Updated: Sep 8, 2021
The story of the Cizeta Moroder V16T and it’s creator Claudio Zampoli
When I say the first 16 cylinder super car, you probably think Bugatti Veyron. However, if Claudio Zampolli‘s incredible dream came true, you would’ve thought of this, but why wasn’t Zampolli’s super car a big success? Was it money, or was it sabotage? Claudio Zampolli was born in Modena Italy, the land of Ferraris and Lamborghinis. The Ferraris were even tested there and it wasn’t uncommon to see Lamborghinis roaming the Italian streets. Growing up in Modena mean‘t Claudio would definitely get an interest in the cars being built in his own city. He was a huge Ferrari fan, and even meet Enzo himself when he was 12. Later in 1966, Claudio would begin work at Lamborghini. Claudio began a career in test driving and development at Lamborghini. Claudio Zampolli worked at Lamborghini during a very important era for the company, the time of the Countach and the Miura. Then, in the mid 70s, Lamborghini sent Claudio to the U.S. to do some importing/dealer work over here, but when his mission ended, Claudio stayed. Using the experience he learned at Lamborghini, Zampolli began importing and servicing Italian exotics at his own repair shop In California. It was a huge part of his life. However, running a very successful Hollywood garage wasn’t his dream. Claudio Zampolli was not a man who would give up on his dream. Then, Zampolli sold his car collection. He sold the cars he loved so much, in order to build his own. Zampolli didn’t make his company for money, he made it for joy, he made it for his true love of automobiles. In 1988 Zampolli created his own automotive company in his hometown of Modena Italy, it was called Cizeta. In Italian Cizeta translates to CZ the initials of Claudio Zampolli. Zampolli’s plan was to build the first ever V16 block, made from a single aluminum casting. Zampolli signed a deal with record producer Giorgio Moroder. Moroder provided money, and Zampolli built the cars. Zampolli fused two V8s together and tested it in a Ferrari 308. Claudio Zampolli quickly made his own 16 cylinder engine that he called, the V16T! The “T” in “V16T” doesn’t stand for turbo, it actually means transverse. Due to the Engine being enormous they couldn’t fit it longitudinal, so they had to but it side ways otherwise known as transverse. After perfecting the Engine, Zampolli moved on to building the body for his car. Zampolli commissioned ex Lamborghini designer Marcello Gandini to design the body for his supercar. Marcello Gandini is a design genius! Easily as good as any renaissance artist! He is responsible for designing the fine art such as the Miura, the Lancia Stratos, the Alfa Romeo Carabo, and many more. When the Cizeta prototype design was first shown to Zampolli, he wasn’t impressed, so Gandini went back to the drawing board. They finally agreed on the 2nd prototype. The 2nd prototype was smooth wedge shaped design inspired by the Lamborghini Diablo, but this was no Lamborghini. This was better!
Giancarlo Guerra the creator of the Countach, began working with Zampolli on a life-size model. The Cizeta prototype was finally ready just in time for the L.A. Auto Show. December 1988 the Cizeta was revealed to the public! The People were amazed! Zampolli could not believe it! 14 people put down $100,000 deposits that day. That’s 1.4 million dollars from one show! However, people weren’t amazed when they learned how long it will take to get these cars into production. Therefore, Giorgio Moroder went behind Zampolli’s back and he found a Porsche engineer who would build the cars way faster, but… out of fiberglass and with BMW engines. Zampoli easily figured out about the fiberglass cars and immediately disagreed! “Fiberglass is like paper to metal, and the engine I built is a jewel in a crown,” argued Zampolli. This ended the Cizeta and Moroder partnership. That meant the funding was gone too. Zampolli began working on the 14 Cizeta deposits he needed to fulfill. This is when things went bad. Due to the car being very wide and very very low, it didn’t match the U.S. regulations, which meant, He couldn’t sell it there. After producing around 9 cars, things got a little fishy. Someone anonymously tipped off the Italian government, claiming that Zampolli is getting his money from drugs, which is a total lie. This is when Zampolli starting believing the Italian car manufacturers are behind this. After all, Zampolli built a better car using their resources and designers. Next, the machine shops who were assembling the engines, suddenly wanted Zampolli to pay for the engines all at once, instead of one a time. Zampolli already doesn’t have much money! Then, his bank dropped his credit from $500,000 to $30,000. $30,000 dollars can’t build a car! Cizeta is started to seem more and more unlikely. Zampolli just had way too many rivals. After all the money, the work, and the love, Zampolli went bankrupt. He had no choice. As a result only 9 cars were ever built. It might’ve been the end for the Cizeta, but it wasn’t the end for Zampolli’s bad luck. This was the beginning of the biggest nightmare of his life. Claudio Zampolli versus Jay Leno. Zampolli and Leno were once like brothers, but that didn’t last forever. A lot of bad things happened with Jay Leno and Claudio Zampolli when Zampolli came back to Los Angeles. The biggest being, Leno accusing Zampolli of stealing a car from Lamborghini, which again is a lie. All this made Zampolli look like a really bad guy, but he wasn’t. He just messed with the wrong people. Then in 1999 at a car show, Jay Leno began to insult Zampolli. Long story short the argument ends with Leno saying, “what are you gonna do, sue me?” That’s exactly what Zampolli did. A 150 million dollar law suit! It’s an awful decision! A lawsuit against one of the greatest comedians ever! This truly is the end for Zampolli’s dream. Today the Cizeta is one of a kind, the Da Vinci of cars. True automotive art! Claudio Zampolli is still one of the only people brave enough to challenge Ferrari and Lamborghini on their own turf, in their own game. The Cizeta V16T is one of the greatest Italian cars ever made, and one of the greatest automotive stories ever told.
Fun Fact: Claudio Zampolli was the man who created the famous Sammy Hagar and Van Halen era of rock. Van Halen came to Zampolli while looking for a new singer, Zampolli gave him Sammy Hagar’s phone number and the rest is history. Also, Zampolli is responsible for the Ferrari 512 boxer in the song “I can’t drive 55!” You can see the stunning Ferrari in the music video. Zampolli also plays the role of the mechanic in the cheesy music video.
(I left a link to the music video towards the bottom of the page)
This car had 4 pop up headlights, 540HP, and a top speed over 200mph!
“Modena is the city of fast cars. You could not build a Rolls-Royce in Japan.”
- Claudio Zampolli
“I think Americans are the toughest customers of exotic cars in the world. Elsewhere, people are more understanding about breakdowns and problems, because they know the car is special, But in the States, they just want things to work.”
- Claudio Zampolli
https://youtu.be/RvV3nn_de2k Click here to watch the I can’t drive 55 music video.
The song is pretty cheesy, but the car is gorgeous!
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