Ever the tornado of creativity and speed, Ferrari was quite a volatile company in the early 1960s. For every race Enzo won, it seems like the Old Man made a few enemies as well. The failed buyout from Ford and the epic “palace revolution” of management resulted in a brain drain at Maranello.
Each led by a mastermind engineer, stylist, machinest or visionary, only Lamborghini’s brand was strong enough to make it to the 1970s and beyond. The Ferrari exodus left all these talented men with huge ideas, but less of a real concept of how to bring the car to market effectively and resolve development problems outside their specialized area of experience.
Giotto Bizzarrini worked with all of the above firms before eventually launching what would be his best-known model: the 1965 Bizzarrini 5300 GT Strada Alloy supercar. With all the latest curves, a wide road graphic and a low roof: the Strada was a gorgeous hit right from the start.
Click past the jump to read more about the 1965 Bizzarrini 5300 GT Strada Alloy, with high-res images and performance details on its proven 161 mph top speed.
This rag-tag gang of Ferrari refugees was actually almost in lockstep in terms of their style preferences and rapid evolution of proportions and platforms in the 1960s. Wide and low became more and more popular, until reaching its zenith with the reveal of the Lamborghini Miura: a mid-engined hypercar so advanced that that it was the Veneno, or better, of its day.
Launched a year after the Strada in 1966, Miura’s low and swoopy side graphics are shared with the Bizzarrini Strada GT.
For the Strada to be so on the styling mark is incredible as the Miura instantly made every Ferrari road car, and some race cars, seem hopelessly retro. Lambo’s V-12 of the day was shaped like a washing machine, so the Miura actually found the only place it would fit in this low shape: longitudinally, behind the cabin.
Bizzarrini had the same style vision of a low-slung hypercar, but looked abroad from his Iso Revolta GT racing experience to source the new and compact Chevy small-block engine. Without tall carburetor stacks to ruin the nose height, this was space-age packaging and the Strada GT is gorgeous because of it.
Simple and elegant air slashes are carved from the nose, while an integrated chrome bumper is one of the last to be actually mounted to the aluminum body shell. Pending impact regulations ruined the look of decade or more Italian supercars after 1970.
A swooping back glass echoes the flat engine deck of the Miura very nicely, giving the two cars remarkably similar profile appearances.
Styling Comparison Versus 1969 Lamborghini Miura P400S
The interior looks as wide and versatile as a Corvette , with a huge luggage area lined in black leather behind the twin seats. A wide console was very en vogue then as now, while the Strada’s door cut-outs might have inspired the decades-later Bristol Fighter.
Simple gauges and trim work shows a bit more amateur construction at Bizzarrini versus the Maserati Ghibli of the day - which was arguably the poshest and swankiest GT supercar interior yet in 1967.
Drivetrain, Suspension and Brakes
In addition to being a packaging marvel, the Chevy small-block was also highly tunable and able to withstand almost any track abuse versus the delicate and temperamental Italian race engines of the day. With 5.3 liters, this size engine is still the sweet spot for millions of Chevy trucks and SUVs every year.
Light alloy bodywork of this car was a revolution versus the fiberglass that was typically employed by these small-volume artisans. (Toxic fiberglass might explain a shorter career for some of these gentlemen, actually.)
Lightweight and also a stressed member of the chassis, the Strada’s alloy panels increased rigidity markedly and also the value of this example.
At the time, Bizzarrini claimed that a 5300 GT Strada Alloy hit 180 mph at the Mulsanne straight of Le Mans during testing, but these are generally very ’wink wink’ type boasts. Even so, it was much faster and had far more top end potential than any Ferrari models, generally tuned to deal with tight tracks and a gas stop every 30 minutes.
A four-speed box channels the power to the rear wheels, for an estimated 7-second sprint time. This beat the launch Miura, and its front-engine design offered far better stability over 130 mph than the wing-shaped Lambo.
1965 Bizzarrini 5300 GT Strada Alloy - Performance Details:
|Engine||5.3-liter 16-valve V-8 With OHV|
|Torque||310 pound-feet, est|
|0-60 mph||7 seconds, est|
|Top Speed||180 mph, claimed|
|Top Speed||161 mph, actual|
|EPA Fuel Economy (City/Highway/Combined)||12/14/12, est|
Note: Actual top speed data from RM Auctions, citing Italian car magazine Quattroruote’s fifth-wheel results in the February, 1966 issue.
This exact car sold this August at Pebble Beach by RM Auctions for $693,000.
This was a bold car and certainly one that had a direct influence on brands and styling across the world as well as the Tuscan countryside. For his achievement here, Giotto Bizzarrini should be commended and remembered as one of the great pioneers in supercar history.
