Cizeta's 540bhp V16T: the supercar that *almost* made it
The work of a former Lambo engineer featured a V16 engine. But it wasn't to be
Cizeta should have made it. It had all the ingredients that, 15 years later, would see Pagani succeed, but luck was not on its side. It came together well enough. Claudio Zampolli, an ex-Lamborghini engineer who had gone on to run exotic car dealerships on America’s West Coast, teamed up with music producer Giorgio Moroder, known for “I Feel Love”. They had money and moved in the right circles.
Photos: Craig Howell
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Marcello Gandini, who had styled the Miura and Countach, had his design for the next model rejected by Lamborghini’s new owners, Chrysler. The sketches of what would have been the Diablo went to Zampolli, the company used his initials as its name (rather unfortunately pronounced ‘cheese-eater’) and set up shop in Modena.
So far, so good. Plus Zampolli realised his new car couldn’t follow the supercar herd. Twelve cylinders were not enough, 16... that was the future. And run across the car. It might have looked like two V8s spliced together either side of a central crank casing, but it was a one-block casting. By all accounts it ran smoothly and well, developing a considerable 540bhp (60bhp more than an F40) run through a five-speed manual to the rear wheels. The drivetrain was cradled in a tubular spaceframe chassis, supported on double-wishbone suspension. It had a 120-litre fuel tank. It was well over two metres wide.Advertisement - Page continues below
First seen at the LA show in 1989, it was well received, and Cizeta had seven orders in the bank by the time production started in 1991. But by then the signs of ill health were emerging. With investment having already topped $2 million, Moroder withdrew from the project, taking with him the star quality that might have helped the V16T break through on the West Coast.
And the car, now simply the Cizeta V16T, failed to comply with US safety and emissions, so the largest potential market was off limits. Zampolli persevered until 1995, then quietly pulled the plug. And that was that. But there’s a postscript: in 2006 the firm re-emerged, claiming it’d build one-offs, priced at $649,000. It’s thought two more were constructed.
Years active: 1989-1995 (and 2006)
Number produced: Nine (or maybe 11)
Cost new: Around $400,000 in 1991
USP: Transverse V16 engine
Power claims: 540bhp @ 8000rpm, 400lb ft @ 6000rpm
Performance claims: 0–62mph in 4.0secs, 204mph max
Reason for failure: Price, economic recession, US regulations
Chance of resuscitation: Vanishingly small