The Bizzarrini 5300 GT is considered the most successful creation of storied Italian automotive designer and engineer Giotto Bizzarrini. After all, it was the very first car that was credited entirely to him. The 5300 GT was based on the Iso Griffo concept and used the structure of Iso Rivolta.
Powered by a 5.4L 327 Chevrolet small-block V-8 engine, the 5300 GT followed a front-mid-engine design with a rear-wheel drive train. Combining American muscle with European design language resulted in an excellent endurance GT machine that competed in 1964 Le Mans and Nürburgring 1000.
But, despite its excellent design and competitive figures, Bizzarrini produced only 133 units of the 5300 GT through 1968. Unfortunately, the end of the 5300 GT had a lot to do with how it all came to be.
Before launching his namesake company, Bizzarrini started his career with Alfa Romeo. Eventually, he moved on to Ferrari and served in multiple roles—test driver, designer, and developer—and ultimately settled in as chief engineer.
Here he played a crucial role in the development of the Testarossa V12 and GT Berlinetta Passo and became the reason behind the success of the legendary Ferrari 250 GTO. However, Bizzarrini was surprisingly fired before the GTO hit the streets.
Out for revenge, he started the Automobili Turismo company with a single goal to build cars that could beat Ferrari. While the company wasn’t successful in achieving the dream, it did bring the Bizzarrini name out to the public.
In 1962, Bizzarrini founded an engineering firm Società Autostar that contributed significantly and started a collaboration with Iso Automotoveicoli. Working together, they created the Iso Revolta, Iso’s first luxury car.
This was the time when Giotto became good partners with Renzo Rivolta, the man behind Iso. Working together, they brought out the Revolta and worked on a track-focused version of the Revolta, the Iso Grifo.
After months of work, two impressive prototypes of the Iso Grifo, the Grifo A3/C, and the 2+2 A3/L, were displayed at the 1960 Torino Motor Show. While the cars had different design languages, they shared the same powertrain and chassis.
The A3/L, later known as Grifo GL, was set as a mass-produced daily driver, while the A3/C (C standing for Corsa, Italian for race) was a completely track-focused variant. Bizzarrani loved the A3/C as he saw it as a potential successor to the Ferrari 250 GTO.
Soon after the display, the Iso Grifo went into production. Iso provided the engine and components, Drogo manufactured the body and handling assembly, and Bizzarrini provided the chassis from his Livorno workshop.
However, in 1964, the relationship between Iso and Bizzarrani came to an end as their contract concluded. Renzo Rivolta, who wasn’t much interested in races, kept the Grifo A3/L. But Bizzarrini took over the production of A3/C under a newly established business called the Bizzarrini S.p.A Company.
From there, the Bizzarrini 5300 GT, formerly known as the Iso Grifo A3/C, came into being with Giotto Bizzarrini getting the credit for the car’s design and development. At this point, he gets to work on a street-legal version, and soon after, the 1965 Bizzarrini 5300 GT Strada hits the road. Bizzarrini 5300 GT Development
The design of the 5300 GT obviously was inspired by the Iso Griffo, which in turn was based on the Iso Rivolta. So, it’s no surprise that the 5300 GT shared the same chassis and drive dynamics as its predecessors.
The 5300 GT had a unibody design with a welded sheet steel monocoque structure sitting on a shorter chassis. The chassis incorporated a front double-wishbone suspension and De Dion axle in the rear. To power this setup, Bizzarrini used a tried-and-tried Chevy V8 up front. The engine was not only reliable and affordable but provided plenty of power and was easy to maintain.
Inspired by the Ferrari 250 GTO, Bizzarrini placed the engine in a mid-front position shoving some parts under the dash. The engine was so in the cockpit that a dedicated accessible area was provided on the dash to access the spark plugs. Doing so not only lowered the center of gravity down, but Bizzarrini was able to achieve near-perfect weight distribution with the side mounting of the fuel tank.
While Bizzarrini would have loved to build only track machines, the need for cash led to the development of the 5300 GT Strada.
The 5300 GT Strada was the first production car from the Bizzarrini S.P.A Company. While it was basically a road-legal version of the 5300 GT, the car was made to live up to Italian (and Bizzarrini’s demanding standards.
The Strada was powered by the same 5.7L Chevy small block engine but was tuned to produce 365 horsepower. The engine was paired with a Borg-Warner four-speed manual transmission sending power to the rear wheels.
In terms of changes, Bizzarrini kept things as minimal as possible. As a result, you had a street-legal race car that could do 0-60 mph in just 7 secs and hit a top speed of 168 mph (impressive numbers for the day). These specs also put the 5300 GT Strada on par with the Ferrari 275.
On the inside, a basic instrument cluster that included temperature and oil gauges. Little to no insulation was used to keep weight and cost down, but this did make for a noisy cabin. Engine placement also meant that heat was an issue for the GT’s occupants. But the interior wasn’t a total stone-age experience as leather-clad seats and trim offered some upscale touches.
What made the Strada unique was its superior driving dynamics. The car was low to the ground with a beautifully streamlined body. Its wide stance, low center of gravity, rev-loving engine, and precise steering made for a fun car on both the street and track.
And while the public loved the Strada, Bizzarrini was putting even more effort into passion, the 5300 GT Corsa.
The Bizzarrini 5300 GT Corsa was a revised version of the already track-focused Grifo A3/C. It was made for the adventure-loving customers that lived for the thrill.
The Corsa, despite having the same Chevy engine, produced 40 more horses thanks to twin-choke, side-draught Weber carburetors mounted on the intake manifold. It was also 110 pounds lighter, had an even lower ride height, a tighter steering ratio, a lightweight body, and came with more basic seats.
To test its abilities, this race-tuned Corsa was put against the world’s best in the 1965 Le Mans ending with a class win, ranking 9th on the leaderboard. With the dream of winning the endurance racing, Bizzarrini never stopped improving the Corsa.
In 1966, Bizzarrini switched to a fiberglass body and reduced curb weight to 2,636 pounds. Supporting this body was a new BA4 chassis housing a new 7-liter Chevy power plant. The new Corsa now made 500 horsepower and recorded a 210-mph top speed on France’s Mulsanne Straight. Remember, this was more than 50 years ago.
However, the updated Corsa failed to meet the standards for the 1967 Le Mans. Further development of the 5300 GT stopped as funds dried up. After the production of 133 units by 1968, no further 5300 GTs were built. Perhaps the rarest versions are a single convertible prototype and two with removable T-tops.
The limited run of these Italian classics means that the Bizzarrini 5300 GT is among the most sought-after collectibles. According to Hagerty, the average price of a mint Bizzarrini 5300 GT Strada is $1.2 million, three times what they cost only a decade ago. As the automotive world turns to electrification, it will be no surprise to this figure to rise even more as collectors further embrace the classics.
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