- The #Ligier-JS2 / #Ligier-Maserati-JS2 / #Ligier / #Ligier-Maserati . French supercar with Maserati power. French Curves The French supercar with Maserati Merak power designed by Pietro Frua. Story by Andrea Cittadini. Photography by Roberto Carrer.
A Guy Ligier began his racing career riding a motorcycle and became the Champion of France in 1959 and 1960. In 1966, Ligier was the sole French driver in Formula 1 and competed against the best drivers of the era. Following the death of his lifelong friend Jo Schlesser, who was killed in the 1968 French Grand Prix, Ligier withdrew from motorsport and a sportscar project he was developing was put on hold. However, in 1969, Michel Tetu, an ex-Renault engineer joined the Ligier team and persuaded Ligier to revive the project. Guy Ligier named this new car JS1 – 'JS' stood for his friend Jo Schlesser. He displayed the JS1 at the 1969 Paris Motor Show. The body was of Italian design. The French chassis used a steel backbone and was suspended front and rear by double wishbones. It was powered by a mid-mounted Cosworth FVA #Formula-2 engine.
The JS1 was designed by Michel Tetu who performed the initial aerodynamic tests in a wind tunnel. The car was constructed by Pietro Frua, who was chosen because he was considered to be the best man for the job, but despite his personal status he was willing to defer to Ligier's technical demands. Other designers would likely have been less flexible in following a carmaker's instructions. Frua in contrast, was perfectly happy to do so, and came up with a superb car that still looked absolutely modern.
The first JS1 to roll off the line was a red car fitted with a Ford engine. Then came the race débuts with the first wins in 1970, several engine changes and an appearance at Le Mans. Ford decided to stop supplying engines and an agreement was set up with Citroën to obtain Maserati power units. Guy Ligier was already well acquainted with the Italian marque after using its V12 in his Cooper F1 in 1966.
In the meantime Tetu designed the Sport JS3 which competed in 1971, until the arrival of the Maserati JS2, which was also complemented by a road version. Today Michel Tetu is the Chairman of Club Ligier JS2 (www.ligierjs2.fr) and it was thanks to him that we managed to visit the Abrest factory where all the JS2s were made. He observed his creation as though it was flesh and blood and revealed all the secrets of the car and its genesis. He even showed us the original plans and presented us with a copy.
Tetu explained the concept of the futuristic aluminium and Klegecell (foam) chassis with sandwich and honeycomb construction techniques. He went on to describe the brakes and transmissions, the tests at Autodromo di Modena and the final configuration, which featured the Maserati 2.7 V6 engine followed by the 3.0-litre unit of the Merak and the #Citroen-SM. The SM's transmission was also employed. He also mentioned the three mysterious special electronic injection 24-valve engines that #Maserati made for #Ligier . They were never used because the company had been sold during that time. One of these units is on display in Bernard Guénant's Trident showroom.
Bernard Guénant is a man from times past: a genuine and knowledgeable aficionado of beautiful motor cars. He's the proprietor of the Maserati Trident-Autosport dealership (www.trident-autosport.com) in La Rochesur- Yon, a smart and rationally laid out town built on the edict of Napoleon Bonaparte in the Vendée district near Nantes. His personal preference lies with Citroën and Maserati, marques that have crossed paths in the past and are acclaimed for the original technical solutions and refined styling of their models.
Maserati was owned by Citroën from 1968 to 1975, and it was this period that awakened Bernard Guénant's interest in the Italian marque. This brings us up to 1984 when Bernard's garage was operating as a classic car restorer specialising in Maseratis and Ferraris and, from 2004, Ligier coupes with their V6 Maserati engine, an example of which Bernard bought for himself.
Today the Carrossimo workshop (www.carrossimo.com) is an international reference point for fans of Italian and French sportscars and others, for example there's a 1966 McLaren M1B in the collection displayed at the Trident-Autosport Maserati showroom. Bernard Guénant owns several historically significant Citroëns and Maseratis, including a Quattroporte II, and racing cars including a Maserati Bora Group 4 and the Ligier Maserati JS2.
The featured Ligier JS2, powered by Maserati's 3.0- litre V6 engine, was a road model registered on 17th October 1973 and subsequently race converted by its then owner Philippe Bordier for use in the 1976 edition of the prestigious French hillclimb championship and later two events in 1977 and 1978. This JS2 was to compete in Group 6 and it won nine class awards and top-ten placings in its group. The livery, initially the official 1975 GT white/blue, was changed for the last two appearances. Bernard Guénant returned the car to its official colours of 1974, the year of the 8th place at Le Mans with Lafitte-Serpaggi. The entrepreneur/driver is still racing the JS2 today at classic car meetings.
Bernard Guénant's JS2 is unique, an extremely valuable road model that was race converted immediately after purchase. The owner informed us that the JS is an extremely well designed car that offers a measure of neutrality in its handling and is perfectly at home on the road or on the track. There were a total of 83 Ligier coupes built, plus a handful of race-ready cars. Today there are only around 30 surviving cars with prices ranging from €1,000,000 quoted by Artcurial for the Cosworth engined JS2, which came second in the 1975 edition of the Le Mans 24 Hours, to €650,000 for the JS1-02 and €123,000 (150,000 CHF) for one of the latest series JS2 models from Pfenninger Autos AG in Switzerland. The average asking price for the ‘routière’ version is around €65,000.
Thanks to its characteristics, the JS2 is destined to grow in recognition and is becoming much sought after.
ABOVE: Prototype fuel injected 24-valve Merak development engine
BELOW: This JS2 ran at #Le-Mans in 1975 with Cosworth DFV power.
ABOVE: The featured JS2 was originally a #1973 road car. It was converted into a hillclimber and competed between #1976 - #1978 .
LEFT: Originally fitted with a Ford V6, the JS2 became #Maserati-2.7-V6 powered and later Merak 3.0.