1965 Bizzarrini Iso Grifo A3C Pilots: J. de Mortemart, R. Fraissinet Team: Prototipi Bizzarrini SAL Race: 9th overall (1st in Proto +5.0 class) at Le Mans in 1965 Spark - S0385 (resin)
Giotto Bizzarrini was born in Livorno, Italy, in 1926. He graduated as an engineer in 1953, and started working at Alfa Romeo in 1954. Talented as he was, in 1957 he switched to Ferrari. At Maranello he was directly involved with the development of the 250 TR and 250 GT SWB. He also worked in possibly the most iconic Ferrari of all times, the 250 GTO. But in 1961 the famous “Palace Revolt” took place, when Il Comendattore fired all of Ferrari’s top men. Bizzarrini was one of the ousted, and after that he started working for other manufacturers, like Lamborghini and Iso Rivolta.
At Iso, along with designer Giorgetto Giugiaro and chassis builder Bertone, they created the Iso Grifo. Totally out of the norm for an Italian sports cars, Iso’s cars used a North American engine. The Corvette’s V8 was cheap, powerful and reliable, so it was a good option. Bizzarrini wanted to take the car racing, but upper management was against the idea. He didn’t relent, and finally, in 1963, got approval to develop a racing car.
The competition version of the Iso Grifo was the Grifo A3C. The A3C was a pure-blood racing car, built specifically for endurance racing. Though using the same welded steel monocoque chassis, the biggest difference to the road-going Grifo was the body. Designed by Piero Drogo, it was an all-aluminum affair riveted to the chassis. The engine was the same Corvette V8, but placed further back and protruding into the cabin. The A3C counted on a 5359 cm³ V8 with four Weber carburetors that delivered 403 hp.
However, due to homologation requirements, the Grifo A3C raced as a prototype. Therefore, the competition came from Ford’s seven liter GT40 and Shelby’s Cobra. Though less powerful than the North American cars, the A3C made up with outstanding aerodynamics. And that was enough for a class victory at the 24 Heures du Mans of 1965.
Bizzarrini left Iso in late 1964, and with that only 29 examples of the Grifo A3C rolled out of the factory. And like the 1:1, the 1:43 model is also a rare animal. I was very fortunate to score this one from a fellow collector, because it’s really hard to come buy. Though an older mold from Spark, it’s a gem of a model. Definitively one of those cars that go well in any vintage race car collection.