The cars we loved.
At the start of the 1990s the supercar race was on. Fueled by Ferrari and Lamborghini constantly one upping each other, it had become a kind of Italian boxing match with the whole world as its audience. There were plenty of other smaller makers vying for attention and trying to get the wallets of the rich.
One of those was the Cizeta, a name that borrows the initials of its creator Claudio Zampolli. Cizeta was less a company than an ideal built around one car. A dream fueled partly by the whelms of the rich and talented pop music producer Giorgio Moridoer. See, while everyone was jumping to get at the latest fastest Ferrari or Lamborghini, Giorgio wanted something more. More cylinders, more speed and more style. As fate would have it he hooked up with longtime Lamborghini designer Marcello Gandini who was still on Lamborghini’s payroll. Gandini’s long list of accomplishments include pinning the Countach and while working for Zampolli, the Diablo. The venture would be the spark that created the V16T concept car in 1988 or The Cizeta-Moroder V16T as it was often referred to as.
Cizeta would be based in Modena, the mecca of Italian supercardom. Home to Ferrari, Bugatti and not far from Lamborghini. Like a group of bandits formally employed by Lamborghini, the Cizeta team was well positioned to steal some of its neighbors thunder. Press releases went out advertising the $300,000(USD) V16T as the ultimate in speed and comfort when it was ready for sale in 1991. At more than double the cost of the most expensive street going Ferrari, the V16T would have been a hard sell. While the super elite were contemplating following Giorgio’s lead to place orders, final production took so long that Giorgio lost interest and left the project, taking his money with him.
Never mind that the V16T looked like a Diablo from the front with a similar cab forward theme. It very well could have been the Diablo without Chrysler’s influence. It certainly looked less restrained (if not less attractive). The interior looked similar also. It may have been the most enduring feature of the car as it had a kind of restraint and simplicity missing from the exterior.
Free from corporate bean cutters, the door was open to produce the fastest most outrageous supercar yet. The V16T featured a 6-litre 16-cylinder engine with 64 valves. It sprawled all of 5 feet across just behind the passenger compartment. All that displacement made the Ferraris and Bugatti of the day with their V8 and 12s look downright puny. The 560 hp all aluminum engine would leave anything else from Modena or Sant’Agata Bolognese in the dust. Despite having all that power, only a 5–speed manual transmission was offered.
Getting that power to the rear wheels involved using an elaborate twin crankshaft system called T Drive, prompting the T in V16T. While power transfer was a feat of modern engineering, stopping was a bit more old fashioned with no ABS, just big cross-drilled ventilated discs at all four wheels. No confusing it with the Porsche 959 in that regard.
No one really got the chance to push the V16T to its theoretical limits. The sales material claimed a 0 to 60 time of 4.4 seconds and a top speed of 210 mph. With only one working prototype completed, the V16T made its rounds to various automotive publications as a mini-feature, never to be driven especially hard. Production was slow and long winded, with components like the chassis ready for production before the factory was ready. About 6 or 7 cars were said to have made it out of the factory.
The timing was unfortunate for the V16T. Finding super rich people had become more difficulty than expected, causing impatient investors to follow Giorgio who had long abandoned the project. Marcello Gandini would move on also, finishing the nail in the coffin of the V16T, the Lamborghini Diablo. The Diablo had similar performance and better looks at less than half the price. Bolstered by American Chrysler’s newfound relevance as the owner of the Italian company, the Americans promise of a more user friendly Lamborghini would appeal to a new class of supercar buyer – who wanted their exotic to be less fussy. The V16T would have had a difficult time in this brave new sports car world.
And then just like that, what was once a hot flash of passion in one man’s eye had quickly become a bad memory (and tax write off). While the ideal of the V16T was not completely dead, there had been sporadic production of a few cars before the factory went idle again. In 2006 production had resumed, but only on a special order basis. By now there were new variants like the spyder that would sell for $850,000 (plus the cost of shipping and taxes). Oddly enough just as 80’s style music seems to be in vogue again, the car associated with one of its pioneers also seems to be making a comeback, if not a small one. Giorgio Moroder’s most obscure work is likely to be remembered more than the V16T. For those who wondered what the Diablo would have looked like without Chrysler’s involvement, the V16T might be music to their ears.