Bizzarrini 5300 GT Strada

While employed by Ferrari, Giotto Bizzarrini was acknowledged as being largely responsible for the development of both the 250 Testa Rossa and the 250 GTO.

In November 1961, an episode 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 rivalling 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 V-12 engine. In addition, Count Volpi of Scuderia Serenissima selected Bizzarrini for the project that resulted in the famous Piero Drogo-bodied Ferrari 250 GT SWB “Breadvan” derivative.

Development of the 5300 GT Strada - Next, Bizzarrini joined forces with the highly successful Milanese industrialist Renzo Rivolta, who too wanted to build a genuine GT car. Bizzarrini developed an effective platform-type chassis for the prototype Iso Rivolta GT. A two-seat 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 combined Italian styling, a race-inspired chassis and reliable Chevrolet Corvette V-8 power. The prototype Grifo debuted at the 1963 Turin Motor Show, where Bizzarrini’s own racing model of the Grifo also appeared, which was identified there 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 working relationship between Rivolta and Bizzarrini grew increasingly conflicted, as 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 dramatic Bertone-designed Strada was ostensibly a street car, its specifications read like those of an all-out competition car with lightweight aluminium bodywork by BBM of Modena, a fabricated platform chassis and a semi-monocoque body riveted to the frame. This advanced chassis/body design, combined with near-perfect weight distribution, resulted in excellent handling. Output of the 5.3-litre Chevrolet V-8 engine ranged between 355 and 400 horsepower, providing a claimed top speed approaching 180 mph.

Because of Bizzarrini’s predilection for racing, very few examples of the road-going 5300 GT Strada were ultimately produced during a six-year production run. Production estimates vary between 100 and 149 units, including perhaps 70 alloy-bodied cars.

This car was auctioned off by RM Auctions in May of 2011 at the Spazio Villa Erba, Cernobbio, Como.

355 bhp, 5,354 cc (327 cu. in.) Chevrolet Corvette V-8 engine, single four-barrel carburettor, four-speed manual gearbox, independent front suspension, De Dion rear axle, and four-wheel hydraulic disc brakes. Wheelbase: 2,450 mm (96.4")

Source: RM Auctions
Photo Credit: Copyright Simon Clay

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