"In 1966 Bizzarrini entered this brand-new racing spider in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The low and curvaceous body was penned by Giugiaro. The engine, unusually for the Italian car maker, was a 5.3 litre Chevy V-8. The P538 denotes the 'posterior' "
We’re suckers for defunct automotive brands. And one of the most spectacular and exotic of the passed car-makes of recent times is Bizzarrini.
The company was Founded by Giotto Bizzarrini a former engineer for Alfa Romeo, Ferrari and Iso. Until the company closed in 1969 they built a number of interesting concepts and sports cars – their rarity of course including the aesthetic as well as financial value. Giotto’s cars were usually of the brutally audacious – think of the muscular super-coupés that were Iso Grifo – and he was partly responsible of course for the 250 GTO Breadvan.
The Manta, made from bits and pieces made by the soon-to-be-defunct Bizzarini company, was Giorgetto Giugiaro’s first independently built car. He used it to launch Ital Design in the car show at Turin in 1968.
Apart from its period-correct wedge design, the most striking thing about this creation is the three-up interior layout, which, we suppose, was borrowed from that Ferrari 365 prototype of 1965. This setup was of course revived very successfully later on with the McLaren F1.
This chassis was a tubular steel Bizzarini design built especially for the rigours of Le Mans and the motor was a torquey Ford ‘small black’ V8.
After the Turin show the car was put on a World Tour that included the 1969 Los Angeles Auto Expo. It wasn’t exactly well-received stateside, and was perhaps correctly perceived as a bit of typical spaced-out European indulgence. According to Road and Track magazine it was “yet another 200-mph suppository in bright orange…”
Apparently the car was purchased in 2003 from a Texan collector and then restored for two years, where it got this dashing turqoise paintjob – before winning a category prize at pebble beach in 2005.
The Manta is one of those rare crystallisations of automotive brilliance – and Bizzarini a brand that was all about passion.
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