Model history: Thanks to his test-driving and engineering skills, Giotto Bizzarrini was hired by Ferrari in 1957. Here he first fine-tuned existing models and eventually was given the responsibility to develop a new line of GT racers. He was busy developing the 250 GTO, when he together with a number of other key people left the company in the infamous 'palace revolution' of 1961. Together the defectors formed ATS to rival Ferrari in both sportscar and single seater racing, but due to conflicting opinions, Bizzarrini quickly left the new manufacturer. He then worked as a consultant for Count Volpi for whom he created the 'Breadvan' Ferrari and for Feruccio Lamborghini for whom he designed the V12 engine that would power Lamborghini sports cars for decades to come.
In 1962, he teamed up with Renzo Rivolta, who was turning his Iso company into a manufacturer of sports cars. Bizzarrini's first job was to help develop a sophisticated platform chassis for the 'Iso Rivolta' 2+2 coupe. He was then commissioned to turn the Iso Grifo A3/L two-seater into a race winning machine; this was most certainly more up his ally. Pretty much independent from Iso, he conceived the exceptionally low A3/C that was an Iso Grifo in name only. Both cars shared a shortened Rivolta platform chassis and also the double wishbone front suspension and the DeDion axle. Comparing the finished products, it was hard to imagine both cars shared the same underpinnings.
One of Bizzarrini's priorities had always been to mount the engine as far back in the chassis for a good weight balance and with the A3/C he took it one step further; the engine pertruded so far into the cabin that the distributors had to be accessed through small latches in the dashboard. The engine itself was a Corvette derived V8 engine, that in competition spec produced an impressive 405 bhp. Bizzarrini worked in close cooperation with Bertone's Giorgietto Giugiaro to sculpt the A3/C's aluminium skin. Being a racing car, the main priority was to create as little frontal area as possible, but nevertheless the result was quite pleasing to the eye. Drogo constructed the body for Bizzarrini.
The two Grifos were debuted at the 1963 Turin Auto Show and they were literally the talk of the show. The prototype racing car was sold then and there and Bizzarrini also received an order from American Ed Hugus, who wanted to race a Grifo A3/C in the upcoming Sebring 12 Hours race. The car still bore the Iso badge, but they were built by Bizzarrini's men in his own workshop. Alongside the racing car, a road going version of the A3/C was also produced. In Hugus' hands, the A3/C made its racing debut early in 1964. It proved quite competitive until it was thrown down the leaderboard with transmission problems. The gearbox had to be swapped twice and the car eventually finished in a lowly 39th position.
Back in Europe, the first A3/C also showed great potential and clocked the tenth fastest time during the Le Mans trials. A new car was readied for the Le Mans race and it was on its way to a very commendable finish when a poorly installed fresh brake pad ripped the rotor to pieces. Two hours were lost and the Grifo could do no better than fourteenth. It was the start of a pretty successful racing career, highlighted by a class win in the 1965 24 Hours of Le Mans. The press was understandably impressed by the racing successes and even more so by the performance of the road going A3/Cs, which still packed a 365 bhp punch. Especially the road holding received universal acclaim.
In the summer of 1965 the relationship between Rivolta and Bizzarrini quickly deteriorated. The Iso owner wanted Bizzarrini to put his successful A3/C Stradale into series production, but Bizzarrini was far more interested in continuously improving the car. The two ideas conflicted and eventually all ties were severed. Bizzarrini was now fully indepent and while Iso continued to deliver parts, he was not allowed to use the Grifo name. From then on, after about two dozen Grifo A3/Cs were built, the cars were marketed as the Bizzarrini 5300 GT. The racing cars received the 'Corsa' monniker and the road cars were badged 'Strada'. Not much later the Strada was joined by the 'America' model, which sported a fiberglass body and a double wishbone rear suspension.
Production of the 5300 GT lasted until well into 1968 and a combined total of 115 examples were produced. In those years Bizzarrini produced three 5300 GTs with a Targa body and a small run of the smaller engined '1900 GT Europa'. The company's racing efforts were focused on the mid-engined P538 from 1966 onwards. There was no replacement for the 5300 GT and in 1972 Bizzarrini was forced to close his factory. He returned to his consulting activities and has since only produced a number of one-off prototypes.
Chassis: B 0201
Built in the second half of 1963, this is the Iso A3/C displayed at the 1963 Turin Motor Show. It was subsequently prepared for racing and briefly campaigned by Pierre Noblet. Joined by Edgar Berney, he placed second in class and 19th overall in the 1964 ADAC 1000km at the Nürburgring. Later in the year, chassis B 0201 also finished third in class at Monza. Following a handful of outings in 1965, it was retired from contemporary racing. It has since been restored for historic events and is seen here at the 2007 Goodwood Revival.
Chassis: B 0202
Arguably the most famous Iso Grifo A3/C of them all, this was the car sold new to Ed Hugus to compete in the 1964 Sebring 12 Hours. Although it struggled with gearbox issues in the race and only placed 39th, it had certainly captured the attention from the gathered crowd and media. Fully repaired, chassis B 0202 would go on to win the 1964 SCCA Midwestern Championship. Following its racing career, the A3/C remained in the United States for many years and was more recently restored for historic racing. Still sporting the striking Sebring livery, it is pictured here during outings at the 2004 Le Mans Classic and in 2007 at the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance.
Chassis: B 0222
Built early in 1965 as a works racing car, chassis 0222 was the penultimate Grifo A3/C. After failing to reach the finish in the ADAC 1000 km at the Nürburgring, it finished ninth overall and first in class at Le Mans. Following its contemporary racing career, the most successful of all Grifo racing cars passed through various hands before joining the late Fabrizio Violati's impressive Maranello Rosso Collection. In more recent years, it was prepared for historic racing and it is seen here during the 2010 Goodwood Festival of Speed and a week later at the Le Mans Classic.