As an ultimate ’make him suffer’ character in the ongoing Scuderia Ferrari telenova, Giotto Bizzarrini’s role as a villain to Enzo’s angel is nothing more than fiction - or destiny, as Ferrari fans might say...
- Simple nose graphic a throwback to life before bumper laws ruined the Italian supercar economy
- Amazingly low hood and sleek profile, yet also quite wide with a chopped roof
- Big trunk and great high-speed Autostrada stability versus the Miura
- A little pricey, but earned $90,000 more than the Miura compared in the photos above
- Name is a big problem, and Bizzarrini and Revolta collaborating is just awful to pronounce
- Brand is long gone and not back, despite a few attempts
Gallery Bizzarrini 5300 GT Strada Alloy
Monterey 16 - 17 August 2013: 1965 Bizzarrini 5300 GT Strada Alloy Sold for $693,000
- Chassis no. IA3 0234
- Engine no. 531 F10075Q
365 hp, 5,359 cc Chevrolet Corvette overhead-valve V-8 engine, four-speed manual transmission, independent front suspension via wishbones, coil springs, telescopic shocks, and anti-roll bar, de Dion tube, coil-spring, hydraulic shocks, longitudinal struts, and anti-roll bar rear suspension, and four-wheel disc brakes. Wheelbase: 96.4 in.
- Exceedingly rare low production example with aluminum bodywork and dramatic Bertone styling
- Featured in such period productions as the 1965 Auto Italiana and the 1966 Quattrorvote
- Recent concours restoration by Gary Bobileff
- Documented history by multiple marque specialists
Born to a family of engineers in Livorno, Tuscany, Giotto Bizzarrini graduated from the University of Pisa in July of 1953 with a degree in mechanical engineering. He was an unassuming man, but his name would soon be inseparably linked to some of the most exciting and successful sporting automobiles ever seen. Shortly after graduation, Bizzarrini joined Alfa Romeo, moving swiftly through the ranks and advancing to the experimental department, where he contributed to the development of the Giulietta and became a skilled test driver.
Bizzarrini then moved to Ferrari as a test driver, but his engineering skills were quickly recognized, and he was made the head of the experimental department. While at Ferrari, Bizzarrini was acknowledged as being largely responsible for the development the 250 Testa Rossa, the Spider California, the 250 SWB, and the 250 GTO, all of which remain among Ferrari’s most successful cars from that era of sports car racing.
In November 1961, an episode known as “the Purge,” or “the Palace Revolt,” occurred at Ferrari, sparked by the dismissal of Ferrari’s influential sales manager, Gerolamo Gardini. This resulted in the mass departure of key engineering and development staff, including Bizzarrini. The defectors quickly formed ATS and received substantial financial backing. Their intention was to rival Ferrari with a Formula One team, including an advanced mid-engine GT road car and lightweight sports racer. But factions soon formed inside the company, and Bizzarrini left when a buyout offer was presented by one of the shareholders.
While working with ATS, Bizzarrini had his own consulting firm, which became known as Autostar. One of his earliest clients was Count Giovanni Volpi, for whom he built the famous 250 SWB derivative, the radical “Breadvan.” A project that brought more fame was his designing the original 3.5-liter V-12 for Ferruccio Lamborghini to use in his cars. He also did development work on the ASA 1000 GT.
Bizzarrini’s most enduring consulting client, and the one with which he has been most closely associated, was Milanese industrialist Renzo Rivolta, of Isothermos and Isetta fame. Rivolta was a keen auto enthusiast who wanted to build a genuinely reliable GT car, and Bizzarrini worked closely with Iso’s chief technician, Pierluigi Raggi, in developing an extremely sophisticated platform-type chassis for the 2+2 Iso Rivolta GT. To solve the reliability issues Renzo had encountered with his personal GT cars, Isos used a Chevrolet Corvette engine and transmission. After much development work, the Iso Rivolta GT debuted to rave reviews at the 1962 Turin Show, with production following in 1963.
Then came the landmark model that would serve as the basis for Bizzarrini’s own car. The Iso Grifo was a spectacular two-seat GT based on a shortened Rivolta chassis, and two variants of the Grifo were shown at the model’s debut at the 1963 Turin Auto Show. The Grifo A3/L (“L” for lusso, or luxury) was on the Bertone stand, while the other, the A3/C (“C” for corsa, or competition) debuted on the Iso stand; the latter car was built by Bizzarrini in his Autostar Works in Livorno. Both Grifos had Giugiaro-designed coachwork, and they were a stunning combination of Italian styling, a race-inspired chassis, and reliable Chevrolet Corvette V-8 power.
