Thursday Trivia

Thirsday Trivia
Welcome to Thursday Trivia where we offer up a historical automotive trivia question and you try and solve it before seeing the answer after the jump. It’s like a history test, with cars!
This week’s question: Who founded O.S.C.A.?
If you think you know the answer, make the jump and see if you’re right.
The Italians, perhaps more than any other nationality, love acronym-named car companies. Oh sure, BMW and DAF are both acronyms, for, respectively, Bayerische Motoren Werke and Doorne’s Aanhangwagen Fabriek, but where are the marvelous periods?
OSCA_L5Names are important. Picking the right one for your business can mean the difference between success and utter failure. Imagine for a minute that instead of Hooniverse, we had named this site Hitlerverse. Would you be here right now if we had? I thought not.
When it comes to car companies the name most often chosen – even more so that acronyms – is the founder’s surname. That’s given us Ford, Ferrari, Honda, and many many others.  The thing of it is, what happens when you apply your name to a product – especially one as notable as an automobile – and then lose control of your company? How would you like to have someone else promote your name on something for which you have no input or control? Worse, what if you were legally barred from using your own name on a competing product?
Well, if you are the brothers who are the answer to this week’s question, you go on making cars under a different name, and seeing as your contractual obligations prohibit you from using your family name in the brand title, you sneak it in by way of using – you guessed it – an acronym.
From Unique Cars and Parts:

The story of OSCA begins over half a century before the birth of the marque. An Italian engine driver’s six sons, the Maserati brothers, became passionately involved with motor cars. They were Carlo, Bindo, Alfieri, Mario, Ettore and Ernesto. Carlo, the eldest, was chief test driver for Fiat before joining Bianchi, for whom he also raced. He died at the age of 30, by that time running the Junior car firm and being involved with the design and construction of aero engines.
Bindo, Ettore and Ernesto decided to carry on, the last-named now head of the firm which had built and sold some highly successful racing cars. The next crisis came in 1937. Sales dropped as the brothers’ cars were not as competitive as before, one of the reasons being the domination of the German Mercedes-Benz and Auto Union teams in Grands Prix. In financial difficulties, they sold out to two wealthy industrialists from Modena, Adolfo Orsi and his son Omer.
Mario preferred a paintbrush to a spanner and became an artist. Alfieri began to race, while Bindo became test driver for Isotta Fraschini. After. World War 1, Officine Alfieri Maserati, which had started as a repair shop some years before, began to grow. Alfieri, Bindo and Ettore (who had been involved with Alfieri in the construction of a racing car in Argentina before the war) were joined by the youngest brother Ernesto (a wartime pilot) and the four designed, built and prepared racing cars.
For two years the brothers developed Isotta Fraschini machinery, then Diattos and finally, in 1926, cars which bore their own name, Maseratis. The brothers lived a hand-to-mouth existence. They were far happier building the cars in the little factory at Bologna than attending to the administration. In 1932 they suffered their first major setback when their company’s founder and head, Alfieri Maserati, died; he had never fully recovered from an operation following a crash in the Targa Florio some years earlier.
The Maseratis were retained on a 10-year contract and supervised the design and development of new models. In the early post-war years Maserati once more became one of the most prolific racing car manufacturers. In 1947 their contract to the Orsis expired, Bino, Ettore and Ernesto Maserati left Modena to return to Bologna where, with the minimum of capital, they established a new company in a portion of their old, pre-1937 factory. It was known as O.S.C.A. (Officine Specializzate Costruzioni Automobili Fratelli Maserati); the brothers had been forbidden to use their own name by the Orsis.

That’s right, the Maseratis that we all know and love, from the Birdcage racers of the fifties to the fabulous Ghibli SS and audacious Bora had nothing to do with their company’s namesake founders. With O.S.C.A. the Maserati brothers continued to face financial difficulties and their focus on racing over more profitable road cars to fund the track action eventually led to their being absorbed into Count Dominico Agusta’s MV Agusta concern, nominally to produce for the Count an F1 car that could compete with Ferrari. That never came to fruition, and the O.S.C.A. name faded into obscurity in the early ’60s.

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5 responses to “Thursday Trivia”

  1. engineerd Avatar


  2. jim Avatar

    The Orsi family also founded a sister company that built light bulbs, spark plugs, batteries and, after buying a small local manufacturer called Italmoto, bikes.
    story and pictures here :

  3. P161911 Avatar

    The O.S.C.A twin cam 4 also appears in early to mid 1960s Fiats. My dad had a 1600 Spider, which I believe had an OSCA engine. So it was probably mid to late ’60s before the name faded.
    (not my dad’s car)
    As an example of just how interconnected/inbred the Italian auto industry is, one Alejandro de Tomaso drove an OSCA Grand Prix car in 1959. The same de Tomaso of Pantera fame.

  4. Guest Avatar

    Funny how this has happened a few times over the years.

    The first example that comes to my mind is Ransom Eli Olds, who in much the same fashion, founded Oldsmobile, left the company, and then founded REO, makers of the Speedwagon.

    Anybody know some more examples? I’m pretty sure there is, but none come to mind.

    1. boxdin Avatar

      Henry Leland founded Cadillac and then Lincoln.

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