Fine Art Print by ramp

Prince of the Night: It is the Maserati of prince Bira. And of course, you drive it too. Best at night. That's how you enjoy history.
Text Jürgen Lewandowski
Photo Bernd Kammerer

It makes life so much easier to have a king for a grandfather. In the case of Birabongse Bhanutej Bhanubandhs, it was the Thai monarch Mongkut who allowed the grandson a carefree life. Birabongse Bhanutej Bhanubandh was only 13 years old when he came to Great Britain in 1927 from what was then Siam. He was accompanied by his older cousin Chula Chakrabongse, who was supposed to look after the young prince. With his illustrious parents, a first-class education was a matter of course - and so, after the elite boarding school Eton, he went on to study in Cambridge. And of course, Birabongse Bhanutej Bhanubandh lived an exciting life: with a lot of social life, a large yacht, reputation as a sculptor and expensive hobbies.

The prince flew himself, but his great passion was his cars, his racing cars. For his 18th birthday he had been given an MG Magnette by his cousin Chula, models of the Invicta and Bentley houses were soon to follow. For his 20th birthday there was a Riley Imp, with which »B. Bira« - that was the pseudonym of the prince with the unpronounceable name - took part in reliability rides.

But this was not enough for the speed obsessed nobleman: Only one year later, one of the legendary ERA was already at the birthday party - painted in the light blue of the evening dress that a Danish girlfriend had worn at a ball at the Savoy Hotel. A color that »Bira« immediately declared the Siamese racing color and which was supplemented with a yellow frame and yellow rims from 1939. Of course, a racing team called White Mouse Stable was founded at the same time, which was headed by Prince Chula.

The racing stable acquired a total of three ERAs, with which »B. Bira« was amazingly successful. Then the vehicles became more and more exotic: In 1936, one of the large, 280 hp Maserati 8CMs was added, which was complemented a year later by two twelve-cylinder Delage-s from 1927. But the prince's favorite racing car was always the ERA that accompanied him until 1947 when one of the engines burst. prince Bira was never one of the fastest racing drivers, but he was able to make up for the lack of top speed with routine and tenacity. The reason why the factory teams did without his services was probably mainly due to the fact that the Siamese was extremely short-sighted and relied on strong glasses.

When he bought a Maserati4CL in 1947, with which he immediately won the GP of the Frontières, his love for the racing cars from Modena was rekindled. In 1948 he won the GP World Championship at Zandvoort with the new 4CLT/48, then - after the White Mouse Stable was dissolved - he took part in the GP World Championship with the Maserati tuned by Enrico Platé. At the same time, the now almost 40 year old also drove for Gordini, for HWM and Connaught - but the 250F with chassis number 2504 shown here, which Birabongse Bhanutej Bhanubandh acquired at the end of 1954, was to prove to be the best racing car of his life.

»In den Händen des talentierten Prinzen wurde der 250F seinem Ruf gerecht, ein problemlos zu fahrender Siegerwagen zu sein.«

Of course, this racing car also started in Siamese blue, but a later owner painted it dark blue - in such a stunningly beautiful tone that even the current owner of the Prince-Maserati decided to leave the car in this color. In the hands of the talented Prince, the 250F lived up to its reputation of being an easy to drive winning car. The Siamese still drove under his pseudonym B. Bira - and he once again won at the GP des Frontières, finished second twice at the GP de Rouen and the GP of Pescara and finished fourth at the GP of France. The following year began with a victory at the GP of New Zealand, but after a third place at the Silverstone International Trophy, the now 41-year-old Prince decided to say goodbye to racing and his beloved 250F - he got out and announced: »That's it - and goodbye«.

Birabongse Bhanutej Bhanubandh sold his racing cars - the 250F went to Horace Gould, who was successfully racing with Bruce Halford for several more years - and flew back to his home country where he founded an airline. The Prince spent the next 30 years in Thailand, where he ran his business as successfully as his racing career - on 23 December 1985 »B. Bira« succumbed to a heart attack, in a London subway station.


It was the best racing car of its life: the Maserati 250 F with chassis number 2504. You can order the unique piece in large format as exclusive FINE ART PRINT by ramp.

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