Hopefully, this car brings back memories of when you could buy a Ferrari Testarossa, remove its body, modify the suspension and other components, pop a fancy body on top, and boom—you were in business.
Talking about Bizzarrini isn't an easy task—this is a man who has been involved with countless iconic machines, and was one of the many who walked off the job at Ferrari in 1961. According to a number of sources, Bizzarrini's personal motto is, "I am not a designer, I am a worker"—though I haven't met a "worker" yet who has coined his own motto.
Anyway, he still is a prolific designer, even though his back catalogue contains cars like the Ferrari 250 GTO, Ferrari 250 TR, and the Lamborghini V12—not to mention the beasts constructed by the man himself at Bizzarrini S.p. A. His pursuit of creating amazing machines never really resulted in the fitment of a Bizzarrini-designed engine into a Bizzarrini-designed car, though the history of Bizzarrini-designed anything is patchy, at best.
Next time you see one, ask its owner which engine is in the car, and if it matches the chassis. Then ask if its bodywork matches the chassis. Then ask when it was all put together. (Bizzarrinis are not unique in this—many Iso owners will have a few tales to tell, as well.)
OK. So. The BZ-2001.
Built after the Bizzarrini factory was closed and the man was on his own, the car started as sketches by an American named Barry Watkins. Designed and built in California, Bizzarrini lent his name and, later, engineering talent to the project when the team began to construct a chassis to replace the Testarossa one. Concept car builder Luis Romo handled the build. On Watkins' website, he writes:
"I started looking for a project manager or someone that could build this show piece. Soon thereafter, I met Luis Romo, under rather strange coincidence at a park one mile from my house. His van had a dead battery and we helped get it started. We asked each other what we did for a living. I told him that I had inherited an inventive nature never to be satisfied with compromised production-run cars and always had to design and build things to suit that desire. My current project was a joint venture with Ing. Gioto Bizzarrini to build a new super car. Romo, coincidentally, was a world-class prototype builder and greatly admired Bizzarrini's work. Luis was curious about how I ever got Bizzarrini to do something with me and I said, 'I asked him'."
First shown at, of all places, a Barrett-Jackson auction in January 1993—while Barry Watkins' wife had just given birth to a son five days before the show that he would end up attending—he writes that, for a time, he was the "least popular husband in California".
As you may have guessed, the car never did enter production, with financing, production partners, and the usual hurdles in the way—it's a story you've read here many times before. The team could have stopped at a single car, but they kept going—even Watkins, on his website, admits it was perhaps a futile pursuit:
"Over three years, my inventory of 28 collector cars was sold to fund the project. In other words, I traded many cars to fund one dream… The answer to the question whether I would ever do this again is that I would build the prototype, but I would not waste the energy and resources to try to put it into production unless I had a partner that would fund it."
If you're reading this, have a small fortune, and would like a car of your own, follow Watkins' advice: build the car you want for yourself and leave it at that. Although the carbon fibre-bodied BZ-2001 hasn't aged very well in the face of what we now "expect" from a supercar, it's still an incredible achievement for a supercar built in a California garage.
If you want to know more about it, there's a fair bit of reading to do…