My Car Quest

September 19, 2021

The Bizzarrini P538 – An Unfulfilled Potential

by Mike Gulett –

The Bizzarrini P538 is a mid-engine topless race car with a tubular or rectangular steel chassis covered by a fiberglass body. This is a stunning car in person, however, it did not have a successful race career. It is believed to have been styled by Giorgetto Giugaro of Bertone. In the P538 name “P” is for posteriore, meaning the engine is behind the driver, 538 means 5.3 liter engine with 8 cylinders.

Originally introduced in late 1965 there have been many continuation cars made since the original four (although one of these four was likely made from parts from an earlier wrecked car).

Bizzarrini P538 No. 002

Bizzarrini P538 No. 002

The first P538 was powered by a Lamborghini V12 and the others used a Corvette 327 cid V8 like the engine below.

Bizzarrini P538

The first Bizzarrini P538 was commissioned by the American race car driver, Mike Gammino who intended to race it in the Can-Am series. Gammino wanted the Lamborghini V12 engine to be used because he liked that engine and because Giotto Bizzarrini was the designer of that engine. The Gammino P538 would be an all Bizzarrini race car in a way.

The P538 was a very unlucky car, they were crashed and generally did not have a successful race history. As far as I can tell it was not the fault of the car itself but caused by some bad luck on the track and money problems as usual.

The P538s did not have chassis numbers stamped on them and today there is a little confusion over exactly which cars are which except for the “Duca d’Aosta” P538 discussed below.

The P538 in the video is perhaps the last Bizzarrini made by Ing. Bizzarrini. It is an exact reproduction of the Le Mans race car, commissioned by the owner, and constructed by Giotto Bizzarrini himself.

It was at Concourso Italiano in Monterey, California in August 2010 parked next to my silver 1966 Bizzarrini GT 5300 Strada.

Watch the video below on full screen, click on the arrows to the left of ‘Vimeo’ in the lower right corner and then click the play triangle in the lower left corner. Be sure the sound is on.

Bizzarrini P538

Bizzarrini P538

Bizzarrini P538

Bizzarrini P538 Chassis No. 002 at Pebble Beach in August 2016

Bizzarrini P538 No. 002

Bizzarrini P538

Bizzarrini P538

More photos of Bizzarrini P538 Chassis No. 002 are in the slide show below

Bizzarrini P538 “Duca d’Aosta”

This one-off Bizzarrini P538 was made especially for Amedeo Duca d’Aosta (House of Savoy, Italian royalty ancestry).

This was a completely new P538 with an aluminum body, detachable top and more style and comfort that the other pure race cars. It is powered by the Chevy 327 cid engine with a ZF 5-speed transmission. The construction was started by Bizzarrini at his shop and finished by Salvatore Diomante in Torino due to Bizzarrini’s financial problems.

This was the only P538 that was registered for the road and was issued the random chassis number #262 914 by the Italian government.

Bizzarrini P538 "Duca D'Aosta"

Bizzarrini P538 “Duca D’Aosta”

Bizzarrini P538 "Duca D'Aosta"

Bizzarrini P538 “Duca D’Aosta”

Beautiful style, power and speed seems to be a Bizzarrini trade mark with or without a top and with the engine up front or in back.

Let us know what you think in the Comments.

Bizzarrini logo

A version of this article was first published in April 2013.

Summary
The Bizzarrini P538 - An Unfulfilled Potential
Article Name
The Bizzarrini P538 - An Unfulfilled Potential
Description
The Bizzarrini P538 is a stunning car in person, however, it did not have a successful race career.
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Comments

  1. Thom Ollinger says

    Fantastic! In a time of beautiful mid-engine cars it might be the most beautiful.

  2. Too bad about its checkered history. An absolutely beautiful car – and what a beautiful note from the Chevy engine!

  3. There were 4 built 2 of 2 types but possibility of a 5th built from parts.

    My father owned one when I was a boy, was driven around Goodwood track in it

  4. Peter Wolfers says

    In the late 1980s or early1990s, I came across a P538 (I think a Diomante copy) with a Lamborghini V12 engine and T33 Alfa wheels sitting in a lockup garage in Norfolk, England. I think it is the same P538 copy that appeared at several Classic Car shows in the period. With the car in the lock-up there also was a set of the Bizzarrini Campag wheels.

  5. SKIP HINOJOS says

    ONE OF THE BIGGER SCREW-UPS IN MY LIFE, WHEN I TURNED DOWN THE CHANCE TO MAKE A FULL SET OF MOLDS OF THAT CAR, FROM AND ORIGINAL ONE. THIS IS WHY GOD MADE IT SO OUR LEGS DON’T SWING BACKWARDS, SO WE CAN’T KICK OUR OWN BUTTS.
    I DID MAKE A FULL SET OF BIZZARRINI 5300 MOLDS. BUT I LET THEM GO TOO EASILY. I WAS GOING TO MAKE SOME TURN KEY CARS, BUT DIDN’T HAVE THE BUCKS. OH WELL.

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