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1968 Bizzarrini 5300 GT Strada Alloy : Classic Cars

One of the most renowned automotive engineers of all time, Giotto Bizzarrini, made his mark on the automotive industry whilst employed by a handful of the industry’s most renowned companies. But perhaps his most interesting creations were the ones that bore his own name.

Upon his graduation from the University of Pisa in 1953, Bizzarrini found employment with Alfa Romeo and quickly rose through the ranks to work in the experimental department. The young Italian’s skills were definitely well revered, and his next opportunity came from Ferrari, where he was largely responsible for the development of many of what would become the company’s most iconic cars, including the 250 Testa Rossa, the 250 SWB, and the 250 GTO.

Whilst 1961 proved to be a very successful year for Ferrari in racing, tensions were rising inside the factory gates. A number of senior staff members that were vital to engineering and development, including Bizzarrini, walked out in frustration with the company and left “Il Commendatore” to fend for himself. In the long run, this would prove to work out quite well for the young engineer.

The defectors quickly formed ATS, with the intention of rivalling Ferrari, but Bizzarrini soon left the new organisation, electing to go it alone. Bizzarrini won a commission from Italian industrialist and Ferrari rival Ferruccio Lamborghini, for whom he designed the formidable and enduring Lamborghini V-12 engine. In addition, Count Volpi, of Scuderia Serenissima, selected Bizzarrini for the project that gave rise to the famous Piero Drogo-bodied Ferrari 250 GT SWB “Breadvan” derivative.

Bizzarrini was then involved with highly successful Milanese industrialist Renzo Rivolta, who desired to build a GT car of his own. Thus, he helped to develop the effective platform-type chassis for the Iso Rivolta GT prototype. Shortly thereafter, the Iso Grifo was introduced on a shortened Rivolta chassis. It proved to be a wonderful automobile, as it combined a race-inspired chassis with reliable Chevrolet power and was wrapped in beautiful Italian styling.

Convinced of the Grifo’s competition potential, Bizzarrini built his own version of the Grifo for racing, and it achieved great success, amazingly winning the GT class at Le Mans in 1964 and again in 1965. During this period, however, the working relationship between Rivolta and Bizzarrini grew increasingly conflicted, as Iso continued to build road going Grifos and Bizzarrini focused on racing. Since Bizzarrini had legally registered the Grifo name, a deal was ultimately struck to allow its use by Iso in exchange for enough parts to build a number of A3Cs, in both Strada road going form and Corsa variants for racing.

Whilst the dramatic Bertone-designed Strada was ostensibly a street car, its specifications read like those of an all-out competition car, as it had lightweight aluminium bodywork by BBM, of Modena, a fabricated platform chassis, and a semi-monocoque body riveted to the frame. Output of the front/mid-mounted 5.3-litre Chevrolet V-8 engine ranged between 355 and 400 horsepower, providing a claimed top speed that approached a staggering 180 mph. Despite its performance and due to Bizzarrini’s predilection for racing, very few examples of the road going 5300 GT Strada were ultimately produced during its six-year production run.

This particular alloy-bodied 5300 GT Strada was delivered new to Belgium, where it was purchased by Guy Arend, who resided in Durbuy. Arend worked in advertising for much of his life, but his passion was World War II history. At 16 years old, Arend was living in Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge and witnessed some of the fighting in what would be the last major German offensive of World War II. Arend amassed one of the largest collections of World War II vehicles on the planet, and subsequently, in 1970, he founded the Victory Memorial Museum in Hondelange, Belgium, to honour the heroic actions of the Allied forces over the course of the Second World War.

In a period interview, Arend mentioned his Bizzarrini and commented that he decided to purchase the car because he was always travelling and needed a car that wouldn’t cause him any problems. He goes on to mention that he had a Chevrolet Corvette prior to the Bizzarrini and drove it for 350,000 kilometres without any problems. As the Bizzarrini combined the tried-and-true Chevrolet V-8 with Italian style and luxury, it was clearly an ideal car for a gentleman looking for an eye-catching grand tourer. Arend quickly fell in love with the car. The Bizzarrini undoubtedly served him well, as he would retain the car for an incredible 30 years, before it was purchased by its second owner in 1998.

Under the stewardship of the second owner, a Swiss-based collector, it was decided that the car would be fully restored. The 5300 GT was entrusted to specialists in Italy, who were run by Bizzarrini’s former factory manager, Salvatore Diomante, who is considered to be the most renowned expert in restoring Bizzarrinis, as Diomante was intimately connected with their construction. He performed a concours-quality restoration to its original specifications and refinished the car in a stunning combination of green over tan leather. Additionally, the owner requested that an air-conditioning system be retrofitted to the car, as well as a restyled rear grille and other minor modifications to suit his tastes; all of which can be easily restored to original specifications if so desired. In 2004, the car was shown at the Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este, proving that the quality of the restoration was indeed up to international concours standards.

In 2011, the Bizzarrini was purchased by the current owner and has been maintained under the same standards of fastidious care. Presently, the car is in very good overall condition and showing few signs of road use. The interior has been recently refurbished and still feels very inviting, and it would surely be a pleasant place to be in for high-speed touring across Europe. Under its current ownership, an electric power-steering system was added to increase the drivability of this already capable Bizzarrini.

Whilst Giotto Bizzarrini can be credited with creating some of the world’s most incredible sport cars, none of these creations are more visually compelling and unique than the 5300 GT Strada. Bizzarrini said of it: “I started with the idea of the 250 GTO and set about trying to improve on it”.

This car, featuring gorgeous Italian bodywork with the heart of a powerful American V-8, offers a unique character and a commanding presence on the road. It proved to be a more than capable sports car in the hands of Guy Arend when new, and as it is complete with a FIVA Passport, it is ready for continued road use, rallies, or concours judging today.


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Sources : 1968 Bizzarrini 5300 GT Strada Alloy Photo | 1968 Bizzarrini 5300 GT Strada Alloy Article

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