In its original home in the Lamborghini 350 GT, this was a front-mounted engine.

Bizzarrini mounted both V-8s and V-12s in a rear-mid configuration with a five-speed ZF transaxle and inboard disc brakes.

Starting in about 1963, he also began building cars with his name on them, “production” A3/C and 5300 GT road cars. In a complicated deal with Rivolta (as if anything in Bizzarrini’s life was ever simple), he acquired a stock of Corvette 327-cu.in. V-8s, and built perhaps 100 cars over the next three years. But this was Italy in the Sixties, and you couldn’t call yourself a carmaker without racing. The P538 was a purpose-built race car, and like the very successful Iso, a Chevroletpowered car—the cylinder count and 5.3liter (5.358, actually) displacement lent their name, with “P” for “posteriore,” rearengined. It debuted at Le Mans in 1966, with Swiss drivers Edgar Berney and Andre Wicky, but records indicate that the team retired after three hours with a cooling problem. A second team in a productionbased A3/C, driven by Sam Posey and Massimo Natili, was disqualified after a pit lane violation, possibly while returning with serious frame damage. Around that time, American Mike Gammino was racing an Iso Grifo, having previously run a Ferrari 250 GTO at a high level of competition, including taking a class win at Nassau in the Bahamas. He forged a connection to Bizzarrini from that, but when he got the idea to have a new car built in 1965, his first thought was Ferrari. “We wanted to have a car that would be competitive in the Can-Am series,” he said in a taped interview. “I went to Ferrari and asked them if they would build a Can-Am car, that would be competitive with the Chaparrals and the McLarens, and they really weren’t that interested.” So he turned to the man who had designed both of his cars. Gammino gave Bizzarrini the chance to live his dream: When he asked for a V-12 instead of Corvette power, for the first time a Bizzarrini-designed engine would appear in a Bizzarrini automobile. “I went to him, and I asked him if he would be interested in building a Can-Am car, which would be able to compete with the McLarens,” said Gammino. “So I went over to Livorno, and he engineered the car, and then we went to Ferruccio Lamborghini, with engineer

The surviving P538s
ven Bizzarrini’s A3/C and 5300 GT road cars are often obscure in origin; today, neither Bizzarrini nor Gammino are entirely clear on what happened more than 40 years ago. However, both agree that there has been no correct accounting of the P538s. There are definitely two surviving V-8 and two V-12 cars; there may be as many as four more V-8 cars.

E

The highest point of the body at the rear fenders is about 37.5 inches off the ground; the mirrors rise another inch-and-a-half. Exotic shape seems to generate some downforce. 20 HEMMINGS SPORTS & EXOTIC CAR

• July 2008

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4/25/08

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