The gorgeous, quintessentially Italian Maserati 450S was pushed from idea into existence by, believe it or not, an American. In 1956, American business man Tony Parravano approached Maserati to build a new V8 for him, to use in the chassis of his Kurtis Indy Car. Maserati had previously been working on a project named Tipo 54, with the number representing the year 1954. That first car was powered by a V6, but the intent was to ultimately put a bigger engine in it. Before they got to it, the project was shelved. Parravano's request compelled Maserati to resurrect that chassis and use it as the test bed for development of the American client's V8.
Their first attempt was the prototype chassis equipped with a 4.2 liter V8. Maserati chose to race it at the 1956 Mille Miglia and 1956 Swedish Grand Prix practice session. Legendary driver Stirling Moss, along with Denis Jenkinson as navigator, piloted the Maserati in the Mille Miglia. They experienced brake failure and the car had an impact with a tree. They both walked away without a scratch, but the car had to return to the factory for repairs and further development. For the Swedish Grand Prix, the car surprised everyone with its tremendous acceleration and top speed. The car clocked the third best time in the practice, but the underdeveloped car had significant vibrations resonating from an inaccurate firing order in the engines design. After those tests, the 450S received a new chassis at Mondena factory. The original car was redesigned to a coupe drawn by Frank Costin of England, constructed by Zagato, and raced once again by Stirling Moss at Le Mans where it failed to finish.
The newly developed chassis continued racing in 1957, this time with a 4.5 liter V8, also a new design, that was generating around 430 hp. The new production car, now officially named the 450S, was rolled out to its maiden race at the 1000 km of Buenos Aires, driven by Stirling Moss and Juan Manuel Fangio. It led the Ferrari twin-cam entry by 10 seconds, but ultimately the car suffered a clutch failure and retired from the race. However, the car went on to claim its first ever podium finish in the 1957 Swedish Grand Prix. Unfortunately, the FIA changed the rules the next year, making the 450S ineligible for Grand Prix racing. Despite some machanical woes, the car won two races outright in the 1957 World Sports Car Series, including the 12 Hours of Sebring.
Following the build of the initial chassis, the second was sold to Tony Parravano, for whom they'd developed the 4.5 liter engine. Two other models were sold to US customers, in both cases having engine displacements increased - one to 5.7 and the other to 6.6 liters. They were primarily used in SCCA races by Carroll Shelby, Jim Hall, Masten Gregory, Walt Cline and Ebb Rose. A few of the customer cars were destroyed in racing accidents, with several being rebuilt.
Between 1956 and 1962, in it's various forms, the 450S had 119 race appearances, with 31 of these being victories. Only 10 original cars were built between 1956 and 1958.