Jul 9, 2020
Marie Alexine Romer… panel beater
Giotto Bizzarrini became a brand – Bizzarrini – even before he became an engineer. In fact, the first of his cars, called simply “Macchinetta” [ed. “small car”], built with considerably avant-garde concepts in 1953, was nothing more than his degree thesis. A quick look is all it takes – only one was built and still exists – to understand that the most important thing for Bizzarrini was racing.
1953. University of Pisa, discussing his graduation thesis. Bizzarrini, show me your thesis. Professor, it’s parked in front of the university. The “Macchinetta” based on the Fiat Topolino was Giotto’s first car
He was Italian, a native of Livorno in Tuscany, who considered the car as a single whole: designing the engine, optimizing weight distribution, building the chassis and even shaping the bodywork was all part of his unrestrained creativity that was his fortune and misfortune at the same time. His fortune was that he immediately stood out, first being hired by Alfa Romeo where he spent three years learning as much as he could, and then joining Ferrari at a very young age. The year was 1957 and his boss and colleague at the time was none other than that other well-known “Tuscan” called Carlo Chiti.
The 250 SWB known by all as the “Breadvan”, designed by Giotto Bizzarini and set up by Drogo for the Scuderia Serenissima, should have worn the Bizzarrini badge. The entire set up was the work of the young engineer from Livorno who had just left Ferrari
An interesting fact about how he managed to get into Ferrari was that whenever he travelled from Livorno to Milan to go to Alfa Romeo, he would pass through Maranello and this apparently casual presence opened those famous gates for him. At the age of just 31, he worked on extraordinary models such as the 250 Testa Rossa sport, the 250 Short Wheelbase (SWB), 250 California and made a substantial contribution to the qualities of the 250 GTO.
Bizzarrini presents his 60° V12 to Ferruccio Lamborghini and engineers Stanzani and Dallara who are preparing the first 3500 GT
In fact, with his way of seeing the car as a whole, he moved the engine of the 250 SWB towards the centre of the car, finding an ideal weight distribution. The first prototype of the GTO, the one that never saw the light of day, nicknamed “Papera” [ed. “Duck”], was where many of the ideas of the Tuscan engineer were explored in greater detail.
After collaborating with ISO, in 1965 the Italian engineer presented the Bizzarrini 5300 GT, as a development and evolution of the Iso Grifo
Bizzarrini encountered bad luck for the first time at the end of 1961 when, together with 7 other Ferrari executives, he came into conflict with Enzo Ferrari and was fired during what became known as “The Great Walkout”. His reputation was such however that he worked between 1962 and 1963 with Count Volpi Di Misurata to make the 250 with a truncated tail known by all as the Breadvan.
The Bizzarrini logo proudly bears the name of birthplace of the designer: Livorno
At the same time, he was also invited by Renzo Rivolta to define the mechanical structure of the first model produced by Iso. Once again, he placed the engine, which was from the Corvette C2, as far back as possible as he had done with the GTO. And as if that weren’t enough, he also collaborated with the newly created ATS and above all designed the V12 engine that Lamborghini used in various forms from his 350 GT in 1963 until the 2000s. A truly rare longevity for an engine that continued to improve its performance despite the passing years.
The open-cockpit version of the 5300. Only 3 examples were made
Bizzarrini’s almost excessive talent ended up being a prelude to his downfall: in 1965 he decided to become a manufacturer himself, making cars suitable for competition based on the Iso Grifo A3/C that he had also designed. The Bizzarrini 5300 GT was the result and was clearly conceived as a competition car although it had road-legal origins thanks to its American Chevrolet Corvette engine.
Powerful and elegant, the Bizzarrini 5300 GT was sold in 3 different versions: Strada, Corsa and America, with fiberglass bodywork
The car participated in several endurance races including the 24 Hours of Le Mans, but his racing dream was quickly wrecked by the poor sales success of the 5300 GT model. Just 115 were produced, and not even the attempt to bring two open-cockpit barchetta versions to Le Mans, called P538, nor the opportunity to provide the talented Giorgetto Giugiaro with the mechanics of the one-off Manta powered by a Lamborghini engine were enough to save him.
Bizzarrini in full race spec at the 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans
When Bizzarrini s.p.a. was declared bankrupt in 1969, a dejected Giotto Bizzarrini gave up his entrepreneurial dreams and settled on being a consultant, forever ending the possibility of seeing this talent from Livorno on the badges of new and exciting vehicles.
A considerable financial effort was necessary to build the mid-engine P538, entered unsuccessfully in the 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans
CLASSIC CAR MATCHER