||Dean Butler and his 8CTF
by Bill Jackson
We have been thrilled and privileged by the visit this summer of the magnificent 1938 8CTF ex-works Grand Prix Maserati, decked out in the lovely colors of Lucy O'Reilly Schell's, Ecurie Bleue Indy Team; it achieved one of its best racing performances in 1940, finishing 10th, though it's best place was 4th in 1946 Indianapolis 500. Dean Butler, the proud owner, who runs Vision Expess from its Nottingham base, explained that when the car was under restoration, it seemed appropriate to finnish it in these colors rather than black or red, the standard team colors of the late 30s, or the rather lurid color scheme of maroon and white with gold lettering of 1946. This particular car, chassis number 3030, was one of 3 team 8CTFs, which had the speed and stamina to match the German Mercedes-Benz and Auto-Union team cars, but never the reliability to beat them.
This Maserati's best works team achievement was in the Italian GP at Monza, when it came 5th in the capable hands of Count Trossi, though this same car may have finished 9th in the Swiss GP, by then in the ownership of Lucy O'Reilly Schell, and driven on that occasion by Rene Dreyfus. It is known that 3030 was also driven by Varzi, and on several occasions by the great Luigi Villorsei, who is still alive today. Dean Butler invited him to Goodwood this year, to be reunited with this fantastic car. The great man sent apologies though, all he drives now is a wheelchair, but he drives it like a Maserati. During their correspondence, Dean mentioned a problem he had with the clutch overheating and distorting, which he has since had ventilated. The response was classic. "Clutch? I only used clutch once, and that was to start race."
By the outbreak of War, all thee cars were in America, for the Indianapolis 500 race, where they have remained ever since, but for a 12 year period when 3031 was in the UK. In 1938, the regulations for the 500 had been changed so as to attract more European teams, so the 3 liter supercharged formula cars were now eligible. By 1939, 3032 had been bought by Mike Boyle and driven to victory by Wilber Shaw, the first time a European car had won the Indianapolis 500 since Peugeot in 1919. All three 8CTFs were entered for the 1940 race, but only one of the two Eucrie Bleue cars was to start and Shaw was to gain a second victory for the Maserati and Mike Boyle, though this car was better known as "The Boyle Special."
A third win was to elude Shaw, who suffered a broken wheel and the Boyle car, 3032, now resides in glorious retirement in the Indianapolis 500 museum.
Lucy Schell, now a widow, and whose son Harry became a racing driver in the 50s, sold both 8CTFs to car collector Lou Moore, a former racing driver. Both were entered in the 1941 "500" with the sponsorship of Elgin Piston Pin. 3031 was in pole position but failed with ignition problems, whereas 3030 which started 30th, struggled to finish 15th.
When racing resumed in 1946, 3030 was probably owned by Frank Brisko, and entered in the 500 as the "Elgin Piston Special" where the 8 year old Maserati achieved an impressive 4th place. By 1948, 3030 was owned by Frank Lynch, but the car blew a supercharger on the first lap, whereas Shaw's old car finished third once again.
R.A. Cott bought the car in 1949 but it failed to qualify for both the 1949 500 as well as the 1950. Finally, in 1951, Bud Sennett managed to qualify the 13 year old Maserati for new owner Joe Brazda, but it was to be its last race. The aged 8CTF slid into the south wall, and spun off into the infield and head on into a tree.
Years later, 3030 was acquired by the collector Bob Rubin, who chose Leydon Restorations to restore the car to its former glory. The "Dreyfus" 8CTF (as it is now known), 3031 has an interesting connection to the Club. Cameron Millar purchased this car in the late 70s. In 1982, Careon sold the car to Joel Finn, who undertook a 10 year restoration project, and who still owns this car today.
On numerous visits to Bridgehampton, a private circuit owned by Bob Rubin (sadly to close next year), Dean Butler had raced his type 37a and 51 Bugattis, "which you had to fight all the way round the circuit." Last year the Maserati, fully restored, made its debut at the Bridgehampton event and Dean had the opportunity to drive it. "It was wonderful to drive with superb handling. You could throttle steer through the bends, and is a far more forgiving car than the Bugattis." Bob had always had his eye on the Type 37a, so a deal was done and in March 1996 Dean Butler became the new owner of this fabulous Maserati.
Dean brought the car to the UK this summer, having put up an enormous bond to Customs and Excise, who refused to accept that the car was of European origin, it was rebuilt in the US therefore was American.
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And what would be the ultimate car for [Dean's] collection? "I have the ultimate GP car. The 8CTF is a work of art compared to the Mercedes-Benz and Auto-Unions of the same period, which are so crude and basic in engineering, but the car I would love to own would be Bob Rubin's 26M Maserati because it is a superb car and because you could drive it with a friend."