My Car Quest

June 22, 2018

Delivering Carey Loftin His First Bizzarrini And Sebring 1965

This article was originally posted in October 2015 – here it is again for those of you who may have missed it.

I love stories from readers if you have any to share please let me know by sending an email to me – click here.

by Mike –

Frequently I am contacted by someone who has read an article on My Car Quest and who wants to either add more information or they want to be connected with someone. I love to help make these connections, if I can, and I love new information, especially from someone who was there back in the day.

A few days ago I received an email from Gunther E. Hering of Hamburg, Germany who had read the article written by C. Rino Argento about the Crashed Iso Grifo/Bizzarrini Race Cars. He wanted to reconnect with his old friend, Rino Argento. Unfortunately I had to tell him that I believe Rino Argento passed away a few years ago.

I asked Gunther if he would share some of his memories about those days and that race. What he wrote back is fascinating.

Text by Gunther E. Hering

Hello Mike,

I was in Sebring at that race with Rino and Max Balchowski, working in the Bizzarrini pits during the race. I lived through all the drama and tragedy of the events during and after the race. As a matter of fact I continued working with Rino on the Chrysler Barracuda TransAm project afterwards.

We worked together professionally at Miehle Goss Dexter, Inc. to earn our living and also enjoyed our passion for motor sports, first with Rino’s Alfa Gulietta Veloce Sprint and a succession of sports cars.

Rino and I went to the infamous Sebring Race together. He had organized the entries and the logistics. Max Balchowsky came from Los Angeles as the technical guru and man for all problems. Max was a genius as you know.

The first problem we encountered was the fastening of the differential to the bottom of the trunk plate. The De Dion tube exerted a constant torque on the mounting because the old airport concrete plates on the Sebring track just tore it out. We had a welder tack it back on in the Pontiac garage after practice – he crouching into the trunk with his torch and three of us with fire extinguishers around him. The repair worked.

The Iso/Bizzarrini race cars during happier times

Iso Grifo/Bizzarrini No. 8 (BO 210)

Iso Grifo/Bizzarrini No. 8 (BO 210)

Iso Grifo/Bizzarrini No. 9 (BO 214)

Iso Grifo/Bizzarrini No. 9 (BO 214)

The race went initially OK. I was the pit signal man to keep the drivers informed. Silvio Moser (car No. 8) went off and hit the bushes and a Volkswagen van. My recollection was that a few spectators were illegally sitting under the bushes outside the safe spectator area, but there were no serious injuries. Rino reported it differently.

The Iso/Bizzarrini race cars during the worst of times

Iso Grifo/Bizzarrini No. 8 (BO 210)

Iso Grifo/Bizzarrini No. 8 (BO 210) After The Crash Into a VW

Iso Grifo/Bizzarrini No. 9 (BO 214)

Iso Grifo/Bizzarrini No. 9 (BO 214) Splits In Half

When the rain started – it was actually a tropical downpour – everyone slowed down. The Porsche 550 Spyders with radial tires started to pass all the faster prototypes who were sliding around. That is when Mike Gammino in the second car, No 9, slid into the pedestrian bridge and the car broke into two pieces right behind the drivers seat.

It was a miracle that Mike got away without a scratch. After much head scratching Max offered to try and make one new car out of the sections of Moser’s and Gammino’s car. It was unclear how the serial numbers were to be allocated. Max went off to Los Angeles and the parts were trucked to him. Rino and I cleaned up and went back to New York.

It was some time until I went out to Los Angeles again on business and visited Max and Ina, both were dear friends for decades. Max never said anything again about the results and the whereabouts of the Bizzarrini car(s) and the bits and pieces. I was always in his shop at Hollywood Motors. There was nothing, no parts, no body work or pieces, no mention. All had just disappeared. Chapter closed.

