1967 Bizzarrini 5300 GT Strada
- One of just 124 examples built
- Entirely traceable history from new
- Presented in its original shade of Grigio Montebello and featuring a unique two-tone cream and black interior
- The subject of a comprehensive restoration, which won ‘Restoration of the Year’ at the Historic Motoring Awards
- A Chevrolet V8-powered brute wearing a jaw-droppingly pretty Italian suit tailored by Giorgetto Giugiaro at the beginning of his illustrious career
The Bizzarrini 5300 GT Strada Series II
The Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa, 250 GT ‘Short Wheelbase’ and the 250 GTO. These hallowed Prancing Horses all feature on the résumé of Giotto Bizzarrini. But it would take a dramatic fall-out with Il Commendatore for the Italian automotive engineer to produce the car of which he was rightfully most proud: the 5300 GT.
Having famously walked away from Ferrari in 1961, Bizzarrini teamed up with the Milanese industrialist Renzo Rivolta, whose ambitious marque Iso was in its infancy. Using his powers of persuasion, he convinced Rivolta to produce a sports car capable of writing his name into motorsport’s history books.
The result was the Iso Grifo A3C, a spectacular Chevrolet V8-powered spaceship on wheels. The division of interest between Rivolta and Bizzarrini led the two to split, leaving the latter to focus on developing, building and, perhaps most importantly, racing the A3C, which was subsequently renamed the 5300 GT and built under the Bizzarrini banner.
Where to start with this piece of pure automotive exotica? Firstly there’s that voluptuous, wind-cheating body, which was designed by a young Giorgetto Giugiaro working for Bertone. Then there’s the innovative way the body is riveted to the chassis and acts as a semi-monocoque. And how could we forget the boisterous 365HP Chevy V8, mounted low and as far back towards the cockpit as possible, just like the engine in the 250 GTO.
As cliché as it is to say, this is a thinly veiled racing car for the road. It should come as no surprise that Bizzarrini’s full-fat Corsa A3C variants scored class victories at Le Mans in both 1964 and ’65.
On the road, especially, the ground-hugging waist-height 5300 GT looks unlike anything else. Passers-by double-take in disbelief. Other road users slow to a crawl. From the snug and admittedly awkward reclined driving position, it’s utterly theatrical. We truly fell in love.
It's believed as few as 124 Bizzarrini 5300 GTs were constructed between 1963 and ’69, the bodies crafted by Piero Drogo’s Carrozzeria BBM with final assembly taking place at Bizzarrini’s plant in Livorno. The exquisite 1967 model we were honoured to recently sell is one of those special cars.
This Bizzarrini 5300 GT Strada Series II
A second-series example benefitting from an updated dashboard and a flat rear screen, the 5300 GT Strada we recently re-homed was constructed in early 1967 and issued with its Certificato d’Origine on 9 June. Its first registered owner, a company based in Rome, acquired the Bizzarrini for the princely sum of 5.95m Italian lire.
Chassis number 0276 passed through the hands of three further Italian owners, the last of whom, a Florence-based lawyer by the name of Paolo Badii, actually raced the car in a number of Gruppo 1 events at Monza in the early 1970s.
With graduation from law school looming and an international oil crisis which had caused fuel prices in Italy to skyrocket, Badii reluctantly sold this Bizzarrini in June of 1973 to one Frank Edward Howell, an American colonel based at Camp Derby in Livorno – ironically where the car was originally constructed. To say Howell treasured the car would be an understatement of epic proportions. He retained the car for almost four decades, carefully storing at his Georgia home for most of that time.
Naturally, such a ‘straight’ and original Bizzarrini 5300 GT Strada was a very rare beast indeed and after it was advertised for sale in 2012, it soon caught the attention of a world-famous British musician and ardent car enthusiast. He acquired chassis 0276 and, after returning the car to its birthplace in Livorno for a Bizzarrini gathering and having its provenance and authenticity verified by the marque authority Jack Koobs de Hartog, took the decision to commission a comprehensive restoration.
Thornley Kelham in the UK was the chosen outfit to carry out the restoration, and sympathy to the car’s beguiling originality was the primary focus throughout. Not a single stone was left unturned in the process, which took a staggering 4,500 hours from start to finish. The inch-perfect and oh-so-voluptuous aluminium metalwork, which was entrusted to Gary Pitney at GP Panelcraft, took 800 hours alone to paint in the beautifully understated shade of Grigio Montebello. The original two-tone cream and black interior, unique to this very car, was also beautifully reinstalled. So fastidious was the restoration that Thornley Kelham was awarded the ‘Restoration of the Year’ gong at the Historic Motoring Awards in 2018.
Shortly after the completion of chassis 0276’s restoration, it was exhibited at the prestigious Concours of Elegance at Hampton Court, where it proved a definite star of the show. Among its hundreds of admirers were the editors at Octane, who subsequently planned a feature for the magazine. In the March 2019 issue (a copy of which we have on file), the Bizzarrini feature is across 12 pages and comprises a driving report, a comment from the owner and an insight into the restoration with Thornley Kelham.
Given its small number of custodians, entirely traceable history, startling originality and, of course, its award-winning frame-off restoration, we have no issue suggesting that this Bizzarrini 5300 GT Strada is arguably the finest example of its incredibly rare kind. A majestic Italo-American Grand Tourer with a soul threaded in the world of motorsport by one of the most talented automotive engineers of all time, Giotto Bizzarrini was entirely fair to call this car the Ferrari 250 GTO’s second coming.
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