Bizzarrini 5300 GT: The Gorgeous Italian Car You Have Never Heard Of

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By Ben Selby

What does the Ferrari 250 GTO, the Lamborghini V12 engine and the Iso Grifo all have in common? Well, apart from these being grand testimonials to Italian car design, one man had a hand their creation. That man was Giotto Bizzarrini and we owe him a lot.

Born in Livorno, Italy in 1926, the young Bizzarrini had a privileged upbringing with his family owning a lot of land in Tuscany. He developed a keen interest in machinery and left Pisa University in 1953 with a degree in engineering.

From here, he went to Milan to work for Alfa Romeo before being offered a job at Ferrari in 1957. Here Bizzarrini rose through the ranks at Maranello before becoming a test driver and Enzo’s chief engineer. He also had a hand in such illustrious prancing horses as the 250 Testarossa and 250 GT Short Wheelbase.

His finest hour with Ferrari came with what would eventually become the now legendary 250 GTO (Gran Turismo Omologato). However, Bizzarrini left Ferrari along with dozens of other disgruntled engineers and designers in 1961.

The reason for this came after Ferrari sales manager Girolamo Gardini had a spat with Laura Ferrari, Enzo’s wife. Gardini sent a letter to Ferrari which was also signed by Bizzarrini and Chiti among others stating the problem. Enzo summoned them all to his office and what resulted became known as the “palace revolt” with all engineers involved walking out.

Here Bizzarini and the others set up a new racing company, ATS which specialised in racing engines and single seater racing cars. At this time Bizzarrini was also approached by another Italian who had no liking of Enzo Ferrari. Ferruccio Lamborghini asked Bizzarrini to design a V12 production engine for his new car company.

After some detuning to make it more street-able, Bizzarrini gave Lamborghini his first road car V12 engine which remained in production in one form or another for nearly 50 years.

From here, Bizzarrini worked for Iso in 1964 and became heavily involved with the design of the Iso Rivolta GT and Grifo production grand tourers. What made these Italian thoroughbreds unique is they used all-American engine and running gear in the form of a 327ci Chevrolet V8 and automatic gearbox. Plus, they were absolutely gorgeous to behold.

This inspired Bizzarrini to go it alone. He created his own versions of the Iso Grifo concept under the name of Bizzarrini S.P.A. Bizzarrini was keen to build another 250 GTO and used the Iso Grifo as a base to do just that. The result was the Bizzarrini 5300 GT.

The 5300 GT was designed to be racing car first and foremost, just like the 250 GTO. Its incredibly pretty low-slung coupe body was designed to be as slippery as possible. The Chevy 5.4L V8 could be tuned for 400hp in Corsa spec. The engine was mounted behind the chassis frame making it a mid-engine/front engine car.

Underneath sat a four-speed manual gearbox and a limited slip differential. The whole car weighed in at 1200kg thanks to its tubular frame and that handsome alloy body. Plus, with full independent suspension, it was more advanced than the 250 GTO. The end result was American muscle in an Italian suit.

The 5300 GT saw action in the Sebring 12 hours but results were poor. Its finest hour came with a first in class win at Le Mans in 1964 and 1965. Bizzarrini made 148 versions of the 5300 GT including Strada versions sold to the public. While the company Giotto founded produced a few other models including the race prepared P538 Barchetta , the company shut its doors in 1969.

Giotto’s ambitions to beat Ferrari at his own game may not have materialized, but the cult following of the cars which bore his name began in earnest. Many have tried to resurrect the Bizzarrini name but with no success, until now that is.

Today Bizzarrini is back, with the new owners building 24 continuation versions of the 5300 GT Corsa. Each example is a tribute to the car which won its class at Le Mans. One’s pockets will have to be quite deep to get a look in though, as they retail for 1.65 million GBP. Then again, its still great value when compared to the Ferrari 250 GTO which inspired it.

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