The Iso/Bizzarrini race car(s) – one of the last sightings

Iso Grifo in 1965 Sal DiNatale's shop, California - Photo by Ed Niles

Iso Grifo in 1965 Sal DiNatale’s shop, California – Photo by Ed Niles

Iso A3/C Bizzarrini race Car No. 0214

Iso A3/C Bizzarrini Race Car No. 0214/0210

Max was always intrigued by the Bizzarrini cars. As a result he finally talked Carey Loftin into buying one for about $12,000 USD. The car came through John Fitch of Mercedes fame in Falls Village, Connecticut. He handled the import with his company John Fitch & Co. This must have been around March 19641966.

I went up to see John in Connecticut and picked up the car. It was a silver coupé with a fiberglass body.

We had decided that shipping to Los Angeles by rail would only damage the wheel bearings. We did not trust the truckers. So I agreed to drive it out to LA. It would be fully broken in by the time I arrived. Max would go through all of it and service it and Carey then had a new toy.

So I took off in pouring rain thru the Eastern US until the Midwest and then down on Route 66 or next freeway going west. Hit a snow storm in the Panhandle – no fun with R 5 Greenspot Dunlops and police cars around me going off the road.

I got stopped several times, but it was just curiosity by the cops.

At the border from Arizona to California I stopped to wash the car – this was Department of Agriculture rules – before entering California. I also dried out the car since the thermostat in the cooling system was set for high temp driving and never shut down in the winter weather. So I had to install a makeshift barrier in front of the radiator in order to keep the water and oil temp at the proper level. On top of it all with the pedals mounted on a floor shaft the rain and snow water from the road came gushing through.

It was a long drive through a starry night in the desert. This was the time before cell phones, so reporting progress to Max was difficult. In Barstow (California) I found a phone booth and reported in. At around 9:00 AM on the third day I was cruising into Glendale, California. Max came out of the house with a cup of coffee and Ina with a glass of whisky! Better choice!

Carey showed up – he was about to depart for Mexico to do a Matt Helm movie with Dean Martin. He just gasped, smiled and drove off leaving all to Max.

The car ran fine all the way from Connecticut to Los Angeles. The Corvette engine used little oil and I averaged about 12 to 15 mpg with the long gearing. No tickets!

Lucky we did not have to worry about the wheels and tires, since the Rudge spinners did not want to come off. No grease! Max fixed all of it including the electrical wiring.

Carey was so pleased that he bought a second Bizzarrini later. A yellow or gold coupé. It shows up on the parking lot of the Arizona sequence in the movie Eiger Sanction with Clint Eastwood.

Bizzarrini GT 5300 in-eiger_sanction_clint_eastwood

Bizzarrini GT 5300 – The Eiger Sanction and Clint Eastwood

I moved to LA in 1975, lived on Lido Isle in Newport Beach, next to Carey and Carol. Got married, raised children and lived in Big Canyon. Then I went back to New York City and in 1987 became an expat and moved to Europe. Still here.

Frankly, I should have bought one of these cars myself. But I meandered from a Ferrari 375 America through Porsches and BMW’s to a 308 GTB. Just sold my last Porsche, am now hacking around with a hot rod BMW 335 d Xdrive. The old problem – all the cars we owned and sold; had we just kept them all!

I still have my FIA license, but since I am turning 80 I may give it up now.

Hope this helps to give you a bit of flavor of all the fun things we used to do!

All the best

Gunther

The Iso/Bizzarrini race car from that infamous day at Sebring is still unaccounted for.

If you think you have information about this missing Iso/Bizzarrini race car contact me by email – click here. Please do not send me the YouTube video from Italy.

Could the silver Bizzarrini delivered to Carey Loftin by Gunther Hering be this one?

It is very interesting to me that Gunther mentions the problem at the Sebring race with “the fastening of the differential to the bottom of the trunk plate” because I noticed a few years ago that my Iso Rivolta GT and Iso Grifo both had four bushings holding the differential to the chassis yet my Bizzarrini GT 5300 had only three bushings.

