My Car Quest

January 20, 2019

Buying A Bizzarrini GT 5300

Wherein Our Resident Barn Finder Tells of a Great Find…

by Wallace Wyss –

So here’s how it went down. I was, in the ’80s, for a time, a barn finder. Now that the internet exists, I am not. But back in those days I would run pictures of cars, preferably a scruffy car, in the Auto Trader and say “Bizzarrini Wanted” or whatever.

I had first discovered the Bizzarrini marque in Detroit when I saw one in 1968 at a Corvette shop in for repair. That owner didn’t want to sell. Plus, once I moved out on the Coast I had later joined the Iso Bizzarrini Owner’s Club, of which I was an early member, and had gone to lunch at Carey Loftin’s house in Huntington Beach. It was a nice house, maybe a three bedroom one story with a two car garage.

Loftin was a movie stunt man, one of the most famous, particularly for Bullitt, in which he says he had to take way driving tasks from Steve McQueen after McQueen crashed the car (the crash is even on film as the camera is jolted), and for Vanishing Point. His career went all the way back to silent movies.

Carey Loftin and one of his Bizzarrini GT 5300s, photo courtesy of Dave Loftin (from Darren Frank)

Carey Loftin and one of his Bizzarrini GT 5300s, photo courtesy of Dave Loftin (from Darren Frank)

One of the things he had done in the Sixties was buy an oddball furrin’ car called a Bizzarrini (pronounced BITZ-SA-RHEEN-EE). It had a Corvette engine. That became his trademark, driving that car. Actually he had gone through three or four of them, all maintained by Max Balchowsky, a former racer who also stunt drove in movies and built specials, even hiring Carroll Shelby to race one. Carey had adventures with his Bitzies. One he had a leak under the hood and he had put a bag over the leek and the bag caught fire and he sold the car with a cracked windscreen. Sold it cheap I think for $7000.

Anyway I had run into Carey in Studio City when I was passing a bar and his green GT5300 was parked outside. I went inside and said “Who owns that green Bizzarrini?” and up steps Carey to the plate. He didn’t want to sell it then, hell, it was his trademark. He would sneak it into one movie after another, even a Disney movie about Herbie, there it was on the racetrack.

Carey called a spade a spade, another time he told me how he told off Steve McQueen who was insulting his Jaguar, or something like that.

So anyway at a Ferrari meet, I met this New York apartment house owner who had a group of friends who would meet and trade cars they had scared up across the country, sometimes without seeing the cars.

Bizzarrini Spyder

Bizzarrini Spyder – art by Wallace Wyss

He asked me to be a barn finder, I began searching for Bizzarrinis in addition to Rolls, Bentley, Ghia 450/SS, and what not… I called Carey and he said he’d sell his last Bizzarrini. I can’t remember the color now. Maybe it was green. I can’t even remember if it was one of the fiberglass bodied America models.

But I went to his house with a flatbed truck and he opened the garage and I saw a Pantera next to it. I did not ask about another Italian car with an American made V8, because they were a dime a dozen in SoCal, maybe worth $13,000 (which was $3000 more than they were new).

Carey hadn’t driven the Bizzarrini for some time because his wife had volunteered to re-do the dash but stopped mid-project, probably because dashboard leather takes industrial strength sewing machines. It’s not like making a dress.

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

So we yanked the car out and his wife started crying and I knew why. Because owning a Bitz was part and parcel of who he was—a two fisted guy who could outdrive any actor in town, and maybe some race drivers. That car got him jobs.

That one I felt a little guilty about, among the dozens of cars I bought, but as Carey kept telling his wife: “I’m over 80years old. Nobody’s offering me $40,000 for drivin’ any more”. Actually I can’t remember what I paid, but for some who never heard of the brand it seemed like too much. But I had been in the club, and bought Bizzarrinis before, and knew there were only roughly 100 made, and this car could even be sold with a celebrity connection.

Carey died a few years after, but I like to think he owned it long enough after the movie roles dried up to drive around Newport Beach and show the Ferrari owners what you can do with a Chevy under the hood. He liked meeting with his old movie buddies and reminiscing. And I think it was a great treat to pull up in that car. It made a statement few cars make…

Let us know what you think in the Comments.

Wallace Wyss

Wallace Wyss

 
AUTHOR/ARTIST: Wallace Wyss is a historian and fine artist. Both artworks here are available the first a print of his painting, and the second a print of the Press Release illustration from Bertone of Giugiaro’s drawing of the race car that became the Bizzarrini. Wyss can be reached at Photojournalistpro2@gmail.com
 
 
 
 
 

 
 

Bizzarrini GT 5300 Strada - art by Wallace Wyss

Bizzarrini GT 5300 Strada – art by Wallace Wyss

Summary
Buying A Bizzarrini GT 5300
Article Name
Buying A Bizzarrini GT 5300
Description
He asked me to be a barn finder, I began searching for Bizzarrinis in addition to Rolls, Bentley, Ghia 450/SS, and what not...
Author

Comments

  1. Jack Koobs de Hartog says:

    Just a small remark … According to the registration number VCW 071, the Green Loftin car is #265.
    Ciao,
    Jack

  2. Mike Clarke says:

    My eye kept going back to the drawing above, the shading on the rear wheel? How is that possible? The cars larger shadow indicates the light is from above and a Bizzarrini’s tires are inside the body.

  3. wallace wyss says:

    Thanks Mike. I’ll correct that the next time I print it on a canvas. Often the repainted (painters call the process”re-embellished”) canvas giclee print, is about 10% different than the original because I maintain you can’t paint the same picture exactly the same twice. Unless you are a robot.

  4. Jim Greenfield says:

    Ok barn find I bought an Iso Rivolta GT in Redding Ca. which was holding up a chicken coop. It was a automatic and someone told me it had belonged to Mr Loftin as he only had one leg. I never checked it out as I got ill and sold the car to a DMD in Ca and he restored it. Don’t know vin numbers or where it is now.

    • Jim,

      That Iso Rivolta (No. 177) is in Germany now I believe. Below is a summary from our friend Chris Lackner:

      177 04.01.63 USA (CA) 340 4 3.31 200 F 03043Q now Auto, Carey Loftin, Gary Rogers, CA. USA – Dr. Dee Elias 04 Jim Greenfield, OR. Coys Essen 29.03.08. Russo & Steele 07.09 $45K

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