2023 Bizzarrini 5300 GT Corsa Revival
Bizzarrini 5300 GT Corsas don’t come up for sale too often. The situation is even rarer in the case of chassis no.0222, which won its class at Le Mans in 1965. Yet you can now buy yourself one of 24 perfect copies of it.
Second time lucky
This is ‘Car Zero’, the prototype, the first realisation of thereborn Bizzarrini marque’s 5300GT Corsa Revival. In a bid to relaunch the name before revealing a range of supercars, Bizzarrini is aiming to re-establish the significance of its past with those whose memory or historical knowledge of it is hazy. ‘The intention is to bring it back to greatness. The 5300GT is the start,’ says the company’s COO Richard Quinlan.
The name was bought in 2018 by Pegasus Brands, a group owned by Rezam Alroumi, former architect of the investment buy-out in 2007 of Aston Martin Lagonda from the Ford empire. This initial process has been thorough, involving thousands of original blueprints, handwritten notes, even an original body panel with a coat of Rosso Corsa paint that had never seen daylight. So the paint on Car Zero is exactly the colour that graced the original of almost six decades ago.
The project has been led by RML, which has dedicated a portion of its own facility to build the 24-strong run of‘production cars. If that name rings a bell, maybe you read about the RML Short Wheelbase in the last issue of Octane, the company’s own evocation of the Ferrari 250GT, though all-new and on modern running gear. The Corsa is all about bringing Giotto Bizzarrini’s ideas back to life.
To be fair, his roll call of greats is more impressive than most: he was a test driver for Alfa Romeo before Enzo Ferrari personally invited him to join his company, where his piece de resistance was the inimitable 250 GTO. But then Bizzarrini left in the infamous ‘Palace Revolt’, along with Girolamo Gardini and others, and went on to form ATS (Automobili Turismo e Sport), which created the 2500GT: Italy’s first midengined sports car. As a consultant, he would also develop the aerodynamically radical Ferrari ‘Breadvan’ for Count Giovanni Volpi, then Lamborghini’s VI2 engine. The latter was an engineering masterpiece and a mainstay of Sant’Agata for more than 50 years.
Then he joined Iso. There Bizzarrini developed the Grifo A3/L and A3/C — a car he referred to as an ‘improved GTO’. And when Bizzarrini parted ways with Iso, the A3/C evolved to become the Bizzarrini 5300GT. With bodywork by the young Giorgetto Giugiaro, tweaked by Piero Drogo, and a powerful Chevrolet V8 mounted well aft of the front axle and driving the rear wheels with a new independent suspension, in Corsa form it raced successfully: chassis 0222 finished ninth overall at Le Mans in 1965, driven by Regis Fraissinet and Jean de Mortemart. And then Giotto Bizzarrini himself drove it home to Northern Italy.
Car Zero is intended as a faithful replica, though with tweaks appropriate to its original creator’s desire to push the boundaries, and also to meet FIA regulations. To that end, the bodywork is a single piece of carbonfibre (glassfibre can be spec’d) over a steel frame, modem shell-back seats are fitted with harnesses and are protected by a roll-cage, there is a plumbed-in extinguisher and a safety fuel cell.
Although a crate’ V8 is available from GM for modest cost, the 5300 is powered by a bespoke and period-correct remanufactured Corvette 5.3-litre (327ci) V8 with Weber carburettors, developing around 400bhp. It drives via a four-speed Borg-Warner T10. The steering wheel, gauges and switchgear are from the original manufacturers, the steering box built by a now-retired former apprentice of the original supplier.
Although all 24 (one per hour of the Le Mans race) of the production run will be supplied ready for the track, RML is able to individually homologate each of them for the road.
That V8 crackles grumpily into life, shaking the structure slightly. You sit reclined with your backside barely off the floor, the view ahead mainly of dashboard and bonnet. The prototype’s gearshift is fine going up through the gears, trickier coming down (a fix is apparently being couriered as I battle with it), but the makings of an accurate and satisfying action are detectable. Steering is appropriately hefty but packed with feedback and, although the weather is damp and the bumpy concrete test-track tight, you soon become keenly aware of the GT’s exquisite balance. It has been built exactly according to Bizzarrini’s calculations and just happens to apportion precisely 25% of its 1250kg kerbweight to each of the four comers. Incredible.
This will make a challenging road car: it’s noisy and unforgiving, but the experience is rewardingly immersive. If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to drive a star of the 1965 Le Mans 24 Hours, there are 24 copies available for you to experience for yourself. You just need to be armed with the necessary £1.65m.
This page and opposite More than merely a copy of the '65 Le Mans class-winner, the Revival Corsa is tweaked to reflect how Bizzarrini might have developed the original.