Iso Rivolta GT Differential

Iso Rivolta GT Differential

Iso Rivolta GT Differential With Four Bushings

I always wondered why this would be – maybe it reduced the weight? The extra rubber busing should have made for a smoother ride but a race car engineer like Giotto Bizzarrini would not care about the comfort of the ride.

Bizzarrini GT 5300 Differential

I did not have the occasion, thankfully, to remove the differential from my Bizzarrini GT 5300. It is pictured below and you will have to trust me that there are only three rubber bushings connecting this differential to the chassis.

Would a fourth bushing have prevented the problem at Sebring in 1965 as reported here by Gunther?

Bizzarrini GT 5300 Differential

Bizzarrini GT 5300 Differential

Let us know what you think in the Comments.

 

 

The Iso/Bizzarrini race car(s) – the last known sighting

Missing Iso A3/C After It Is Completed

Missing Iso A3/C After It Was Completed

Bizzarrini logo

Summary
Delivering Carey Loftin His First Bizzarrini And Sebring 1965
Article Name
Delivering Carey Loftin His First Bizzarrini And Sebring 1965
Description
Gunther E. Hering was at Sebring in 1965 and part of the Bizzarrini crew with Rino Argento and Max Balchowski.
Author

Comments

  1. Thom Ollinger says:

    I can’t wait for the movie! Drama, intrigue, car crashes, crazy characters, an enduring mystery. This movie would have it all. Another Mike Gulett production.

  2. Doug Robertd says:

    Hey Thom, didn’t expect to see you here! It would make quite the drama movie.

  3. Geoffrey Horton says:

    Wonderful article and a great piece of history!

  4. Love hearing these stories. I was told a story by a Grifo owner that when he picked up his Grifo from the dealer he drove it off the lot onto the street and the whole rear end fell off the mounting brackets, similar issue to the bizzarrini. Welding the mount brackets was the solution

  5. wallace wyss says:

    I loved the story. I bought that same pale yellow Bitz from Carey. What happened was that sometime earlier Winston Goodfellow, co-founder of the Iso-Bitz club, had arranged a party at Carey’s house in Huntington Beach and about 7 or 8 guys fromm the club went down there and had a nice lunch and I saw his Pantera and the yellow Bitz, laid up because his wife hadn’t finished her re-upholstering job. Sometime later I told a buyer in New York City about it and he sent me a check for I think $60K made out to Carey and I went down to the OC and presented it to Carey and his wife cried as I yanked it outa the garage and onto a flatbed because she knew it was part of his macho identify. (really think he got hired on some films because he drove such a macho car..) He argued with her that he had to sell it because he wasn’t being offered that kind of money anymore (He might have been 80 at the time). Some of my Bizzarrin- buying stories are in my Incredible Barn Finds books, available from Enthusiast Books, Hudson, WI. I also bought a white one from Jim Young and one all disassembled which I sold to Bill DeCarr and a long nose Grifo in my barn finding days

  6. Wallace Wyss…stay away from my garage!!!!
    It ain’t for sale at any price!!!! BIG smile!!!
    Season’s Greetings!!!!

  7. What an interesting story, I was there at Sebring back in 1965 I was positioned in the Alfa Romeo pits watching the race when the storm hit the track. The pit wall kept the water from draining properly and very quickly what looked like a canal was formed for the whole length of the pits.Next thing the Iso Grifo started to fish tail and hit the pedestrian bridge, just like in the picture the vehicle was cut in half right behind the driver,you could actually see the back of the seats with the driver still inside

  8. Mike Clarke says:

    Mike,

    As you know I have been looking for this car for a number of years. In My Quest I was able to find the original engine in southern California. I have tracked the car down to still being in the SoCal area as late as the early 70’s with multiple owners, then it disappears. Because the car was restored with a unique nose and no pictures have ever been seen since the repair it is my guess that the car remains a barn find some where in the SoCal area. I have the engine now we just need the car. Any help appreciated locating this piece of history.

    Mike Clarke

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