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P538 Duca d'Aosta Coupe
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  Bizzarrini P538 Duca d'Aosta Coupe
 

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Country of origin:Italy
Produced in:1968
Numbers built:one-off
Introduced at:1968 Turin Motor Show
Author:Wouter Melissen
Last updated:November 27, 2006
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Click here to download printer friendly versionA racer at heart, Giotto Bizzarrini set out to expand his line-up with a mid-engined racing car for the 1966 season. His production based GT racers had been mildly successful, but they could achieve class wins at best. It was a very ambitious project as the small company challenged the big boys Ford and Ferrari, who were engaged in their epic war for Le Mans glory.

After six months development, the first chassis was constructed late in 1965. Designed to cope with the very powerful Chevrolet V8 engine, the chassis was of a tubular design with triangle shaped tubes. With double wishbones and disc brakes added to the mix, the new Bizzarrini was a very conventional racing car. It was dubbed P538, for 'posteriore' or rear(-engined) and 5.3 litre V8. It would get a little more complex when the first customer ordered his car to be equipped with a four litre version of the Bizzarrini designed Lamborghini V12.

By January of 1966 the rolling chassis was merged with the Lamborghini engine and a fiberglass body constructed by a local boatbuilding firm. While some of the P538 cues were lifted from its front-engined road going cousins, the roadster design was somewhat unusual. The front and rear overhang were very short ending in a chopped off Kamm tail and vents were in abundance. Until this point, it had all gone very well, but fortune quickly ran out when experienced test-driver Edgar Berney flipped the prototype during one of the first test sessions.

Due to the extent of the damage, Bizzarrini decided to strip the first car of all its (usable) mechanicals and fit them to a second chassis. At the same time a third chassis was also constructed, which would serve as the Works car. Shortly after the second car was completed, with its 400 bhp Lamborghini V12, it was shipped to its customer in the United States. He briefly raced it, but with little success. All the available attention in the factory was now on the third car, which was readied for that year's 24 Hours of Le Mans race.

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  Article Image gallery (7) Chassis (1) Specifications