My Car Quest

May 23, 2018

The Quick, The Crashed, The Lost And The Found Bizzarrini GT 5300

by Mike –

A friend of mine (a long time Bizzarrini GT 5300 owner) who occasionally hung out with Carey Loftin (the movie stunt man) and Max Balchowsky (the racecar builder) told me that it was impossible to tell who owned which car because Loftin and Balchowsky would trade off cars depending on their mood and maybe the condition of the car.

Sometime in the late 1960s or early 1970s this friend was driving one of Loftin’s Bizzarrini GT 5300s (it is believed Loftin owned 5 or 6 Bizzarrinis over the years) heading north on California Highway One just south of Big Sur one day when a driver, who apparently was not familiar with the winding road, came around the corner across the center line.

Bizzarrini GT 5300 Strada

The dark green Bizzarrini above could be No. 0286 which is believed to have had a small part in the McQueen movie “Bullitt” – in front of Carey Loftin’s home – Source: The Loftin family

The Bizzarrini had to move quickly and unfortunately kissed the hillside with the nose of the Bizzarrini. My friend is lucky he was driving north rather than south or else he could have been forced off a Big Sur cliff which is several hundred feet above the Pacific.

The Bizzarrini was drivable and my friend drove it all the way back to Balchowsky’s shop in Hollywood.

Carey Loftin drove his cars fast and he had a few speeding tickets in his day. There is also an unsubstantiated story about one of Loftin’s Bizzarrinis driving over a cliff on Highway One and being destroyed.

The Lost & Found Bizzarrini GT 5300 Chassis No. IA3*0258

There may have been more than one Bizzarrini GT 5300 that was crashed heavily in California back in the ’60s or ’70s.

Bizzarrini No. 0258, one of Loftin’s cars, was nearly destroyed after a crash so bad that it was sent to the wreaking yard for metal scrap reclaim in the late 1960s.

Carey Loftin loved to take his own cars to the movie set he was working on and make them either an extra in the background or put them right in the middle of the action. He put Bizzarrini No. 0258 in the middle of the action in the Disney movie “The Love Bug”.

This Bizzarrini was the No. 35 racecar lined up on the front row next to the yellow Thorndyke Special (portrayed by an Apollo GT). If you look closely at the still image from the movie you can see unusual one-off bumpers on the front of the Bizzarrini No. 35 racecar. There were two Bizzarrini GT 5300s in “The Love Bug”, the other one was dark in color, did not have these unique bumpers and carried the race number 36.

The Love Bug

The Love Bug Race Start – Look closely for the bumpers under the headlights of the Bizzarrini on the right

It is easy to spot Bizzarrini GT 5300 No. 0258 because it is the only one, as far as I know, that has these unique front and rear bumpers. It is possible these bumpers were for “homologation purposes” in the USA according to one source.

I do not know who wreaked this Bizzarrini or exactly when it was wreaked but it was in the scrap yard being dismantled when someone who knew what it was spotted it and saved it from complete destruction. With the best of intentions this savior was not able to resurrect this Bizzarrini after more than 40 years of the broken frame and parts sitting in his garage, including the rear bumper but not the front bumpers.

Bizzarrini No. 0258

A Bizzarrini GT 5300 with the unique front bumpers – assumed to be No. 0258 – Source: Back cover of “Iso & Bizzarrini Gold Portfolio”

Bizzarrini No. 0258 found after four decades!

Another friend of mine found Bizzarrini No. 0258 recently and bought it. With a little help from a couple of California friends he was able to get a title and have it shipped to Germany where it is now undergoing a full resurrection.

Apparently when Carey Loftin sold his Bizzarrinis he delivered boxes of parts with them (or maybe it was Max Balchowsky) but not necessarily the parts that came from that particular car. The new owner of Bizzarrini No. 0258 has found parts that belong to No. 0258 in the possession of two different owners of Loftin Bizzarrinis and he was able to acquire these parts and reconnect them with their original car. This includes the steering wheel and the one-off front bumpers.

Bizzarrini No. 0258

Bizzarrini No. 0258 in front of the Loftin home – Source: Loftin family

The new owner of No. 0258 writes,

This is what I believe to be true about No. 0258:

Bizzarrini No. 0258 was originally silver with a black interior and was in a very bad crash in Southern California in the late 1960s. Loftin’s family told me that Carey Loftin did not crash the Bizzarrini. Others from that era have said it was crashed in the desert when the actors were messing around racing cars after the filming of “The Love Bug”. Someone else said it was stolen and the two guys who stole it died in the crash. I really don’t know which version is true; but I can well believe that it was the desert thing, because Carey´s family have told me stories about how Carey and his buddies Steve McQueen, Max Balchowski and many of the other actors and stunt guys did that stuff to blow off steam!


There are a few questions about Bizzarrini No. 0258:

1. Who crashed it?

2. Why does it have those unattractive bumpers?

3. Is there any truth to the “homologation purposes” in the USA for the bumpers?

I look forward to seeing Bizzarrini No. 0258 back on the road after so many years.

