As for Bizzarrini himself, he survived the bankruptcy, built a few more cars, went to work for American Motors designing the AMC/3 show car, and later taught engineering at the University of Florence. He's still with us today, living in Italy, still trying to market a small Bizzarrini two-seater sports car. Diomante opened his own company, Carrozzeria SD, in Turin, and made several copies of the P538 cars at least until 1988. A grand total of eight P538s are believed to exist, including the Diomante replicas, which used square tube in their chassis and did not use chassis members to contain coolant like the round-tube-chassis originals.
This car was equipped with a 3.5-liter Lamborghini V12 engine, ZF five-speed trans-axle, upper and lower control arm suspension with coilover shock units, front and rear stabilizer bars, beautiful Campagnolo alloy knock-off wheels, and high-speed tires (which have been replaced by Michelin XWX P225/70VR-15s). It's 166-in. long overall, on a 99-in. wheelbase, with a front track of 65 in. and a rear track of 68 in. The body is 75-in. wide at its widest point, across the rear fenders. It weighs 1,900 lb all up, carrying an endurance racing setup, four electric fuel pumps, 60 gal. of fuel and 18 qt of oil, in tanks behind the front tires.
The current owner of this Bizzarrini P538 is Van Horneff, of Saddle River, N.J., who bought it in 1995 at auction. It was listed in the catalog as a Lamborghini, but it was in fact a very rare Bizzarrini, on the block with other cars, trucks and heavy equipment. It is one of only two P538 V12 cars in North America, the other is in a museum in San Diego.
Horneff, 58, an entrepreneur in real estate, agriculture and entertainment, is married to a former Dean Martin Gold Diggers lead dancer who currently teaches dance, and has a successful actor son among his four children. Horneff showed the car briefly in 1996, won Best of Show at Le Belle Macchine at Pocono in 1996, then decided to sideline the car for a year or so to clean it up to a very high level, "...but not to concours condition. It's a race car."
He concentrated on the engine, the engine bay and the interior, because the red paint job was in good shape and needed only TLC and elbow grease. There are a few flaws in the underlying fiberglass body, which he says will be fixed eventually. It has since been to Lime Rock, Greenwich, Amelia Island, Meadow Brook, Pocono, Radnor Hunt Club, Portofino and several other high-end concours events and vintage races.
He has other cars, including a B-engined MGA roadster, and a 1958 MGA coupe with a blower on it that won highest honor at the North American MGA Registry show two years ago as well as the Antique Automobile Association Junior, Senior and Grand National titles. He also races a Porsche 944 in addition to the P538. His street ride is an aging Jaguar XJ6.
Horneff has an unusually frantic business life, complicated by endless phone calls and letters imploring him to sell the Bizzarrini for simply astronomical sums of money ($1.2 million for the San Diego museum car). For the time being, he's still learning how to drive it fast, which takes more than a little bit of skill, bringing it to physical and mechanical perfection and fending off potential buyers. If you had the only one of these for 3,000 miles in all directions, you'd probably want to keep it, too.