Back in the 80s, a former Lamborghini engineer was fulfilling his dream of creating his own supercar company.
The V16T was the only model produced by Cizeta, an American manufacturer, which was headquartered and held its production facilities in Modena, Italy – the home of the supercar. Just 12 production examples are believed to have been built. Footman James explore the extraordinary story of the Cizeta.
While the Pagani Zonda was still a twinkle in Horacio Pagani’s eye, Zampolli beat him to it – setting up Cizeta, his own car company, in 1988. Cizeta was started by former Lamborghini engineer Claudio Zampolli, an Italian with a passion for supercars who had a dream to build his own and make his mark in the automotive world. He moved to California to set up his own supercar dealership, which specialised in the sales and service of Lamborghinis, as well as other models.
Due to the location of Zampolli’s business, many of his wealthy clients were celebrities. Using his network of cash-rich potential business partners, Zampolli almost chose Sylvester Stallone to fund his project before settling on the famous Italian music producer dubbed the ‘father of disco’, the one and only Giorgio Moroder.
Moroder, an Oscar winning artist, composer and producer, has released 18 albums and collaborated with some of the all-time greats. From David Bowie to Donna Summer and Elton John, Moroder has been behind the success and fame of countless artists over the last 60 years.
The relationship began when Moroder drove his Lamborghini Countach to Zampolli’s dealership for servicing. Moroder would later become a 50% stakeholder in Cizeta, which took its name from Zampolli’s initials, which in Italian are pronounced “Ci-Zeta”.
Zampolli commissioned Marcello Gandini to style the V16T, a former Lamborghini designer who penned the Miura, Urraco, Espada and Countach, before falling out with Sant’Agata in the late 1980s. The Cizeta V16T bears more than a passing resemblance to Lamborghini’s Diablo for good reason – it’s not too dissimilar to one of Gandini’s rejected prototype designs.
Zampolli’s dream to build a supercar wasn’t his only objective – he also wanted the Cizeta V16T to stand out among Modena’s supercars. To do this, he hired a team of fellow former Lamborghini employees to develop one of the most intriguing supercar engines ever built. The unique ‘V16’ production engine was configured transversely, with a design which effectively merged two flat-plane Lamborghini V8 engines.
With 64 valves and eight overhead camshafts, the Zampolli’s 16-cylinder supercar featured one of the most complex and fearsome engines ever seen in a production vehicle. The engine design and placement also accounted for one of the widest cars ever produced.
The resulting powerhouse meant 0-60mph could be dispatched in just 4.4 seconds, with the engine capable of 520bhp at 8,000rpm, 398lb of torque and a 204mph top speed.
In late 1988 the first prototype was built, with the Cizeta-Moroder V16T prototype unveiled at the 1989 Los Angeles and Geneva Motor Shows. The economic downturn of the early 1990s, teething issues and logistics complications plagued the V16T’s production numbers, despite order books being filled on release with a $650,000 price tag.
By 1990 both Moroder and Zampolli had parted ways, Moroder’s frustrations about production numbers meaning the motor show car as the only example to wear his name. Despite falling out with Zampolli, Moroder held onto the fully functional ‘Cizeta-Moroder’ prototype for 33 years. He utilised the services of Canepa Design to restore the mechanicals in 2018, before eventually auctioning the car for $1,363,500 in early 2022.
Despite Moroder’s early departure, a total of twelve Cizetas are believed to have been built between 1991 and 2003. Astoundingly, Zampolli was quoted as saying he could fulfil any new orders for a Cizeta V16T in 2018.
In 2021, Zampolli sadly died at the age of 82. History will credit him as another Italian who was ambitious enough to make his own supercar.
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