Bizzarrini Manta: A One-Off Italian With A Corvette Engine

As a car writer, you grow accustomed to seeing all sorts of strange, “I wonder what they were smoking?” kinds of cars. Then there are the cars with odd, unfortunate, or just plain weird names. Then there is that awkward moment when you realize that Bizzarrini isn’t a brand; it’s the name of a famous car designer.

A car designer who, after a run of bad luck, passed it on to another famous designer. The curiously named Bizzarrini Manta had a brief but

What chassis number P538-003 originally looked like.

interesting career on the racing and show car circuit. And as it turns out, a Corvette 327 V8. Hemmings Auto Blog has all the details on this one-of-a-kind supercar.

Giotto Bizzarini is the original brain behind the supercar you see here, though it once looked very different. The chassis of this vehicle, P538-003, was originally built as a Scuderia Bizzarrini-works race car for the 1966 24 Hours of Lemans. With a tubular space frame, ZF 5-speed transmission, four-wheel disc brakes, and a mid-mounted Corvette 327 engine, on paper the Bizzarrini-designed racer was a force to be reckoned with.

Alas, the pit crew sidelined the car after just two hours of racing thanks to a mistake on their end, not that it would have mattered. 1966 belonged to the Ford GT-40’s, which took all the podium positions. Bizzarrini soon found himself saddled with too much debt, which is when he sold the P538 chassis to a 20-something named Giorgetto Giugiaro.

Giugiaro then built the body you see here, effectively eliminating the hood line and giving it a unique three-seat layout with a center driving position. Giugiaro had plans for starting his own line of supercars after he debuted what he dubbed the Manta at the 1968 Turin Auto Show. Alas, that project went nowhere, and it wasn’t until the early 2000’s that the Manta was recovered and restored. Why Bizzarrini gets all the credit and not Giugiaro, we don’t know.

Pre-auction estimates from Gooding Auction House put the price anywhere from $1 million to $1.5 million. Sure, it’s not a Corvette, but at least the Italians had enough sense to drop a Corvette engine in there.

About the author

Chris Demorro

Christopher DeMorro is a freelance writer and journalist from Connecticut with two passions in life; writing and anything with an engine.
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