the-petrolhead-corner-–-the-cizeta-v16t-story

The Petrolhead Corner – The Cizeta V16T story

Yes, the world of supercars is full of interesting projects if you do some digging. Some projects never came to life after they promised future owners the world, and then some. Others were just barking mad from the get-go. And then there are some that sound mad, look even madder, but somehow make it past the point of a sketch or prototype and into an actual working thing! One of those projects is the Cizeta V16T, also known as the Cizeta-Moroder V16T. And for those with a bit of memory about music in the seventies and eighties, the “Moroder” part might ring a bell or two!

The story of the Cizeta V16T is as strange and fascinating as they come. Claudio Zampolli, born in Modena, in the middle of supercar-country in Italy, had fuel in his veins rather than blood. From a very young age, he was fascinated by cars and everything about them. There are stories out there he hung on the fences at the Fiorano-racetrack, where Ferrari tests new cars, just to hear cars blast by on full chat.

Mr Claudio Zampolli, overlooking the engine bay of a Lamborghini Miura – image by Hagerty.com

Claudio Zampolli went on to study engineering and landed a job at Lamborghini. Working his way through the company, he was eventually tasked with setting up a US dealership network for the brand. That lead to setting up his own workshop servicing exotic Italian cars in sunny California. Working on such cars attracts a certain clientele, usually with very deep pockets and now shy of working outside of the lines. This is also true for Claudio Zampolli and his shop, which serviced a man by the name of Giovanni Giorgio Moroder.

A 1977 Giorgio Moroder album cover

Yes, that is the very same Giorgio Moroder you and I know as a pioneer in electronic music, and that ended up financing and developing the Cizeta-Moroder V16T Claudio Zampolli dreamed of. It was intended to get a V16 engine, transversely mounted in the rear, as the V16T bit of the name indicates. Moroder, a three-time Oscar winner and at the time quite a wealthy man, thought the project had potential and decided to offer significant financial backing. By 1985, Cizeta was founded, which was derived from the Italian pronunciation of Claudio Zampolli’s initials, Ci and Zeta.

Claudio Zampolli enlisted the help of Marcello Gandini, the famous automotive designer, to pen the new car. Gandini is responsible for a very long list of beautiful cars, including icons like the Lancia Stratos, Lamborghini Miura, Countach and Diablo, and also the Alfa Romeo Montreal. Perhaps not as well known but no less interesting, other designs by Gandini include the Citroën BX, Renault 5 (2nd gen), the first generation BMW 5-series, and the Bugatti EB110.

By 1990 a prototype was designed, with some familiar and at the same time unusual features. Having just pitched the concept of the Countach replacement to then Lamborghini-owners Chrysler, which wanted Gandini to tone down the design, Gandini used it as a proposal to Zampolli instead. The Cizeta-Moroder V16T has a body style close to that of the later Diablo, with a similarly sharp nose, an almost flat front window, widening arches at the rear, big side air-intakes, and of course a monster engine. Look at both cars head-on and the resemblance is uncanny. One of the stand-out design cues on the Cizeta-Moroder V16T however is the twin pop-up headlights, arguably a fan favorite.

The huge engine cover opened up backward and revealed the reason the car is so extremely wide. Compared to its lookalike, the Diablo, which is already quite a wide car, the Cizeta wins it by a few centimeters. It is in fact about 7 centimeters wider than a Ferrari Testarossa as well, another car famous for its width. The reason for this is a transversely mounted engine, in this case, is the 6 liter V16 powertrain. This keeps the car relatively short but you need space to mount such a beast.

Despite what many people think, it’s said it is not simply two V8’s stuck together, but the casing for the V16 is an actual single-cast piece. However, it does use the V8 from the Lamborghini Urraco as a base, sharing some components. It produced 540bhp which was a ludicrous amount of power at the time. Underneath all that was a conventional tubular steel chassis, with double-wishbone suspension for all four wheels.

The transversely mounted 6 liter V16 engine – image by Hagerty.com

The first completed car was presented in 1991 and with moderate success. Fourteen potential customers put in the down-payment of USD 100,000 for a V16T. The timing couldn’t have been worse really, as we see with so many early-nineties supercars. The financial crisis at the time really slashed demand for such cars and as a result, the Cizeta company struggled to stay afloat. This was partly due to the extremely hefty price of USD 650,000, far exceeding anything else on the market. With a fall-out between Zampolli and Moroder leading to a split between the two, Zampolli soldiered on alone. This also meant the Moroder funds were cut, another factor that made it difficult for Cizeta to continue.

The story wouldn’t last though, and eventually, Mr. Zampolli had to file for bankruptcy. At that point, only 9 cars were built for customers, with one Spider version as well. One of the cars popped up for auction earlier this year, through vintage exotic car specialist Curated Miami, and was handled by RM Sotheby’s. This one-owner car, which happened to be the Sultan of Brunei, is finished in gorgeous blue paint with a blue leather interior. Just before Curated Miami got their hands on this stunning car, they met with Mr. Zampolli. The reason for that was the Lamborghini Miura SV Mr. Zampolli once owned was in their possession.

During that chance encounter, the Curated Miami team had a long chat with Claudio, which was turned into this video;

It’s fascinating to learn some of the incredible details from the man himself. With only 9 cars built it remains a rarity, especially with that unique engine. Luckily nowadays these stories are recorded and shared around the world, with cars being kept in good condition or even pristinely restored if needed. Of course, this is a big-money business, and the Cizeta V16T sold at auction for USD 665,000 in January this year. Setting aside inflation, that means it was sold for around the same price when it was new.

Sadly, Mr. Claudio Zampolli passed away at the age of 82 on the 7th of July 2021.

Images sourced from Curated Miami (Blue Cizeta V16T) and Hagerty (V16 engine, Miura, and Spider image).

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