If you know anything about the history of Bizzarrinis in California send an email to michael.gulett@gmail.com or leave a comment in the Comment section below.

There are three photos at the GettyImages web site that clearly show Bizzarrini GT 5300 No. 0258 at what is believed to be Max Balchowski’s shop. These photos are dated March 28, 1967 and appear to be taken before the movie “The Love Bug” was made. The movie was released in 1968. My thanks to Mike Clarke for finding these images.

Comparison of the bumpers on No. 0258 to No. 0256

My former Bizzarrini GT 5300, No. 0256, is only two chassis numbers away from No. 0258 discussed here. One would think they would be similar and from the photos I have seen they do appear to be very similar except for the bumpers.

Below are photo comparisons of the bumpers between No. 0258 and No. 0256.

Bizzarrini GT 5300

No. 0258 top and No. 0256 bottom


Bizzarrini GT 5300

No. 0258 top and No. 0256 bottom

It looks like the parking lights have been moved closer to the wheels on No. 0258.

 

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Summary
The Quick, The Crashed, The Lost And The Found Bizzarrini GT 5300
Article Name
The Quick, The Crashed, The Lost And The Found Bizzarrini GT 5300
Description
A lost Bizzarrini GT 5300 that was in the Disney movie "The Love Bug" is found.
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Comments

  1. Read about the other three bizzarrini’s in Herbie the love bug here https://www.facebook.com/groups/927003657345337/

    • wallace wyss says:

      I bought one of Carey Loftin’s Bizzarrinis from him decades go when he lived in Huntington Beach and was retired. I was buying it for a New York client and can’t remember the price–somewhere between $30,000 and $60,000.I got his address from the lunch we had one time at the house, “we” beingmyself and other members of the Iso & Bizzarrini Owner’s Club. I remember it had a horrible unfinished interior–a sort of home-done interior. His wife, who was 110% supportive of him fought him not to sell it ,but maybe thinking of the house payments she would be relieved of, squelched per protests. It might have been yellow. Anyway I know he owned an emerald green one because years earlier I talked him into driving it to Universal City and shot pictures of it on the cobblestones. Loftin told me he had sold one of his previous ones when a hose burst and he had wrapped a rag around it so he could keep driving it. Naturally the rag caught fire and cracked the windshield. He sold it because he thought he could never get a windshield! The complete story of my days buying Bizzarrinis is in my book Incredible Barn Finds, available from Enthusiast Books, Hudson, WI

      • Wally,

        The first photo above is a green Bizzarrini. I think this probably is the car in the opening scene of Bullitt (no. 0286 now a dark maroon and living in Canada). If you have photos of Loftin’s cars please send them to me and I will post here on My Car Quest.

  2. Is it possible that #258 had was involved in a rearside crash before these pictures were taken? The position of the taillights looks different than the taillights on #256 and on other Bizzarrinis.

    The license plate lights were also removed and put to another position and the trunk-lid looks sightly out of place.
    According to my opinion Carey Loftin did own #258, #266, #286 & #291.

    I’m looking forward to any other information & pictures. I’m not on Facebook so maybe you’re able to post the infos from the link above here on My Car Quest?
    Best regards,
    Patrick

    • Patrick,

      The taillights on no. 0258 appear to be higher than no. 0256 (a bigger gap between the lights and the bumper) but that could be because of the bumper location which is a solid piece on no. 0258 and is two pieces on no. 0256. The inside edge of the taillights appear to line up with the trunk lid on both cars. The no. 0258 trunk lid looks misaligned compared to no. 0256.

      It is believed Loftin owned #258, #265, (not #266) #286 & #291 and he may have owned one or two more.

      I will gather as many Bizzarrini photos as I can from The Love Bug and publish them in a future post.

      As far as a rear end crash – with Carey Loftin and Max Balchowsky anything is possible – they could have had an accident and Max could have easily fixed it. Remember the story at the beginning of this post – a friend of mine had a front end crash with one of the Loftin/Balchowsky Bizzarrinis and he does not remember the color of the car and back then no one really paid attention to chassis numbers. Someone repaired that crash damage and we don’t know which Bizzarrini it was.

  3. Thomas Ollinger says:

    Hi Mike,
    This is my favorite issue of My Car Quest. I’d heard of Max Balchowski and decided to do some research. What a fascinating man (equally amazing was his wife!), who lived in what I consider a very romantic era. To imagine a talented mechanic from West Virginia moving to California in the 50s and because of his talent ending involved in famous races, movie stars, and movie stunts. I feel like I missed out because I was born 40 years too late. Though, I don’t feel bad because I missed out on being a ball turret gunner like Max was. Not a lot of those guys survived the war. Which to me makes the whole story that much better. There is a terrific episode to a tv show on YouTube that the Speed Channel did about Max. It has lots of great stories from famous people in the race car industry talking about Max. Including a great story from Carol Shelby about Carol leading a race by 50 seconds in Ol’ Yeller II when the tranny broke. Carol was heartbroken over losing out on his share of the $10k winnings, but Max was furious over Carol busting his $40 transmission!
    Thanks for the great article.

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