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Peter Giacobbi couldn’t afford an authentic 1950s sports racer, so he made his own.

August 20, 2015
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Peter Giacobbi is one of the most accomplished car guys you’ve never heard of. He was director of engineering for John DeLorean’s ill-fated car company, he’s won multiple SCCA season titles racing old Alfa Romeos, he’s owned a smorgasbord of great cars (including a pair of 250 GTs) and he’s even designed and built his own Ferrari. More on that last one momentarily.

But most of all, Giacobbi is a serious enthusiast. He’s bonkers mad about cars, car people and the car business. Giacobbi’s fertile mind has dreamt up countless cars, and a few have made the transition to the real world, and real metal.

One of his late ’60s ideas centered around locating a Lancia horizontally opposed watercooled four-cylinder engine amidships in a slinky sports coupe. At the time, the mechanical engineer lived in Turin, Italy, and he’d gotten to know many of Torino’s automotive designers. One of them was American-born Tom Tjaarda, who, while working for Pininfarina, designed the original quad-headlight 330 GT 2+2 and the rare, flamboyant 365 California—who better to design the Lancia-powered exotic?

While Tjaarda drew, Giacobbi developed all the mechanicals, from the central spine chassis frame up. The resulting racy sports car was named the Synthesis 2000; hand-built in Italy, the complete, running machine made the international auto-show circuit and magazine-cover tour in 1970. Today, it lives in Giacobbi’s Southern California garage, next to a pair of Alfas, a Toyota pickup and our featured car.

For the longest time, Giacobbi has been deep-down smitten with the Ferrari 250 TR59 sports racer, calling it the “prettiest racing car I’d ever seen. And all of my heroes drove them,” including Phil Hill, Cliff Allison, Olivier Gendebien, Pete Lovely and Paul Frere, to name a few. With only a few examples built by Ferrari and bodied by Fantuzzi, he resigned himself to the fact he’d never own one. Unless, of course, he built his own.

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