by Wallace Wyss –
Way back in the last century, I worked at an ad agency writing ads for Chevys. My superior, Dick Wingersen, owned a Corvette and had it serviced at a place called The Vette Shop. One day Dick tells me “Ya oughta go over to The Vette Shop, they have some weird Italian car over there with a Corvette engine.”
So I hot foot it over there and I see the car. Now I had seen a picture of a near kin, an Iso Grifo A3C race car, in Motorsport but didn’t connect the two. This one seemed more voluptuous in shape, squeezed in there among a dozen Corvettes. It had a removable roof and these beautiful headrest fairings on the rear deck. Plus this one had a more exotic name, pronounced BITS-OH-REEN-E.
But the owner of the shop told me the owner of the Bizzarrini Spyder wasn’t interested in selling.
So I gave up and bought a ’69 Corvette.
Then years later I driving through Las Vegas and I see the same Bizzarrini Spyder jacked up outside a gas station. I leave a note to the owner. No answer.
Few years later. I am in Malibu, a few yards up from Pacific Coast Highway. Same Bizzarrini Spyder. I leave a note. No answer.
I figure fate wants me to own this car. How could it be that the U.S. has several million square miles and the same car keeps appearing in front of me?
So finally I meet the owner, Mark Sassak, an affable industrialist/inventor in Detroit. Among the things he invented is a football that sits about one foot off a stand, floating. No wires or strings. It just hangs there. Spooky.
He tells me the whole story. It’s all in one of my books (Incredible Barn Finds series, Enthusiast Books) but in a nutshell, Mark’s father back in the Sixties was a small business owner supplying the auto industry in Detroit. He had a partner named Harold Sarko. One day Sarko is in Italy and meets Giotto Bizzarrini in a restaurant. Giotto introduces himself, and his best credential is that he is the designer and engineer of the Ferrari 250GTO. Equivalent to say, painting the Mona Lisa. He needs investors for his new company. This guy is the Leonardo da Vinci of the car world. He promises Sarko a special model if he invests.
That’s the red car. Sarko likes it but it is a little too rambunctious for driving around Detroit, so he sells it to Mark’s dad after talking him out of buying a Ferrari (tough to get serviced in Detroit…)
Mr. Sassak gives it to his son, Mark’s older brother, who drag races it, beats the heck out of it and all the time Mark is trying to buy it but hey, he’s just a teenager. Like it’s going to take more than you can earn delivering pizzas, right? Finally when his brother needs a basic transportation car, Mark gets it for a song.
Then he drives the hell out of it. It doesn’t get a complete restoration until years later.
Eventually Mark finds there are three of this special open model Bizzarrini Spyder. He told Hemmings, when he found the blue one: “I was in the middle of building a house, so while I had the money, I would’ve been stretched thin if I bought it…you make mistakes in life, and not buying (the third car) was one of them.”
He threw the lead instead to Don Meluzio, who bought it at an auction. Actually Mark was at the auction but just couldn’t top Don’s offer.
Eventually they became friends and have exhibited all three Bizzarrini open cars together.
Three? Oh yes, the tale of Mark’s finding of this third car is the frosting on the cake. Way back in a Sixties issue of Road & Track they had a picture of the third car, which was completely open, and had headlight covers. The caption said the car was never finished.
I believed them. After all, who am I to question the Wisened Ones at Road & Track? The car was finished but some part got stolen, maybe the carburetor. Even the authors of the Bizzarrini books (of which there are at least two) didn’t give a hint that it had survived. But Mark is not one to rest on the veracity of authors, some of whom (could it be so?) actually wheel and deal in the cars they write about (guilty here, I barn found three Bizzarrinis and write about them every so often).
So one day Mark is in Italy visiting Giotto Bizzarrini and Mark asks what happened to the third Bizzarrini Spyder and Giotto says “I’ll show you.”
He takes him to the house of an old customer in Livorno, his former lawyer, and there it is, not running for 30-plus years because of the lack of some part you could find at any auto parts story in America.
Mark buys it.
So far all three Bizzarrini Spyders have appeared together at four shows: in 2004 at Concorso Italiano, in 2011 at a small show in the Poconos, then the concours of America in Plymouth, Michigan, Amelia Island and finally at Pebble Beach where Bizzarrini was one of the honored marques.
Looks like I am priced out of a chance to buy the red Bizzarrini targa, the blue Bizzarrini targa or the silver roadster, but, hey, fate has already put one of the three in my path three times now….maybe they’ll be a fourth time.
Never say never.
Let us know what you think in the Comments.
THE AUTHOR: Wallace Wyss has many stories like this in his Incredible Barn Finds books, available straight from the publisher at 715 381 9755.