Excitement is an Italian design plus a big American engine
ITALY, AS USUAL, is blossming forth with exciting GT cars, but not Just Ferraris and Maseratis these days. Recently we reported on a relative newcomer to the scene, the Lamborghini. Now we examine an even newer comer, the Bizzarrini, in its GT America form.
The man behind this car, Giotti Bizzarrini, is an engineer, a graduate of the University of Pisa. He received his degree in mechanical engineering there in 1953 and after a brief period of teaching at the same university joined Alfa Romeo, where he stayed until 1957. From Alfa he went to Ferrari; there he did design and development work, figuring strongly in the original 250 GT 2 + 2, the GTO and the 3-liter Testa Rossa. He became one of the "famous five" who left Ferrari in 1961, and after that was engaged by Lamborghini to design the dohc V-12 for his forthcoming 3500 GT.
During this same period he. also designed and developed the Chevrolet-powered Iso-Rivolta for Iso of Bresso and the exciting Iso Grifo, a much lower, lighter 2-seater coupe also powered by Chevrolet. Both Isos were given beautiful Bertone bodies. Bizzarrini began to race a competition version of the Grifo, in a small way but with encouraging success (for instance, 9th overall and 1 st in the over-5-liter class, 1965 Le Mans), and eventually decided to build the competition car as a GT under his own name. He named his car the Strada 5300, but is calling it GT America for sale in the USA.
The Iso Grifo and the Bizzarrini GT America, though basically similar, differ in nearly all details: the Grifo has acquired a different body (not so sleek but more refined in styling), soundproofing and de luxe interior. The Bizzarrini is much lower and, though it looks similar, shares none of the Grifo's body contours. What it amounts to is that the Iso Grifo is fitted out as a luxurious touring car, the Bizzarrini as a more businesslike semi- or full-competition machine.
The Bizzarrini is no small car. It has a wheelbase of 96 in., an overall length of 172 in. (3 in. shorter than a Corvette) and curb weight of 2550 lb. Built on a tubular space
frame, it has fiberglass outer panels bonded to the frame and one of the lowest silhouettes available in a production car - it's only 43 in. high.
The chassis is laid out with all the major masses. well within the wheelbase-including the three -fuel tanks which, though they carry 35 gallons total, affect the weight distribution by only 1 % between empty and full. The engine's front block face is behind the rear edges of the front suspension A-arms.
Suspension of the Bizzarrini is by unequal arms and coil
springs front and rear, though the Grifo has a de Dion rear end. Adjustable Koni shocks are used, and there is an antiroll bar at the front only. Wheels are of 15-in. diameter with 6-in. rims front and 7-in. rims rear; 6.00-15 tires are fitted at the front and 7.00 at the rear. Steering is by a Burman recirculating-ball gear and takes three turns lock to lock. Brakes are generous, being Campagnolo light alloy 12-in. discs front and rear with pads of 2.08-in. diameter front and 2.30 in. rear. The rear brakes are inboard, and the hydraulic circuit is tandem. Power assist is standard equipment.
The engine and transmission for the Bizzarrini are the familiar Corvette 327 and the Muncie 4-speed. After originally using the 365-bhp mechanical lifter version, Bizzarrini has settled on the 350-bhp hydraulic lifter engine as standard. For the competition version, he offers the mechanical lifter engine with his own aluminum intake manifold and four 2 barrel 45 DCOE Weber carburetors, polished ports and combustion, chambers, high-carbon connecting rods, special camshaft and short exhaust system. O'ur test car was equipped with something in between the two-it had all the underhood goodies but a regular, quiet exhaust system with 3-pass
Engine cooling is by two electric fans ahead of the radiator, which are switched on by the driver when he feels they are needed. The Corvette's engine-driven fan and viscous clutch are retained along with a shroud to suit the Bizzarrini's engine compartment, but this fan is so far from the radiator that it probably pulls very little air through the core by itself.
By way of introduction to the road test, we'd like to mention that our test car was something of a prototype. It was the first Bizzarrini in the U.S. and belonged to John Fitch, presently sole distributor for the make in the country. It was also the first Bizzarrini with fiberglass body panels, previous ones having aluminum panels. The first visual impression of the Bizzarrini is almost startling. It's long, ultra-low and looks as if it's doing at least 100, sitting still. We found when driving it that it is a potential traffic hazard as other drivers forget themselves to get ,a better look.
Getting into this slinky coupe is an exercise in agility.
The best procedure is to sit down on the door sill, slide yourself over into the seat and then pull your legs in. But what did you expect with a 43-in. high car? It was built for driving, not getting in and out of. Once seated you know immediately that you're in an Italian car: arms out, pedals close. The seat in our car was not adjustable, but the distributors say later cars will have an adjustment range. The competition style buckets cradle the driver and passenger snugly and are raked for a semi-reclining position. Forward vision is good considering the lowness of everything, but we leaned forward
for parking maneuvers. Vision to the rear is quite limited in spite of the large rear window, and external mirrors area must for maneuvering in any traffic.
