Maserati Birdcage Concept: A Tribute to Italian Ingenuity

Life is but a series of trade-offs. This is as true with racing as with any other field of human endeavor. One of the trade-offs auto designers must deal with is balancing strength against weight. Make a frame too fragile and the vehicle will never withstand the stresses of competition, build it too heavy and it will never be able to compete with lighter, more nimble competitors.

The designers at Maserati solved this dilemma brilliantly way back in the 1950s. Their solution was so elegant it was commemorated in 2005 by the Birdcage, one of the coolest concept cars ever built.

The original birdcage

Maserati Tipo 61

In 1959, Maserati designers were trying to figure out a way to build a featherweight frame with the strongest possible durability. The solution they came up with was to weld 200 chro-moly steel tubes into an intricate framework that observers dubbed “the birdcage.”

The approach proved to be as successful as it was unconventional. The vehicle Maserati developed from it, the Tipo 61, was a remarkable competitor in contests across Europe for years.

The Birdcage Concept Car

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As both a tribute to the original Birdcage and a way of commemorating Pininfarina’s 75th anniversary, Maserati unveiled the concept vehicle at the 2005 Geneva Auto Show. The six-month marathon design process resulted in one of the most unique and aerodynamic cars ever built. The exterior, crafted from carbon fiber, with a perplex windshield that extends almost the full length of the vehicle. It hangs exceptionally low to give the driver an uncompromised view of his surroundings.

The Birdcage is powered by the same V12 used in the Maserati MC12 GT1 race car.  Instead of a traditional instrument panel, it uses a heads-up display (HUD) projected onto a clear panel. In lieu of doors, entry is gained by a rising canopy that occupies most of the vehicle’s front section.

An interesting note: since the Birdcage lacks climate control, and since the one-piece windshield excels at trapping heat, riding in can be a sweltering experience. Of course, a little heat is a small price to pay for driving something so incredibly cool.

PHOTOS: See more of the 2005 Pininfarina Maserati Birdcage Concept

Photo Credit: RM Auctions