Bizzarrini was strongly convinced of the Grifo A3/C’s potential, telling author and noted automotive historian Winston Goodfellow, “I really view the car as my second aerodynamic study, after the Ferrari GTO. The GTO was an excellent car, but it had a lot of little defects at the rear. The Grifo A3 didn’t have these, and technically speaking, the aerodynamics were much better than the GTO.” Key to accomplishing this was its incredibly slinky and low profile and its engine, which was set far behind the front axle, making the A3/C a true front mid-engine design.
For the next 18 months, Bizzarrini made his version of the Grifo under agreement with Iso, and they achieved great success on the track. The car neared 190 mph on the Mulsanne Straight at Le Mans in 1965, and the Bizzarrini-built Grifos won 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, with Bizzarrini wanting to focus on racing and Rivolta wanting to concentrate on production. In the summer of 1965, a deal was ultimately struck, where Bizzarrini would continue to build the cars under his own name in the “Strada” road going form, as well as “Corsa” variants for racing.
The engineer had good reason to want to go out on his own. When Etienne Cornil tested a Grifo A3 Stradale in the September 1964 issue of Sporting Motorist, he had to lift off the accelerator at 163 mph, so as not to over-rev the new engine. “To tell the truth,” Cornil noted, “we have never come across such discerning ease at such speeds.” That and other impressive road manners caused him to sum up, “There is no doubt that engineer Bizzarrini’s creation merits high esteem amongst the world’s fastest grand touring cars.”
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 outstanding performance and incredible handling. Output of the Chevrolet V-8 engine ranged between 350 and 420 horsepower, providing a claimed top speed of up to 180 mph.
These specifications made the GT Strada one of the highest performing cars of its day, as one Ferrari owner unexpectedly found out when the Strada was new. “I was on the freeway,” the engineer related in the book Bizzarrini: A Technician Devoted to Motor Racing, “and a guy in a 275 GTB came up and passed me. When he was just a little ahead of me, I hit the gas and passed him like a rocket! The next day in Livorno he saw me and asked ‘What kind of car is that?’ So I explained to him, and he instantly replied, ‘I will buy it.’”
Despite that type of reaction, very few examples of the 5300 GT Strada were produced during an approximate six-year production run. Production estimates vary between 100 and 149 Iso Grifo A3s and Bizzarrini 5300 GT Stradas and GT Americas, including approximately 70 alloy-bodied Strada examples. There were two primary reasons for such limited numbers, with the first being the lack of a reliable coachbuilder to supply the car bodies, and the second being that Bizzarrini unknowingly took on two shareholders who ran a sophisticated pyramid scheme. “In the end, I fell to two Al Capones,” Bizzarrini told author Goodfellow. “And that was the end of the story.” Afterward, the engineer returned to private practice as a consultant, working for such varied companies as Iso and AMC and building the occasional car for an admiring client.
This example, Bizzarrini Strada chassis number IA3 0234, was featured in several period magazines, including Auto Italiana on December 9, 1965, and Quattroruote in February 1966. The latter was basically Italy’s Road & Track, and in their road test, they saw a 0–100 mph time of 13.7 seconds and a top speed of 161 mph. They raved about the car’s road manners and performance, noting, “What we liked best about the 5300 was its road holding. It is very maneuverable without much effort.”
In the early 1970s, Ted Field, heir to the Marshall Field fortune and eventual media mogul, entrepreneur, and film producer, acquired chassis 0234. During the 1970s, Field was heavily involved in motorsports, as he was the head of Interscope Racing. In August 1974, the car then passed to Barnet Bonar, of Los Altos in the San Francisco Bay Area, and it remained in the family until 2003. It was then acquired by Terry Healey, from Oldtimer Garage Australia, for a client Down Under. The decision was made to restore the car, but progress was lagging and the Bizzarrini was purchased by its current owner in a disassembled state in March 2012.
After extensive research, the current owner made the decision to have the car restored stateside, so IA3 0234 was shipped to Bobileff Motorcar Company in San Diego California. Under Gary Bobileff’s expertise, this 5300 GT underwent an extensive restoration, with all the mechanical components, including the engine, gearbox, differential, suspension, and all other ancillary items, rebuilt. The car has been fitted with a new interior, including the rare 16.5-inch Nardi steering wheel, which appears to be unique to this particular car. The body has also been comprehensively restored, and every part of the body trim and chrome has either been restored or replaced as needed. Great care was taken restoring this car back to how it appeared in Auto Italiana in 1965.
Interestingly, it was common knowledge that this car also carried the chassis number B 0234; however, during the restoration, there was an additional number found stamped on the car, B 0220. Furthermore, there were traces of double taillights and small front park lights, as found on the Iso Grifo A3/C, while the car was being prepared.