shared a beautiful motor house with several other exotic machines, including a massive Showman’s traction engine, looking a little like Las Vegas on iron wheels. The collection was on two levels, with a steepish metalled drive alongside, and the Maserati was being attended to on the upper level. There was not a lot of elbow room in the upper garage, so I persuaded the attendant mechanic to move it to the lower garage where there was much more space, and a higher ceiling for my overall shot of the car. Between us we wheeled it out into the daylight and manoeuvred it to ease it down the slope, tail first. For the first few yards all went well, but then, despite being one of the three ’lightweight’ versions, it got away from us. Inexorably it picked up speed, defying us to hold it, as the mechanic swore into his beard, I saw my fledgling career go down the Suwannee and we both grappled with wheels and body in an attempt to slow it down and keep it on track.
At the last moment, as it speared at more than walking pace towards a low brick wall, the beautiful, complex riveted tanks exposed and unprotected, the mechanic managed to get a proper purchase on the elegant steering wheel and give it a quarter-turn anti-clockwise yank.The Maserati performed like the thoroughbred it was and missed the wall, trickled to a halt, and we breathed again – I was relieved to be able to abandon my plan to throw myself between car and wall, and we pushed it gently into the lower garage. I took my photographs and left for home, more than a little relieved, and a few weeks later my illustration appeared in ‘Motor’ magazine in a short series of classic race car cutaways.
Text and images copyright Tony Matthews, all rights reserved. Used by permission. Be sure to check out Tony’s new story on the Williams FW07.
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