Stop looking at the pictures and read the words! I don’t blame you, actually, the Maserati 250F is almost certainly the most beautiful and iconic Formula 1 car of all time. In 1957 Fangio drove one at the Nürburgring, where he overcame a 48 second deficit in 22 laps, passing the race leader on the final lap to take the most famous of wins. In doing so he broke the Nürburgring lap record 10 times. If you want one today you’ll need a million quid or more, unless you’re on good terms with Andy at Tipo250.co.uk, like we are. Keep reading, please.

The Tipo250 is not some calamitous kit car, or rough around the edges recreation, it is a painstakingly researched and meticulously built evocation of the real thing. Like the Maserati, it has a 2.5 litre straight 6 engine fed by 3 Weber carburettors, period tyres and unassisted brakes. From the rivets to the switchgear and wire-spoke wheels it is utterly beautiful. OK, so the engine is from a BMW, and when you look very closely you’ll find the option of headlights, indicators and discrete mudguards, which means this glorious machine is somehow road legal. Which got me thinking…

maser runway static

What do you compare the beautiful Tipo250 to ? You may as well benchmark it against Kelly Brook’s cleavage or a vintage Bi-Plane. Kelly is currently playing hard to get (blasted restraining order) but I do know a man with a Bi-Plane who is game. The Tiger Moth is a 2 seat ex-RAF trainer that helped teach Spitfire pilots the basics, a thing of string, tin, wood and wonder. It has no airspeed indicator other than a metal spring on the wing that bends with speed, pointing at guestimate numbers applied by hand decades ago. It smells of oil, avgas and leather and belongs to Will who can be scrambled at a moment’s notice. The Tiger Moth is an aviation icon but, like the car, this one is to be enjoyed rather than stuffed in a museum behind ‘do not touch’ signs. Still reading ?

plane car runway static 2

So to compare these glorious machines we went barnstorming. Utilising a disused runway, taking a very liberal interpretation of various rules and regulations, we met at an ungodly hour at a secret location in England. Do not ask me where. I’m not sure I could ever find it again anyway. I’m not telling how we did it other than to say a huge thanks to those in the know. Will fired up the TigerMoth and I primed the Tipo250…

You know when you see kids toddling around with Superman outfits on, or a tea-towel cape, quite convinced in their mind that they are a super-hero ? When you slip on vintage leather helmet and goggles and sit in the Tipo250 you feel just as convinced. You are Fangio. The bespoke cockpit of this one has been built to suit Andy of Tipo’s 6’3” frame and not my scrawny shape. The gearchange is on my right and I feel precariously perched despite sitting in a steel tubular spaceframe chassis. I have to think, hard, about how to drive it. The vintage rubber has only a small contact patch. The large 3 spoke steering wheel is wood-rimmed. The last wheels (legally) on this pitted mile of tarmac and weeds were those of Wellington Bombers in 1945. The only rule we haven’t ignored is ‘you bend it, you mend it’. Still there, reader ?

I’m strapped into the cockpit of the Tipo250 and there is no time for ‘what ifs’. I snack the dogleg box into first with my right hand and gently pull off. It is easy to get moving, visibility is good, the car starts to roll. The plane approaches, much lower than I thought, causing me to involuntarily duck as it wails overhead. The pilot is smiling, in his head he is a Spitfire pilot. I am Fangio. I gently squeeze the power and am instantly thundering up the runway far quicker than I anticipated, quickly catching the plane. We run neck and neck for a while, three abreast with the camera car weaving in and out of cracks and potholes and craters kindly left by the Luftwaffe. The din of the Tiger Moth’s 130hp Gypsy Major drowning out almost everything and so near I feel I can touch it (although as you can clearly see from the pictures we were trying to be at least 500 feet apart as rules dictate). The Tipo250 feels susceptible to side-winds on skinny tyres, this is a vintage driving experience and utterly exhilarating. The car is clearly much faster than the Bi-plane and just as I realise this there is no more runway. I think one of the greatest technical advancements in automotive engineering in the last half century has been in braking. I’m quite used to stomping on the stop pedal and letting vented discs and fat callipers sort things out, sometimes with the help of ABS. Not here. The Tipo250 has a firm pedal and unservo’d brakes but a good shove hauls me up before I go into the undergrowth. The Tiger-Moth wheels away with Will saluting.

plane and maser

I rumble back to the start point and await the return of the Tiger Moth for another run. The controls, the feedback, the noise of the Tipo250. Perfection. I can feel flaps slapping open and shut in the carbs, cables tugging, the steering leaning on the tyres and the heat of the engine propelling me. My face aches from grinning. We repeated this tenuous test of car v plane for a while, logging speeds, carefully extracting more from our machines with each run.

Who was the quickest down the runway? Who cares. What are you reading this for anyway? Just look at the pictures! And when you’re bored of those there’s this little video we made of our day barnstorming.

With thanks to www.blueeyeaviation.co.uk (who offer flying experiences in their TigerMoth) and www.tipo250.co.uk (who will make you this car). No high-vis vests were harnessed in the making of this story.

rich duisberg and tiger moth

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