Neo-classic car scene set alight by mystical but faithful Bizzarrini recreation
Considering that the glorious sounding Bizzarrini grew out of spite, following a renowned 1960s spat with Enzo Ferrari, recalls Iain Robertson, it is amazing that its subsequent class wins at Le Mans were enough to provide it with a reputation considerably greater than its actual low volume manufacturing status; it is one heck of a tale.
Without Giotto Bizzarrini, Lamborghini might never have powered its enigmatic sportscars by the phenomenal transversely located V12 engine he designed for the Muira model. If you think that the Bizzarrini 5300GT has something of the fabulous Ferrari 250GTO about it, do not be surprised, as it was a model that might never have existed without Bizzarrini, whose influence was deep in several areas of the Italian sportscar industry. Yet, following the sacking by Enzo Ferrari of Girolami Gardini, commercial director at Ferrari, three fellow directors, one of which was Bizzarrini, were also dismissed in the subsequent event that became known as ‘the Palace Revolt’. Giotto was determined to get his own back on Enzo for the old man’s poor management skills, which he achieved with his own car at the famous Le Mans 24-Hours race in 1965.
Developed initially as a high-performance variant of the Bizzarrini-engineered Iso Grifo A3C, the 5300 GT Corsa was designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro (later of Ital Design fame) with refinements by Piero Drogo of Carrozzeria Sports Cars. Incorporating a tried, tested and US-supplied V8 engine, which was a popular and readily available period option, the 5300 GT was lightweight, extremely quick and outstandingly reliable. As mentioned, its performance in the 1965 Le Mans 24 Hour Race, lies with the most legendary 5300 GT chassis ‘0222’. That summer, French racing drivers Regis Fraissinet and Jean de Mortemart took the over 5.0-litre class win at Le Mans, also finishing ninth overall. Not only did chassis 0222 run the race at an average speed of 169kph but Giotto also then drove the car back home to Northern Italy immediately after the race. The 5300 GT Revival Corsa prototype takes livery inspiration from this legendary car, encapsulating the spirit of a bygone age of high-performance race cars and the genius behind them.
In adapting the Corsa radically for circuit racing, Giotto Bizzarrini fitted bespoke independent rear suspension and shifted the front-mounted engine as far back in the chassis as possible. This revolutionary approach to weight distribution proved a key advantage against many contemporary front-heavy cars. In testing the Revival model, modern measurements show that each corner of the car carries 25% of its overall weight, illustrating the visionary genius of Bizzarrini to design a car in 1965 that still delivers perfect balance in 2022.
Built at Bizzarrini’s dedicated facility, in the UK, the 5300 GT Corsa Revival is the most authentic interpretation of the 5300 GT available. Built using original blueprints, utilising materials from original suppliers, with the input of experts originally involved in the 5300 GT project, some key improvements have been added with modern safety regulations in mind. The original car’s fuel tanks were located deep in the sills, as well as behind the driver, for example, but now, using advanced 3D scanning, Bizzarrini engineers have created a tank that is intricately shaped, filling the available void in the chassis to tolerances and accuracy not available to the original designers. The overall fuel capacity is only marginally reduced, at 95 litres, keeping the range within the requirements of a multiple round race series.
The painstaking dedication to authenticity even extends as far as this car’s paintwork. There is a long and complex history surrounding the colour known as Rosso Corsa, with many shades purporting to be the original. To ensure the car looked exactly as it would have in period, the Bizzarrini team tracked down a paint colour sample from an original panel, which had been hidden from light since it was first painted, perfectly preserving Bizzarrini Rosso Corsa. This shade was then colour-matched for the Revival version to create Rosso Corsa Bizzarrini 222.
The current success being achieved by an array of new revivalist carmakers has been little less than remarkable. Just as strictly limited run electric hypercars seem to have tickled the wallets of the super-rich, an equal demand seems to have grown for classic recreations, with Jaguar joining Ferrari, Iso Rivolta and BRM with sanctioned replicars. Each example in the Bizzarrini Revival series of just 24 vehicles will be hand-built, with a lightweight single piece composite body, over a steel frame. Inside, the two seats are protected by a more comprehensive six-point roll bar and safety fuel cell that meet FIA Appendix K historic racing regulations. Test drives of the Revival have already revealed a car that feels subtly more rigid than original examples. Independent rear suspension to Giotto’s Corsa specification and all-round disc brakes are paired with the period-specific 5.3-litre V8 engine fuelled by Weber 45 DCOE (Doppio Corpo Orizzontale E) carburettors that develops over 400bhp. Tipping the scales at just 1250 kg, the Bizzarrini 5300 GT Revival Corsa promises an excellent power to weight ratio.
One of Giotto Bizzarrini’s most valuable talents was his ability to push the limits of contemporary engineering. The original 5300 GT made extensive use of the strongest lightweight material of its day, glass fibre. “Had it been available, we believe Giotto Bizzarrini would almost certainly have deployed carbon fibre in his racing cars,” says Richard Quinlan, COO of British-based Bizzarrini. “As a result, the 5300 GT Revival Corsa will be offered with a full carbon fibre bodyshell as standard for those customers who do not need to conform to Historic Racing regulations.”
Bizzarrini is building just 24 examples of the Revival 5300GT, all of which are likely to be different due to customer requirements. It is fascinating that a British company has been established to exploit Bizzarrini’s past and the firm promises that its activities will not stop at the 5300GT. Although intended for racing, the cars can be adapted for road use with minimal effort.