Three Bizzarrini 5300 Spyders – the only three built – are scheduled to reappear together at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance in August 2016.
The cars are especially interesting because there are only three open cars out of approximately 125 Bizzarrinis produced by Giotto Bizzarrini at his plant in Livorno between 1966 and 1968. These particular ones bear the badge “SI” for Stile Italia, in collaboration with Sibona e Basano “SB” - the small shop that hand built them one off at a time under Giotto Bizzarrini’s Supervision. They were built from the ground up in open form. Giugiaro was not involved in the (Spyder) styling, having left for Ghia after having done the original design for the car while he was at Bertone.
1966 Bizzarrini Spyder Prototype – The Geneva Show Car
The Bizzarrini GT5300 design had its origins in a race car Giorgetto Giugiaro designed for Iso of Bresso, a firm that made Italian cars with Corvette engines. There was a race version, the A3C (“C” for “corsa” or racing) and a street version, the A3/L (“L” for “Lusso” or luxury) and when Ing. Bizzarrini left Iso’s employ he took the design of the A3/L and A3/C with him to produce under his own name.
Engineer Giotto Bizzarrini offering under his own badge could best be summed up as the closest thing to taking a race car and putting on the street. It offered what is normally thought of as competition equipment on street cars.
Ing. Giotto Bizzarrini’s factory closed in 1969.
His Coupes / Strada / GT America cars then sold for under $10,900 new (add $1,000 for the “Competition package” which included a magnesium sidedraft manifold toting four Webers, larger tires, and wider wheels). The open T-top Spyders were a few thousand more.
1968 Red Bizzarrini Spyder
The coupes are now roughly $1,000,000 million and above. The three spyders are valued in the multi-millions. Two of the three are owned by Mark Sassak, a Livonia, Michigan auto parts & sport toy manufacturer who owns the red T-Top -Targa, which has been in his family since new, and the silver roadster, found in Italy in 1999. The third car is owned by Don Meluzio, who owns the blue Targa brought out of Italy some decades ago by Oakland Hills collector Howard Turnley.
Sassak says “We started showing them together a couple of years ago and are honored to be invited to show at Pebble.” He says people enjoy seeing the subtle differences between the three, two being sold as T-Tops and the 1966 Silver Prototype the (Geneva Show car) shown as a coupe, targa and full convertible at different times. “It’s the beginning, the middle and the end of a short-lived model–you can see what might have been…” he says.
1968 Blue Bizzarrini Spyder
Me and the T-top: An Aside…. So I ask you, how long can one guy be after one car?
Well, apparently forever. I speak of the red T-top Bizzarrini. The first time I see it, it is 1967 or so. I am working in an ad agency in Detroit writing Chevy ads and my boss, Dick Wingersen, a Corvette owner, says “Hey, get your butt over to the Vette Shop–they got a weird Italian car with a Corvette engine.”
Bizzarrini Spyder Engine
I go there. It is weird, but beautiful. Totally divorced from the Corvettes of the time.
It is not there for sale, just there for service. I give up on trying to buy it, though I could have offered $10,000.
Flash forward I don’t know how many years. I am driving through Vegas. I see a faded red Bizzarrini t-top in a gas station jacked up with one wheel off. Same car. I leave a note. No answer.
Flash forward another few years. I am driving through Malibu, in the hills above Pacific Coast Highway. I go by a Spanish-style tile-roofed one story house just high enough on the hill to see the ocean. There’s a red sports car parked in front of the house. Same car. I leave a note.
I don’t know where I finally reach the owner but it’s Mark Sassak, a Detroiter. He tells me the car is not for sale and that’s why he didn’t answer my notes. When I do one of my Incredible Barn Finds books, I tell the whole story, how his father was in a bar sitting next to this Italian guy named Bizzarrini and the Italian guy tells him he is going to build a fantastic car, using what he learned in designing the immortal Ferrari GTO only three or four years earlier.
Mark’s father, a venture capitalist, ponies up some investment capital and is awarded a Bizzarrini Spyder in return.
We all cannot own one of the spectacular Bizzarrini Spyders
but now a few of us can own this special model set of all three Bizzarrini Spyders.
The car is handed down by his father to his brother, and almost reaches derelict status when Mark’s brother uses it for drag racing around Detroit. Mark feels pity for the car and trades some drek transportation car for it. Mark moves around the U.S. including Vegas where he was a card dealer. Anyway he keeps the car and gradually steeps himself in Bizzarrini knowledge. He eventually discovers he is owner of the rarest of the rare.
Along the way he discovers the full Spyder, the silver one, after long disbelieving Road & Track’s dismissive caption when they picture the car in the ‘60s and say it was “never finished”. In my books, I warn Do Not Believe What You Read in magazines… what the hell do magazine writers know, anyway.
The author spotted this car 49 years ago, but a barn find doesn’t always mean it’s for sale….
painting by Wallace Wyss
Now it’s 2016, I am going to see the three Spyders again at Pebble Beach. They’re priced a tad beyond my reach now, but I figure this car is going to be mine eventually because why would I have happened upon it three different times in a country as vast as the U.S.? Mark, mi amigo, will ya take a rubber check?
by Wallace Wyss
The author Wallace Wyss is a fine artist whose work will be on display at Concorso Italiano in Monterey.
The Bizzarrini Prototype front nose badge was lost for 48 years
until Jack Koobs De Hartog and Mark Sassak were able to re-create
this one of a kind Badge from old photos in Jack’s extensive photo library.