One of the most legendary figures in Italian automotive engineering died on May 13, 2023 at the age of 96.
Giotto Bizzarrini was born on June 6, 1926 in Livorno in the Tuscany region – his father was a wealthy landowner.
Giotto himself had been interested in technology from an early age. Bizzarrini graduated from the University of Pisa in 1953 with a degree in engineering. He taught at the university until 1954, then he moved to Alfa Romeo as a test driver. His talent for recognizing problems with vehicles and finding solutions to them brought him a job at Ferrari three years later when Enzo Ferrari was able to poach him personally.
At Scuderia Ferrari, he quickly rose to senior chief engineer and was then responsible for the development of the iconic Ferrari par excellence, the Ferrari 250 GTO. For this achievement alone, he deserves a place in every Hall of Fame.
But even before the 250 GTO was completely finished, Giotto Bizzarrini left Ferrari in the course of the so-called “Great Walkout” in a dispute like several engineers, including Carlo Chiti.
With the same Carlo Chiti and Romolo Tavoni, Bizzarrini founded Automobili Turismo e Sport (ATS) to specialize in both racing cars and the construction of sports cars.
Of course they wanted to be better than the Scuderia Ferrari and certainly wanted to take revenge for the termination. But after a short time, Giotto Bizzarrini realized that he couldn’t really develop next to Carlo Chiti and so he left ATS after a few months.
Finally, in 1962, he founded his own company, Autostar, in his birthplace of Livorno. One of his first customers was Ferrucio Lamborghini, who commissioned him to develop a powerful 12-cylinder engine for his sports car models. These were then installed in the 350 GTV, 350 GT and 400 GT models. The concept of this 12-cylinder engine formed the base for the Lamborghini engines up until 2010.
Also in 1962 Giotto Bizzarrini was hired by Count Volpi of Scuderia Serrenissima to build an even better 250 GTO. Count Volpi had failed in an attempt to buy a 250 GTO for his racing team, so a 250 GT SWB was to make a successful and aerodynamically better Ferrari racing car. Bizzarrini did what was expected of him and developed the Ferrari 250 GT “Breadvan” with chassis number #2819GT in just 14 days. This vehicle is also a milestone in Italian automobile construction.
Finally, Bizzarrini developed several vehicles for Renzo Rivolta, including the A3/C and the Iso Grifo. The A3/C later became the legendary and truly beautiful Bizzarrini 5300GT.
Giotto Bizzarrini was an engineer through and through, he was concerned with technical brilliance and sophistication, business had not been important to him throughout his life, something he had in common with Enzo Ferrari. So it happened in 1969 that the company went bankrupt and had to be given up.
Bizzarrini then worked as a design and technology consultant for major car and motorcycle manufacturers worldwide – including General Motors in Detroit. He also taught at the University of La Sapienza in Rome. In 2012 he received an honorary doctorate in industrial design from the University of Florence.
In early 2023, London luxury car dealership Pegasus Brands announced that it was reviving Bizzarrini as a sports car brand. There the 5300GT Corso is brought back to life in a limited re-edition of 24 handcrafted units.
Giotto Bizzarrini died on May 13, 2023 in Rosignano Marittimo, Tuscany, at the age of 96.
Of course I did not know Giotto Bizzarrini, but what I have read about him and his life as an automobile engineer, I think he could be proud of his lifetime achieveme. Find out more about our photographer Ralph Lüker.