The vital-organ instruments-oil & water temperature and oil pressure-are grouped in front of the driver, but everything else is splayed across the center and right side of the flat dash panel. Switches are conveniently near the steering wheel, but the speedometer and tachometer are well to the right and, though angled toward the driver, require a considerable diversion of attention to read. The speedometer was not working on our test car.
As in many cars of this type and national origin, the heater is rather crude. All it amounts to is a core in a box over the tunnel, plus a one-speed blower. Ventilation isn't very impressive either. Window winders took a lot of effort and turns in our test car, and the windows didn't disappear completely into the doors.
Extensive use is made of a quilted vinyl plastic throughoutthe interior, which isn't particularly luxurious. A nice touch, though, is the dash top which is covered in buck leather. A little chrome fence across the ledge behind the driver keeps small objects from flying forward out of the huge shelf behind the seats.. '
The Corvette engine comes to life with a great whump : whump, even if its tailpipes are quiet. The Webers have no air cleaners and make gobbling noises as they're opened up.
,Idling isn't smooth, but otherwise the power unit is as tractable as you'd expect a Chevrolet to be; the mechanical lifters are noisy, and beyond this the engine is so familiar as to need no further comment. The Chevrolet clutch and gearbox are also used, and the familiar chrome shift lever has been shortened, with the result that shifts are slightly stiffer and quicker. The familiar buzz of the Corvette linkage is pleasantly missing.
As usual with large-=-displacement American engines, acceleration is taken for granted, in any gear. Surprisingly, the engine seemed out of power above 5500 rpm and hence we made shifts at that speed. Perhaps with careful tuning the performance figure we obtained could be improved upon, especially in the higher speed ranges.
The Bizzarrini's handling borders on the fantastic for a road car. It comes closer than anything we've driven to the contemporary racing machine, in fact. With its very low polar moment of inertia (major masses toward center of car) it responds extremely well to steering inputs, and dependable understeer is imparted by the use of tires a size larger on the rear. Bumps and undulations never affect the car's poise while cornering. Naturally, there's always sufficient torque available to steer with the throttle, and after hustling this car around the Lime Rock course for half an hour or so, we had the feeling that the only limitations we found were our own.
The Bizzarrini's ride is about what we expect in a car of this type. It's firm, a little harsh even. The Dunlop R 7 racing tires surely contribute their share of this harshness. The body structure is rigid, but our prototype car was far from quiet and had its share of rattles to detract from the overall impression. Fitch assured us that production versions would be considerably refined over this car, and we know from experience that prototypes are rarely as well put together as their production counterparts.
This car is one of the most exciting-looking cars in our experience. A masterful fender line begins at the atypical split-opening front, sweeps gently up over the 6.00-15 front tires, drops a little for the cab section and then swoops up over the 7.00-15 rear tires, emphasizing their larger section, and heads for its intersection with a roofline that must be close to the Kamm ideal taper. Body sides are slabs, unfortunate from a pure styling viewpoint but necessary in order to accommodate the auxiliary saddle-mounted, 7.5-gal fuel tanks (which are, by the way, filled as the main tank is being filled). The front end has chrome rub strip but no bumper as such, though the rear has a fairly substantial split bumper to protect its Kamm-chop tail.
The various air scoops and outlets are, in a word, functional. They haven't been blended with the basic shape at all. Campagnolo magnesium-alloy knockoff wheels are light, open for ventilation and thoroughly appropriate looking. In all, we rate the Bizzarrini as one of the cars we'd most like to be seen in, and it was a pleasure to look up at XKEs.
Our test car seemed to be virtually ready to race, except for one thing: As we mentioned earlier, the brake system is generous, and it's representative of the best available in brakes today. However, on our test car the front/rear proportioning was not set up properly and we got rear wheel lockup and loss of control at a deceleration rate of 0.78g as .
we attempted the 80-mph panic stop. Competition drivers prefer to have the fronts lock first, and so do we; we also feel sure that with proper adjustment of proportioning better deceleration rates could be reached with this brake system.
Bizzarrini's competition options for the car include the following items, besides the engine which we described earlier: thinner fiberglass body panels with enlarged wheel openings, Plexiglass rear window, additional brake air ducting, 43-gal fuel tanks, jacking points at front and rear, 7-in. front wheel rims, 9-in. rear, customer's choice of tires, and thicker brake pads (22 or 24 mm vs. standard 18 mm). Curb weight of the competition version is 2300 lb approx.
Our test car was something between the road car and the competition car generally as well as in the engine department. Perhaps this was the best way to test the Bizzarrini after all, for it gave us a good idea of the car's possibilities in both directions. With additional soundproofing and the milder engine, this will be one of the world's great GT cars, and at the standard price of $10,500 it is priced well below its 12-cylindered rivals. With the full competition option at about $1000 more, it's a hairy, gutsy car that handles as well as anything but the all-out mid-engine jobs. And let us not forget the advantages of getting engine parts and service in every village.
