Bizzarrini 5300 GT Strada

In November 1961, an episode alternatively known as “The Purge” or the “Palace Revolt” occurred at Ferrari, sparked by the questionable dismissal of Ferrari’s sales manager, which resulted in the mass departure of key engineering and development staff, including Bizzarrini. The defectors quickly formed ATS with the intention of rivaling Ferrari, but Bizzarrini soon left the new organization, electing to go it alone. Bizzarrini won a commission from Italian industrialist Ferruccio Lamborghini, for whom he designed the formidable and enduring Lamborghini V12 engine. In addition, Count Volpi selected Bizzarrini for the project that resulted in the famous “Breadvan” derivative of the Ferrari 250 GTO.

Next, Bizzarrini joined forces with Milanese industrialist Renzo Rivolta of Isothermos and Isetta fame, who too wanted to build a genuine GT car. Bizzarrini developed an effective platform-type chassis for the prototype Iso Rivolta GT, a 2 + 2 design that was completed in 1962, with production following in 1963. A two-seater GT variant, the Iso Grifo, soon followed, based on a shortened Iso Rivolta chassis. Cloaked with Giugiaro-designed coachwork and constructed by Piero Drogo, the Grifo was a stunning design that combined Italian styling, a race-inspired chassis and reliable Chevrolet Corvette V8 power. The prototype Grifo was displayed at the 1963 Turin Motor Show, where Bizzarrini’s own racing model of the Grifo also appeared, identified as an “Iso A3C Competition Coupe”.

Convinced of the Grifo’s competition potential, Bizzarrini built his own version of the Grifo for racing and achieved great success, winning the GT class at Le Mans in 1964 and again in 1965. During this period, however, the relationship between Rivolta and Bizzarrini grew increasingly conflicted, while Iso continued to build road-going Grifos and Bizzarrini focused on racing. Since Bizzarrini had legally registered the Grifo name, a deal was ultimately struck to allow its use by Iso in exchange for enough parts to build a number of A3Cs, in “Strada” road-going form, as well as “Corsa” variants for racing. While the Bizzarrini Strada was ostensibly a street car, its specifications read like those of an all-out competition car, with lightweight aluminum bodywork, a fabricated platform chassis and a semi-monocoque body riveted to the frame. This advanced chassis, combined with near-perfect weight distribution, resulted in excellent handling. Output of the Chevrolet V8 engine ranged between 365 and 400 horsepower, providing a claimed a top speed of up to 180 miles per hour.

Because of Bizzarrini’s predilection for racing, as opposed to series-production of his creations, very few examples of the 5300 GT Strada were ultimately produced during an approximate six-year production run. Production estimates vary between 100 and 149 5300 GT Stradas, including perhaps 70 alloy-bodied examples. Many marque experts cite the reason for the low production to have been a loss of interest on the part of Bizzarrini, who had also developed a smaller GT car, the Europa 1900, first shown at Turin in 1966. By 1969, Bizzarrini production ended, with the engineer returning to private practice as a consultant for Opel and General Motors.

This car was auctioned off by RM Auctions in August 2009 at the Portola Hotel & Spa and Monterey Conference Center, Monterey, California.

400 bhp, 327 cu. in. Chevrolet Corvette V8 engine, four-speed manual transmission, independent front suspension with wishbones, coil springs and anti-roll bar, De Dion rear axle with twin trailing radius arms, transverse Watt linkage and coil springs, and four-wheel hydraulic disc brakes (rear inboard). Wheelbase: 96.4".

Source: RM Auctions
Photo Credit: Copyright Darin Schnabel

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