At the end of 1961 there was a revolt of the palace guard at Maranello, and among many who left was Dr. Ing. Giotto Bizzarrini, acknowledged as the father of the 250 Testa Rossa and the 250 GTO. After leaving Ferrari, he designed the 350 GT V12 for Lamborghini, and then went to work for Dottore Renzo Rivolta. From his prolific drafting board emerged a front-engined, space-framed, alloy-bodied coupe called, at first, the Grifo A3C and later the 5300 Berlinetta.

The Bertone design, executed by Pierro Drogo, looked sensational. Underneath, the car was equally impressive. The semi-monocoque body was riveted to the frame for added stiffness. To achieve a low polar moment, the engine was moved back in the frame, giving it 50/50 weight distribution. (To change the ignition points: one had to remove a small oval plate on top of the dash and, while balancing one’s knees on the seats and hitting the windshield with one’s head, squeeze one’s hands through the small opening to reach the distributor.)

Under the hood nestled the tried and true 327 Corvette engine with solid lifters, coupled to an excellent Muncie four-speed. With four dual-throat 45 DCOE Webers on a clever cross-flow cast manifold, headers, 10.5:1 pistons and some porting, polishing and balancing, this engine produced a very tractable 400+ horsepower at 6,000 rpm.

SCM Analysis


In my salad days, I think 1966, I owned one of these 43-inch high bundles of testosterone. I got it cheap, about $8,000, from Hollywood Sports Cars. It was said to be a semi-competition model used in 1964 as a practice car for Sebring. I loved it so much that I disregarded the numerous idiosyncrasies inherent in any dual-purpose car produced in low volume.

I didn’t care about the poor visibility through an almost horizontal rear window; with masochistic glee I disregarded its poor ventilation and the enormous glass area that produced a Turkish bath environment after 15 minutes on a sunny day, regardless of the outside temperature. I even learned to cope with the primitive one-speed defroster that must have come from a 1911 Fiat by carrying a clean towel to wipe the windows.

All its shortcomings disappeared when I started the car, though; the naked Webers, solid lifters and glass-packed mufflers played a symphony. The car was almost as quick as the quickest 289 Cobra I ever drove, but easier to drive and more forgiving. You could come into a corner too quickly, gently correct with the wheel and throttle, and come out smelling like a rose.

I even delighted in the side fuel tanks (remember the low polar moment of inertia), stepping over which made entry into the car feel like a descent into a cave. After all, I was young and nimble, and all my “shagadelic” girlfriends wore micro mini skirts.

Ing. Giotto Bizzarrini was a great designer, but a lousy businessman. With its Webers and alloy body, he lost money on every car he sold. In rapid succession, preceded by slight name changes (5300 Strada, America GT, etc.), the alloy body was replaced by fiberglass, the solid lifters became hydraulic and Webers gave way to a single four-barrel. Most cars in the US have a fiberglass body, this being the main reason the SCM Price Guide lists these cars in the $100,000-$150,000 range.

But what about the fiberglass-bodied car pictured here? Bonhams & Brooks managed to sell it at Olympia, London on December 4, 2000, for $336,238, including buyer’s premium—more than twice the high end of our Price Guide.

There are three elements that may have combined to produce this exceptional result. First, if the right mix of bidders is present, high-powered auctions can produce exceptional results that may never be repeated in the marketplace. Last year at Christie’s Pebble Beach auction, a very nice 330 GTC sold for $160,000, well above the market at the time. In 1997 they sold a 1957 fuel-injected Corvette for $222,500, nearly four times the expected amount.

Second, important documented history costs money. The car sold by Bonhams & Brooks was not an ordinary Bizzarini. Having achieved a top ten finish and first in class at Le Mans is not chopped liver. For the buyer’s sake, I hope that along with the Italian registrations, he also got a copy of “Identification du vehicule et du concurrent” from AOC (the Le Mans organizing club). This should clearly state that S/N 1A3*0222 raced in 1965 with race number #3.

Third, perhaps the buyer is a European vintage racer. In the GT category, this car would most likely run against 250 GTOs and 275/6C GTBs. We know how much those bring in the market, which makes the Bizzarini a cheap way to have a podium finish in class.

This may be heresy, but I believe that in today’s relatively short vintage races, this Iso Bizzarini 5300 Berlinetta, when properly set up, would blow the doors off the Ferraris. Because of this combination of superb provenance and vintage race capability, even at this high price, I consider this particular car well bought.—Raymond D. Milo

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