BIZZARRINI GT AMERICA AT A GLANCE
Price as tested ..............$11,000
Engine V-8 ohv,.............5354 cc, 400 bhp
Curb weight, lb. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .2550
Top speed, mph . . . . .. . . . ........................................145
Acceleration, 0-60 mph, sec .6.4
50-70 mph (2nd gear). . . ... ... . . ... .3.0
Basic list. .. .$10,500
As tested. . .approx $11,000
No cyl & type. .. .. . .. .. . V-8, ohv
Bore x stroke, mm. . . . .102 x 82.6
In .4.00 x 3.25
Displacement, cc/cu in. .5354/327
Compression ratio... . . . . . . .11.0:1
Bhp @ rpm.. .. . . .. . 400 @ 6000
Equivalent mph. . . . . . . . . . . .145
Torque @ rpm, Ib-ft. 375 @ 3600
Equivalent mph .87
Carburetors. .4 Weber 45 DOEC 12
No. barrels, dia . . . . .2 x 1.78 in.
Type fuel required.. .. . . . premium _
Clutch type.. . .. .. .. .. .. .. .. . sd p
Diameter, in .10.0
Gear ratios: 4th (1.00). .. .. .3.31:1 3rd (1.51). . . . .5.00:1
2nd (1.92) .. .. .. . .. .6.36:1
1st (2.54) .8.41:1
Synch romesh . . . . . . . . . . . . . on a II 4
Differential type .. .limited-slip
hypoid Ratio. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .3.31 : 1
Optional ratios... .. .3.07, 2.88:1
CHASSIS & SUSPENSION
Frame type .. .. .. . tubular
Brake type .disc
Swept area, sq in. . . .540
Tire size .6.00 L-15/7.00 L-15
Make. . . . . . . . . Dunlop racing R7
Steering type. . . . recirculating ball
Turns, lock-to-Iock .3.0
Turning circle, ft .45.4
Front suspension: independent with unequal-length A-arms, coil springs, tube shocks, anti-roll bar
Rear suspension: independent with unequal-length A-arms, coil springs, tube shocks
ACCOMMODATION Normal capacity, persons.. . .. . . .2
Seat width, front, in 2 x 17.0'
Head room, front/rear.. . . . . . .35.0
Seat back adjustment, deg O
Entrance height, in .40.0
Step-over height... . . . . . . . . . .14.9
Door width. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .37.0
Driver comfort rating:
Driver 69 in. tall. . . .85
Driver 72 in. tall. . . .. .. .. . .. 80
Driver 75 in. tall. . . . .. .. .. .. 75
(85-100, good; 70-85, fair;
under 70, poor)
Curb weight, lb. . . . . . . . . . . . .2550
Test weight. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .2860
Weight distribution (with
driver), front/rear, %. . . .50/50
Wheelbase, in... .. .96.4
Track, front/rear. . . ... .55.0/56.0
Overall length . . . . . . . . . . . . . .173.6
Width. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .68.0
Height. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .43.7
Frontal area, sq ft. . .16.2
Ground clearance, in .5.0
Overhang, front/rear. . . .33.2/44.0
Departure angle, deg. . . . . . . . . .16
Usable trunk space, cu ft .8.3
Fuel tank capacity, gal. . .. .. .35.0
Instruments: 200-mph speedometer, 7000-rpm tach, odometer with trip, fuel level, oil temperature & pressure, water temperature.
Warning lights: high beam, generator, Ii ghts on, heater on, cooling fans on, aux fuel pump on.
Lb/hp (test wt) . . . . . . . . .7.16
Mph/1000 rpm (4th gear) .24.5
Engine revs/mi (60 mph) .2450
Piston travel, ft/mi. .. . . . . . . .1328
Rpm @ 2500 ft/min.. .. ., ., .4615
Equivalent mph. .. .. .. .. .. .112
Cu ft/ton mi.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .162
R&T wear index .32.6
EXTRA COST OPTIONS
Competition options including 410bhp engine; various lightening modifications; 43-gal fuel tanks; larger wheels, tires and brake pads; special exhaust system.
Crankcase capacity, qt. . . . . . . .9.7
Change interval, mi .5000
Oil filter type. . . ., .. ., ., . full flow
Change interval, mi .5000
Chassis lube interval, mi .5000
FUEL CONSUMPTION n/a
Time to speed, sec:
0-30 mph ..2.6
0-40 mph .3.5
0-50 mph... .,. ., ., '" . .. . .4.6
0-60 mph... . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6.4
0-70 mph .8.1
0-80 mph ., .10:6
0-100 mph... .. .. .. .. . .. ..18.1
0-110 mph... .30.1
50-70 mph (2nd gear) .3.0
Time to distance, sec:
0-100 ft. . .. .. .. .. .. .. .3.2
0-500 ft. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8.1
1/4 mile .. .. . . .. .. ... . .14.6
Speed at end, mph. . . .. .. .. .. .92
Passing exposure time, sec:
Car ahead going 50 mph .5.1
SPEEDS IN GEARS
4th gear (6000), mph. . . . . . . . .145
3rd (6000). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .96
2nd (6000). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .76
1st (6000) 58
Panic stop from 80 mph:
Deceleration, % G.. . . . . . . . . .78
Control. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . poor
Parking: hold 30% grade no test
Overall brake rating .good
n.a. (speedometer inoperative in .test ca r)