OCT 14th 2013


So you save and save for the car you want, put the feelers out in the hope of unearthing someone willing to sell, and nothing happens for years…then two turn up at once! This was how Hugh James acquired his well-known Bizzarrini GT Strada 5300.

“The first two Bizzarrinis which were officially imported both belonged to people who lived less than half a mile away from me,” Hugh explained. “It was a while before I could afford one, and then after years of waiting I received a ‘phone call explaining that there were two for sale in California…and that I had just 24 hours to get there.”

A mad transatlantic dash resulted in Hugh knocking on a door in San Diego with a banker’s draft in his hand. “But the guy told me to go away because I was too late. There was only one thing for it, and that was to return the next morning to continue negotiations. I begged him!” Hugh confessed, and the deal to buy both was done.

That was 1982. One of the cars was sold on, but this one remains in original condition to this day. It’s such a well-known example that racers who prang their Bizzarrinis come to see Hugh’s car for reference as to how theirs should go back together again. It also had the distinct honour of being in the Cartier display at the Festival of Speed.

The car is well worth all this attention, holding as it does a special place in the history of the Italian supercar. The man behind it, the engineer Giotto Bizzarrini, worked at Alfa and then Ferrari through the 1950s (he did the Ferrari ‘Breadvan’) before striking out on his own and doing odd jobs like designing a V12 engine for a dissatisfied Ferrari owner by the name of Ferruccio Lamborghini.

In 1964 he joined Iso Rivolta where among the cars he developed was the Iso Grifo: a sleek Italian body and pressed steel chassis with a great lump of a Corvette V8 engine in the nose. The competition version of this 160mph car was badged the Grifo A3C – and it was this machine that in 1966 was to turn, without too many changes, into the impossibly low (just 43 inches), wide and sexy Italian super-coupe badged Bizzarrini GT Strada 5300.

Proof indeed that some things in life are worth begging for.

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