Sbarro GT1, 1999


Say GT1 and you conjure up the vision of exotic racing cars in one of the most prestigious races, the Le Mans 24 hours. Manufacturers who want to compete in the GT1 class must produce at least one road-going version of the competition vehicle: e.g. Nissan’s R390 or Toyota’s GT One. Some manufacturers do a very small production run: the Porsche GT1; the Mercedes CLK-GTR of which 25 were made. Unfortunately, you’ll probably never see one on the road. At a million bucks a piece, who but an emir, who regularly drives his CLK-GTR at 155 mph……in town (!!), can afford to crash? GT1 are mythic beasts rarely seen on track, almost never on road.


Franco Sbarro, who is truly an expert car constructor, put the GT1 amongst his most spectacular creations. The car was unveiled in June 1999 as a tribute to the Mercedes victory at Le Mans.


Naturally this car uses Mercedes components wherever possible: although Mercedes had no part in the car construction except for the engine. Franco and his students at Grandson chose the 7.4 litre V8 Merc’ power plant which develops 450 BHP at 2800 rpm and 490 Nm peak torque at the same revs. A whole lot of power to move 1350 kg!


The most interesting technical aspect of the GT1 is the use of Sbarro’s dual-frame, patented in 1991. This system consists of three joined longitudinal members with I quote,” a push lever inboard prolink system with combined spring-dampers”. In this dual frame concept, the engine is considered a stressed member of the frame. A simple but brilliant idea ! The polyester monocoque body is attached to the frame by three essentially rubber and metal blocks. These dampen vibrations from the chassis making a much quieter and more comfortable ride without affecting the handling of the car.


Wheels are Anteras: 18 inch upfront and 19 inch on the rear. Shod with Michelin 245/35 and 365/35 respectively. Huge 4-pot callipers grab the vented discs to provide the necessary stopping power. Franco designed the unique exhaust system himself.


The radiator grille drives air upward to create downforce on the bonnet and air downward to cool the brakes. There is a small NACA duct at the base of the windscreen. The tail, topped by a large competition spoiler, has integral Mercedes S-Class rear lights (I think!). The external design, very Sbarro, leaves one in no doubt that every inch of this car is inspired by competition.


The cockpit although minimalist is warm and welcoming, but only for two. The upward swinging doors, reminiscent of Bertone, are a real crowd puller. The seats, in two-tone alcantra, are an integral part of the monocoque and therefore fixed: so the aluminium pedals are electrically adjustable.The LED instrument pack, taken partly from Mercedes was specially made for the GT1.


In conclusion, two figures say it all: 0 to 62 mph in 4.9 seconds and a top speed of 202 mph. Truly a racing car! In 2002, Sbarro unveiled a second version of the GT1, powered by a V12 called the GT12.





  SBARRO GT1 (1999)


V8 Mercedes


mid longitudinal


7400 cc


450 BHP @ 5800 rpm


490 Nm @ 2800 rpm


rear wheel drive


5-speed manual ZF


4 vented discs with 4- pot callipers


front : 245/35 ZR 18 Michelin ; rear : 365/35 ZR 19 Michelin


Antera : front 10 x 18 ; rear 14 x 19


dual-frame, polyester monocoque


length : 5,00 m ; width : 2,20 m ; height : 1,10 m ; wheelbase : 2,80 m

curb weight

1350 kg


0- 62 mph : 4,9 seconds

top speed

202 mph





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