This American-Italian hybrid is one we can get behind
The word hybrid has a certain green connotation these days, but in a different time, it was not the combination of two powertrain types that made a car a hybrid. Instead, it was a combination of powertrains from here and styling from there. Jay Leno thinks the best version of this formula came by way of a Chevrolet powertrain in an Italian-designed body. A 1967 Bizzarrini 5300 GT Strada in fact.
If you just saw this light blue beauty, you would instantly know it was Italian. If you just heard it, you would certainly recognize the American V-8. That might be why mixing the sound and look can be so disorienting to those not accustomed to the Bizzarrini name. The unfamiliarity is common, since Giotto Bizzarrini was a better designer than businessman, as Jay puts it in the latest episode of Jay Leno’s Garage.
The powertrain is a tried and true 327ci Chevy V-8 but dials up the cool factor by using Weber side-draft carburetors for induction. The engine is set way back in the chassis, giving it better weight distribution. This is the Strada version of the car as well which is targeted more at street driving compared to the Corsa version that stripped out even more of the luxury. The owner describes the car as toasty thanks to the engine being so tucked into the firewall that it transfers heat into the floorboards.
Jay calls Bizzarrini a bad businessman, but before the shop closed its doors in 1969 over 140 cars had rolled off the line. While that is not an earth-shattering number it is quite impressive for an operation that required nearly everything to be hand built by craftsmen. Are they perfect? No, and no one really expected them to be.
On the road, the car is long and low. Jay looks as if he is practically laying down in the driver’s seat. Looking out the windshield in traffic finds the driver looking straight at the license plate of the car in front, with almost no vision past or through the car ahead. While the clutch and Borg Warner transmission seem to be working perfectly, Jay thinks the carbs might be a touch out of tune because the engine is not nearly as smooth as it could be. Bad gas could be another explanation.
Overall, the Bizzarini is a flashback to a different time. Platform sharing is more popular than ever, but it’s rare that a manufacturer would ever think of loaning out powertrains or chassis to a third-party builder like this. Maybe that’s why seeing these cars is all that more special.