1956 Maserati 50/T2/U
1956 Maserati 50/T2/U
Engine: 49.6cc 2-stroke single cylinder
Transmission: 3 Speed Manual
Frame #: M3469
Engine #: T2092
Exterior Colour: Red and Rust
Interior colour and material:
I acquired this very rare 50cc Maserati motorcycle in August 2018 from a lady in the hills above Chiavari, close to Portofino and Genoa on Italy’s north-west coast.
The lady had acquired a weekend house in a village called Menta some years earlier and had found an old Maserati motorcycle in the barn. Having put the house up for sale she needed to clear the barn and gradually its contents were sorted and sold, eventually allowing access to the little Maserati.
She lived in Brighton for many years during her youth resulting in her speaking perfect English, and after some searching of the internet she stumbled upon me as being a specialist in Maserati motorcycles. After an exchange of emails and a few conversations, a deal was agreed and the motorcycle was brought to England.
According to her neighbours, the house and motorcycle used to be owned by a man called Rildo (his last name is not known). Rildo had moved to the hill-side home in Menta soon after World War II with his parents, three sisters and a brother. As the years passed his sisters and brother became married and moved to the cities for work (mostly Parma), leaving Rildo to look after his parents. Rildo remained a bachelor after the love of his life married someone else, and when his father passed away he remained in the house to care for his mother.
I was told that sadly he became an alcoholic and after his mother passed away he moved to a nearby town, only returning to the house occasionally in the summer months. The neighbours never saw him ride the motorcycle, only driving his elderly Fiat Panda, and he passed away in 2010 from cirrhosis of the liver, at which time he was in his early seventies. The lady purchased the property from Rildo’s family sometime afterwards.
Maserati offered its 50cc motorcycle in a variety of forms; D (Donna - woman), U (Uomo - man), S (Sport), SS (Super Sport), and a Ciclocarro (three-wheeled pick-up). The U and S shared a similar frame style whereas the D had a V shaped frame and the SS had a thin-tubed lightweight frame. I have owned two SS versions in the past and although they are arguably the most desirable of the range, I prefer the visual appearance of the U and S versions as their frame is more conventional and complete. I am delighted to own this U version and although it clearly requires a great deal of work to return it back to its condition when Rildo would have bought it, it is complete, unmodified, and an excellent basis for a restoration.
A brief history of Maserati motorcycles:
The sight of a Maserati badge on a classic motorcycle often surprises people, even those most familiar to the exotic Italian marque.
Wealthy industrialist Adolfo Orsi from Modena purchased the ailing Maserati company from its founding brothers in 1937, and by then Maserati was producing spark plugs and machine tools as well as racing cars. In 1939 Adolfo relocated Maserati to Modena and expanded the company to produce batteries and bulbs too, a diversification that proved very successful during the war years. The car and parts companies were separated in 1947 and Fabbrica Candele e Accumulatori Maserati (FCAM) was formed.
After business difficulties in 1953 Adolfo decided to divide his remaining companies amongst his siblings, resulting in Adolfo retaining the car manufacturing division and his sister Ida taking control of FCAM.
Even FIAT cars were financially out of reach for most people after the war so motorcycles and scooters became extremely popular as relatively cheap modes of transport. Many companies diversified or were founded to produce two wheeled motorised transport and Ida Orsi wanted to be involved in this swiftly developing market, so to save money on development costs she purchased an existing company in 1953, Italmoto of Bologna. After relocating Italmoto and the production of its 160cc motorcycle to her own factory in Modena, she simply had the Italmoto badges replaced with Maserati ones and launched the model as the L160/T4. The four-stroke engine produced 7.5hp and had a four-speed gearbox.
Ida then instructed the design department to come up with a whole new range of motorcycles, the first of which was launched in 1954. The new machine was a 4.8hp 123cc two-stroke (with a three-speed gearbox) known as the L125/T2 which became a successful model for the company.
At the 1955 Milan Motorcycle Fair Maserati displayed not only their two-stroke 125 and four-stroke 160 machines, but also 175 (175/T4/S) and 250cc (250/T4/GT) motorcycles, both of which had four-stroke engines boasting twin-spark plug ignition, plus four-speed gearboxes. The 125 and 160 were now also available in Turismo Lusso specification.
In 1956 a range of two-stroke 50cc motorcycles were introduced which featured several different styles of frames suitable for men (50/T2/U and 50/T2/S), women (50/T2/D), and racing (50/T2/SS). All models had a three-speed gearbox and performance for a 50cc was fantastic, especially on the SS whose little 49.6cc engine produced 2.82hp at 6,700rpm (maximum revs being 7,300rpm). A weight of only 49kg resulted in a top speed of 70 to 75kph. Less sporting but a lot more practical however, was the 50/T2/MT which was a three-wheeled pick-up style machine featuring a 2hp engine and three-speed gearbox.
1956 also saw the launch of the L/125/TV (Turismo Veloce) which sported a higher state of tune (6hp) than the regular 125 but importantly had a 4-speed gearbox, the gears of which were notoriously fragile due to the factory squeezing a fourth gear within the standard three-speed engine casings.
Having learnt some lessons with the TV’s transmission, the 125/GT/Super (GTS) was launched in 1957 featuring a 7hp two-stroke engine but with a more robust four-speed gearbox within newly designed engine side covers.
The L/75/T2 model was also launched in 1957 and was very similar in design to the 50/T2/U, but featured a 74cc 4.5hp two-stroke engine and a three-speed gearbox.
Unfortunately, after 1957 the company experienced financial struggles and FCAM was finally closed in 1960. The Maserati trident would only then be seen on four wheeled vehicles, back where it all began.
Despite being sensibly priced in their day Maserati motorcycles sold in very small numbers compared to their competitors resulting in all models being extremely rare, with some being rarer than others. Today, the 125 T2 and Turismo Lusso variants are the most common with the 160 not far behind. The 125 TV and GTS models appear extremely rarely and all 50cc and 75cc models are very rare. It is believed that despite adverts appearing at the time launching the 175 model it never progressed from prototype stage and as far as the 250 is concerned, only about twenty are thought to have ever been made.