The Ferrari 250 GTO and Mr. Bizzarini’s Chevy Fever

In some ways this is a take on a tale of two cities. The Ferrari 250 GTO is one of the most widely acclaimed Ferraris ever produced and auction valuations have skyrocketed up to a $52 million USD sale in 2012. The Bizzarini 5300 GT is a different story altogether. To illustrate, lets begin with the creation of the 250 GTO.


Ferrari needed to produce cars for homologation in group three FIA racing for the 1962 season. The 250 Gran Turismo Omologato originated as a design by Chief Ferrari Engineer Giotta Bizzarini. Disputes over the engine used to power his creation led to Bizzarini clashing with Enzo Ferrari and ultimately leaving. This occurred in 1962, just as the first 250 GTOs were being produced, and explained how of the 39, many are incredibly unique. The handworked bodies meant that no two cars are alike, and even more so the engines and design elements changed over the two year production cycle. Mauro Forghieri worked with Scaglietti to finish Bizzarini’s design.

1962 Ferrari 250 GTO

The aerodynamic shape, developed in a windtunnel at Pisa university, was the most innovative feature of the 250 GTO. The rest of the car can from previous proven cars which aided the reliability of the car.

The chassis came from the 250 GT SWB, with minor differences in frame structure and geometry to reduce weight and stiffen and lower the chassis.  The engine was the Tipo 168/62 Comp. 3.0 L V12 as used in the 250 Testa Rossa. This engine was an all-alloy design utilizing a dry sump and six Weber carburetors. It produced approximately 300 horsepower and was very reliable, proved by previous competition experience with the Testa Rossa. This power went through a new 5-speed synchromesh gearbox.


It was this engine choice that annoyed Giotta Bizzarini. He had left Alfa Romeo in 1957, wanting to be a powerplant engineer, and at Ferrari he had no say in the engine choices. A lover of big-displacement, lower-revving engines, he was interested in creating a larger displacement v8 engine for the 250 GTO.

Bizzarini and 4 other chief engineers left Ferrari in 1962 in a time called  the “Ferrari Night of Long Knives”. He found his place by 1964 with his own company Società Autostar which he used to bid on freelance engineering projects.

Giotta Bizzarini, Ferrucio Lamborghini and Gian Paulo Dallara in 1963 with the Lamborghini V12

This was the time when other manufacturers also had itch to scratch with Enzo Ferrari, inlcuding Ferrucio Lamborghini. Bizzarini was commissioned to design the V12 engine for the Lamborghini 350GT, and in doing so designed every Lamborghini V12 built until 2010.

1964 Lamborghini 350GT

Bizzarini worked with the automaker Iso Rivolta on developing the Iso Grifo and experienced for the frist time the power of a Corvette engine. The complicated relationship with Iso resulted in Bizzarini leaving to create Bizzarini S.P.A, and would produce 140 cars before going bankrupt in 1969.

1963 Iso Grifo AC


412 Grifos were created in total, 90 with a 7.0L V8 and the rest with a 5.4L V8. Bizzarini’s focus on racing was part of his reason for leaving Iso, and by 1965 at the 24 hr of Le Mans the Bizzarini car won the 5000CC and over class and was 9th overall.

The Bizzarini 5300 Strada entered the market in 1963 and was essentially an Iso Grifo, using the same welded moncoque and also using the 5.4L Corvette small block 327 V8. There was 365 hp on tap as well as 310 lb.ft of torque.

Source: TopSpeed

The Bizzarini Brand continued to focus on racing, designing the 1900 GT for Opel-GM. 17 prototypes were created, all powered by either the 1300 or 1600 cc sourced FIAT/Alfa Romeo/GM Engine.

Bizzarini 1900 GT Europa Source: MyCarQuest

Bizzarini’s forward looking designs showed themselves most distinctly in his P538S, a LeMans racing design. The 53 stood for the 5300 cc Corvette Engine, the 8 for V8, and the S for sportscar

It failed to finish the 1966 24 hours race, and also did not qualify for the 1967 grand prix. Despite this it was clocked at one of the fastest speeds down the Mulsanne straight, mainly due to its aerodynamic design.

1966 Bizzarini P538S

Today Bizzarini continues to build replica P538S cars for American customers, as well as  collaborating and teaching at Roma University. His unique place in history as part of the founding legacy of Lamborghini, as well as defining the most famous of limited production Ferraris is unmistakable.

It is ultimately ironic that this pillar of creativity and passion at the heart of Italian motorsport and culture is in fact a Corvette fanatic.




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